This #napowrimo poem was inspired by a fable I read as a child called Ant and the Grasshopper, about a grasshopper who procrastinates.
This is my interpretation of it, I deeply relate to the grasshopper haha
The picture in question is a coloured print of La Fontaine’s version of the fable by Jean-Baptiste Oudry (courtesy Wikipedia, very fancy)
Ant and grasshopper co-inhabitants in springs
In a world where soru was pay for writers code
Ant wrote and wrote titbits saved for grubless winter
Hopper strummed, synergized on the virtual realm
Glanced at his calendar swallowing pills of unease
Supplies were running low as was motivation
Motivation is random, winter is predation
Loose noose tightens, Hopper leaps to narrow lost seize
Setae falls, monocle over compound eyes helm
Ant refuses victuals, tough love is tinder
Hopper whets and sweats and scrapes through incommode
Sighs at snow, lesson learnt pro tempore- time tings.
Mustang and The Virgin Suicides are really two very different movies. The setting is different. Mustang is set in a village in Turkey while The Virgin Suicides is suburbia of Michigan. The view focus is different. Mustang is seen from the POV of the sisters with a view focus on their lives. TVS is seen from the POV of the neighbourhood boys where the view focus is their interpretation of the girls’ lives.
As the movies unfurl, we see how different the stories are as well.
TVS plays into the ‘bored white girl’ trope, at times making a parody of it – like when the boys try to decipher the meaningless scrawls of their diary and theorize what it could imply (the line, “what we have here is a dreamer” is a consequence of that). The movie is deep rooted in the western sensibilities which play as a background throughout the movie. It dwells heavily on the mystery that the girls are shrouded in. We see this as emptiness from the girls’ lives and as fascination from the boys. They internalize this house arrest they are placed under, only wishing to see the outside world rather than be in it. It feels like they have accepted their situation and rather than rebel against it have found ways to live with it.
Mustang is the opposite; the girls rebel at every chance they get, like they alone will have the final say in their lives. It deals with themes of identity and freedom. The movie is about what happens to each of their lives and aims to shed light in the various ways women’s lives are policed.
When I watched the trailer of Mustang, it reminded me of TVS. And even after I watched it, I could not shake off that feeling. And now that I have set tone to why they are different, I want to talk about representation- Starkly similar scenes that play out in the two movies while their end purpose is different.
The manner in which certain shots are represented were very insightful. Though their presence in the movie had different motives, and different outcomes, in isolation these shots were interchangeable. Some of these shots are
When the girls are under house arrest (happens in both movies, duh).
TVS aims to show the desolation in isolation. Mustang aims to show the urge for freedom from the entrapment.
Both movies have one sister die (in TVS all of them do, but Cecilia, the youngest one commits suicide first) by committing suicide. While TVS uses this to exacerbate the clandestine thoughts of the sisters, Mustang uses it as a definitive. We have cause (her uncle sexually molests her and she is about to get married against her will) and action (her sudden promiscuity and deliberate insinuations to irritate her uncle which precede her death) for the girl’s death and consequences (her younger sister is to marry the man she was ‘promised’ to). While Cecilia’s death and attempts of death are shot in a manner that feels delicate and tragic, like a flower crushed under a heel; Ece’s (from Mustang) is not even in the frame. We feel the consequence of it, which is what the director wants us to focus on.
Both movies have one sister acting out sexually, but again Lexi from TVS is portrayed as uninhibited which accentuates under the stifiling circumstances where as Ece from Mustang is trying to push her luck out of spite after being sexually abused by her uncle and she ultimately kills herself.
And finally, there is the house arrest itself. In TVS a conservative family sends their daughters to prom and when one of them breaks curfew because she sleeps with her high-school prom date and falls asleep on the football field- they stop letting their daughters go to school altogether.
In Mustang, the girls play in the beach with their classmates and when their uncle and grandmother hear of it, they place the girls on house arrest after performing a virginity test on them.
The emotional chord struck by these representations are the same, despite their unique circumstances. And this is because, underneath the void and the fight, the house arrest bred melancholy. And the orthodox branch of the Western and Middle Eastern worlds share their need to moral police their girls. In the end, it is the humanity, both good and ugly which is the commonality in the movies’ representations.
On a separate note, please listen to this song from the soundtrack of The Virgin Suicides. It will change your life. Also watch the two movies if you have not and let me know what you think.
Moments make a human; we are the culmination of all the moments of our lives. A moment could be fleeting, barely lasting in our memories. Or it could hold on forever, shaping the way we see the world. I think observing art is a moment capable of making a person. About ten years ago, I was gifted a DVD of Al Gore’s campaign on Global Warming. It was called ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ and spoke at length about the ways our planet is getting closer to being unlivable.
What stuck with me is a comment someone made while watching it- “We’re not destroying the planet, we’re destroying our opportunity to live in it. Soon we will be no more, but the planet will continue to change and exist.”
There is so much truth to that. We are not saving the world by being environmentally conscious, we’re saving ourselves, our future.
That moment shaped me made me more environmentally conscious, care more about animal welfare. It was in this pursuit that I volunteered at the NGO that goes by the name BHUMI. I belong to their Catalyze Project, which aims to spread public awareness about Environmental issues, Animal Welfare, Sexual Harassment etc. and create a more empathetic and informed community.
As a part of the celebrations for Ten years of the NGO, a series of events were scheduled to take place over the coming weekends. The first was the Tree Plantation Drive, which was on the Independence Day of India- August 15th.
We planted about forty trees in the outskirts of Bangalore, in a place called Devashettahalli. We planted the trees in the Government Primary School, where we had the opportunity to interact with the kids who had come to take part in the school flag hoisting ceremony. We also had the opportunity to interact with the locals who were extremely helpful (they pointed out plots where planting the tree would be most viable, an invaluable insight) and really, really good cooks (the lunch- tomato bath and kesaribath were probably the best I have ever had).
It was a great learning experience and I got to understand the amount of work that goes into planning a tree plantation drive. I am leaving a series of useful links below, for those of you interested in taking on plantation drives, or just wish to make your community/home greener and cleaner (Karnataka only).
Spoilers ahead, but the movie came out in 1993, so I don’t know if ‘spoilers’ really works in context.
Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993) is the mystery movie you want to re-watch when it’s raining outside and you have a filter coffee. It’s the movie to re-watch when you buy a new velvet bathrobe and want to lounge in it, feeling fancy. This is mostly because of the soundtrack; you have some Reinhardt and Brubeck set against stunning long-shots of Manhattan.
The movie uses the idea of mystery very cleverly, which is why I love it. On the surface you have the Carol and Larry Lipton (Diane Keaton and Woody Allen respectively), who have stumbled across a (possible) murder right across their hallway. But the movie progresses to parody murder mysteries while celebrating them at the same time. You have all these strata of discernibility, and get to pick which works for you.
There’s Carol, who is the kind of person every ‘Five find-outers and the dog’ fan will grow up to be. She sees a mystery and relentlessly pursues it. She hides under the bed when the (possible) murderer returns, only to leave her reading glasses there. Larry is constantly neurotic about it giving us alternative narratives to the murder mystery and lampooning the plausibility of it in the first place.
If this hasn’t charmed you into wearing pearls yet, the movie proceeds to make the viewer feel like they are spying on the Lipton couple spying on their neighbours. We constantly see the proceedings of their armature snooping by seeing the reflection of their actions in mirrors, rather than the action itself. When they follow someone, the camera follows them at a distance, straining at every turn to keep them in view, like we are following them at a distance. Especially during the first viewing, we’re novice detectives ourselves, critiquing every move of Carol and her ally Ted (Alan Alda).
The mysteries in MMM cannot be spoken about without mentioning the climax, where Larry Lipton has confronted (confirmed) murderer Paul House (Jerry Adler). Paul has kidnapped Carol after being made to believe these two rookies have evidence of his crime. Larry comes to free Carol and this leads to a scene where Paul is attempting to shoot Larry, at the back of his dilapidated movie theatre. Here are stacked ornate mirrors, reflecting images onto one another. The old theatre is playing the iconic final scene of The Lady from Shanghai, and the events occur in parallel to what happens in that movie. We are given a glimpse into this madness feeling like we are being persecuted as well, the mirrors reflect multiple images of Paul pointing a gun towards incoming sound (which points to the screen, obviously).
MMM plays around with the nature of mysteries but the best of all are its use of comedy in mystery. Witty dialogue and acting aside, the mystery in itself is amusing; its premise, the conventional nature of the main characters and the fact that total common folk are committing and cracking this case, and the way they go about it makes for a very engaging mystery.
The Mermaid (2016) is the biggest blockbuster in the history of Chinese cinema. It’s made waves in the international market as well and I had the chance to watch it recently. It is absolutely delightful, an absurdist comedy trying to get a word on impending ecological disasters that awaits the world. Having watched it without any background in Chinese film, I was impounded with the question, is our viewing experience affected by what we know of the film?
I couldn’t determine whether newcomer Lin Yun exaggerated the shrillness of her voice and maintained a comically blank expression to fuel the absurdist brand of comedy or because she was a poor actor. By the end of the movie I deemed it to be the former, but I was convinced only after reading up on the movie and the director’s brand of filmmaking. Where does this ambiguity come from? If this was a Coen brothers or Charlie Chaplin venture one would be sure it was deliberate.
If I were to isolate my film experience by not reading anyone’s opinions on it, my judgement would be that the movie was great, but it could have skipped some of those theatricals. I refer to the scene where Shan (Lin Yun) tries to kill Liu Xuan (Deng Chao) with a sea urchin. While the intentional ludicrousness is evident now, when I watched the movie, I mistook it for an equivalent of mainstream Bollywood fight sequences (which are exaggerated for hero antics and commercial reasons). This is not to say everyone will mistake the director’s ingenuity. A more seasoned film goer might automatically see it for what it is.
My point is precisely that our film viewing experience has numerous invisible goggles stacked in front of it. Goggles that skew our opinion of the movie, be it the people we watch it with, the reasons we watch it for or inherent bias we hold up against (or for) a film.
Nellambari is the iconic antagonist in the hit film, Padayappa (2001). She was a childhood fascination of mine, heartless and determined, with some barely –there moments of humanity. I was drawn to her determination; she spends eighteen years of her life in a room, watching the wedding video of the man she couldn’t ‘have’ (who is the ‘hero’ Padayappa). There is something admirable in someone so resolute, someone who knows what exactly they want and will stop at nothing to attain it. Ramya Krishna, who plays the role of Neelambari has done a fantastic job. This begs the question, how does one understand a character that bears a closer resemblance to a bunch of characteristics than to a fully developed character? She is all evil and still believable. She tells people not to soil her feet by crying near it, stomps on flowers she couldn’t own, asks her nephew to pretend to fall in love with a girl to set her up to public humiliation, tries to poison someone, and even tries to agitate a bull into gorging a woman to death. The one time she questions the motive behind why her brother left the woman he loved to marry another, it becomes about how the brother is selfish because he did not think of her (for some context, the woman the brother loved is Padayapaa’s sister. By cheating the sister, he’s reduced Neelambari’s chances of marrying Padayappa). She exhibits some feminist ideology right after, by chiding the girl her brother married, saying its girls like her who don’t express their wants but adhere to the demands of others, which make it hard for girls everywhere.
None of this is to say Neelambari is a caricature. Quite the contrary, she comes across as an acutely real person, who’s deeply self-aware and exists as a testament to self- acceptance. This contradiction between who she is on paper (that is to say not believable) and who she is on screen is that the on screen person is real. Padayappa is essentially a commercial venture and Neelambari’s character exists to highlight everything Padayappa is not. But Ramya Krishna exceeds this requirement and thus creates the human in Neelambari.
She always wears an expression of indifference, and modulates her voice to convey the barely concealed haughtiness. Her smile bears a steely determination and unadulterated evil. These nuances aside, the acting itself is very convincing and inundated with familiarity. You feel you know a Neelambari, sometimes it feels like you are a Neelambari.
There is also some scope in the storyline for this, Neelambari’s parents and brother who spoilt her with no limitations, she’s rich and entitled in an agrarian proletariat surrounding, essentially privileged without accountability.
Neelambari is not both good and bad, she’s pure evil. But by juxta positioning that with her idea of love, she’s pure evil and her (idea of) love/hate for Padayappa motivates her. With superhuman determination and rancor, she is unbridled in expressing what she wants and feels. She is human because she is whom a person would be, were they ‘all bad’. If this were to be explained mathematically, under ideal conditions (all good or all bad) Neelambari would be one hundred percent human.