{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Nirmal Verma

Noted Hindi Writer, Nirmal Verma, passed away on late tuesday night. I have read some of his short stories at my school-time from my Nana's library because I got to know of something called Nayi Kahani from my Hindi Teacher. I don't even remember how I felt then but today when I read about him, his writings and some passages from his short stories and novels, I understood why his works broke new grounds in Hindi Literature.

Here are some excepts from his famous works for those who are as ignorant as I was.

Antim Aranye

.....Jab kuch log kehte hain ki woh ek din ke baad doosre din mein rehte hain, us samay unka matlab ye hi hota hai, ki woh ek hi din mein rehte hain, jo chalta rehta hai. Jab main chota tha, tab ek baar maine apni garmi ki chuttiyaan ek chote se kasbaati station mein gujaari thi. Vahah mere chacha station master the. Main dekha karta tha ki rail ke dibbe jo puraane ho jaate the, unhe ek choti line par kada kar diya jata tha. Rail gadiyaan aati aur unhe chodd kar dhardarati hui aage badh jaati. Un khaali dibboon mein hum luka-chippi ka khel khelte the. Kabhi kabhi vahah hume anokhi cheeje mil jaati. Kissi aadmi ka muffler, seat ke neeche dubka kissi ladki ka sandal, ek baar to mujhe ek musafir ki phati puraani notebook bhi mili thi, jis mein paanch rupiye ka cheekat note daba tha, par sabse vismayekaari smrite syam us rail ke dibbe ki thi jo rail ki patri par khada hua bhi kahin nahin jata tha.

Raat ka reporter
.....Us raat woh theek se nahin so saka. Darwaaze par thoda sa bhi khatka hota to woh chonk jata. Jeene ka darwaja kholkar woh bahar jhankta, to saari gali sunsaan dikhaayi deti. Sirf kahi door andhere mein chowkidaar ki lathi ki
thak-thak sunayi deti, woh laut aata, apne kamre main aane se pehle ek baar maa ke kamre mein jhaank leta. Gulmul si chadar oodh kar farsh par leti thi, sirhaane ke paas surahi aur peeche sandook jo unki kissi puraani peeli saari mein dhake the. Maa ne un sandookoon ko chippa kar ek ooche shinghasan mein badal diya tha. Shinghasan par unke thakurji viraajmaan hote the, jo nirantar us pariwaar ki oonc-neech dekhte aa rahe the. Kintu ab unki chutti door nahin thi. Ab thakurji kafi aashwasth dekhayi dete the, kyunki unhe maaloom tha ki yeh antim peedhi hai, iske aake kuch nahin dekhna padega. Rishi apne kamre mein laut aata aur bina batti jalaye apne bistar pe baith jaata. Lait jaane ki himmat nahin hoti, makaan ke khaali kounoon se aati har aawaaj ek andesha jaan padti thi. Use puraane note, reports, lekh aur patr itne khatarnaak nahin jaan padte the, jitne woh bedh jo har puraane makaan mein ekkathha ho jaate hain, hum deeri deeri unke saath rehna seekh lete hain, lekin har bhed ka ek suraag hota hai, jaise taale ki taabi, jisse koi bhi bahar ka aadmi khol sakta hai, khol bhi le to kya dekhenge, teen-chaar gujri huyi zindagiyoon ka ateet, jo ek makaan ki char-deewari ke beech daba tha.

Read more on him here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Art and Emotions.

Before coming to the topic, lets ask ourselves a question on our emotional sensibility and its need to us. The obvious answer will be yes, it is very essential attribute of being human. One need to be emotional to be human, will be the most common response. The next question that follows this will be, should we express our emotions publicly to let others be effected/influenced by them. Most of us will say intentional display of emotions is usually bad. Now comes the bigger question that if any form of art effect you emotionally, is it doing as bad a job as a person doing to get some attachment and sympathy for his/her cause. Here the question becomes complex because our definitions of art and emotions may vary and our tolerance limit towards may vary too and also art manipulating our emotions can be seen as its only effect on us. Art effect us, but the question here is, what is the actual need of it and if it effects us emotionally, how should it be doing that. Does art need to be emotionally extravagant to be effective.

First of all we all need to come to some basic definition of art. For me art is something that brings me closer to the truth that too not by any sort of spoon-feeding, but by giving subtle pointers which may result in innumerous interpretations, all of them as strong as the others and this ambiguity giving a thinking space and for me its the beauty of art, where we can paint colors ourselves giving subjectivity to absolute truth. So art need to give me space and should never close or capture me. Yet another way to define art is to say that it brings realities forth. One more addition to this definition is to include that art also brings forth alternate realities or may be fantasies or images of imagination.

We here revert back to our question of art effecting us emotionally and if so, is it right and if it is not, what else it could do. Showing a starving child from a third world country to squeeze emotions out of you, doesn't qualify for being an art, although its moving and does bring some reality with it. It's not like that I hate children, or I am too rich to hate poverty. Its probably because these images generate pity and sympathy in the most direct and useless form. These images can distort my face but can't change my mind. Now moving on to the final question, should art be detached. Now what I mean to say is not that art should be emotionally-sterile but should art raise itself above emotions . Should art create a mood or leave us under trance. Should not a real art let us decide ourselves of itself, not just guide us through a decided road map. Otherwise, being in vicinity of art will like being hypnotized, where not only you can't think and act, but the effect is gone once trance is lifted. But if art doesn't effect us emotionally how should it effect us. For me showing emotions in the name of art is not bad, but that should not be all. Floods of emotions blind us to see beyond them. I want web of feeling in my head not a thick rod to cut it through. These cutting edge rods work more for heart, and so all this emotional extravaganza will deeply effect you but you can't gain anything over and above it.

One more thing that comes up here is the questions of real or fake. To make it clear, I am not talking of any fake emotions. They don't deserve to be talked about. It is because it is not the emotions that are real or fake, it is the way they are used. A mother caring for his son, or a boy in love with a girl or even a girl bitching about the other, are all real emotions, but the cheap, easy and abundant way they are used, may cause all the embarrassment and hate towards them.

People have come up with several ways to deal with emotions. The first and the most commonly use way is to use them with restrain. The best example is Ritwik Ghatak's Meghe Dhaka Tara. It is a emotionally draining film where Ghatak rations emotions. Another way out is not to use them or to use them for name-sake. One of the example in this case is Fassbinder's Effi Briest. People call Effi Briest emotionally-restraint, but for me it went to a level of emotional-dryness, it do have a brief breakdown scene towards the end, after so much anguish and pain is faced by young Effi. Yet another way is to show emotions as usual but to show their fakeness side by side, the best example for this is Fassbinber's The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant. Bitter Tears is a story of a fashion designer, where Fassbinder breaks apart all noble emotions apart, giving Petra no respite till the mildly-hopeful end. Yet another way to deal with emotions is satire and comedy, one of a few movies that keep their intellectual ability intact and yet work as comedies include Bergman's Smiles of the Summer Night. It is a story of love and betrayal set in Swedish Summer. Yet another way to deal with emotions is detachment. One of the example for this is Jean-Luc Godard's Contempt. Its a highly intellectual movie, where you are detached as soon as you tend to attach with the film. A better example is Abbas Kiarostami's A Taste of Cherry, where in the end the lead character and director are shown talking to detach the viewer from the film and think above it.

Sometimes I think it could have relieved me immensely if Ozu had shown the Noriko on sets, chatting and laughing, or Fellini could have shown Cabiria smiling without tears on the set of the film. But on a second thought it looks like I enjoyed being mesmerized by them. But again, art is not all about enjoying it, its also about understanding it.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Atheism and Pessimism

It is just a matter of my wilful thinking that I am finding a relationship between the two, but it looks like there ought to be some. I can't say it is based on my experience because I am neither of them in full sense but like both the concepts immensely and in my own stupid ways strive for them. As far as experience goes, it seems atheism and pragmatism go well, but on a second thought it emerges that they cannot go for long and on a third thought it comes up that pessimism doesn't go with anything seamlessly. So why it looks like pessimism might gel well with atheism. One thing pushing them together might be that both are anti-faith concepts, if we go by dictionary definitions, it looks like atheism does believe in a faith that there is no god, but a pessimist is more free, free not to believe in anything as mystic as god. Pessimism simply say nothing is going to be good. It may be called a faith but it is as bad as faith can get. A pessimist seems to be following some feelbad-faith, which is true to some extent but I don't care if people say pessimism is a way of life that makes it less-risky or less-disappointing because a pessimist will always assume bad things and what ever little good happens will bring smile to the ever-sealed lips of a pessimist, that should never happen, for a pessimist any good or bad is harbinger of bad and a true pessimist is also not happy about this, because if he is so he must be termed evil, he feels bad but in a detached sort of way, you will never find a pessimist going over-sentimental in a reality-TV sort of way.

But how I went about to get any link about being atheist and a pessimist. An atheist has made peace with the concept of god by not believing in it. For this moment let us not belittle god and his strong-bastion, religion on the basis of logic or rationality. Its a well proven fact that God-theory falls flat on that and taking about it will be beating god in the same stick which all the god lovers are so accustomed that they take it in a Gandhian-slap sort of way or reject it as a non-issue. If we see the concept of God in other light and try to analyse why it is so popular and so very soothing, it might help. The concept of God relieves us of our own burden and acts as a sandbag to blame/pray/aspire/request to. The best (or worst) thing that the concept of God do to us is to relieve us of ourselves, a similar thing done by self-help demigods, where they say don't worry, everything will be all right by my general-prescription. Some of the bestsellers novel-cum-self-help books use language with fancy frills to say that world will 'conspire' against us to get us to our goal. All this feel-good aura is based on the postulates of faith and hope and assumption that someone is there somewhere who is all-good and all-intelligent to take care of this messy world. On the other hand, atheism relieves with lot of worldly burden, but loads us of our burden. A atheist can't look to someone to do a favor if he or she reads few line beautifully set in tune with full faith , dedication and immense hope. The point what I am trying to make is that all the pep-talk about positivity is based on a concept of Godly faith in one way or the other.

Some people might think that atheism starts from desire to rebel against the imposed institutions, in some cases it is but these rebellious desires are not enough to sustain atheism, because the next unexplainable thing happen in our life, or any insolvable desire arises, we revert back to god for help and our wish fulfilment. Also some of my friends say people are atheist because it a fad now, now they might be right but a real atheist will be very biased on this subject not like a trendy atheist who will use it just for T-shirt slogans. To some extend same is the case with pessimism, we cannot mistake pessimism with indifference, again a pessimist will be biased. But I think that pessimism will never became a fad, given the selp-help tsunami erupting everywhere. Sometimes I have seem people talk of positive-atheism, anyway I didn't get the concept much. The few things that I get of it show that it is not sufficiently logical and hence ruled out. Although the creative minds of people can make a concept like Spritual-pessimism that may join the broken link between God and everything going wrong, but as of now I don't want to be that imaginative, but sure god will be in a big soup if that kind of thing ever comes up.

At this point of time it looks like atheism and pessimism are not exactly same but they do share lot of common space and I think they come close ideologically. Again my views on this need to taken with a spoonful of salt, but putting in a very simplistic way, an atheist is cynically pessimistic about existence of god and a pessimist may be considered as an atheist who lost his memory of god long ago. I will save the introduction of an additional variable of morality for some other day, it will sure mess up things all the more.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Kiarostami on films

Abbas Kiarostami, the well known intellectual director from Iran, is a critics favorite. I saw his A Taste of Cherry (Winner of 1997 Palm D'or at Cannes) last night because I was feeling an intellectual viod for sometime and was in immediate need to fill it up. I liked the film, in a very Kiarostami-c style, the film contemplates on the complex questions of life and death, though the ending may not be liked by some. Before that I have seen his celebrated masterpiece, Close-up. I plan to write about him and his films sometime later, but for now I will put a piece of his interview that I found in the DVD of A Taste of Cherry.

Abbas Kiarostami about films.

AK: Its not conscious, but now that one can see all my films as a body of work, it seems like they talk about the same things. Someone once said that every filmmaker basically makes only one film in his lifetime but cuts it down and offer it in cinematic installments to his audience over a period of time. Its difficult to talk about things that I like because you see them in my films. Its easier for me to talk about things that I don't like. What I don't like you don't see in my films, but in all I don't like to engage in telling stories, I don't like to arouse the viewer emotionally or give him advice. I don't like to belittle him or burden him with a sense of guilt. Those are the things I don't like in movie. I think a good film is one with lasting power, and you start to reconstruct it right after you leave the theater. There are lots of films that seem to be boring, but they are decent films. On the other hand, there are films that nail you to your seat and overwhelm you to the point that you forget everything, but you feel cheated later. These are the films that take you hostage . I absolutely don't like the films in which the filmmaker take their viewer hostages and provoke them. I prefer the films that put their audience to sleep in the theater. I think those films are kind enough to allow you a nice nap. Some films have made me doze off in the theater, but the same film have made me stay up at night, waking up thinking about them in the morning and keep on thinking about them for weeks. Those are the kind of film I like.

Read Sense of Cinema's profile on Kiarostami here and read here what Guardian has to say about him and here is an interview.

Monday, October 03, 2005


I saw Ozu's heartrending Tokyo Story for the fifth time few days back. Again, I am speechless, again I am mesmerized. Writing about this film will not do any good, any analysis is superfluous, any interpretation will not suffice. So, I will just put a dialogue and a still (Noriko's) from the film. Try to find it and do see it at least once in your lifetime. I can't recommend it more.

Kyoko: Isn't life disappointing?
Noriko: [smiles] Yes, it is.

Tokyo Story quietly stands like an oldman remembering a simple story of generations, family and people, but it is stunningly contemporary. Heart ruptures silently after watching this masterpiece, cinema seldom satisfies you this much, simple images don't resonate better than this.