Wednesday, April 29, 2009

More doggie thoughts

This post by Sonia struck a chord; she’s said many of the things I frequently think about. For starters, this depressingly familiar business of people getting pets because it’s fashionable (or because their idiot kids bawl “Papa papa, puppy chahiye”), only to discover that it isn’t the same thing as having a stuffed toy lying about the house, and that there are serious responsibilities attached. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard about pets being abandoned because their owners couldn’t invest the time and attention (let alone love) that they needed. In our colony there’s a young Labrador with a very glossy black coat who is let out of the house gate, unattended, for an hour or so each evening, because no one can be bothered to walk him: he bounds about near the park looking perplexed, his size belying the fact that he’s a puppy, trying to make friends with the local strays who naturally snarl at him. There’s always the danger that he’ll be hit by a passing car, and one gets the sense that his humans don’t care much either way if he doesn’t return someday.

Anyone who really cares for animals (as opposed to feeling a vague affection for the pets they happen to have about the house as a form of interior decoration) will know that dogs who are well looked after and well-loved come to acquire a very particular set of characteristics – there’s a softness in the eyes that suggests a sense of security, a feeling that nothing really bad can happen in their little world; it’s understood that frenetic tail-wagging is the correct response to the sight of any new human. At the other extreme, there’s the perpetual wariness, the suggestion of fear hardened into aggression, on the face of the stray dog who knows that he’s liable to be kicked or have a stone thrown at him any second. And somewhere in between, in some ways worst of all, is the confused, cagey expression of the pet who lives in a house where people give him food and water and look after him in a detached sort of way, but where affection is in very short supply: a dog who isn’t allowed anywhere near the beds or sofas, who spends most of the day tied up on a short leash and who was quite possibly smacked hard the first time he chewed on a chair leg. One of my most cringe-inducing memories is visiting a former colleague’s house and seeing a Pomeranian that looked nervous, even frightened, when I put out a hand to pet him, as if he had no experience of that sort of thing. There was no softness in those eyes.

My sensitivity to these things has heightened since Foxie happened. I’ve never been this close to a dog before, though my mom has had many over the years (and has always accorded them higher status than the human beings around her). Cats were a different matter, of course; when Sandy disappeared 15 years ago I decided that I’d be careful not to get too close to a pet again, but you can’t plan these things beyond a point. Foxie wormed her way into our lives and though the initial days were more about the strong sense of responsibility we felt towards her than a deep
attachment, this changed as she gradually developed a very special personality of her own. Today, she’s no different from a daughter for us. And now, whenever I see a scruffy, uncared-for, snarling mongrel on the road, it occurs to me that but for a tiny quirk of fate Foxie could have been that dog. And then she wouldn’t be the sweet, gentle, good-natured and trusting pup we know but something entirely different. Knowing how many strays there are on the roads – all of whom could, if their circumstances had been otherwise, made wonderful, loving pets – makes me feel ill-disposed towards people who pay large sums of money for “breeds”. And who, as Sonia points out, don’t even bother to do the basic groundwork.

P.S. And what about this habit that some pious people have of feeding a black dog once or thrice a week – on specified days, I think it is – because their resident goddess/astrologer has told them it’s good for their punya or karma or some such thing? Another addition to the long list of admirable traits in the religious and the superstitious.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Alert: baby pics ahead

Time for a few photos of Foxie (who was introduced here and here, for those who missed her). She turned 10 months old on the 23rd and continues to be the joy and life of our household etc etc. Please note that the change in the spelling of the name is to make her sound more feminine; it wasn't an ideal name to begin with, but I explained its provenance in this post, and it stuck.

(Click pics to enlarge)

Sprawled out on the living-room sofa after a hard day's work, with the cooler in proximity:

Slightly more awake, and camera-conscious as always:

With Abhilasha, in the long-lost days of pup-dom. Can't believe we could actually carry her around
then. She's absurdly big now. Foxie, I mean.

This is from when she woke abruptly because of some noise at the front door and came out into the living-room still entangled in her razaai. As the cliche has it, Indian women look best in saris.

Rebelling against said sari:

And two of my favourite photos; Foxie with her dadi. This is the classic "give me food NOW or else" stare. My mom usually blinks first.

And this is the satisfied-Lala, "it's okay to look at the camera now" pose, after dinner has been consumed.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Artists and dabblers: thoughts on Amit Chaudhuri’s The Immortals

I’m finding it hard to articulate my feelings about Amit Chaudhuri’s new novel The Immortals: though I admired it a lot, it was difficult to get through. Part of this is circumstantial – things have been busy lately, there’s been some traveling and some travel planning and other things to keep me preoccupied, and as a result I’ve a) cut back on official reviewing for a bit, b) sidestepped serious literary fiction in favour of relatively light, fast-paced reading (exhibits: John Wyndham, the Millennium Trilogy, Simon Majumdar’s Eat my Globe, Surendra Mohan Pathak’s The 65 Lakh Heist). The Immortals was the exception, and what a hefty exception it turned out to be!

There’s always been a distinct, easily identifiable stillness in Chaudhuri’s work, which I find very appealing: a ear for the sort of quiet conversation that family members might have during their more unguarded moments when nothing of pressing significance is being said; little passages that might not appear to be “about” something in the conventional sense of carrying a plot forward, but which gradually reveal things about people and their circumstances, through the accretion of little details. The Immortals takes this form to a new level: it’s so marked in its refusal to be driven by a plot that even “slice of life” can seem like an over-dramatic way of describing it. There’s no question of picking it up for 15-minute sessions at various points in a hectic day – it’s demanding, requires patience, and is not recommended for the reader who needs a story with a beginning, a middle and an end (which has been the case for me these last few weeks). This book is all middle, like a fragment of a poem - the narrative is drifting and non-linear, the chapters aren't numbered or labeled, there isn't a definite resolution. Even Chaudhuri’s abundant use of semi-colons (where a comma would suffice - “She knew she could have been famous; but she had opted for the life of a Managing Director’s wife”) creates poetic pauses in the writing and conveys the sense that there are things left unsaid.

The Immortals moves between the lives of three people over the span of a few years through the 1970s and early 1980s: a young dreamer named Nirmalya Sengupta who acquires a strong interest in Indian classical music (at a point in his life when he’s trying to decide between studying economics and philosophy); his mother Mallika, the wife of an upwardly mobile businessman, and a woman who might – if circumstances were different or if she had been more ambitious – have become a renowned singer herself; and her music teacher Shyamji who, being the son of the revered guru Pandit Ram Lal, lives in the shadow of his father’s reputation, a permanent Salieri (“he’s only four annas compared to Panditji,” someone says matter-of-factly). Through the different levels of engagement of these people (and others) with classical music, a whole spectrum is revealed – a spectrum that extends from the rigour of Ram Lal’s early life and training to the more superficial interest in music seen among the cocktail-party crowd in south Bombay, where Nirmalya’s family live.

It occurred to me that though this book is specifically about classical music, its devotees and dilettantes, the questions it raises apply to other art forms too, including literature itself. We live in a world where art is losing its exclusivity and being “democratised”, where everyone wants to participate rather than merely observe. (Look at mass-market publishing, and look at how blogs have made it possible for nearly everyone to fancy themselves as writers.) At one point Chaudhuri describes a sammelan where Shyamji’s disciples – “from young struggling ghazal singers to businessmen’s wives, hot but bright in their saris, naked ears dressed provocatively in gold, whose husbands had put a full-page advertisement in the souvenir” – are interested not so much in the performances of the professionals (who have devoted their lives to their calling) as in usurping the stage themselves, to become performers, if only for 15 minutes.
Their relationship with music had begun embryonically, in their prehistory as listeners; they’d hummed along in an undertone with the artists they loved best, or loudly, solitarily, to themselves; and then, at some point, they’d asked themselves the unimaginable, something that wouldn’t have occurred to them six months before, or which they didn’t have the courage to admit: “Can’t I be a singer? Can’t it be me?” Why should they only listen; why shouldn’t they be listened to?
In the other corner are those who have come to symbolise an older way of life that has all but faded: people like Shyamji’s brother-in-law Pyarelal, who claims to have danced in Raja Man Singh’s court when he was four years old and who is described as “a jetsam of the old world, part of the coterie of artists that had been disbanded with the palaces...[he had] a bit of the stardust of the vanished courtly life around him”. And, perhaps, people like the now-forgotten music director who gave the young Lata Mangeshkar a memorable tune. When the elitism – and specialisation – associated with the higher arts has been diluted, where do these people stand? In such a world, do meaningful benchmarks for judging the quality and long-term worth of artists still exist? Who are the “immortals”?

There are other questions about artistic integrity. In two key passages, separated by half the length of the book, we get first Nirmalya’s and then Shyamji’s perspective on a conversation about whether it’s possible to dedicate oneself wholeheartedly to art when one has to think about the basic necessities of life. “Baba, you cannot practise art on an empty stomach – let me first make enough money from the lighter forms, then I’ll be able to devote myself to classical,” says Shyamji. “That moment will never come,” replies Nirmalya fiercely, “the moment to give yourself to your art is now.” Is this the simple-minded idealism of youth pitted against the experience of age and its understanding of compromise? Or is it the hard-edged stance of the genuine artist against the relatively lackadaisical attitude of someone who has given up too soon?

The non-insistent, gently probing way in which the book raises these questions is very effective. But if you do decide to read it, make sure you have plenty of time - and no distractions - on your hands. You can't read it with anything less than full concentration.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A locked-island mystery: Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy

[I mentioned Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy a few posts ago. Here’s a piece I did for Business Standard]

The Scandinavian chill is almost a tangible presence in Stieg Larsson’s excellent thriller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the first in a posthumously published series of crime novels known as the Millennium Trilogy. Much of the book is set in the small (and fictional) Swedish town of Hedestad, where a journalist named Mikael Blomkvist is investigating the possible murder of a young girl decades earlier. Blomkvist isn’t in the best of spirits when he begins this freelance assignment – an exposé he recently did on a prominent industrialist backfired, resulting in serious trouble for the magazine he publishes – and the miserable weather (the temperature drops to minus 37 degrees at one point) both mirrors and intensifies his inner gloom.

This cold, dark nighttime of the soul is vital to the book’s effect: some passages have the atmospheric quality of the Norwegian film Insomnia, about a detective unable to sleep both because he’s haunted by his conscience and because of the midnight sun. For Blomkvist, his stint in Hedestad amounts to a sort of voluntary exile, though the task at hand is intriguing enough to keep him going. What secrets are being harboured by the large Vanger family, and how did they lead to the disappearance of Harriet Vanger 40 years ago?

At any rate, the novel's pace picks up when Blomkvist teams with a researcher named Lisbeth Salander, a young woman driven purely by the self-preservation instinct, with no regard for society’s laws or moral codes – all of which makes her useful for her hacking skills and other unconventional methods. As they start to make inroads, the weather begins to improve too, but for the reader The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo remains shiver-inducing on other levels. Though the case is initially described by a character as “a locked-room mystery in island format” (because Harriet had disappeared from an island that was cut off from the mainland due to a bridge accident), it soon becomes clear that this isn’t a cosy mystery novel.

Those of us with a dim outsider’s impression of the north European countries tend to think of them as quiet, manicured, law-abiding places with shockingly low population densities and crime rates, and an unhurried pace of life. But there’s nothing prettified or mundane about much of the detective fiction that has emerged from the region in recent years – books by writers like Henning Mankell and Liza Marklund that reveal the darkness which can lie buried beneath calm surfaces. In the Millennium Trilogy, this largely involves the masked but often vicious misogyny prevalent in Swedish society: in fact, the first book’s original title translates as “Men Who Hate Women” (which the publishers of the English-language edition probably thought was not very marketable for a work of genre fiction). Each of its four principal sections opens with a statistic about violence against women in Sweden; the dated mystery that Blomkvist is investigating gradually broadens into a much larger narrative involving gruesome ritualistic killings that continue to the present day; and there is a parallel thread about the delinquent Salander’s experiences with her sadistic male guardian.

As a realistically plotted and paced detective procedural, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo rivals the classic Martin Beck series written by the Swedish husband-and-wife team of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. At well over 500 pages, it covers a wider range of themes than the the slim Martin Beck books do (an important sub-plot involves big-business corruption and the irresponsibility of financial journalists), but like them it’s driven by character development and procedure rather than by quick thrills – to the extent that it frequently jettisons plot elements that other genre writers might have spun a cottage industry out of. Without giving too much away, some of the crimes Blomkvist and Salander find themselves investigating involve literal interpretations of Biblical passages, but Larsson makes this incidental – he doesn’t turn it into a little game where the sleuths are trying to work out what each murder means, with pages full of long-winded exposition. He’s more interested in showing us how the amateur sleuths go about their business and what their work reveals about the society they are investigating.

The dramatic back-story to the Millennium Trilogy is that Larsson, who was himself a journalist, died of a heart attack shortly after delivering the manuscripts for the three books to his publisher. The English translation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (by Reg Keeland, who has also translated thrillers by Henning Mankell among others) has already become something of a publishing phenomenon and the second book in the series, The Girl who Played with Fire – about sex trafficking and the exploitation of underage girls – is on its way to achieving similar status. The concluding part, The Girl who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, will be published at the end of this year and the trilogy, all told, will run to over 1500 pages. It might be hyperbolic to call it the Swedish War and Peace, as some international reviews have done, but there’s no denying that this is a powerful, sweeping work that combines the best of genre writing with sharp social commentary.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Diploma films: Bonga and The Eight-Column Affair

[A longer version of my column in the Sunday Business Standard]

“Every film you make is a shadow of the film you had wanted to make,” writer-director Kundan Shah told me during a recent conversation, pointing out that the movie-making process is so full of compromises that the final product might – for better or for worse – have little to do with the original vision; that a scene raised to iconic status by the movie’s eventual viewers might have slipped in accidentally, or been the subject of severe dissatisfaction during the actual shooting.

I thought of Shah’s remark about compromises while watching Bonga, the 22-minute “diploma film” he made at the end of his three-year stint at the Film and Television Institute of India in 1976. Like many of the other FTII diploma films (Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Murder at Monkey Hill and Sriram Raghavan’s The Eight-Column Affair among them), Bonga is now available on DVD – on a collection titled “Master Strokes”, or, alternatively, in the “Indie Corner” section of Palador’s World Cinema titles. Giving this manic little movie a cohesive summary is very difficult, so here instead are disjointed nuggets of information. It’s a tribute to the silent-screen comedies of Keaton and Chaplin as well as the American gangster film, with a nod to Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless and Bande à part.** It has no dialogue but is driven by a lovely, whimsical music score by B Chandravarkar, a perfect complement to outstanding performances of pantomime and physical comedy by a cast that includes a clean-shaven, surprisingly fleet-footed Satish Shah and an almost-slim Rakesh Bedi (nearly a decade before they appeared together in the well-loved TV comedy Yeh jo Hai Zindagi, also directed by Kundan Shah). There are tiny roles for the young Suresh Oberoi (hilarious as a bank teller) and Om Puri, who were students at the FTII at the time. The story, such as it is, involves five people attempting a bank robbery, but plot descriptions are almost irrelevant; what matters is the film’s rhythm and exuberance, which has to be experienced firsthand.

Naturally, such movies provide a template for what is to come. Bonga was made seven years before Shah’s most famous film Jaane bhi do Yaaro, and in the period between the two movies he did very little film work (in fact, he spent a couple of years after FTII working as a typist in England), but there’s a strong connection between them – the use of slapstick and absurdity to heighten the reality of a situation; goofiness interspersed with moments of stark emotional truth; scenes that play like a visual representation of the most inspired nonsense verse.

So too for Sriram Raghavan and The Eight-Column Affair. Twenty years before he made the brilliant heist film Johnny Gaddaar, Raghavan showed his visual inventiveness with this short film about a romance set within a newspaper’s pages: a marathon runner featured on the front page falls in love with a pretty tennis star on the last page, which means that he has to travel through the length of the paper to meet her before midnight strikes and it’s time for the next edition. Along the way, he must negotiate the obituaries section, the matrimonials, the crime pages and the crossword; he nearly gets run over by a motorbike in an advertisement for tyres.

What's notable about these early movies is that they are carry very little baggage. They were made collaboratively by young students who loved films and who had enormous fun pushing the limits of their creativity, throwing ideas at each other, improvising and multi-tasking. ("Even when we had to make a two-minute silent film, we would throw ourselves into it as if it was going to be the last film of our lives," Shah told me.) No squabbling with producers about financing; no ego hassles involving big stars; no fretting about whether this or that scene will be accepted by the mass audience. Poorly preserved as they are, these diploma films are valuable relics – they have much to tell us not just about the roots and early struggles of many of today’s leading filmmakers but also about the idealism of youth; about a stage in an artist’s development when it was possible to work purely on creative adrenaline without being trammeled by other considerations.

[You can watch Bonga online here, though the sound is behind by around 3-4 seconds and this makes a difference because the music is perfectly in tune with the slapstick]

** One of the actors, Chand Gupta, strongly resembles Jean-Paul Belmondo from certain angles. Also, Shah tells me he never saw Bande à part in its entirety but was very taken by the little dance scene in the café – a scene that, incidentally, also inspired Quentin Tarantino when he wrote the dance between Uma Thurman and John Travolta in Pulp Fiction.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A brief theatrical digression: Lakeerein, The Sunshine Boys, The Skeleton Woman

One thing Abhilasha and I regret not doing enough of is watching plays, especially with so much decent theatre activity at the India Habitat Centre, the Kamani Auditorium and other places. (Perhaps I have a deep-rooted fear that I’ll be tempted to turn it into a beat – it’s difficult enough to find time for all the books and films one wants to experience without accumulating new interests.) Anyway, as it happens I watched as many as three plays in the past three weeks – all sparse, performer-and-script-driven productions, nothing very elaborate in terms of set design. Quick, amateurish notes on them (and this is from very sketchy memory):

- Lakeerein, directed by Salim Arif: saw this at the Prithvi Theatre during a trip to Mumbai last month and enjoyed it a lot (thanks, Praba!) though it had been a rough day and I was exhausted at the time. It's a collection of vignettes based on Gulzar’s Partition-themed writing: in one, the writer/journalist Kuldip Nayar tells Gulzar about the invisible, strength-giving presence of a “Pir Sahib” in his family’s life (you can read an English translation of the story here); in another, soldiers at the Indo-Pak border mull the connections between their countries and discuss their own shared personal histories (there was a superb, show-stealing performance by Yashpal Sharma as an Armyman who gets in touch with an old friend after years); and a giddy-headed actress takes a “Border Tour” and plays around with a rifle much to the chagrin of the soldiers around. All this is interspersed with fine sutradhaari by Lubna Salim (the director’s wife) and haunting short recitals of poems and songs by Seema Sehgal. Very intimate production, perfect for the small Prithvi auditorium.

- The Sunshine Boys, directed by Percival Billimoria: corporate lawyer Billimoria adapted Neil Simon’s play to an Indian setting for the maiden production of his theatre group The Amateur Performers Bureau, and it’s been done with great verve though I thought it flagged slightly towards the end. Billimoria himself is really good as the crabby old comedian Fali Daruwala (the Indian version of Willy Clark, famously played on screen by Walter Matthau) and so is Sanjeev Johri as his former stage partner Guri Galgotia. I realised belatedly that the part of Fali’s young nephew who wants to reunite the two men was played by the writer Omair Ahmad (whose new book The Storyteller’s Tale is on my current reading list).

- The Skeleton Woman, directed by Nayantara Kotian: this was among the more high-profile productions at the Habitat recently, mainly because of the presence of Kalki Koechlin, who played Chanda in Anurag Kashyap’s Dev D. Koechlin and her co-star Prashant Prakash wrote this two-character play based loosely on an Inuit folktale – it’s about a writer who’s obsessed with the sea, and his long-suffering wife who tries to get him to snap out of his many interior worlds and finish some of his stories for a change. Meanwhile, she becomes part of those inner worlds every now and then. Nice performances and set design, including a large boat sitting incongruously in the living room (also a toy goose and a skeleton's arm). I liked the little shifts between real-world and fantasy, the poignant contrasting of the realities of the two protagonists, and the reference to Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, a story whose meaning the husband and wife disagree about (does it mean that everything is futile and meaningless in the end, or that effort is more important than the final result, or neither?).

P.S. Anurag Kashyap produced the play; I had a brief chat with him before the show began and was surprised by how relaxed and chirpy he is. Didn’t match the image of the auteur-director who makes intensely personal films and whose early work has
run into a lot of trouble. Might do an interview/profile of him soon, but that’s another story. Besides I really need to watch Gulaal first – one of the many things that’s been on the to-do list forever.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Blind new world: John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids

I saw the 1960s film version of The Day of the Triffids around 15 years ago – it was part of a horror-film festival by the then-new Star Movies – and what I remember is a campy, moderately entertaining monster movie about carnivorous walking plants (known as triffids) that go on the rampage shortly after flashes from a meteor shower have blinded most of the world’s human population. It was very specific B-movie horror, emphasizing the predatory triffids and the immediate danger they posed to flailing homosapiens. Much swishing about of tentacles and such, which made me think of that famous line from The Thing, “An intellectual carrot – the mind boggles!” Also some Fay Wray-like screaming by the victims if I remember correctly. (Check for yourself: the full film is on Google Video.)

The source material, John Wyndham’s novel, is more contemplative and deals with subtler terrors. For one thing, despite the title, the triffids play a relatively small part – for around three-fourths of the book they are fleetingly mentioned and the full extent of the danger they pose to the suddenly disadvantaged human species is not clear (despite a character pointing out early on that sight is the only real advantage humans have over them). Even when they come into their own in the later chapters, the tone of the narrative remains sober and pragmatic rather than sensationalistic, as narrator-protagonist Bill Masen – one of the few sighted people left on earth – and a small group of survivors examine their dwindling options.

Far more frightening than the stinging triffids is Wyndham’s account of the special problems facing a world where nearly everyone has suddenly lost the power of sight – and how completely civilisation would break down in such a situation. The premise here is more complicated than that in H G Wells’ famous short story “The Country of the Blind”, about an isolated mountainside community made up entirely of blind people who have successfully adapted to their state over the generations, to the extent that the concept of sight becomes incomprehensible to them. In The Day of the Triffids, the people affected have been thoroughly dependent on sight all their lives, the change takes place overnight, and the future of the species is at stake. In almost no time, the systems in charge of power generation and water-purifying stop working and people take to the streets in panic, blindly smashing shop windows in the hope that there might be food inside. Near-universal blindness turns out to be a great leveler, wiping clean the slate of protocol that led a lower-class person to be deferential towards someone more privileged. Some of the more resourceful blind people start taking sighted people captive, to help them procure food and lodging.

Many difficult decisions must be made: is it better to make a desperate, “humane” effort to save and provide for everyone in the short term or to accept that long-term planning is the way forward, even if that means making hard-hearted choices? When there is to be a complete reordering of society, to what extent should the old laws and norms be adhered to? During a lengthy discussion, a character named Coker stresses the importance of large communities rather than small groups, because certain people – teachers, doctors – must be left free to do their own specialised work rather than spend their time in mundane daily labour:
Where everybody has to work hard just to get a living and there is no leisure to think, knowledge stagnates, and people with it. The thinking has to be done largely by people who are not directly productive – by people who appear to be living almost entirely on the work of others but who are, in fact, a long-term investment…A community of our present size cannot hope to do more than just exist and decline. If there are children we shall be able to spare only enough time from our labour to give them just a rudimentary education; one generation further, and we shall have savages or clods. To hold our own, to make any use at all of the knowledge in the libraries we must have the teacher, the doctor, and the leader, and we must be able to support them while they help us.
The genesis of the triffids and the appearance of the mysterious “comet debris” that causes the wide-ranging blindness are two unrelated events, separated by 20 years, and in theory this would make Wyndham’s novel more far-fetched than a science-fiction work built around a single fantastical occurrence. But it isn’t that way in practice: the triffids are presented as an exaggerated outcome of genetic engineering, and there is speculation that the deadly dust could have resulted from an accident involving the many dangerous satellite weapons circling the earth (the book was written while the Cold War was on). As he often did in his work, Wyndham begins with alarming real-world possibilities, extends them to weave what he called “logical fantasy”, and then, using a realist narrative, sets down the responses and actions of different people. This is very much a book of ideas and I thought its overall mood was closer to Camus’s The Plague, with its restrained, methodical account of a community struggling to remain organised in the face of calamity, than to pulp fiction; Marsen’s narration in places reminded me of Dr Rieux’s.

This is the third Wyndham I’ve read, the others being The Midwich Cuckoos (briefly mentioned here), which was also filmed in the 1960s, as Village of the Damned; and The Kraken Wakes. But I’ve recently accumulated many of his books, The Chrysalids and Trouble with Lichen among them, and hope to finish the lot soon. Penguin's brightly designed new editions are worth getting - see this.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Persistence Resistance '09

I've been caught up with various things and it'll probably take a while for regular blogging to resume, but here's a shout-out for the 2009 edition of Magic Lantern's Persistence Resistance film festival. If you're in Delhi between April 17-19 it's worth checking out. (See this post about some of the films that were shown at last year's fest; many of those will be screened again.) Alongside the standard auditorium screenings, there will be video parlours, as there were last year, and the "Filmmakers' Parlours" will showcase the work of Paromita Vohra, Sanjay Kak, Madhushree Dutta and others. The full schedule is here.