Dose. Overdose.

May began in the last week of April, when my vacations did. I am now in a bit of a rewind mode because I watched a whole lot of shit before I left to holiday happily in other lands and now that I am back, I have no memory of which play/ movie happened when. And I need to have chronology more than anything in my life right now. I find that I am aging, and aging quite badly.

So the string of doing things started on the last day of valuation when I hopped into TBC with the girls and discovered that beer can do the same thing that rum can. Possibly worse. A week before this, I wrote a longish piece on my experience with caste for a journal. While it is always easier to write personal essays than academic ones, this one took quite a lot from me. When I reread it now, I don’t understand what it took from me.

The next day, I watched Yashogathe which left me in love with the house it was shot in. Later N and I met to write. She wrote her first piece of memoir, which I drooled all over, and I tried writing and rewriting the review for Yashogathe. In the evening, I was at Rangashankara watching Avaru bittu ivaru bittu ivaru yaaru and Sanchayana. I remembered Kalagangotri Kitti from Beechi House and throughout Sanchayana, I looked only at him and waited for him to speak.

Watching Kannada plays has come to mean something more lately. It reminds me of the time I was first brought to the city. I go back to all the mosaic floored houses in Bangalore that we rented when we first arrived. The one in Kathriguppe with its cement terrace and the backyard washing stone. The packet of yummies and sticks of tamarind paste that we ate while walking back home from school everyday.

The language brings back faint memories of watching Parvati, Mayamruga and Muktha with my grandmother. In effect, Rangashankara and Kala Soudha have become spaces where I am forced to focus – on watching and on writing.

The next couple of days were insane — It occurred to me on the eighth day of NSD’s Dakshina Bharatha Rangotsava that I had missed 8 days. So I went to Gurunanak Bhavan to catch the 500th show of Mukhyamantri Chandru. I had to leave in the middle because my head was all fuzzy and I started to hyperventilate.

Next morning, I rode to Forum where I watched Mother’s day and then after a serious round of Old Monk in the evening, I floated to Gurunanak Bhavan again to catch the last of the NSD festival – a Malayalam play called Charithra pusthakathil ekkuoredu (The Abandoned)

Chakravyuha happened the next morning. And as surprised as I was by how much I liked Puneet Rajkumar, I was swayed by how much I missed watching Kannada films. Writing the review for Chakravyuha was more learning and less writing. I was so taken with my own response to the film that I didn’t quite think of anybody’s interest in it.

After bouts of eating, sleeping and daydreaming, I watched two Malayalam films-Leela and Kali. While I didn’t quite care for Kali, Leela made me think of Marquez and the thin copy of No One Writes to the Colonel that I haven’t gone back to. A prime BIFFES catch this year was Gabo – the documentary by Justin Webster. Marquez says here that more than One Hundred Years of Solitude, it was No One Writes to the Colonel that was difficult to write and one he considers his best work. Although there was nothing particularly Marquez-like in Leela, I giggled when the hero says Sulquer Dalman and Marcia Garquez.

Vikram Kumar’s 24 was refreshing. Not only was I seeing a Suriya film after ages, I was also watching a Tamizh sci-fi after a really long time. I should have quietly gone back home and written about the film, instead I went to Rangashankara to catch Shylock. Anish Victor playing Shylock gave me goosebumps. So many adaptations of The Merchant of Venice but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one with an OCD prone Shylock. 

Anish Victor takes Shylock’s language and puts it in every little thing he does on stage. It’s in the way he shuffles papers until they are kept in the perfect square position, in the way he handles objects with attention – pen, knife, paper, phone, and in the way he says ‘moneys’ instead of ‘money’

That should have been all. Shylock would have been the best way to end my theatre spree before I took off to Manali. But I had to go watch 1920 London. I don’t know why. Ask my brother.

Thankfully after I returned, Sairat was waiting. Last evening, I waded through the rain from Chinlung’s to Garuda and sat in Inox’ plush red seat, fully drenched.

I forgot the rain, I forgot the wet undergarments, I forgot how cold I was. Because in its first 15 minutes, Sairat had me by my freezing cold balls. If there’s anything that has made me want to write in a long time – especially after spending a week with my madcap family, it is Sairat.

Here is a song from Sairat that has been giving me a 16 year old girl’s hormones –

The month that was

Saturday was a fun day. I watched Delicacy with my students and liked it more this time. Later, we watched a stage portrait of Einstein in the college auditorium. I sat in the front row which may have, just may have, made me like the play more. A shortish review to come soon. After the play, I came back to the department and stalked a blogger I thought I had forgotten.

I remember feeling super impressed and a little jealous when I first read her blog. That whole design is hers and I learnt a lot from my stalking- sessions. I learnt about widgets, colors and themes, copyright on the blogosphere, disabling copy -paste through CSS and the likes.

She writes regularly and I can say she’s guilty when she doesn’t. I pay more attention to design, lists and posts that are part of weekly/monthly challenges on her blog. This is who I now turn to when I am running out of things to write. She has a post up almost everyday. There are quotes, lists, and pictures for days that she hasn’t written.

That kind of investment is all kinds of enviable. I also find that I need to stop feeling foolish about wanting to decorate my blog. There’s something so welcom-y about her blog. She does these reviews of months that I am fascinated by and want to try. I have nothing pressingly aggravating in my life that I want to protect as of now. So there you go, November was helpful.

  1. I went to Goa and Hyderabad. Goa reminded me that I should travel more often and Hyderabad reminded me to write more papers and attend more conferences — I loved the whole experience of being on my own in a university campus. I have now also understood the beauty of web-checking in.
  2. November also meant waking up to a fresh semester. Half a month has gone by and I have come to learn that there’s an odd sense of calm when only the students who are interested are sitting in your class. Sin Drama.
  3. November has been tight, money wise which meant that I made frequent trips to the bank. But I think I am getting better at managing money.
  4. The Reading Room met to discuss Rebecca. Our next book is The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. I have only read three pages so far but I can already get a Madame Bovary- reading feel from it so, yay.
  5. I spent the last weekend in November watching various films. I am getting back to a decent movie-watching zone. I watched Coco before Chanel, Delicacy, and Deconstructing Harry.
  6. I love Woody Allen. He is God.
  7. I spent more time at home than I usually do. Eliminated 3/4 of the drama from my life.

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The Bicycle Thieves

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Kala Soudha seemed prettier than usual last evening. It had been raining and the air smelled sweet. When I parked in a hurry and climbed up the steps, I saw that there was nobody outside. Vowing to leave 2 hours before every play I watch for the rest of my life, I entered the theatre and was greeted with a cold AC smell. After grabbing the first empty seat I saw, I wondered if Kala Soudha always had an AC.

After an hour and a half, I was on my way home, trying to keep up with the many images of what I had seen. There are so many things about The Bicycle Thieves that are pleasing to eyes and ears, all the same. I hate to hurry here but the story always gets in between how it is told, so I am going to get it out of the way. An unemployed man must deal with the thrill of finally having secured a job and the misery of having lost his bicycle, both on the same day. He must encounter the many faces of the city and must encounter them with his little son, in his search for the cycle.

At the corner stage stood an inverted cycle tyre. On the wall were thrown the characters’ shadows. This was accompanied by people miming sounds loudly. An approaching, silent creak for the closing/opening of the door; an ornate machine sound for when the factory workers are at work; and the elaborate anti-clock rotation of the cycle chain for when the cycle is stolen in broad daylight.

As a child, I didn’t like it when characters onscreen/ onstage forgot to acknowledge an object after they had brought it to the audience’ notice. A cap, a pen, a prop left there to deal with all eyes in the room on it, long after its owner had left the stage, until someone is sent to retrieve it.

In one scene, the father-son duo sits and spits on their misery. In a moment’s notice, they have both stood up. My eyes immediately went to the discarded tiffin box that lay next to them. I was wondering if it’s going to lie there, orphaned for the rest of its life, when I almost whopped in surprise as I watched the son point to it matter-of-factly and take it with him.

Every time the Urdu-kannada was used, my ears strained to drown out the audience’s laughter. I knew I would laugh but I wanted to hear the words first. It’s oddly beautiful to listen to that dialect. The Urdu falls about and bounces off the Kannada, and emerges into something one taps foot and folds arms to.

After having watched The Bet, Beechi house, and The Bicycle Thieves, I have come to realize that I enjoy watching Kannada plays more than English plays. I like the swiftness in the actors’ language, their familiarity when they speak to each other or look at each other and their references to the city. Everytime I watch a Kannada play, I feel closer to the city in some way.

Pira Peri Pora

As I made my way into the circle of seats in Rangashankara, I caught myself saying that it’s ok if the play sucks, at least I would be watching one. Maybe because of that, I am still not able to say very much about the play. Pira Peri Pora is based on Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. From whatever little I managed to skimp through about Titus Andronicus, I could gather that it was a story about revenge, evil and goodness. And that it was criticised even in Shakespeare’s own time for its violent content.

I quite enjoyed the location the play began with. It appeared to be some sort of a prison kitchen, like in V for Vendetta. Orders were given by a woman over loudspeakers and were accompanied by a set of blinding yellow spot lights. I liked the infrequent chopping of the vegetables that the characters were scarily reminded to get back to. They chopped cabbages, tomatoes, and potatoes and put them away in what seemed to be a lab glass bowl with an artificial red liquid inside it with baby parts floating; arms, legs, butts.

A recipe book appears randomly in much the same way a wailing baby appears minutes later. This was the only absurdity the play was able to offer. In that, only the appearances of these things seemed random, while the events unfurling around these things itself managed to send the audience into quiet the hissing spree. Point in case, when the three of them start throwing the baby around and one manages to snap out the baby’s arm.

The play seemed more effective when the characters used the stage and did things with it, unlike during their monologues which were dry and long. A housefly buzzes past them now and then and they wonder if they must squash it to death and now they do; now they don’t. I liked how the lights were dangerously red and yellow at times and a mellow white at most others. A heap of onions along with other vegetables popped out of two gunny bags. At no point during the play was I intrigued to find out what in the world they were trying to cook. They chopped anything they found at the working station and in went the cabbages, onions, potatoes, chillies. No rotis or rice was to be found anywhere on the stage. I don’t know why but that bothered me more than what they did to the baby.

The dystopic prison setting enables the macabre narration that the characters bring to an otherwise dull climax. Some of the techniques they used stayed with me longer than the story itself. The falling- into- the- black hole bit was rather charming. Even as the list of unanswered questions kept piling, why are they imprisoned? Who imprisoned them? Why isn’t there a sense of exterior place or time, it didn’t take much time getting used to repetitive patterns in their behavior.

Once or twice, I recall siding with the captors themselves. The three of them kept forgetting where they were. The rude lady over the loudspeakers had to keep threatening them to get back to work. The only thing that didn’t make sense was neither of them seemed to actually fear consequences. As if being locked up in a prison kitchen was the only worst thing that could happen.