Month: April 2012

A Train of Thought

Last Sunday, I saw the Malayalam movie 22 Female, Kottayam. It is about a nurse who is abused by people whom she considered close to her and how she wreaks revenge. Nothing groundbreaking, almost the illegitimate offspring twice removed of Ek Hasina Thi and Kill Bill (and for once acknowledged by the makers). It was though quite a different movie from the dominant fare in Malayalam, no over-aged fat hero trying to carouse with a million girls less than a third his age nor a superhero who defies all laws of physics while bashing up the baddies while mouthing punch dialogues at the same time. I liked the movie, though I can’t say I enjoyed it because that would make me a rather sick person.

But this blog is not a critical review of the movie. Rather this is a about a train of thought that was triggered while watching the aforementioned movie. I can’t actually say triggered because I have thought about it earlier too but only now am I actually putting it into words. It is about a factor that influences how we appreciate, enjoy or empathise with the characters, let it be a movie or a book.

It is a three letter word that starts with S and ends with X. Not in that way you pervert, though that might play a significant part too. I meant sex as the gender. I have felt that the gender of the character plays a very significant part. Big deal you might say, and I agree, nothing that others haven’t thought of. But I thought a long time about this, and so reader, I have to bore you too.

As a person who likes reading, I tried translating it to books that I have read. Then I remembered about Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. It is a book that I have thoroughly enjoyed and a book that I will recommend to everyone. I enjoyed it much more than A Thousand Splendid Suns, by the same author. But while discussing about it with an aunt, she told me that she felt ATTS was much better. The reason we felt totally opposite, I surmise was because she associated more with the female protagonist rather than the male protagonist of KR. Both undergo repeated misfortunes in their lives. Comparing the two is difficult and I guess is left to the reader. This I think led to the contrasting views about the books that my aunt and I had about the same books.

Going one step forward, I think I will associate more with a male doctor protagonist than a female engineer protagonist inspite of being (almost) an engineer myself. It might well be the most important trait of the protagonist which decides how I associate with the character. Putting it in a nutshell, the targeted audience matters a lot for me while appreciating a creation, let it be a movie or a book. Sidney Sheldon with his female protagonist and Harold Robbins with his male protagonists targeted different audience. Stephanie Meyer targets an altogether different audience which can’t be easily characterised, though giggly, pink and immature are the words that immediately spring to the mind. Without deprecating books with targeted audience, I have felt that a book is truly great when any Tom, Dick or Harry and Eena, Meena or Deeka are able to equally enjoy it.

Reading through my prolonged discourse on people of literary merit far that I can’t even dream of reaching, the thoughtful and eloquent reader might have been wondering how the !@#! is this related to the movie I mentioned. Spoiler Alert, if you want to watch the movie, don’t read on. The female lead as I mentioned is repeatedly abused and finally cheated by a guy whom she loves. As revenge and to prevent him from further abusing anyone, she castrates him.

Ouch! Inspite of everything that happened earlier, and knowing that the suffering villain was a total douchebag and a vile person too, I could not help feeling sympathy towards him. I felt queasy even as I thought about what happened to him. I guess the feminine half of the audience felt the same when the heroine was abused. The director targets both audience here knowing that both will be equally affected and this is what I think makes the movie really good.

The movie-going public has started demanding different films than the usual. Many big budget movies with the usual plot sunk without a trace. What with movie rights and all, a movie doesn’t fail totally but still it vanishes from the screen which can be said to be a failure. This demand might also attribute to the meteoric rise of a certain person without no shame whatsoever who does everything in his movies, including directing, writing the story, penning the lyrics, playing the hero and dancing with the 7 or 8 heroines, all equally poorly. I have felt the said person to be an affront to our collective sensibilities, but some people like him, so there you are.

In some of these offbeat offsprings of the intercourse between the demanding public and new directors, societal issues are being addressed in a more straightforward manner than the allegorical or metaphorical portrayals earlier, swearwords are coming in (which is a big step indeed) and ‘variety’ plots (lifted from elsewhere of course) are being used. Whether all these are forward or backward steps is something that is difficult to say at the moment. History after all moves forward*.

But sometimes I hark back to the good old days when I could enter a theater blankly, laugh a lot, enjoy the songs, ogle at the heroine and come back without anything on my mind, let alone such gruesome images. Movies are no longer an escape to another world, but becoming a window to the rather sick world that we live in.

‘Til Later

*A quote by Nassim Nicholas Taleb of Black Swan fame

Guess Who Is Back?

Well, that break proved to be unusually refreshing. I am back from that self-imposed exile where you would have found me more difficult to find on the social network than water on moon. This exile was triggered by what many may think to be one of the silliest reasons possible, a game. But when that game turns out to be football, undoubtedly the most popular game on the planet, then it might not be too silly.

To cut a long story short, when my favourite football team, the one to whom I have sworn my allegiance, the one whose fortunes decide my mood of the day and the one who is yet to attend the class Goal Scoring 101 began playing even more horrendously than usual and started going from one nadir to the next, I decided to take a break from everything and come back refreshed. This entailed skipping twitter, where I almost exclusively follow people related to football, all the million blogs which were mirroring my despair, FIFA where I used to play the actual match again and also Facebook just for kicks. And then I realised, I had nothing else to do online.

I curbed my usual habit of opening a hundred tabs and roving from one tab to another, everything related to football. Sometimes out of sheer force of habit, I would open a few of football related sites, but then remembering, I would close my eyes and quickly close the tab, punch myself in the face, dip my hands in boiling oil and walk on fire, or mostly only the first. I went on a pilgrimage, meditated on the futility of it all and understood some fundamental truths about life. That the pilgrimage was part of a trip to Delhi and was not a conscious choice but rather a choice of the parents is another matter altogether.

3 weeks of that self-imposed exile and I found out that I had more time than I even knew. The serendipitous benefit of the exile was my reading. Books, which I used to leave for the rainy day, the offseason when there was no football, the time when I was free from doing my million other responsibilities were quickly finished. I am glad to say I read many fine books. I also discovered the rather humbling fact that if I read a book a day, I would not finish even the classics in my lifetime. I am now exploring authors who are talked about with reverence, the people who shaped the literature of their times, the literary giants on whose shoulders stood many a Chetan Bhagat and achieved bestsellerdom. Though even these giants might have been the Chetan Bhagats of their times, upcoming novices mentioned sometimes as an afterthought.

I broke my exile today on learning that Liverpool (the team that I follow that is) won a match. Was I relieved on coming back into the folds of “society”. Not too much. It is still bickering, sharing weird photos to get “likes”, refreshing a page to see if the like count increased, trying to be witty or pondering on the perils of playing a deep-lying playmaker. I discovered that the exile was not so much of a trouble, rather I enjoyed immensely the time I had. Maybe I am just an ordinary anti-social being, a sociopath if you will. The anti-library (a library containing the unread books) is more than 99.999% full.

Of course, the football bug, once caught is not easily cured, and once my team goes back to its winning ways (if there ever was one), I am sure I will get hooked on again and cry and delight with my fellow fans. But this promise I solemnly make, that unnecessary worry I will not take. After all it is only a game.