Friday, September 25, 2009

The post that twitted

Very Twitterish post, this, possibly the first of many. Some of the things I've been doing in the past week or so:

- Ingesting excellent Beef Fry at Gunpowder. Strongly recommend it. Might not be to the taste of those who like their steaks rare or medium-rare, but the Kerala spices, very strong though they were, didn't overwhelm the flavour of the meat.

- Watching some favourite old silent films on TCM, among them King Vidor's The Crowd (a fascinating historical document, with its depiction of the New York of 80 years ago as an impersonal, soul-sapping metropolis - and this was a time when even the Empire State Building hadn't yet been constructed) and The Big Parade. Found to my alarm that I had no memory of some scenes; maybe I should start tattooing notes on my chest when I watch movies. Also saw the (definitely non-silent) classic The Mask of Fu Manchu, with Boris Karloff as the evil chin-chooing doctor and Myrna Loy (looking very amused, or so I like to tell myself) as his daughter Fah Lo See.

- Reading for pleasure every now and again. Highlights include Patricia Highsmith's The Tremor of Forgery, Wodehouse's Piccadilly Jim (first read in school library circa 1988), and Pearls Before Swine anthologies. Just finished The Perplexity of Hariya Hercules, an English translation (by Robert Hueckstedt) of Manohar Shyam Joshi's Hariya Hercules ki Hairaani. The first half was brilliant but I got a bit lost towards the end. More on it soon.

- Struggling horribly with the project that I'm supposed to be spending most of my time on - big problem with writer's block, or ennui, or whatever. Trying hard to put on a brave face instead of doing the sensible thing and drowning myself in a tub of liquified Prozac.


  1. Piccadilly Jim is rather underrated I think. I think a lot of his pre 1920 full length novels deserve a wider audience, especially the three Psmith novels. They're so much better than the widely read Jeeves short story collections.

  2. I agree. The pre-1920s stuff is awesome. Leave it to Psmith (which was early 20s I think) is one of my all-time favourites.

  3. "a tub of liquified Prozac": some needed here, please.

  4. Jai -- have been a reader for three years now, and it's about time I expressed my gratitude for all the good stuff I find in this space.

    Curious about the project -- a book perhaps? Perhaps it's too early for you to reveal details?

  5. Sumana: but you spend most of your day on Facebook - isn't that better than liquid Proz?

    Hari: it's part of HarperCollins' series of books on Indian movies; I'm doing the one on Jaane bhi do Yaaro. Have been struggling a lot over the past month or so, partly because I'm still also doing 2-3 columns/reviews every week, and I need a lot of mindspace for this book - haven't quite been getting it.

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  7. Did you catch Naseer's interview on MTV? He listed Tracy,Muni,Laughton and Quinn as his favorite male actors.But his choice of favorite female actor as Audrey Hepburn surprised me as I have always found her strictly average.By the way, Mallika Sherawat's favorite actress is Barbara Stanwyck.

  8. Also, I like Lord Emsworth series more than Jeeves.Long back on DD there was a serial based on the PSmith novels.

  9. Just checked the Naseer interview. I thought it was rather incoherent with a lot of random name dropping.

    Take this for instance -
    Kapoor: But you spoke about Henry Fonda and James Stewart. Who were the actors from the Indian screen at that time?
    Naseer: Firstly the greats in my book from Hollywood are Charles Laughton, Spencer Tracy

    Wonder why people prepare so poorly for interviews. Many of us wouldn't speak so arbitrarily even over a cup of coffee at a college canteen. It is disappointing, coming from two intelligent film artists.

    Compare this with some of the meticulously planned interviews posted by Jai on this site. I guess incoherent soundbytes sell better than thoughtful, albeit staid, interviews.

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  11. Here's an old interview link with Jimmy Stewart

    It is all that a good interview should be. An all time great, who is as personable as an old avuncular acquaintance. There is no trace of the pretentious name dropping we saw in the Kapoor-Naseer "interview"

  12. shrikanth: you're being way too harsh, and needlessly so. I wasn't aware the Rajat Kapoor-Naseer interview was on TV, but I've read the whole thing in the new issue of Man's World magazine. As far as I know, that conversation is meant to be very informal and free-flowing.

    Having spoken to Naseer myself, I can tell you that he's one of the most articulate, candid and naturally intelligent interviewees around. And there is no "pretentious name-dropping" in his discussion of actors he admires. There are so many names to choose from, it's inevitable that at some point he'd flit from one to the next, name one person, then suddenly remember someone else. It's the sort of thing all of us routinely do in conversations with friends, and that's what the tone of the Kapoor interview was meant to be like.

    If you want to see a better, more structured interview, see these excerpts that Sepia Mutiny has linked to: here and here.

  13. Thanks for the links. That was much better.

    I know the Kapoor "interview" was meant to be an informal chat. I wish that they had stuck to discussing things that are generally discussed in casual conversations - like food, kids, colleagues etc.

    But Naseer turned rather judgmental on bygone stars. Statements like 'Brando is believable, but Olivier is not. Grant does not have the panache of Olivier' and so on.

    I'd expect popular artists like Naseer to weigh words a little more closely since their remarks can colour the views of a lot of fans.

  14. shrikanth: but those are his views, no? I admit to disagreeing with some of them: for instance, I'm uncomfortable about how dismissive both Naseer and his wife Ratna are towards the classical British actors (I remember reading a Ratna interview where she recalled going to the Old Vic in the early 1970s and feeling completely dissociated from the theatrical "Acting" done by giants like Olivier and Richardson). It could be a form of inverse snobbery (or working-class snobbery) and it also fits in with Naseer's general disillusionment with what he calls "the Elkazi type of theatre" - grandstanding, elaborate sets etc. I also think it's simplistic to think of someone like Brando as "believable" (as compared to an Olivier). But you have to respect his right to hold those views.

    As for colouring fans' views is concerned, I doubt more than one percent of these fans will ever get around to seeing a Tracy or Muni or Laughton film!