Monday, February 18, 2013

Of Books and Launches

So here I go again. My editor beetles in and reads out to me from her iPhone- One book launch to attend. Meet the author who is a debutante, and get a few quotes, a few pictures, the press release and that's it. I sigh inaudibly,  perk up and say 'sure' as she orders me 'You'll have to attend this one.' I sling my green bag over my shoulder, looking very journalistic and zoom off to Amethyst Cafe.

A few stray cars. A small garden cafe, with cane chairs and a homely exotic decor. Lots of grey heads and middle aged elegant women. Another evening of sulking in the corner without company, I think.

I declare myself a media personnel and resign myself to observing the sly company of people in rustling silks, cropped haircuts, impeccable British accents and a composure of manner that only people with a lot of time on their hands can cultivate. The star of the show is a lady in midnight blue. She looks slim and dainty in her layered shoulder-length haircut, a dupatta sideways over one shoulder, perfectly falling salwar bottoms and wispy bangles, obviously gold. She has big eyes and the practiced calmness of  a doctor. She is not very good with public speaking, but the speakers to endorse her book do a good job to get the crowd hooting at times. This is the dentist's first book; 'as my children grew up, I had a lot of time on my hands,' she says. So writing came naturally.

The book is called 'All about smiles.' Yes and dentistry. The pun chokes itself. But the point of the book is a light read. It is about her experiences with patients who came to her clinic. 'I want people to like my book,' she says simply. I wonder calamitously: there's going to be a point when everyone is going to write books and there will be no one to read them. Anyone, just about anyone, at any point in their lives, from any profession, about any topic can just pick up a pen and write. I find it so hard to find time to read all the people I want to read. And now writing is such a thing that anyone can do it! Suddenly, I want to sit back and never touch a pen again!

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Gulp of Kollywood

Everyday after work when I come home to my paying guest accommodation, I get a glimpse of Kollywood through the eyes of my roommate Kanimozhi (whose name by the way means 'language of the fruits' in ancient Tamil-still can't get my head around that one). Anyway so as I was saying, today I learnt that actor Karthi was actually a software engineer before he went on to become an actor and that Prabhu, whose face I have always found a tad too large, is the son of Shivaji Ganeshan. One thing I certainly realised is that Tamilians as a people are very resilient. They pursue precarious acting professions but only on the bread and butter of a 'real job' like an engineer's or a manager's. Think Hip Hop Tamizhla's Adi who told me once that even if his music doesn't work out he always had his MBA to fall back on.

Actor Prabhu

The other thing which I realised through some of my inevitable celluloid encounters (Kanimozhi can be married to a TV such is her devotion) is that these Kollywood types always have a huge element of the grotesque (the last time I heard that world was in my literature class while we studying gothic literature at the end of the 18th century) either through gory and bloody violence with body parts fall apart or through psychotic characters with a strain of madness. Sometimes I think the people who go to see these movies and the viewership by and large revels in being scared, whether it is the gruesome, spirit of Sonu Sood in Arundhati or Dhanush's crazy character in Kaadhal Kondai or more recently Kamal's violence in Viswaroopam, there is a fanatic zeal in portraying the real as the grotesque as if that would be the only way the audience would swallow the gruesome as the plausible.

 Guns, bombs and pigeons: Viswaroopam
Girls are raped and killed often with body parts torn apart, the archetype of the lecherous relative or neighbour, the psychologically scarred sibling growing up with supernatural energies, sweet prancing whimsical girls are all archetypes that precipitate towards a pervading sense of the grotesque. Makes me wonder what the whole point is? You go through all that trouble to make a film and leave the audience in the end feeling shaken, scared and insecure to live in this world. Maybe it's true the world is like that, it has all the gore, the ugliness and the perverted minds but what's the point in seeing a strip of celluloid that plays all your worst nightmares in front you-and ironically if you're watching in a theatre and you've paid for those nightmares too! Tsk, tsk. Kollywood- I am keeping you at arm's length for now.

Monday, February 11, 2013


This morning I woke up with a strange thought, not that most mornings I don't, but this morning it topped the list of strange thoughts. What if, the little wisp of a thought peeked into my mindspace and whispered,one doomed day the devil appeared before me in all his traditional attire of red horns and arrow shaped tail and told me that I had not lived my life right, that I had wasted all the opportunities given to me and that they would now have to be given away to someone else who could better use them. What would I do? He would however, have taken pity on my mortified little face and said that only one talent would be left to me to use in this life. Which one would I choose? "Mind you," he would raise his 'circonflex' eyebrows and remind me,"you would be doomed to eat, drink and live this talent for every waking moment of your life, so choose carefully." Well then, in my cringing mind, I would scurry and stumble rummaging into all my intellectual belongings for what I could give away and what I could not part with. (Sadly, I didn't have much.) But it made me think; is there something I could do for every waking moment of my life, do I have anything that I can truly call my own, my very own talent which nobody could use as best as I could? He would tap his foot impatiently at my rambling introspections and frown.