Monday, April 15, 2013

Women, Five

This is a post on women, which, by definition, makes this a serious post. In my opinion, all blog posts published on Women's Day are supposed to be based on women. Yes, I know that this is not Women's Day, but that's hardly relevant.

The objective is to choose The Five Famous Women in my life. Ideally, I would have called them The Famous Five Women, but had I done that, Mary Pollock may have cringed in her grave.

Disclaimer:
Let me make this clear first: these are not women I know personally. These are famous women who have affected me in some way or the other in various phases of my life. Doing the same on known people would be as foolish as a unicorn trying to cook a sausage using its horn.

The list is probably supposed to cross something like a hundred, but I will restrict it to five. Five seems to be a cool number. It's odd, it's prime, and it's a four-letter word that begins with F. It also rhymes with words that mean a lot to me,like jive.

As mentioned above, this is going to be a serious topic. There will be no intentional silly jokes, puns, or even passes at Fardeen Khan. I promise you that. I even forhans and colgate.

There are multiple reasons for me liking these wonderful individuals. Of course, there are multiple reasons for me liking other women as well. For example, there are two very good reasons for liking Ayesha Takia, and a few other ladies as well. On the other hand Lisa Sthalekar was a legendary all-round cricketer who batted, bowled, and fielded well, writes insightful articles, and has an excellent sense of humour. However, she did not exactly have an impact on me, so she doesn't qualify.

This, then, is an ode to The Five. In chronological order, they are:

Dame Agatha Christie
"I specialize in murders of quiet, domestic interest."

The above quote is enough to fall in love with anyone, man or woman, tall or short, blind or blonde, homosexual or heterosexual, shoe size five or nine.

One of the reasons that I repent not being born, say, seventy-five years back, is the fact that I was not a contemporary of Dame Christie. To make things worse, she had passed away a year before I was born - so any chance of having a conversation with her did not happen (like that would have happened if I was, indeed, her contemporary).

The only way, thus, of reaching out to Dame Christie's brilliant mind was through her books. She was the Queen of Mysteries - and even if you leave out Parker Pyne, and Tommy and Tuppence, you still get two major detectives - the likes of which have arguably never been replicated in the history of literature.

There have been writers richer in language (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) or in philosophy (GK Chesterton). Both Sherlock Holmes and Father Brown are peerless personalities. Perhaps, from a critic's point of view, Dame Christie would probably have come third in the list.

However, in terms of weaving a logical plot - and, more importantly - the characterisation of her two protagonists, she has been peerless. Despite all his eccentricities, you cannot help but fall in love with Poirot (and by that I do not mean David Suchet). And Miss Marple, well, could well have been your grandmother's friend from next door.

What set Dame Christie really apart from her peers, was the step-by-step way in her stories unfolded. It almost seemed that you were working on a mathematical problem when you worked your way through the labyrinth of her plot. Seldom has an author been able to write book after book - so logical in structure, so gripping despite the unassuming style of writing, and left the reader so gaping for the climax.

It would have been fun. I mean this. I can really see myself sitting in front of her in front of a fireplace (fireplaces are cool), as she would read the stories out to me in various stages, placing a bet that I would win a fortune for every error I would have been able to point out in the plot; and lose every time.

But unfortunately, as she has mentioned, "The best time to plan a book is while you're doing the dishes."

Sigh.

Diane Keaton
For a long time in his career, Woody Allen, the next thing to God in terms of script-writing, had written his scripts entirely from an proud, somewhat obnoxious, intelligent, skeptic, New Yorker's point of view. He had never even considered seeing life from a woman's viewpoint.

That changed with Diane Keaton.

It is actually difficult to choose one from Keaton's performances. Just have a look at the power-packed performance against Al Pacino in the Godfather series. Or the portrayal of an ageing author in Something's Gotta Give, where she matched the genius of Jack Nicholson, frame-by-frame.


Look at her from 1:45 to 2:00. Had I been Al Pacino, I would never have been able to close the door on her face, irrespective of what the script had said.


Show me one person who looks this adorable while crying. Being a blogger (which makes me a poor man's writer), I know exactly what she is trying to express. The difference is - she can express.

However, it was Woody Allen with whom she formed the greatest on-screen pair that ever was. No other person would have done justice to Allen's magic - and Keaton was more than up to the task. The chemistry was magical. It was not about a single movie - the outrageous brilliance spread across Allen's creations. If Allen brought out the best in Keaton, she was the one who could do the most justice to Allen's masterpieces.

There was something about Annie Hall (not Annie Hall) that keeps you awake at nights, thinking hard and hard over the woman in the movie. The eccentric yet intellectual brilliance, the natural sense of humour, the unmistakable essence of womanhood, the outlandish vintage men's wardrobe, the carefree laughter that makes you stare open-mouthed - in other words, the woman of your dreams. She's too good to be true - and once you've seen Annie Hall, it's a lifetime thing: you'll never be able to get over her.


And the thing is, just like Annie Hall, that not-being-able-to-get-over thing holds good for Diane Keaton as well. Always. Always. It's impossible to get over her once you've got the hang of her. She could make Annie Hall make it past Annie Hall.

Unlike most others, she has graced with age, and looked as gorgeous as women three decades or so younger to her. She did turn up for the 2003 Oscars in a tuxedo and a bowler hat - and looked more in place than any woman else that has ever existed.

If you really want wit, I give you wit as well. Here you go:


Show me a woman who can do better - impromptu. I will be indebted to you forever.


 If only I was Woody Allen.

La-dee-dah, la-dee-dah, la-la.

Sigh.

JK Rowling
JK Rowling ruled my life for close to a decade, and actually continues to do so; the attraction bit has now spilled over to the next generation. I've read stories about her struggling days and her charity, but it's her world that won over my heart. If Dame Christie had been the Queen of Logic, 'Jo' is the Queen of Storytelling.

There has never been a better storyteller. It started with a concept. It ended up being the epic of our times. It spanned over three thousand pages, remained a bestseller for over a decade, has a theme park named after it and has inspired eight nightmarish movies, each one worse than the other.

Comparisons with other champions of the genre, especially JRR Tolkien, are unavoidable. What makes Rowling stand out, though, is the unputdownability of her style. I had committed the same mistake seven times - I had started a Harry Potter book for the first time in the evening. This inevitably meant that I had to stay awake till well past midnight - sometimes even past dawn. That had never happened to me with The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings.

There are other masters who have created parallel universes of their own. Rowling's triumph lies in the fact that her world was not a world of superheroes: it was about the success of mortals over the superheroes, the victory of our intents over our abilities.

I can quote Rowling quotes just like that (can you see me snapping my thumb and middle-finger, rather audibly?), but there is no point. Everyone knows them by heart. It's difficult to point out a single piece from the largest jigsaw puzzle of all time.

I will point out something else, though, that may interest you. It is mentioned here, in the Harry Potter part. Isn't she a genius?

When I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in the morning (yes, you've read it right), my insides were filled with a vacuum I've never come across, before or afterwards. Ever. The thing is - she had felt the same as well.


Just like Dame Christie, I wish I could be there with her when she planned out the entire series. During her writer's block before Order of the Phoenix came out. When each and every character was planned out. Talk about being at the wrong place in the wrong time.

"Always", Ms Rowling. "Always".

Sigh.

Madhuri Dixit
Growing up in India in the 1980s without being a Madhuri Dixit fan was an impossible feat that no man has achieved. I know quite a number of female fans as well - possibly the only Indian actress (isn't that a politically incorrect word these days?) with unanimous fan-following across genders.

Yes, there were a handful of Sridevi fans here and there, but they were always treated with disdain. They sometimes uttered words like Lamhe or Sadma, but no one seemed to bother. Madhuri was the only actress who could make any script work - against any lead actor (or without one), and adorning any costume.

She could pull off any role. Or any dance number. Even if it involved posing as a fisherwoman. Wearing the most ridiculous costume. Against an orange background.



See what I meant? See? See?

The nation mourned in unison on 7th October 1999. I was among the millions who could not have a proper meal on that day. This is probably the entire nation had felt like on that day (don't miss out on the assortment of emotions). And I was no exception.


Remember that I was well past my teens. I was well past my school days - when my school-bag, and hidden nooks of the house were packed by numerous Madhuri Dixit picture-postcards worth 50 paise otherwise. They could not have been revealed for obvious reasons in a household where Bollywood was perpetually considered taboo.

I shudder to think what they would have done, had they got to know about the Stardust and Filmfare cut-outs. But then, there is a lot you can do for the woman who can outdo an overhyped woman easily.


Why did you have to vanish, Madhuri?

Sigh. Sigh. Sigh. Sigh. Sigh.

Chitrangada Singh
I first saw Hazaaron Khwahishein Aisi in 2006. I saw it thrice in three days, and was in a sort of trance. It seemed to me Geeta, played in the movie by Chitrangada Singh, was the greatest female character created in the history of Bollywood. Ever.

The choice has not changed. Never has a female character been as desirable, as sensuous, and as, well, you get the point, right? If you don't, you need to watch the movie - multiple times, if possible.


If Diane Keaton was the epitome of intellect and Madhuri had the most attractive face ever, Chitrangada Singh is the most attractive woman ever. I had never thought someone so young will ever make it to the list, but there you go.

Sadly, her later movies have never been able to produce another Geeta - but then, after Inkaar, I really haven't given up hope. She will pull off another Geeta. Sometime. Some day. Shortly.

I just know this.

Bonus entry: Mila Kunis
Enough said.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Journey in Photographs - IV

Being in a somewhat sour mood, mostly due to the recent occurrences in the city, I finally decided to vent it where I have always done - here. And since my brain is too tired to create anything decent, I finally decided to do the next sequel of this series.

Remember, most of these pictures were taken using my faithful Nokia E63, so please do not complain about the picture quality.

Do bear with me through this installment. An apology (in advance) to the non-Bengali readers, since some of the exhibits are in Bangla. I will translate and/or transliterate whenever I can, though.


Exhibit 1: So I guess whatever they had taught us was wrong. Kids can have babies.


Exhibit 2: This is an old joke made by the legendary Dadathakur, but I guess I should do a replug - given that I have got a chance to capture it.
Transliteration: Charitraheen Sharatchandra Chattopadhyay.


Exhibit 3: If you do not want to get herpes, syphilis, gonorrhoea, or something similar, that is.


Exhibit 4: Agencies typically service cars, but servicing drivers is a first for me. If you're interested, you can always call and learn what this is all about.


Exhibit 5: Sorry about the picture quality. It says Exterior Interior Ltd. You can interpret it the way you want to.


Exhibit 6: No, this is not a Rabindrasangeet. Absolutely not.


Exhibit 7: I wonder what this clock is used to measure. I have an intelligent guess, though.


Exhibit 8: No comments. The movie is Peechha Karro, a Diptakirti recommendation.


Exhibit 9: Courtesy Tamal. Just an example how things can go wrong if you don't repair things in time. And no, I'm not going to translate this.


Exhibit 10: As opposed to the heavier version. Or the darker version.
Transliteration: The light Swami Vivekananda.


Exhibit 11: No, 6pcs (or 6 pieces) does not mean kima meat. It never did.


Exhibit 12: Either this is where Sita entered the underworld for the last time, or, well... you interpret for yourself. Do note the spelling of 'entrance', though.


Exhibit 13: This is why they call Kolkata a male-chauvinist city.
Transliteration: Bou.
Translation: Wife.


Exhibit 14: You know now who polishes our city clean, don't you?


Exhibit 15: A very, very small lap - will accommodate a smartphone at most; certainly won't accommodate a laptop. I wonder why this is the name of a nursing-home.

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