Monday, April 17, 2006

Movies over the weekend

I'm listening to wonderful music I haven't heard in a really long while. Also, I'm usually slow to take to current hits, and find it a bit crass to follow mass choice in Hindi film music, but I really like a couple of songs from this forthcoming movie called 'Gangster'. The Bhatts don't consistently make watchable movies, but they do have good music and (usually) novel ideas in their movies.
Since we're living in a time of poor quality Hindi Films being made anyway, I think the least we should expect is good music but sadly even that is missing from movies. However, I expect some summer attractions to at least hold my interest while I'm in Bangalore for my internship.
I saw a song clip from Krrish and felt strangely enthused about it. That's the great quality of Rakesh Roshan's films - they somehow make me feel like they will offer unpretentious masala entertainment. Also, like I mentioned in a long movie post sometime back, Roshan Sr. is the only person in the whole world who knows how to present his hard-working, immensely talented but somewhat misguided son. Krrish holds the promise of entertainment. Ditto for Fanaa. All I've seen of it is a teaser-poster with Kajol (unibrow over beautiful brandy eyes) looking demurely down and Aamir Khan looking at her. It holds promise because I trust Aamir Khan to exercise enough influence to prevent Yash Chopra or Karan Johar or whichever one of them is directing it from turning it into their trademarked soppy product, considering he must have been cajoled (*chuckle*) into doing the movie. I think I can picture in my mind exactly how the poster would've looked had it been SRK on the poster instead of Aamir Khan. He would have been looking with liquid eyes under that irritating 's' of his eyebrows at Kajol, looking like he was going to cry if you looked for too long.
Basically, I'm thirsting for a good Hindi movie after having watched a whole lot of classic 50's and 60's movies in the last few days. I enjoyed most of them, but they are a little dated and I'd much rather watch good cinema from my time, i.e. now. Brief reviews are as follows:

Roman Holiday - Watch it, if not for Gregory Peck, if not for Rome in black and white (if you're into that sort of thing), if not for its famous Vespa scooter scenes, if not for its subtle and genteel humour and charm, and if not for its historical value and classic status, then for Audrey Hepburn. Audrey, Audrey, Audrey. She has the kind of dazzling smile that makes life worth living and reaffirms one’s faith in romance and beauty. She's so beautiful and so charming I had a knot in my heart when I was watching the movie.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - First real Western I've watched, unless I count Unforgiven too. Found it really slow and boring at first, and went to sleep twice during the movie (also because I find it uncomfortable watching movies with other people in hostel rooms – this having nothing to do with them, but rather with my inexplicable discomfort; I feel constrained and feel an immense desire to be alone in my room) but was rewarded for my perseverance with a nice ending, made special by great music by the grandfather of Western Film music – Enrio Morricone.

Vertigo - Hardly any suspense, and whatever little there is, is revealed in the middle of the movie for no reason at all. Boring and unnecessarily dragging in parts, but deserves to be seen nevertheless for the romantic parts. I couldn't make up my mind whether I liked Kim Novak or not (also because I compare all women on screen with Audrey Hepburn now, and let's face it, she's a goddess). Apparently, she was famed for her beauty but I thought her face was too long and her eyebrows too thick and weirdly shaped among other turn-offs.

Rear Window - Disappointing end after a promising beginning, again boring and slow in parts, but has great dialogues that are witty and sharp in a way that seems to be characteristic of Hitchcock's films. James Stewart is good (in both films) and especially well-cast as the sardonic and terminally bored photographer, and Grace Kelly is divine. The parts I most enjoyed were the romantic scenes between Stewart and Grace Kelly and the sharp banter between the nurse and Stewart, especially when she lectures him on how what used to be simple relationships are now subjected to overanalysis and how the demand for intelligence in every activity has ruined the simple pleasures of life. I found my thoughts being articulated by her and him in turn.

Man on Fire - Got bored of Rear Window, so watched this two-hour breeze of a movie in the break. Very fast paced, technically innovative with the use of fast and shaky cuts and yellowish lighting and funky editing etc, and a decent storyline that faltered only in giving an unsatisfactory climax, this was a perfect antidote to the overdose of classics I was suffering from. Denzel Washington was good and Dakota Fanning seems disturbingly precociously good.

Adaptation - The mind boggles at Charlie Kaufman's complexity and range of thought. I had earlier loved Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind written by him, and now this movie has sealed my regard for him. This movie is definitely arty, as was ESOTSM, so you may not like it, but what it is not is pretentious. I was a little dissatisfied by its ending, but then I read about it a little and understood why the end was the way it was and then could do nothing but prostrate before Kaufman's talent.

PS: I came down to CSC to post this because thinking of opening blogger from my Net connection in my hostel is a dream, and now it refuses to open here either. Obviously, they don’t make these websites for users in developing countries where premier technical institutions feel easy and fast Internet access in hostel rooms is a luxury would-be engineers and scientist would do well to avoid getting used to.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Mango Man

In some deep, inexplicable way, politics depresses me. I don't know if politics in IIT, affectionately or derisively abbreviated to "poltu", can be called "politics" considering "politics" is a weighty word that has come to be associated with violence, caste, religion and corruption in the public consciousness. Politics in IIT (Delhi) has never been associated with violence or religion to the best of my knowledge, and only in a miniscule way with caste. People who've seen more of IIT and its politics will contradict me if I'm wrong. Corruption, unfortunately, is probably a reality where many tens of lakhs of rupees are involved in organising some of the biggest fests in this part of India. The amounts may pale in comparison with multi-crore scams that we seem to be used to hearing about in national media, but even a few thousands is a sizable bit of the total sponsorships received and in any case, it's the principle we are concerned about.
As is apparent from the subject of this post, politics has been occupying a substantial portion of my mindspace in recent days. In fact, the last nine hours or so have been the only large chunk of time in which I've had something far more important on my mind, namely a minor exam which caused me to stay awake the entire night yesterday studying. It's not like I have been doing a lot of running around for my hostel's success in today's or tomorrow's elections, or my Party's in the house elections. But physical effort is not the only thing that actually tires you of something. Politics, which I find depressing, has been foremost in my mind and has hence depressed me.
Just got a call. Gotta go campaign.
2 Days Later:

It's over. We, 'we' being the part of my hostel I am affiliated with, won almost everything we contested 'them' for. We then won nearly everything in the external elections as well. In spite of one of the two alliances taking most of the pickings, most (boys') hostels are so fractured that almost every faction, and certainly every hostel, has got a share of the winnings. Both alliances have a fest each to conduct, and now that the electoral madness is over, I join other people reasonable enough to not take politics personally in wishing both the best. May both fests be bigger and better than this year's were. May there be fewer controversies, greater transparency and prettier girls. Most importantly, now that I've come to a stage when I can actually win quizzes in inter-college fests, may the quizzing prize money be raised from the current pittance.
I know I said I hadn't worked too much in the electoral lead-up. I did, however, work a lot on the last three days or so. I did what I could and we got the desired results. I should probably be happy because my 'group' has won. I did feel happy the day before, and to a smaller extent yesterday, on various small and big wins. But the happiness is short-lived. It does not give me the kind of lasting happiness that personal accomplishment does. When I won last year, I felt genuinely happy. I felt happy not just because I won a close election, but also because I (think I) was the only winner from outside the winning alliance, i.e. my win was unexpected. It was a special feeling to feel that my election was actually being discussed by the king-makers as an example of what to prevent from happening in the future. I felt very important. This time, the happiness was for others. Some of my close friends were very happy with the results and I felt happy with them. Some of my friends won elections themselves, and I felt happy for them. But the happiness could not match the joy of winning myself. It's illogical to expect it to, anyway.

I was trying to understand my feelings towards politics, and those of my friends'. Why do people get involved in politics? It's not a dangerous involvement in IIT, but it is a time-consuming one. I can understand why people who have tangible gains to gather from politics (such as posts or vendetta) get involved. What I don't understand is how they can remain motivated enough to involve themselves with increasing intensity over a period of nearly two months. So I was standing and observing on the SAC floor yesterday, and I realized people get high on two things - power and knowledge. Power and knowledge are, of course, inter-related.
There is information in the world that makes its possessors important. Knowing that A is going out with B, but B really lusts after C, who in a weird twist of Fate, loves A before the world does makes you powerful for those few days. Similarly, knowing the 'counts' and the 'coefficients' and the 'carpets' before someone else knows them is power. The importance lies is the exclusivity of the information. Knowing that you know what very few people know and that people are burning to know what you are thinking is a high. Control of the flow of data is one of the most powerful occupations.
The second reason is that being busy gives a feeling of power. On the two days of elections, nobody in IIT is busier than the fifteen or so king-makers. You can make them out at a glance. When they aren't glued to their mobile phones, they are talking conspiratorially with other king-makers or authoritatively to their hostel minions. They have creases on their foreheads and worried expressions on their faces. Worry and tension are the defining expressions on their features. Most look like they haven't slept well for some time, and look intellectually, emotionally and physically drained. But in spite of all the worries and the uncertainties, they are the ones with the greatest sense of purpose in that place. They radiate power because they know things we don't. In fact, they know whether what we know is actually correct. People ask them what the situation is, and they choose what and how much to reveal. They lead workforces and give directions like Generals of yore, and people do their bidding.
I want to be that too. I'd like to feel important and I'd like knowing that people were hanging on to my every word and that I didn't even have time to feel good about that, and for that I'll have to 'deal' and 'trade'. That's probably fun and everything but I don't know if find it interesting enough to keep me motivated for an entire month or even a fortnight. The pizzas, of course, are some motivation and if you have interesting company for the hundreds of hours you clock in meetings, it'll probably be somewhat interesting. It might even be fun.
I was just talking to him yesterday and I told him how I wanted to be interested in politics but couldn't really be consistently enthusiastic. Ditto with economics and finance. These are the things that people who've planned out their careers from their childhoods find interesting. I thought I should start taking some interest in banks, stocks, global markets blah blah but never could like Economic Times too much. I just like talking and lazing around really, and I'm not a natural at anything so I think my future lies in some boring job that I'll live with in anticipation of my two hours of TV with the missuz on reaching home.

I tried to look busy yesterday but the sad fact is that I wasn't needed. I could've been the most important person in SAC yesterday but it had been my decision that I didn't want that. And yet, I was attracted to Big Things happening in the institute as the political D-Days approached and I wanted a part of the excitement too. Instead, I was reduced to an observer. I tried to look and feel busy yesterday, but really no one was calling me, and all I was was a vote. That's it, a single vote. I remembered the same day last year when I felt vaguely resentful that as a newly elected Secretary, I was being herded with other outgoing representatives into another hostel, asked to pass my time with whatever I could find on a computer, and then unceremoniously taken to SAC by the GSec candidate to cast my vote. I wanted to tell him I was a Secretary and had just done my best to fuck up his alliance the previous day, so could he please show me some respect, but then I realized it didn't matter a bit to him. I was just a vote from an allied hostel, the same as all the others.
And so it was yesterday too. I felt vaguely unhappy that no one was asking for me. I had been a Secreatry, goddammit, and a good one at that and I wanted mah respect! But the sad truth is I was just a vote and no more valuable than any outgoing representative.
I slipped quietly away to KL for a dinner after enquiring if we were having our hostel treat in the night and being answered in the negative. I had a peaceful and undisturbed dinner and then came back at leisure to hear the remaining results and see our alliance nail it and my colleagues become holders of key institute posts.
Life goes on, I suppose. Well, whatever, nevermind.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Blog Arrears

What I couldn't post yesterday:

I'm writing this in the darkness because I can't bear to see too clearly. The trouble with people like me is that we have to make every goddam mistake there is to learn. It' probably not even a big thing, and if I were to think logically I'd realize that although I did screw up, it might not affect the outcome too much. But I feel like shit. Because I screwed up where any idiot would've found it impossible to screw up.
My sense of fairness, or what I thought was that, has been exposed to be a farce. With this mistake, I've realized once again that sometimes it's better not to show off your ability to see the larger picture when no one else is interested. The lesson that this incident has slammed into me, and this time I have a feeling it's for good, is "Stick to your brief". Don't try to be a poster boy for fair play or whatever just for the heck of it.
I'm not strong enough to feel great about myself because I know I am right and the world is wrong, so to hell with it. I need people, and although there aren't a lot of them, I need them to like me. One should walk for praise after one has made a century, not when one's team is dying on the field and one is the only hope. There are times when one has the luxury to play fair. Most other times, only the result matters.
Like I said, it's probably not even going to devastate me, but the way I'm going from one minor disaster to another in my life, it isn't long before Armageddon occurs. I managed to piss off two people in less than twenty-four hours, both of which were valued team members, solely because I got taken in by my own half-baked sense of nobility. And the irony of the situation is that both have absolutely no reason to be pissed because what has happened now, after my ill-fated, well-intentioned but consummately moronic mishaps, is exactly what both would've liked and wanted in the first place. The entire loop that I introduced into the situation need never have been introduced at all. Aaaaaaaaarrrggh!

Unrelated: I remembered the night's dream very vividly today when I woke up in the morning.It was about this woman who's (somewhat unjustifiably but again because of an unnecessary accident caused partially by me) annoyed at me. I'll call her The Enemy, although she's not my enemy and is in fact someone I respect tremendously.
In my dream she and I meet and some awkwardness later, she says something very uncharcteristic. She asks how can she hug me if we remain acrimonious towards each other. That is of course the reply that solves everything in one fell swoop and I melt into Milkybar and I apologize profusely and gratefully make up.
Now this dream is obviously rich with possibilities of psycho-analysis and I half-know what I'm going to find if I were to analyze this. I'm scared of what I'll articulate if I do that, so I won't and I hope the fear that I know is nudging my conscious mind will never be revealed.

Unrealted2: Small things mar my day. Small things make me thrilled with life. I hate myself for the fickleness of my emotional state. I wish I was more balanced and capable of seeing the larger picture when it really mattered.
During the course of yesterday alone, I felt normal, happy, very happy, disturbed, queasy, unhappy, ashamed, normal, happy, bored, happy and finally tired and full of doubt when I went to sleep at 3 am.

Needless to say, I write this sort of stuff when I'm unhappy, which is right now.

After this, I went on a multiple-hundred word tirade against IIT and how I hated it blah blah. Then I tried posting that at 5 am in the morning but no luck then either. That gave me a masochistic satisfaction that I was right in hating this place all along. Now I had this pretty long post on my hands and I knew that it didn't make much sense to post it later because it would lose its relevance once the bitterness wore off. hat made me even more frustrated so I went to the only room that had a light on on my floor, which fortunately happened to be the room of my friend who has come to be used to my futile and often illogical tirades against all manner of things ranging from the Condition Of The World to the latest bloodsucking assignment. He was on his fifth consecutive night out and hence not in a position to throw an energetic and motivated cynic out of his room when he probably should have. So I just went on and spat acid for an hour and then apologized and thanked him and then came back and went to sleep.

Taxpayers, you're wasting your money educating me

I have to work pretty hard to get by here. I hate it but I do it. I do it because the only thing worse than staying here for four years is staying here for five.
All I ask is that I should be able to check my mail in 5 minutes. If that is too much to ask, I have to say IIT's not worth the heartburn.
Seriously, just what the fuck is wrong with the Internet?

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