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

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

200th Post

Thanks to you all for coming here and reading. Spl. thanks to Alok for always helping me out with discussions, and Ram for reminding me about this milestone :)

Keep visiting !

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sans Exotic !

Here J. Hoberman writes about Wong Kar-Wai's latest film My Blueberry Nights, and makes this statement, which I have felt for many foreign films.

But akin to seeing Wong without his trademark shades, watching the
movie unavoidably inspires two mental exercises. The first: imagining it in
subtitled Chinese, recast with Chinese actors (Tony Leung in place of the
too-eager-to-please Jude Law). The second: replaying Wong's greatest hits sans
Orientalism—were the performances in 2046 as mediocre and the dialogue as trite
as in My Blueberry Nights?

Should we actually remove the flavor of "exotica" from the films and judge them ? I know the answer again will be, it should be "honest, well-meant and unforced exotica" !!!! Not Again !

The Art of Translation.

This is Nabokov's essay on the art of translation, that appears in his lecture book on Russian literature. It ends with a tutorial on translating one line of Pushkin :)

sample this:

But masking and toning down seem petty sins in comparison with those of the
third category; for here he comes strutting and shooting out his bejeweled
cuffs, the slick translator who arranges Scheherazade's boudoir according to
his own taste and with professional elegance tries to improve the looks of
his victims.

and this

Now comes the authentic poet who has the two last assets and who finds
relaxation in translating a bit of Lermontov or Verlaine between writing poems
of his own. Either he does not know the original language and calmly relies upon
the so-called "literal" translation made for him by a far less brilliant but a
little more learned person, or else, knowing the language, he lacks the
scholar's precision and the professional translator's experience. The main
drawback, however, in this case is the fact that the greater his individual
talent, the more apt he will be to drown the foreign masterpiece under the
sparkling ripples of his own personal style. Instead of dressing up like the
real author, he dresses up the author as himself.

Poshlust : The Blond and his Swans…

Here Nabokov explains intricacies of poshlust using a story.

To exaggerate the worthlessness of a country at the awkward moment when one is at war with it — and would like to see it destroyed to the last beer-mug and last forget-me-not, — means walking dangerously close to that abyss of poshlust which yawns so universally at times of revolution or war. But if what one demurely murmurs is but a mild pre-war truth, even with something old-fashioned about it, the abyss is perhaps avoidable. Thus, a hundred years ago, while civic-minded publicists in St. Petersburg were mixing heady cocktails of Hegel and Schlegel (with a dash of Feuerbach), Gogol, in a chance story he told, expressed the immortal spirit of poshlust pervading the German nation and expressed it with all the vigor of his genius.

The conversation around him had turned upon the subject of Germany, and after listening awhile, Gogol said: "Yes, generally speaking the average German is not too pleasant a creature, but it is impossible to imagine anything more unpleasant than a German Lothario, a German who tries to be winsome. . . . One day in Germany I happened to run across such a gallant. The dwelling place of the maiden whom he had long been courting without success stood on the bank of some lake or other, and there she would be every evening sitting on her balcony and doing two things at once: knitting a stocking and enjoying the view. My German gallant being sick of the futility of his pursuit finally devised an unfailing means whereby to conquer the heart of his cruel Gretchen. Every evening he would take off his clothes, plunge into the lake and, as he swam there, right under the eyes of his beloved, he would keep embracing a couple of swans which had been specially prepared by him for that purpose. I do not quite know what those swans were supposed to symbolize, but I do know that for several evenings on end he did nothing but float about and assume pretty postures with his birds under that precious balcony. Perhaps he fancied there was something poetically antique and mythological in such frolics, but whatever notion he had, the result proved favorable to his intentions: the lady's heart was conquered just as he thought it would be, and soon they were happily married."

Here you have poshlust in its ideal form, and it is clear that the terms trivial, trashy, smug and so on do not cover the aspect it takes in this epic of the blond swimmer and the two swans he fondled.


Literature is one of its best breeding places and by poshlust-literature I do not mean the kind of thing which is termed "pulp" or which in England used to go under the name of "penny dreadfuls" and in Russia under that of "yellow literature." Obvious trash, curiously enough, contains sometimes a wholesome ingredient, readily appreciated by children and simple souls. Superman is indubitable poshlust, but it is poshlust in such a mild, unpretentious form that it is not worth while talking about; and the fairy tales of yore contained, for that matter, as much trivial sentiment and naive vulgarity as these yarns about modern Giant Killers. Poshlust, it should be repeated, is especially vigorous and vicious when the sham is not obvious and when the values it mimics are considered, rightly or wrongly, to belong to the very highest level of art, thought or emotion. It is those books which are so poshlustily reviewed in the literary supplement of daily papers—the best sellers, the "stirring, profound and beautiful" novels; it is these "elevated and powerful" books that contain and distill the very essence of poshlust. I happen to have upon my desk a copy of a paper with a whole page advertising a certain novel, which novel is a fake from beginning to end and by its style, its ponderous gambols around elevated ideas, and absolute ignorance of what authentic literature was, is and always will be, strangely reminds one of the swan-fondling swimmer depicted by Gogol. "You lose yourself in it completely,"—says one reviewer;—"When the last page is turned you come back to the world of everyday a little thoughtful, as after a great experience" (note the coy "a little" and the perfectly automatic "as after a great"). "A singing book, compact of grace and light and ecstasy, a book of pearly radiance,"—whispers another (that swimmer was also "compact of grace," and the swans had a "pearly radiance, too"). "The work of a master psychologist who can skillfully probe the very inner recesses of men's souls." This "inner" (mind you—not "outer"), and the other two or three delightful details already mentioned are in exact conformity to the true value of the book. In fact, this praise is perfectly adequate: the "beautiful" novel is "beautifully" reviewed and the circle of poshlust is complete—or would be complete had not words taken a subtle revenge of their own and smuggled the truth in by secretly forming most nonsensical and most damning combinations while the reviewer and publisher are quite sure that they are praising the book, "which the reading public has made a (here follows an enormous figure apparently meaning the quantity of copies sold) triumph." For in the kingdom of poshlust it is not the book that "makes a triumph" but the "reading public" which laps it up, blurb and all.

The particular novel referred to here may have been a perfectly honest and sincere (as the saying goes) attempt on the author's part to write something he felt strongly about—and very possibly no commercial aspirations assisted him in that unfortunate process. The trouble is that sincerity, honesty and even true kindness of heart cannot prevent the demon of poshlust from possessing himself of an author's typewriter when the man lacks genius and when the "reading public" is what publishers think it is. The dreadful thing about poshlust is that one finds it so difficult to explain to people why a particular book which seems chock-full of noble emotion and compassion, and can hold the reader's attention "on a theme far removed from the discordant events of the day" is far, far worse than the kind of literature which everybody admits is cheap.

Excerpt from Nikolai Gogol by Vladimir Nabokov.

And here is its companion piece.

PS : After typing this to some extent, I found the full text here.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Ghost Dance Sequence

Ghost Dance Sequence from Ray's Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (via)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

On Disclaimer Dogs and Blogging Bitch!

As for every tooth, there exists a sly bacteria who, in his heart, wishes to make it his/her home, to live there in holy matrimony, till its dental demise. So for every post there is a disclaimer which, if you do not state, keeps swaying in your mental map to remind you that what you write is utter common sense, and at worse pretentious nonsense. I know, for the next post, my disclaimer should be clean and clear, "I haven't read Nabokov and have read only one book by Dostoevsky, yet I have the balls to field them." I have found that if not stated and surrendered, disclaimers bark in every sentence in the form of clauses, in all grammatical flavors driven by guilt of ignorance and fear of quarter-knowledge.

A real intrepid blogger (I thought I should write "writer", but thought otherwise) is one who can dare to be politically incorrect, trust his readers and leave loose ends. He can say something like "All Art is Divine". A mouse-hole meek blogger will write, "I feel that a work of creation that comes within the tenets of art, acceptable art, with time and thought, must ultimately turn out to be a divine experience, given the observer is able to get it". The more funny part is that the latter serpentine sentence will seem better to a blogger audience which actually caters to his own common sense and associated insecurities, for this is a post-modern age. To say this in more literary way, he relates to (or identifies with) the fellow blogger.

One point here, beyond disclaimers, is choice we make to read. Would you like to read a politically incorrect, raw personal blogger, or a well rounded blogger who gives you all the perspectives on something and never lets you know what he himself feels, and when he does try to, with his umpteen clauses, what we get is a stink that he knows a lot. I feel the second type of blog gives you a buffet when you have just asked "Do you drink?" I also don’t like the idea that a blogger, a baby-blogger-reviewer, should be excessively well-read and educated in matters of literature, philosophy, films and music. If he is so, fine, but it is not a requirement of any sort that he had seen The Seventh Seal, to talk about death. I know (disclaimer alert !) , to appreciate art we need to know some back ground, but my idea of blogging is not reading the perfect prose to get the perfect insight, I am not “giving” myself to the blogger’s post, but it is to get the tone of noise in the room full of random, insightful, new, left over and co-product ideas. I am more interested in allowing myself to wonder that such views still/also exist. If I need to read a review for the purpose of getting myself enlightened I know where to go, or I will, in my capacity, figure it out. And here comes the beauty of all this so-called crap generated on blogs, because it allows you to choose your own crap - pick and choose, slice and dice. It is the onus of the reader, his onus to read and comment and write correctively, if he wants to. I am not defending blogging etc, what I am saying is that it is as stupid to restrict the type, quality, who-should-write-what etc of blogging as it is preposterous to restrict breathing in common atmosphere because we know its polluted.

The first type of blogger is a blogger who inhales freely, and vomits profusely. His thoughts are philistine, much like the comments on a Bela Tarr youtube video, but it does tell us two things that look good to me, he saw the Bela Tarr video and he wants to express. Also, from the perspective of a good reader, they can be easily dismissible posts, but not entirely without fun. Actually they are so unintentionally funny at times, that they give you most divine pleasure, which intellectuals reserve in brain banks for the so-called real arts.

The second type, the know-all, and read-all type, is a little dangerous blogger, and requires more effort from the reader’s side. He, of course, knows more than you, so it’s difficult to trash him, and even laugh at. Slowly, in a few cases, you start admiring the honesty and knowledge of the person and in some case, you start admiring the flow/pun/taste of his writings, even if you are not very satisfied with the content, and in others you get more insights about the general quality of writing in professional circles than that particular post. We have read bloggers, who in their free time write and get published, and we now know that they make slips too on their blogs, which is not anything bad. Actually, in some way, it breaks that myth among people that a writer is always well studied, well researched and right. I am not saying that, if at times, they wrote badly, gives me the right to write because I write badly all the time, but one can try, its harmless. What I mean to say is that it does open our eyes and it does, in one way or the other, make you demand better from them.

There is one more, the most pathetic, breed of bloggers, a blogger who is an artist (or artist-will-be) in one-half of the heart and a pure unknowing thief in the other half. By saying he is an artist, I mean, that he is taken by that admirable urge to write, but god had played a trick on him, a devilish trick to give him all the teeth to chew, but none to bite - the holy cow, the opposite of dog. He behaves like an old man from rich-literary country, who tells the brilliant folk-tales from his country to the alien masses, but being a part-time artist, he, fearfully and carefully, dresses them up in his own fashionable clothes. The artist in him, I know, can die otherwise, but he survives on folk tales, internalizing them, and then beautifully puking them on paper. No search engine can detect him, except himself, for he puts borrowed notes on his mundane music, just to survive. He is, to borrow from Chekhov’s The Seagull, a gambler with no money. One must pity him, for he is a victim of desire, and a misfit to fulfill it. One must pity him for he knows the double pain of pulling out the wrong tooth by the dentist. For he, with bad breath, can not kiss.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

हिंदी में आलोचना के स्तर !

निर्मल वर्मा के हिंदी में आलोचना के स्तर पर विचार।

मेरा अनुभव इतना निराशा जनक रह है कि अब मेरी पुस्तको कि प्रशंसा होती है तो न तो ज्यादा ख़ुशी होती है और जब बुरायी होती है , तो कोई बहुत अफ़सोस भी नहीं होता। मैंने यह देखा कि हिंदी आलोचना में यह कोशिश कम रहती है कि पुस्तक का संसार क्या है और फिर उसकी शर्तो पर उसकी आलोचना या तारीफ की जाये। जब कोई आलोचक यह नहीं करता तो वह किताब में कुछ ऐसी चीजे चुन लेता है जो कि उसकी आलोचना का आधार बन जाती हैं। अपने में यह बहुत अधूरी प्रशंसा या आलोचना होती है। इससे एक आलोचक एक किताब का समग्र मूल्यांकन करने में बिल्कुल असमर्थ होता है। [...] और यह बात हमे अपनी संस्कृति में भी दिखाई देती है जहाँ हम नायपाल की किताब को लेकर इतने नाराज़ हो जाते हैं पर उसकी ठीक से आलोचना नहीं कर पाते। नीरद चौधरी का विरोध करने वाले कितने लोग मिल जायेगे पर नीरद चौधरी ने भारतीय संस्कृति के बारे में जो लिखा है उसके खिलाफ जो प्रतिक्रिया देखने में आती है, वह केवल एक पूर्वाग्रह , एक आक्रोश , एक नकली किस्म की देश भक्ती प्रधान भावुकता में चुक कर रह जाती है। [...]

Chekhovian Hero

A delightful passionate paragraph by Vladimir Nabokov where he describes Chekhovian hero.

What rather irritated his politically minded critics was that nowhere does the author assign this type to any definite political party or give him any definite political program. But this is the whole point. Chekhov's inefficient idealists were neither terrorists, nor Social Democrats, nor budding Bolsheviks, nor any of the numberless members of the numberless revolutionary parties in Russia. What mattered was that this typical Chekhovian hero was the unfortunate bearer of a vague but beautiful human truth, a burden which he could neither get rid of nor carry. What we see is a continuous stumble through all Chekhov's stories, but it is a stumble of a man who stumbles because he is staring at the stars. He is unhappy, that man, and he makes others unhappy; he loves not his brethren, not those nearest to him, but the remotest. The plight of a negro in a distant land, of a Chinese coolie, of a workman in the remote Urals, affects him with a keener pang of moral pain than the misfortunes of his neighbor or the troubles of his wife. Chekhov took a special artistic pleasure in fixing all the delicate varieties of that pre-war, pre-revolution type of Russian intellectual. Those men could dream; they could not rule. They broke their own lives and the lives of others, they were silly, weak, futile, hysterical; but Chekhov suggested, blessed be the country that could produce that particular type of man. They missed opportunities, they shunned action, they spent sleepless nights in planning worlds they could not build; but the mere fact of such men, full of such fervor, fire of abnegation, pureness of spirit, moral elevation, this mere fact of such men having lived and probably still living somewhere somehow in the ruthless and sordid Russia of to-day is a promise of better things to come for the world at large - for perhaps the most admirable among the admirable laws of Nature is the survival of the weakest.

An Incident ...

Read this post by Vidya. She points us to the horrifying fact, how people around us take general decisions on pattern behavior based on very specific events, adding bit more to their already normalized list of observations, with casual media and reports for their easy help, and how they take unshared thinking for something destructive. I don't know why, it reminds me of this funny incident.

When I went to hospital to see one of my relatives, the person next to him was a young lad from a village near my home town. He started talking to me in the dialect I totally adore. And when we discuss our hometowns, we usually discuss, how they have changed and how everything is on a downhill. He was a brilliant young man, with exceptional power to narrate. When the topic came to day-to-day thefts in our hometown, he told a story. And he told the story with millimeter precision, the way the thieves planned it, and the process of execution with all the specifics, more like a classic detective novel, very unlike the crime reporting on TV. To this, the people in the ward were first absorbed, then amused and got little astonished and suspicious. And one of the old men, his relative, spoke in that lovely matter-of-fact voice, "Savre, dacait banega, m'haara budhaappa kharaab karega" [ Savre (an abuse which is used in a loving way, but basically means pig), will you become a dacoit, Will you spoil our old age]. And the whole ward was full of laughter. The young lad didn't take it too hard, replied "ya haspital hai, chillave na" (This is hospital, don't shout), and started eating his meals.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Robert Bresson Links

I sometimes wonder why Robert Bresson's films, in spite of being so precise, stripped down and without frills, are so interesting to see. This sequence from Pickpocket has every answer. See the action and the faces, and of course the hands.

Here is a small TV interview with Bresson. Here is a transcript of a long interview that appears in the book, Encountering Directors. and this is an absolute tribute to Bresson (link via).

Monday, May 21, 2007

Lars von Trier's The Boss of It All

Lars von Trier
's new film The Boss of It All is releasing in US on 23rd May '07, acc. to imdb (official site here). Here Lars von Trier uses something called "Automavision" (here he discuss it in an interview), which is used to limit human influence/intervention in the film, and due to which, the film does not have a cameraman. It seems Automavision is "choosing the best possible fixed camera position and then allowing a computer to choose when to tilt, pan or zoom." Now, the question is what is the film all about, as reviews suggest, it is about the enterprise who hires an actor to impersonate a fictional "the boss of it all". But it seems it is as much about the process of acting and directing, as it is about the enterprise and office who deal with all this. Some reviews here.

Billy Wilder on Monroe, Chaplin and God !

In the collection of interviews with directors, the most funny and humorous interview is that of Billy Wilder. When asked about the difficulty of working with Marilyn Monroe, he quipped, "Look, if I wanted somebody to be on time and to know the lines perfectly, I've got an old aunt in Vienna... but who wants to look at her?" Here is what he has to say about Charlie Chaplin

Now, on the subject of collaboration, there are a lot of people who are so
ego maniacal that they will absolutely not permit another name on the script.
Take the famous story of Chaplin making Monsieur Verdoux. Orson Welles came up
with the idea. With Chaplin it was not only that he wrote it, only only that he
directed it, not only that he acted in it, but he also composed the music, which
most of the time he stole. But before I go any further I would like you to know
that Mr. Chaplin, up to the moment he started writing dialogue, was an
absolutely unique genius. He was a God, just so that you don't think I'm
demeaning Mr. Chaplin.

And this is what he has to say on the notion of "Thinking Actor"

I'm terribly fond of Jack [Lemmon]. We understand each other very well and its a
pleasure to work with him. He is a thinking actor, but not an argumentative one.
By that I mean if we start shooting at 9 o'clock, he would be there at 8:15 and
would come to my office and say, "Hey, I've got a great idea! Look, why don't you
do this?Blah, blah, blah, blah." And I just look at him, and he says, "I don't
like it either." And he walks out.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

This time his name is Andreas !

Like Hour of the Wolf (trailer here), other neglected film of Bergman is The Passion of Anna, which Bergman says, he made to correct Hour of the Wolf. I saw The Passion of Anna long back, and don't remember a lot from it. This is the film where characters come in front of camera (link without subs) and tell the viewers what they think of the characters they play. It is innovative, but it dooesn't play very well, especially with the two male actors. What I remember most vividly is that The Passion of Anna ends with a mysterious line which says "This time his name is Andreas", when Andreas (played by Max von Sydow) is killed in an accident. Here is the part of interview where interviewer tries to resolve why Bergman did that.

Samuels : What was the meaning of the last line: "This time his name is Andreas".

Bergman: [Laughter] We will be back

S: I don't understand. It can mean that she's a man-eater. Because her first husband was also named Andreas, or it can mean that another human being has been destroyed in the world, "This time his name is Andreas", or that another Bergman character has been destroyed, this time named Andreas.

B: I will tell you; its much simpler. It means a sort of giving up: "This time his name is Andreas." You must feel behind the meaning another that you cannot define. For me, it expresses a feeling of boredom.

S: I don't understand.

B: I mean, "This time his name is Andreas"; But I will be back, and next time my character will have another name. I don't know what it will be, but this boring character will be back.

S: Also you ?

B: Yes. [Hearty Laughter]

and finally here is Liv Ullmann in a close up monologue from the film.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Two Blog Records !

I have made two personal records on this blog this month. First the good one. I made the first record by posting more than 10 posts in a month (and its only 19th may today). As they say, its a personal victory. For the second one, I think the readers (if any) are more responsible (I know they might blame it on me eventually). For the last 12 consecutive posts, I have not received (by now) a single comment (I even thought of commenting anonymously, but desire for making a record was more). Actually, I was wondering that what I write here is such a final word that no comment is needed. ...Hmmm... Are you saying it is otherwise !

बचपन और बुढ़ापा

एक साक्षात्कार में यह पूछे जाने पर की उनकी रचनाओ में बहुत से पात्र बच्चे और बूढ़े होते हें, निर्मल वर्मा ने यह जवाब दिया।

मुझे हमेशा यह लगा है की हमारी, अर्थात जिन्हे हम व्यस्क कहते हैं उनकी, एक सर्व्सत्ता वादी प्रवृत्ति बचपन पर एक अवधारणा के रुप में और बच्चों पर विशेष रुप में छाई रहती है। इस पर बहुत कम लोगो ने ध्यान दिया। हम बचपन को बड़े होने की एक सीढ़ी मात्र मानते हें। मैं ऐसा नहीं समझता ,बच्चे ऐसा नहीं समझते। बच्चे ये नहीं सोचते की मैं जो समय बिता रहा हूँ वह इसलिये है की मैं बड़ा हो जाऊँ। बचपन का समय बड़े होने का मात्र मध्यम नहीं है, बड़ा होना बच्चों की लालसा अवश्य है, किन्तु बचपन का समय अपने में 'अब्सोल्यूट' है। छः बरस का बच्चा जो जीवन जीं रह है उसमे उसके अनुभव सम्पूर्ण हैं, अन्तिम हैं। वे अपनी सच्चाई में उसी तरह परिपक्व हैं जितने यथाकथित व्यस्क व्यक्ति के होते हैं। इसलिये पहले तो हमे इस गलत फ़हमी से छुटकारा पाना होगा की बचपन किसी खास जगह जाने के लिए एक सीढ़ी मात्र है। यह वही समाज शास्त्रीय दृष्टि है जिसके चलते हम सोचते हैं की एक परंपरागत समाज , विकसित समाज तक आने के लिए एक सीढ़ी है। मानो उसका अपना कोई सच ना हो, मानो यह नियति हो की अमुक ऊँचाई तक पहुचने के लिए मनुष्य ने यह विकास यात्रा की। इसे में समाज विज्ञान के स्तर पर भी और मनोविज्ञान के स्तर पर भी भ्रान्तिपूर्ण अवधारणा मानता हूँ।

बचपन काल का बोध वैसा नहीं होता वैसा की वह व्यस्क व्यक्ति को होता है। बचपन में आने वाला कल बच्चे को किसी तरह की कोई सांत्वना नहीं देता। थॉमस मान की एक कहानी है जहाँ एक बच्ची रोती है क्योकि वह बड़े आदमियों के साथ नाच नहीं सकती, उसके माता पिता उसे समझाते हैं लेकिन उसके आँसू नहीं रुकते क्योकि उस बच्ची को लगता है की में इस व्यक्ति के साथ कभी भी नाच नहीं सकूंगी । समय उसके दुःख को सोख नहीं सकता। उसका दुःख अपने में सम्पूर्ण है। बचपन की हर अनुभूति किसी आनेवाले क्षण की सांत्वना को प्राप्त नहीं करती। इसीलिये बच्चा जब रोता है तो पूरे दुःख से रोता है, कोई भी उसे दिलासा नहीं दे सकता।

अगर यह बात है तो मेरे लिए , एक लेखक के लिए, इसे समझना कितनी बड़ी जरूरत है, विशेषकर इसलिये की मैं एक ऐसे देश से हूँ जहाँ मैंने काल बोध की इस अवधारणा को ना केवल सहा है बल्कि जो अब भी मुझमे मौजूद है, जिसे व्यसकता का बोध अभी भी नष्ट नहीं कर पाया बशर्ते की मुझमे इतनी क्षमता और धैर्य हो की मैं उसे अपनी कहानियो में पुनर्जाग्रत करने की चेष्ठा करु। हम अपनी कहानियो में , उनके क्षेष्ठ्तम क्षणों में , उसे पुनर्जाग्रत करने में सफल हो पाते हैं जिसे हम अतीत कहते हैं लेकिन जो अभी मरा नहीं है बल्कि हमारे भीतर जीवित है। मैंने यहाँ सिर्फ बचपन की बात कही है, बुढ़ापे पर भी वह भिन्न रुप में लागू हो सकती है। मुझे व्यसकता की सर्व सत्ता वादी अभिव्यक्ति, चाहे वह बुढ़ापे पर हो या बचपन पर, क्रूर और आततायी जान पड़ती है।

'भाषा और राष्ट्रीय अस्मिता' - निर्मल वर्मा

निर्मल वर्मा के लेख 'भाषा और राष्ट्रीय अस्मिता' से कुछ अंश नीचे लिख रह हूँ।

आत्म उत्खनन अथवा आत्म अन्वेषण का सबसे सक्षम आयुध भाषा है। भाषा मनुष्य की देह का अदृश्य अंग है जो उसे आत्म दृष्टि देता है। भाषा और आत्म बोध का यह संबंध मनुष्य को समस्त जीव जंतु से अलग एक अद्वितीय क्षेणी में ला खड़ा कर देता है। अपने अधूरेपन को पहचान कर ही मनुष्य सम्पूणॅता का स्वप्न देखता है। अतः उसे पाने की प्राथमिक प्रतिज्ञा भी इसी आत्म बोध में निहित रहती है। किसी भी संस्कृति की पहचान महज उसके यथार्थ तक सीमित नहीं रहती, वह अपने स्वप्नों द्वारा भी विशेषता उजागर करती है, इसलिये उसकी बनावट में भाषा का महत्वपूर्ण योगदान है।

एक संस्कृति के क्या स्वप्न हैं, यह बहुत हद तक उसकी स्मृतियां निर्धारित करती हैं। शब्द में यदि स्वप्न का संकेत है तो स्मृति की छाया भी। इसलिये कोई भी भाषा, जब तक वह है, कभी मृत भाषा नहीं होती। यदि हमारे अतीत का सब कुछ मर मिट जाये , तो भी भाषा बची रहती है, जिसके द्वारा एक समाज के सदस्य आपस में संवाद कर पाते हैं, तो वर्तमान में रहते हुए भी वे अवचेतन रुप में अपने अतीत से जुडे रहते हैं और अतीत अदृश्य रुप में उनके वर्तमान में प्रवाहित होता रहता है। इस अर्थ में भाषा का दोहरा चरित्र होता है, वह सम्प्रेषण का माध्यम होने के साथ साथ संस्कृति की वाहक भी होती है। किसी देश की संस्कृति एतिहासिक झंझावातों द्वारा क्षत विक्षत भले ही हो जाये, उसका सत्य और साताव्य उसकी भाषा में बचा रहता है।


हम जिसे संस्कृति का सत्य कहते हैं, वह और कुछ नहीं, शब्दो में अन्तर्निहित अर्थों की संयोजित व्यवस्था है और जिसे हम 'यथार्थ' कहते हैं वह इन्ही अर्थों की खिड़की से देखा गया बाह्य जगत है। जिस अनुपात में हम किसी एतिहासिक दबाव या दमन के कारण अपनी भाषा से उन्मूलित हो जाते हैं, ठीक उसी अनुपात में खिड़की से बाहर देखा गया परिदृश्य भी धूमिल और धुंधला पड़ता जाता है। भाषा भीतर के सत्य और बाहर के यथार्थ के बीच सेतु का काम करती है। दिलचस्प बात यह है कि सत्य और यथार्थ दोनो असल में एक दूसरे से अलग नहीं हैं, केवल वैचारिक सुविधा के लिए ही उन्हें दो पृथक अवधाराणायो के रुप में देखते हैं। हम रहते एक ही शब्द जगत में हैं। जिस तरह बाहरी दुनिया भाषा कि बंदी है वैसे ही हम भाषा के बंदी हैं - खिड़की और खिड़की से बाहर देखा परिदृश्य एक दूसरे से अलग नहीं हैं। विटगेन्स्टाइन की उपमा का सहारा लें तो कहेंगे कि भाषा कि दीवारो से टकराकर जब माथे पर गोमड़ पड़ते हैं, तभी हमे अपने बंदी होने का बोध होता है।

भाषा, मिथक और स्मृति का यह अन्तः संबंध ही एक समूह के सदस्यों को एक सामूहिक अस्मिता में एक-सूत्रित करता है। जिस तरह यूरोप कि संस्कृति की कल्पना ग्रीक और लातिनी भाषा तथा उससे सम्बंधित मिथक कथाओ से अलग नहीं की जा सकती, उसी तरह भारतीय संस्कृति ने अपना रूपाकार भी संस्कृत में रची उन पौराणिक कथाओ और महाकाव्यों से प्राप्त किया था, जिनकी आदम स्मृति आज भी भारतीय मानस पर अंकित हैं। एक संस्कृति का एतिहासिक अतीत तो होता है जिसे हम मानकर चलते हैं, किन्तु उसका एक आन्तरिक अतीत भी होता है जो उसकी भाषा की अवधारणाओं, मिथकों और प्रत्ययों में अंतर्ध्वनित होती है। "हर भाषा उन लोगो के इर्द गिर्द , जो उसे बोलते हैं, एक जादुई घेरा खींच देती है, जिससे केवल एक दूसरे घेरे में जाकर ही बचा जा सकता है" - हाईडेगर


Friday, May 18, 2007

Directors on Other Directors and their Films

Before I return the film books to the library, I should copy something more. Here are directors speaking about other directors and their films.

Pedro Almodóvar on David Lynch

When he films certain objects in close ups, he manages to give these shots genuine suggestive power. Not only are the images faultless from an aesthetic viewpoint, but they are also full of mystery. His approach is close to mine except that since I am more fascinated by actors, I like to film faces, while Lynch, who was trained in the plastic arts, is clearly more interested in objects.

Jean-Luc Godard on Alain Resnais' Hiroshima mon amour

When I was part of the New Wave, we spent time discussing other people's films. And I remember that when we saw Hiroshima mon amour by Alain Resnais, we were just stunned. We thought we had discovered everything about cinema, we thought we knew it all, and suddenly we were confronted with something that had been done without us, without our knowledge, and that deeply moved us. It was as though the Soviets in 1917, had discovered that another country had had a Communist revolution which worked as well as theirs - or even better ! Image how they would have felt ...

Emir Kusturica on Jean Renoir's The Rules of the Game

I personally consider it to be the cinema's greatest masterpiece in terms of direction. For me, this film is the peak of elegance in narration, with framing done in focal lengths that are neither too long nor too short, always adapted to human vision, with great visual richness and great depth of field. Moreover, it was Renoir - and even perhaps also his father, the painter - who influenced my manner of always creating very deep and very rich frames.

Takeshi Kitano on Akira Kurosawa

If students were to ask me, "What's a great film?" I'd immediately send them to see Kagemusha, The Seven Samurai, or Rashomon. The amazing thing about Kurosawa's films, I find, is the precision of the image. In the framing and the placing of the characters, the composition is always perfect, even when the camera is moving. You could easily take each one of the 24 frames in every second and it would make a beautiful picture. I think that's the ideal definition of cinema: a succession of perfect images. And Kurosawa is the only director who has attained that.

Ingmar Bergman on Jean Renoir

A French critic compared Smiles of the Summer Night to The Rules of the Game, so I wanted to see the film. When an American producer, who wanted to make me a present, asked me to choose one. I requested a print of Renoir's film to put in my private cinematheque. I think its an extremely bad picture. It is badly acted. Renoir is very overrated director. He has only made one good picture: The Human Beast.

Michelangelo Antonioni on Francois Truffaut

I think his films are like a river, lovely to see, to bathe in, extraordinarily refreshing and pleasant. Then the water flows and is gone. Very little of the pleasant feeling remains because I soon feel dirty again and need another bath. [...] His images are as powerful as those of Resnais or Godard, but his stories are frivolous. I suppose that's what I object to. Rene Clair told light stories, too, but they touch me more. I don't know why Truffaut leaves me unmoved. It's not trying to say that he has no significance. I only mean that the way he tells a story doesn't come to anything. Perhaps he doesn't tell my kind of stories. Perhaps that's it.

Francois Truffaut on Michelangelo Antonioni

(When asked why he hates Antonioni)
First, for his lack of humor. He is so solemn, so terribly pompous. I don't like the image he projects of himself as the psychologist of the feminine soul. When De Gaulla was trying to restore the confidence of the French in Algeria, he said, "French men and women, I have understood you." Antonioni stands like that and says, "Women of the world, I have understood you." And he follows the fashion. That's why he was arrested the other day at the London airport with hashish in his shoe.

Fedrico Fellini on Ingmar Bergman

He showed it (Hour of the Wolf) to me when he came to Rome. Its fantasy is completely different from mine, more Nordic. I would call Hour of the Wolf Bergman's 8 1/2. Indeed, he confesses candidly that he has seen all my films and cites them in his own. Being a rich, an authentic artist, he can borrow from others without any guilt of plagiarism. I value Bergman a lot. He is a real man of spectacle and images, one of the best.

Vittorio de Sica on Pier Paolo Pasolini

He is good, particularly in his Roman films like Accatone, but I also admire his Oedipus Rex. Perhaps Pasolini is a bit too literary, too educated. Its been said that Shakespeare is better played by ignorant than by overly cultivated actors. Pasolini imposes his immense cultivation on his work; he could probably use more freedom, greater simplicity.

Ingmar Bergman on Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Avventura

The picture is a mess. He has no idea where to put the camera. He had no money. The actors went away. I think he had enormous problem the whole time. But he wanted to tell something about the loneliness of human being. I can see this picture time after time, and I don't know what touches me the most - how he succeeds without knowing how to do it, or what he wants to say.

Link of the Day !

May be you know about it by now, but I recently discovered an extremely innovative comic strip called xcfd, and found it super funny. It makes jokes about mathematics, programming, and space/time, and of course human species - both flavors. I particularly find this strip very optimistic.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Excerpt from Bergman Interview

Here is an excerpt from an interview where Charles Thomas Samuels (who asks some really insightful questions) interviews Ingmar Bergman. Taken from the book Encountering Directors.

Samuels: Let me get at my point another way. When Elisabet looks at television and sees a Buddhist monk immolating himself in Vietnam, several critics wanted to take this as an uncharacteristic expression of your interest in politics. But I think it must be related to the later scene - in her bedroom - when she studies the Cartier-Bresson photograph of the Jews being led out of the Warsaw ghetto. Both scenes dramatize the awe inspired in the artist when he faces true suffering - which, however, cannot escape some involvement with art, since both the monk and the Jews reach our consciousness through the art of the photographer.

Bergman: Let me explain exactly what I tried to express in the first scene. The monk scares her because his conviction is so enormous he is willing to die for it. The photograph represents real suffering.

S: But it is, paradoxically, also art. And I find it suggestive that during the great scene in
Shame when you show the people being herded in and out of buildings by the soldiers, you yourself recall the composition of Cartier-Bresson's great photograph. Didn't you feel the recollection ?

B: In a way, yes. But I never thought of it. The scene you mention represents humiliation, which is the subject of
Shame. The films is not about enormous brutality, but only meanness. It is exactly like what happened to the Czechs. They defended their rights, and now, slowly, they are being submitted to tactics of brutalization that wears them down, Shame is not about bombs, its about gradual infiltration of fear.

S: So that the low budget and the consequent lack of large war scenes precisely reflect your theme.

B: Yes, but
Shame is not precise enough. My original idea was to show only a single day before the war had broken out. But then I wrote things and it all went wrong - I don't know why. I haven't seen Shame recently, and I am little afraid to do so. When you make such picture you have to be very hard on yourself. Its a moral question.

S: Why ?

B: Certain things in life are impossible to represent - like a concentration camp.

S: Because the reality is too terrible ?

B: Exactly. It is almost the same with war as with murder or death. You must be a hundred percent morally conscious in treating these things.

S: You must not simply shock.

B: Exactly, to show someone dying is false.

I am becoming more and more disillusioned with depiction of so-called real-events like death and war in the films, not because on screen voilence is bad, but because, as Bergman says, such shocks are essentially false. On a related note, especially related to the still photography, a documentary, Looking for an Icon, is getting some good reviews. It takes four important political still photographs from history and try to deconstruct them.

Link of the Day !

Such posts are rare (link via). Sincere expressions like "I like to keep them [your photos] with me as symbols of beauty" are even rarer. The exceeding beauty of this love letter makes us wonder, is it real !

Read this other exceptional post by him, where father gets seduced by him and "offers" his daughter to him, and in between he throws his most-modern ideas on Feminism.

Manchi Pani Chesaav, Raju gaaro !

On Illness, Jolts and Past...

The last few days in India were very hectic and probably that’s why emotionless. There is no right time to feel right, or is there any right feeling. We feel and forget, and we feel again, and try to throw things in the dustbin of past. What we feel seems so random and misplaced that it seems like a trick played by nature to keep us busy. But sometimes, after a while, patterns emerge, some things keep coming back, others wither away, may be to come back at more unexpected times. Two things kept coming to mind in those last days. One is quite personal; other is more of a by-product of random thinking.

My last few days in India were hospital-bound. Three of my close relatives and family friends, old and not too old, were unexpectedly admitted to hospitals and were diagnosed with serious illnesses. Taking rounds of ICUs, general wards and homes, seeing people you have known for long, drugged and tired, talking with effort, is not a good feeling. People sitting next to them say things like "You cant share someone’s illness", and it seems so true at that time, not that you want to share anything but it reasserts that they alone will bear it, and you helplessly try to make peace with the fact that they are enormously loaded with pain. Does illness of loved ones humble you? Or it just makes you fearful that you will age too? I don’t know but to see people, whom you have seen upright, talking to you, scolding you, unable to talk and recognize you, brings a feeling of eventual collapse. If everything in you and people you know, will end so mercilessly, why try to be so smart and clever in life, and then comes a thought rushing, probably thats why, just to keep us busy and going. A thought of achieving a simpler life, closely knit with the knowledge of its futility, passes by unnoticed and we again stand here, as clever as ever.

The other thought originated from the Tarkovsky's quote at the end of this post. The quote talks about the momentary influence of art on the viewer; it says that art just provides a jolt -the occasion for psychical experience. Viewing this quote from the other side one might ask - when does an artist create [good] ?, I think it comes out as a jolt too. I acknowledge the role of past experience to create and shape up such flash, and the need of afterthought and introspection to polish the ideas to convey them. But I think the idea and the urge to create sparks from that momentary jolt. We all get such jolts through art or personal experiences (like the humbling in case of illness of a loved one) and we quickly try to forget them to move on but an artist stays and observes.

The main point, which may not be anything new or can be utterly superfluous, is that a person can become an artist when he has the ability to stay with the jolt for a longer time than others. It is not to say that an artist understands all the times, but to say that an artist elongates those moments of understanding to create something out of them, yet utterly personal. If we would like to consider the creative life-time of an artist as a better person, a more open and understanding person, then we can try not to nip the jolts, not to trash the past.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Pachelbel's Canon in D

I am listening this for few months now and tried to hear as many renditions I could find on youtube or otherwise, by expert or otherwise, and obviously, I found it truly amazing, exactly fitting into my idea of music, which is not so much of an idea though. Now its a near-cliche in personal circles that I am musically challenged, I dont understand it, although I try to. In a recently read Bergman interview, he quotes what Stravinsky once said "I have never understood a piece of music in my life. I always only feel" to emphasise that his films (and films in general) should also be felt, which I think is bit problematic exposition, because when it comes to images, their preciseness makes them discursive. All said, I always felt and will feel that for a beginner its very important to understand, rather than to feel. I might take pleasure in what Stravinsky said but that is not an earned pleasure. So whatever little music tends to stay with me for a while and dont get butchered by over-listening, begets high respect from me.

As far as music in films goes, I dont like if images try to supersede it, also I feel little uncomfortable, if because of music slight images try to seek some power. Thats why some of the beautiful Hindi film songs, sound so bitter when seen. In films, I think if music is used, more than anything, it should match the camera movements. Anything, trying to match with emotions and themes, is guiding, belittling both music and images. Look at the use of music in Wong kar-wai films, it gyrates with the camera frame. Or be like Fellini, use same music for almost every film, the music you like, which is also true with Kar-wai. A Bollywood movie is a different game, a different theory holds there and I seriously feel that no other movie genre could and would accommodate so much musical variety, its like a genre which has nothing to lose.

Coming back to Pachelbel's Canon in D, I think I liked it because it sounds like Indian music. I dont know the technical terms, but the main difference that I find between the two is of the long and short notes. In music I like long notes, the dragged, the better. Hold the key longer, use major keys. In Hindustani classical, they will stretch it left and right. Thats why I think, I like most of the things played on cello, and I think if Indian music can be played on cello too. So here are few versions of Pachelbel's Canon. This one is little faster than the original but photographed very well. I am fundamentally against music videos, the best is to shoot the recording or the public performance, which shows the creative process, the hardwork into it and most importantly the pleasure to perform, and the second best is to put a montage of emotionless faces [no kids please], like the montage of pictures in Code Unknown. The idea is not to channelize or steer. This and this are very close to the original. Few versions here, here and here.