Tuesday, August 30, 2005

What killed Salman Rushdie?

Fellow blogger J.A.P., in a comment on a previous post, rekindled an old debate that’s very close to my heart. He said he could not wade through Salman Rushdie’s The Ground Beneath Her Feet. Neither could I.

It would be wrong to state that I was a Rushdie fan. Actually, I used to be a Rushdie fanatic. But then, he fell by the way, and so did my love for him.

What beggars belief is the slovenly denouement in the genius’ literary career. It somewhat reflects the climax of his magnum opus, Midnight’s Children, which shows the protagonist, Saleem Sinai, disintegrate – alluding to the fractious state of the Indian republic.

Rushdie, too, disintegrates after completing the novel -- the death of the artist as a philanderer, a controversy-mongerer…

Shame was so similar to Midnight’s Children that I didn’t bother to flip beyond page 5. The Moor’s Last Sigh was somewhat palatable. And the less said about The Ground Beneath Her Feet, the better. Fury was too convoluted, couldn’t finish even this one. In fact, apart from MC, I liked only Haroun and the Sea of Stories. His non-fiction though was not all that bad.

The scorecard? Read 2, discarded most. But I still put Midnight’s Children in my top-5 list (a very philistine exercise). I felt it was not just a book. It was a nation. It was the voice/conscience of a nation emerging from birth pangs.

The novel was a massive experiment. But that’s where the problem began. An experiment happens only once. After that it loses its novelty. You experiment when you want to achieve/ascertain a certain end. It follows that once you have experimented, you know the end. So, the best thing about an experiment is its unpredictability. That was Midnight Children’s hallmark. The novel was like an unpredictable mountain stream growing into a rivulet, absorbing everything in its wake, and then morphing into a mighty river, gushing, unstoppable. It was like a chain reaction, and could be stopped only when it exhausted itself.

In the end, the novel exhausted its author.

The first few lines itself sets the restless tone of the narrative. A raconteur who has to tell his story his story fast because he has so much to say in so little time:

I was born in the city of Bombay…once upon a time. No, that won’t do, there’s no turning away from the date: I was born in Doctor Narlikar’s Nursing Home on August 15th, 1947. And the time? The time matters, too…On the stroke of midnight, as a matter of fact. Clockhands joined palms in respectful greeting as I came. Oh, spell it out, spell it out: at the precise instant of India’s arrival….


Friday, August 26, 2005

Spam rules!

Even for a dilettante blogger like me, I find my comments list populated by nameless people selling debt consolidation loans and ways to EZ wealth. And, guess what, even enquiring after the kitchen leak! Strange. But what it more strange is the fact that I did have a kitchen leak last month! Orwellian nightmare?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Give me blood, I will give you comments!

For quite some time, I have been commenting on other people’s blogs without having a blog of my own. I used to get a vicarious kick from my anonymous commentary. It was like… watching stray dogs mate from behind bushes as kids. Anyway, there was quite a guessing game over the identity of this pesky commentator and I relished every bit of it. My comments were commented upon and I commented on other people’s comments. I commented on a despairing blogger’s anguished cry over the lack of comments on his blog. Commented on a blogger’s humble acceptance of the fact that he had received 0.765 comments per post. Added my two-paise bit to a debate on Satyajit Ray kicked off by a venerable but imperious film-buff/critic. Commented on a would-be novelist’s bathos-filled comparison of upright fir trees in Cooch Behar with Nutan (Yes, Nutan). I also goaded fellow non-bloggers to comment copiously. I was on the verge of starting a mass-movement. Give me blood and I will give you comments! Very soon there would be millions of people treading my footsteps. Had become almost famous. A comment crusader…

But as a Pashto proverb would have it: Destiny is a saddled ass, he goes wherever you lead him. Far from the hero I’d almost become, I am now waiting for your comments.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Notes on Hazaron Khwahishein Aisi

Watched Sudhir Mishra’s Hazaron Khwahishein Aisi during the weekend. Over the years, I have come round to the view that one should divest oneself of the baggage of expectations before watching an Indian film. The Rising rose to deceive because it wilted under the baggage of 4 years that went into making it. And, of course, Aamir Khan’s reclusive ways, which always whet the media’s appetite. Why expect an epic before you enter the theatres? Chances are that you’ll come out disappointed. Enter the theatres with a blank mind, a tabula rasa, and the film will itself etch its glorious moments as well as its failings on the mind. I feel this is constructive film-watching.
Coming to Hazaron…, I didn’t have any expectations from the film. Watching it on a lazy Sunday afternoon, the film took me by surprise. At the outset, the director makes his intentions clear when he points out the horological mistake in Nehru’s freedom speech. How stupid to say: “At the stroke of midnight, when the world sleeps….” The nation began its tryst with destiny with a sub-editor’s worst nightmare coming true.
I do have some reservations about the first half, which veers tantalisingly towards the all-so-common college canteen dialectics on merits/demerits of extremist socialism. There’s a brief love-making scene (clumsy) and one of the protagonists, Sidharth, is out to a village in Bihar to join the “struggle”.
The second half gets absorbing when we have a compelling human drama played out against general political unrest. The character of Vikram is the most well-etched. He is upwardly mobile, a “fixer”, but nurtures feelings of love for the leading lady, Geeta. He is not bothered about politics, but utilises it to his own good. However, he is a total misfit in the outback. Glib talking will get him nowhere here. A place where villagers are harassed and implicated on false charges of murder. Where law begins and ends with the local police station.
While the protagonist is saved by his comrades, Vikram incurs the wrath of the police and is mercilessly beaten up. Mishra makes the scene poignant -- very raw and very Bihar.
Thankfully, the director has kept a keen eye on the nuances. You know the mise en scene is a Delhi college hostel or a police station in Bhojpur or a small town in Punjab by the accents and minor details. (Well, I would never have pointed out these taken-for-granted aspects while talking about good films. But even the basics seem to be lacking in most Indian films).
I have a small quibble though. The dialogues are mostly in English. If the film is meant for non-hindi speaking viewers, why not have translations? Better still, why not use the college campus language, instead of having the actors speak uncomfortably in English?

Wise man on the hill

Day after day alone on the hill,
The man with the foolish grin is keeping perfectly still,
But nobody wants to know him,
They can see that he's just a fool,
And he never gives an answer,
But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down,
And the eyes in his head,
See the world spinning around.
The Beatles (Magical Mystery Tour)

Paul McCartney wrote the lyrics for the song. One of my favourite Beatles track. It has a story to it:
"One morning, Paul was walking his dog Martha on a hill. As he watched the sun rise, he noticed that Martha was missing. Paul turned around to look for his dog, and there a man stood, who appeared on the hill without making a sound. The gentleman was dressed respectably, in a belted raincoat. Paul knew this man had not been there seconds earlier as he had looked in that direction for Martha. Paul and the stranger exchanged a greeting, and this man then spoke of what a beautiful view it was from the top of this hill that overlooked London. Within a few seconds, Paul looked around again, and the man was gone. He had vanished as he had appeared. A friend of McCartney's, Alistair Taylor, was present with Paul during this strange incident, and wrote of this event in his book, Yesterday." (Copyright: http://www.songfacts.com)

Friday, August 19, 2005

Hot wheels

One may wonder what the URL of my blog is all about. Wasn’t all pre-meditated, I must admit. Thor’s Wheel is from a comic strip that I adore, and till sometime back, was addicted to – B.C., by Johny Hart. The strip is set in a prehistoric age as the name suggests. But it has humans, as intelligent as ever, co-habiting with talking ants going to anthill schools with the US flag on them, bludgeoned snakes and Miss Know-It-Alls. The wry and cynical humour will certainly get you. I can vouch for that.
Coming to Thor’s Wheels, it’s a makeshift shop selling - you guessed it – wheels. Mankind’s last great invention. Okay, I concede. With the exception of latex. The wheels are simple rolling stones and one cannot miss the satire on the marketing brouhaha associated with today’s automotive industry.
The connection? The day I was creating my blog (a surprisingly easy process), I had another window open where I was reading B.C. And bingo!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

My long-delayed entry into the blog world. An advisory to start out with. All views expressed here are my own. Maybe molded. But mine, definitely. And yes, copyright protected. So, please do get in touch with me if you want to reproduce extracts for commercial use or for unacknowledged distribution.

Welcome to the Fool on the Hill.