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Friends 2.0

Sometimes I wonder if social media only friendships (as in friendships formed on social media, based on common interests or appreciation of “web personality”, without meeting the person for any significant amount of time) are a lot more brittle than those formed in real life (and extended on social media, after moving away due to compulsions of life — relocation etc). I seriously hope it ain’t so, but a few examples do seem to hint at that.

I say I hope it isn’t so, because over the last few years, my most cherished friendships are formed, and sustained primarily online. I have met some of these people once or twice, if at all, that too in socially awkward (like a lunch with a bunch of people I’m meeting first time, and even most of the people are meeting each other for the first time). In such situations, people are cautious, guarded, and generally not themselves. Yes I’ve talked to some of them on chats/calls for extended time, I know a lot about their lives, probably more than I know about some other IRL (in real life) friends.

I took to Facebook way before many, at least back home (before that there was Orkut, of course). What I liked, above all, was the non-demanding nature of the medium (then). It wasn’t a big deal. Not many were there. Those who were there, didn’t check it every now and then, and responded at leisure. It was not the tyranny of casual responses then. Along the way, apart from getting back in touch with older school/college friends, I also discovered new friends (not just on FB, but through FB many times, as blogs were discovered, people were noticed thanks to common commenting patterns on a friend’s blog, and so on).

But while, it’s been mostly positive — in terms of finding new people who you can connect with intellectually (primarily) and emotionally (to the extent that one can in online only relationship), this journey has also highlighted the pitfalls of such relationships. Mainly, the lack of strong emotional base that comes naturally to old style friendships/relationships. Of course, I don’t want to generalize. And it’s not like it’s guaranteed in old style friendships. Just as without emotional bonds, intellectual bonds are weak, not being able to connect intellectually, does strain emotional bonds as well, many times. So if your relationships are bounded by “availability” of like-minded friends (and I don’t mean your copies, but those you could connect with, and sustain a level of interactions with — both intellectual and emotional), you are at a loss too: the very reason that the online relationships look so tempting, in the first place.

One things I’ve observed (and I’ve seen others express similar thoughts) is that in web-social situations, we’re often a lot more aggressive, a lot less forgiving, a lot more reactive. Again, on average, and there are notable exceptions (those, I feel envious of, in a positive sense). This could be side effect of a more “cerebral” level at which these interactions happen (and I’m conscious that many lament the exact “lack of” intellectual content in some of these forum — but that’s really noise that any big enough gathering is going to have, and in the end, we hang around because we see the enriching conversations or interesting pointers, and so on). On the Internet, it seems, belonging to groups (liberal/conservative, and hundreds such schisms) is a peer-pressure equivalent. In old style relationships, many times, it doesn’t matter. And so one doesn’t need to prove one identifies to this/that ideology, this/that political thought, and so on. But on FB/Twitter, and such platforms, it almost isn’t optional.

The other problem is the offense. Offense has always been subjective. What your best friend, or a younger sibling can get away with is very different from what others could, but in web-social situations, in the absence of strong emotional bonds, there is very little “credit” in anyone’s account. And you never know when you’ve done an over draft. And god save you when that happens, because rebuilding those bridges becomes herculean in an online only relationship. It’s like, you suddenly realize, the person doesn’t know you at all. And then there is that reactive sense of being betrayed, almost. The thing is, you almost don’t have non-verbal cues to help you, and words are bitches, when they know you need to rely on them alone.

Add to that, the ease of ending the 2.0 relationships — unlike the old world ones, where one is bound to bump into a person, and look into their eyes, or forced to introspect, to doubt one’s hard stance. In web-social situation, it’s so much easier. You stop acknowledging the person. It’s like a break-up with a text message, and better (in a warped sense, really), because you don’t have to deal with what that does.

Over the years, I’ve resigned to suddenly losing a friend 2.0 to a misunderstanding that can never be explained, as it gets worse with explanation. Of offending someone with no intention and again being totally, completely, powerless about conveying to that person where you were coming from; of thinking you know somebody to realize you don’t, at all, really. The only antidote, is to meet those 2.0 friends you care about, whenever possible. Spend face to face time with them, preferably not in gatherings. It is not foolproof. But nothing is. It’s just that when you spend half-an-hour with a person, you know a lot about them that you don’t in online interactions for months/years. It builds the credit that friendship really needs. It comes in handy, in conflicts. The second is to be aware of the limitations of the medium, and be careful in dispensing, and be magnanimous in accepting. Okay magnanimous is too big a word. But you get it, right? Be a little more forgiving, and expect a little less forgiveness.

As it happens, this last is relevant to every relationship. 2.0 or not.

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We, the people

 

Our religions are tolerant, we're intolerant
Our religions are spiritual, we're materialistic
Our religions are forgiving, we're vengeful
Our religions are dynamic, we're stuck
Our religions are unbounded, we're parochial
Our religions are open, we're closed
Our religions are liberal, we're conservative
Our religions are giving, we're hoarders
Our religions are magnanimous, we're small minded
Our religions are frugal, we're ostentatious
Our religions are humanitarian, we're fundamentalists
Our religions are egalitarian, we're hierarchical
Our religions are about living, we're about words
Our religions are the best we wanted 
To be, and could never be
And then, 
We are proud of religions
We hate religions
We love religions
We blame religions
We thank religions
When we should be
Looking
At what we are
And what we should be






Rosshalde: Portrait of the Artist as not-so-young Man

July 2016 was a rare month when I read two (great) German authors side-by-side. One was Mann, who’s Magic Mountain (his first for me) I read (or rather heard) in parallel with one of my all time favorite authors, Hesse. There is a temptation to compare them which I’m going to entirely forgo, because it’s a futile exercise.

9782253013570-us-300I picked up Rosshalde five years back when I was in San Jose, California, on a work trip. I had managed to steal some time to visit a lovely bookshop: Recycle Bookstore. Now, any amount of time is less in this den, with its cute black cats, and its bookshelves stacked all the way to top with all sort of used and new books, and its super friendly staff/owners. But there on one of the shelves, this one peeked at me, and I bagged it without a second thought.

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For five years, then, it sat on my bookshelf. Unbelievable, given it’s a Hesse, but then I guess the time was not right. Or ripe. In fact, in this time I  read two more of Hesse. Then suddenly, few weeks back, I picked it up. These days, I consume books mostly in the audiobook format as that goes very well with compulsions of life — commute, walks, chores. So the time for reading paper books is really hard to find, and that’s so unjust when books like these that need to be read, and digested, and returned to.

Rosshalde is probably not as celebrated as some of Hesse’s other works. No one had recommended it to me. I picked it up without any prior “ideas” about it. Maybe that’s why it worked. But really, if you ask me, it worked for me because this one reminded me of his another not-so-celebrated book: Peter Camenzind (which I reviewed quite some time back), which, like James Joyce’s Portrait of the artist as a young man, deals with the “making” of the artist, really, not the craft, but the “mind” behind the craft, as it takes shape. Rosshalde, is like a sequel to that — the mid-life crisis of an artist, who struggles to come to terms with the mundane existence beyond the successful career.

 

Deriving from his life, to what extent I am not sure, Hesse paints for us the canvas of the bleak emotional life of a great artist trapped in unhappy relationships, trying to break free, but held back by his only emotional bond — with his younger child. This simple story is deceptively deep, and warrants a great deal of rumination. Johann Veraguth, the protagonist, is a painter who has achieved success, and fame, but is estranged from his wife, and his elder son, and resigned to a loveless, dry life, with only his work to escape to. When his friend Otto visits, he seems suddenly alive, again. We’re reminded that he is capable of human relationships, and simple pleasures of life. But even that lightness of being is temporary, and as the surface is scratched, oozes out the pus, baring for his friend the empty inner life of the great artist. And it’s this exploration that makes Rosshalde so poignant, as he tries to take control of his life again, but not everything goes according to plan. Rosshalde is filled with pathos, of pain, longing, tragedy, but, also of acceptance, and redemption.

This one does strike a deep melancholic chord.

 

 

 

 

A Strangeness In His Istanbul

A Review of Orhan Pamuk’s “A Strangeness in My Mind”

It’s no secret that Pamuk’s infatuated by his city, Istanbul. To be fair, infatuation is a wrong word — It doesn’t last decades, even years —  love bordering on obsession probably is more apt. What else could explain his ode to the city, Istanbul: Memories and the City, intertwining personal history, with the streets and shops, the sights and sounds, of the city, loving tribute to a city he grew up in? And yet, being the story-teller that he is, his non-fiction work about the city doesn’t do justice to the city, as it’s preoccupied with how it affected him, growing up.

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It’s been over a decade since he wrote that one, though, and a perfect time for a sequel of sorts. And so we have :  A Strangeness in My Mind, a love-story on the surface, but really a tale of the city, which just refuses to become a backdrop to an engrossing story of Mevlut — from his small-town beginnings, to a drop-in-the-ocean existence in a metropolis bursting at the seams; underlined by his strange love that lasts a lifetime, and his travails, his naivety, and the tragedies that punctuate his life with a deadpan regularity. Through all of it, the city keeps on raisesing its head, both figuratively, and formatively (through mosques, and houses, and skyscrapers) every now and then, as Pamuk moves Mavlut’s story along with the story of his beloved city.

While Istanbul (the non-fiction), is more interested in the spaces, and the temperament, and the overwhelming feel of the city, and that too, for someone living on the more Europeanized side of the Turkey’s cultural fault-lines; in Strangeness, Pamuk takes more interest in the evolution of the city from the point of view of those on the other side of those fault-lines: the peasants, who flocked to the city in search of opportunity, the daily-wage earners, the communists and the Islamists, the housewives, and the uncles, and the mothers, and the customers, and the religious gurus … It’s a vibrant picture of a city that Pamuk painted gray in his earlier work. Not that gray is used sparingly here either.

Mevlut comes to Istambul, already a dauntingly big city for someone coming from a village, and watches it grow to a megapolis, transforming people around him, in more ways than he could have imagined; while he tries to hold on to a trade that’s already on the decline (a boza [a fermented drink, possible etymological origins of the English “booze”]  seller), even in his father’s time. Mevlut, who finds his love-of-life, thanks (!) to a cruel trick played by a cousin, never really comes out the trumps in life, which isn’t that unexpected knowing Pamuk’s fatalistic view of existence (at least what comes out as one, from his books), where happiness is always fleeting, and melancholy (or huzun, as his other Istambul book educates us about) enduring; with his quintessentially un-heroic (but also un-villainous) characters. But as he struggles with, and then begins to accept the whole existential strangeness, inside his mind, as exemplified by his tortured love/life story, and outside — in the streets, and back-allies of the ever changing city. In Istambul (the  non-fiction), Pamuk tries to capture “hüzün” of the city in words, and images. He almost succeeds. But here, he paints with it, and it’s hard to miss. If one goes back to the “Memoir” now, one would get it right-away.

In terms of the narration, Pamuk resorts to a mix of third person narration, with the multi-narrator technique that he so well employed in his best book to date: My Name is Red. That technique, in its measured application, works very well for this one too, as it gives a glimpse into more lives, more point-of-views, and builds a context to assess Mevlut’s struggles, and tiny triumphs. And Pamuk is in fine form here, with a countenance  of a test match specialist batsman who is reassured that time is on his side. Which means, for many, it is too slow for their comfort. Not me. I like books that water the plant, and wait patiently, for the bloom to come. And if you have time too, then Pamuk is enormously rewarding. The hüzün and the grays not withstanding.

 

 

 

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A Wound from a Dream

[From Prem Gilhari Dil Akhrot प्रेम गिलहरी दिल अखरोट by Babusha Kohli बाबुषा कोहली]

स्वप्न में लगी चोट का उपचार
नींद के बाहर खोजना
चूक है

होना तो ये था
की तुम अपनी दिल की एक नस निकालते
और बांध देते मेरी लहूलुहान उँगलिओपर
मेरी हँसली पर जमा पानी उलीचते
और रख देते वहाँ धूप मुठ्ठीभर

हुआ ये
की जीन परबतों पर मैंने तुम्हारा नाम उकेरा
वहांसे बह निकली कल कल करती नदियाँ
और मेरी गर्दन से जा चिपकी कागज़ की एक नांव

It’s futile to try and heal
a wound from a dream
when one is awake

What if
You had plucked a nerve from your heart,
tied it over my bleeding finger,
wiped dry the tears from my collarbone
and sprinkled fistful of sunlight there …

But,
from those mountains —
where I had carved out your name —
came rippling down the rivulets,
and left behind a crumpled paper boat,
on the nape of my neck.


Found this gem thanks to a lovely rendition by Rasika Duggal on a charming Youtube channel: Hindi Kavita

Special thanks to Atul Sabnis of Gaizabonts for assisting with “उलीचते”. I went to him with what I thought was the word, and what I thought was the meaning, and he went through hindi dictionary to find it out for me. Such is life with friends.

 

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To Tale or not to Tale

Is it better
to let a tale
be left untold
if telling it will
leave a scar?

Or is it better
to tell it
to a point
where the pain
of withholding
is no more severe
where it doesn’t exceed
the pain
about to be unleashed
by the tale

But if you kill a tale
before it’s told
to the last dot,
what you killed,
is it even the same tale?

Then again,
isn’t every tale incomplete?
because a complete tale
will never end
branching off infinitely
lingering on,
meandering,
pausing,
in a borgesian eternity

Can a tale be retold?
or is it reborn,
every time someone
attempts to retell?

Do you own the tale
you gave birth to?
or does it own you?
does it see you as a medium
and nothing more?
and when it dictates
do you rebel,
put your foot down,
and make it mend its ways?

Does it play you
as you play it in your mind?
does it try your limits?
or do you, test its?
and when,
the negotiation is over
and you lie down
happy, and tired
does it lose sleep
over its future?

Or does it believe
in its immortality
because unlike you
it knows,
it is created
from the same magical dust
of the remains
of the echoes
from that day
in distant future
when the first tale
was let loose
to enjoy its moment
of eternity?

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The Song of Tomorrow

I

We’re ashamed of our imperfect bodies,
but never, of our penurious souls,
our ill-gotten wealth,
or even how, we don’t care, anymore,
about where we’re going,
what we’re doing,
and what we’re not doing,
the thoughts that we think,
the dreams that we dream,
and the dreams that we don’t
anymore,
because someone told us
it’s too late for all that
that
we’re too old
but we’re never too old
to look at our bodies critically
to worry, to argue, to fight
about all that should have ceased
to matter
long ago

II

Age was supposed to be a two way street
of losing some agency, some agility
some enthusiasm, some urgency
but gaining wisdom, patience
weaker eyesight, but better vision
of knowing when to let it go
being immune to the petty
but, lately, the street
seems to have turned one-way
we worry about wrinkles
and grey hair, not grey matter
and slowing metabolism
and lost muscle tone …
accumulated years
as if, they are a liability
not an asset

III

We could just as well
replay the notes
in the back of our minds
our memories, weak as they may be
hold on to those notes, and chords,
and strange rhythms
our memories are darker,
but richer than of those
just starting their journeys;
our notebooks
messy and yellowed,
our maps, personalized
and dated

IV

But, we just want to go back
and re-live the same life
as if maps are enough
to move across space and time;
maps just reassure us
of a possibility of finding
that which could be lost
but lost, it is not, what we are searching
it’s just frozen, irrevocably
and that’s a good thing
for, when we try to thaw it
it always crumbles —
the moment time is turned backwards

V

The best way to preserve maps
is to never use them
and keep them folded
in the glove compartments,
in the old wooden cupboards
or just tucked somewhere
in the attics …
then they become records
of things worth living for, once

VI

We’re ashamed of our imperfect bodies
instead, we should be ashamed
of trying to go back
as if there is nothing
to go forwards, marching
into yet uncharted lands
with a calm acceptance
of disappointments on the way;
for our memories are rich with ‘em
that we still tell the tales excitedly
is the testimony to those maps
which we want to destroy, unwittingly

VII

The young, they need a lot more
to go on
they are building
the wall of memories,
don’t envy them that
you have tasted it all,
and more,
now you need less, and less
because you know the paths
that lead to dead ends
secret paths to sanctuaries,
you’re not worried about
getting lost
about being around
and being relevant
of sanity
of pimples and Ayn Rand

VIII

You know
that, some relationships never last
some people you thought
you cannot live without
never make it with you
meaningfully far,
and you still survive;
you know how to pick up the pieces
to stash the hurt,
to nurse a wound,
to weather the storm
that cliches are underrated
that everyone changes
including you
and that,
it’s a good thing
after all …

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Thoughts on Harmony

The other day, a friend, who has a good ear for music, in fact a connoisseur of Indian classical music, was commuting with me in my car. Normally, I am alone when I commute, and so I listen to audiobooks on my way. That’s pretty much how I’ve got any reading done at all, over the last few years. If one can call listening to audiobooks reading. There I go again.

So that day, instead of putting on the audiobook that I was reading, I decided to play some music. It could be pretty darn disorienting for someone to listen to Pamuk somewhere on the 133rd page of an extremely slow paced book. But then again, since I don’t listen to lot of music in the car, except for some bollywood numbers that my kid enjoys, or when I’m suddenly left with no audiobooks in the queue due to bad planning (which is, to be fair, not that seldom), right in the middle of commute. Now this friend of mine is little picky when it comes to music. So current Bollywood was ruled out. What I had besides that, were a few of my cherished Jazz albums. Couple of Mingus ones, and Coltrane.

lovesupremeSurely, I reasoned, no one can mind The Love Supreme? I mean, isn’t that a confluence of all that’s good about music? Like harmony, dissonance, melody, all employed to investigate spirituality.  I mean, it never occurred to me that it could just be my blind love. But later that the day, my friend commented that it was cacophony.

 

 

 

Yup. C.a.c.o.p.h.o.n.y. Something that dictionary defines as : “a harsh, discordant mixture of sounds.”

That got me thinking. Dissonance by definition is discordant, right? But harsh? And how much of discordance separates orchestrated/controlled dissonance from cacophony?

So I looked at the whole dissonance affair a bit. In a wikipedia article I found two very interesting bits:

In music, even if the opposition often is founded on the preceding, objective distinction, it more often is subjective, conventional, cultural, and style-dependent. Dissonance can then be defined as a combination of sounds that does not belong to the style under consideration; in recent music, what is considered stylistically dissonant may even correspond to what is said to be consonant in the context of acoustics (e.g. a major triad in atonal music).

[snip]

Most historical definitions of consonance and dissonance since about the 16th century have stressed their pleasant/unpleasant, or agreeable/disagreeable character. This may be justifiable in a psychophysiological context, but much less in a musical context properly speaking: dissonances often play a decisive role in making music pleasant, even in a generally consonant context – which is one of the reasons why the musical definition of consonance/dissonance cannot match the psychophysiologic definition. In addition, the oppositions pleasant/unpleasant or agreeable/disagreeable evidence a confusion between the concepts of ‘dissonance’ and of ‘noise‘.

From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consonance_and_dissonance

So while, objectively, dissonance is discordant, when one listens to musical dissonance, the perception can very from pleasant to unpleasant. From beautiful to harsh. Indeed, cacophonous.

But that’s not all that I wanted to talk about, because that’s not all that came to my mind as I kept thinking about it — about the inability of my otherwise well ear-trained friend, to perceive the beauty, the progression, the poignancy of that (in my mind) superlative piece of music.

Indian classical music doesn’t much concern itself about harmonies. Sometimes when I think about it, I find it rather strange — something as refined as Indian Classical Music never exploring (at least seriously, to my rather limited knowledge) harmony. Indian classical music is predominantly individualist! So while it is ready to shade the dependence on melody that any early musical forms have, it tends to keep the supremacy of the lead singer/player intact. There is singer or principal player, and there is accompaniment/rhythm section. In modern times, there have been many experiments to explore harmony. Shakti comes to mind. But somehow, if you compare to either Western Classical (which has almost no improvisation) or Jazz (which is highly improvised — a property it shares with Indian Classical), on the complex harmony scale it seems to be just a hesitant attempt (and they had John McLaughlin!).

That really led me to another thought lane. Growing up we’ve heard a lot in school books about “unity and diversity” and later on about syncretic culture, and various castes/creeds living “in harmony”, and so on. Are we romanticizing it? Is this harmony basically just an illusion at worst, and “live and let live” at best? Is this harmony like the polyphony in our classical music, where there is one primary citizen, and the rest are there only to “support in every which way” that primary citizen, so to speak?

No I’m not an expert on music. Anything but. Nor on culture, on Indian culture, even. And these are just threads that were started in my head as I pondered over that confusion, that judgement of cacophony. It made me wonder, are our ears not trained for harmony, much less dissonance? Are we too individualistic a culture (with exceptions like Bhakti/sufi traditions, and many more, I’m sure) to really appreciate harmony and dissonance? Is what we believe to be cultural harmony just disjoint themes playing together, oblivious to each other, or just tolerant to each other’s existence, but not playing towards a common goal, a larger polyphony?

I would like to believe it’s not so. For how would Europe, a much closed mono-culture, have developed both the appreciation and repertoire for Jazz and Western Classical Music, with harmonies at their core?  With Jazz one can understand it a bit, because Jazz did not originate there, and it was more of melting pot effect that it got adapted. But what about the stupefying harmonies of the classical masters?

And what about dissonance? Is it really anti-thesis of harmony? Or does it actually complement it. Our present day culture seems so much closed to any dissonance — not just musical. Did we reach here because decay or because it’s just a logical progression of an emphasis on one superior culture/idea/religion/race/tradition? Is our instinctive rejection of dissonance as noise/cacophony just a result of the internalized belief in fake harmony?

All these questions! And for all you know, it could just be my undeserved reverence for The Love Supreme. I sure could be little less touchy about it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Coffee Time

I love the aftertaste of coffee. Okay, let me correct that, because for a filter-coffee-fanatic that I am, the prefix may be redundant, but not for the rest of the world (and for that so-called coffee loving culture called American), it seems. And one must say “filter coffee” when one means coffee – the real thing, not the abomination that you get when you force hot steams through burnt coffee beans; or worse, the so called “decaf” anti-coffee; or worse still, green coffee. Or that counterfeit coffee also called “instant coffee”. You get the drift. Yes, I’ve been called a coffee snob. Not just once or twice.

That said, I’m going to say coffee, taking umbrage in the famous Humpty-Dumpty’s contention:

When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.

So back to the point. I love the aftertaste of coffee; of good, not too sweet, not too bitter, well brewed, well blended (the traditional two tumbler method) with milk, coffee. That slight bitter aftertaste of coffee is something akin to an aftertaste of a torrid affair that, you knew, was too good to last, but still wouldn’t mind going through again, and again; because, well, that fleeting state-of-mind, that moment of being-in-it completely, is in the realm of the best that life is gracious enough to let us experience.

Yes, it’s probably just a chemical locha, but so is infatuation. And wars have been fought over the latter. No one complained then!

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The thing is, however much I try, I cannot get that from any other coffee preparations. The organically and shade-grown, purest breed fed-on-real-organic-grass horse-shit manured, sun dried, moon exposed, slow and mildly roasted, freshly brewed, super-gourmet, with pristine lineage, and all that jazz coffee (but finally brewed in a couple of mins, and sometimes using excessive force) doesn’t give me even a quarter of that, which I get from my locally bought, non-premium Arabica blend (50-50 Peaberry-Plantation, because I’m too lazy to try out the optimum ratio) brewed with a standard south Indian drip method, and a little bit of time, and care. And I still get called a snob! Go figure! Okay, lately I acquired a manual Burr grinder, but …

The south-Indian style coffee making does exert its price. For one, it’s not instant. Those old enough to remember the brief stint of the MR Coffee ad featuring Malaika Arora (and Arbaaz Khan was it? I, for one, never noticed): asli maza instant nahin hota (the real pleasure is not instant). One has to worry about the freshness of beans, how much you heat the water, how much you pack the coffee powder, what sort of milk you use, how well you can mix/aerate the piping hot milk and the decoction without letting it go lukewarm, and so on. Then, it doesn’t stay hot for long (unless, I’ve been told, you use Chicory, which, being an alleged purist, I do stay away from, if there is a choice). It doesn’t scale well. Add to that the post-operative care of the apparatus. But then again, torrid affairs come with a cost.

For me, this affair has now spanned more than a decade. And that bitter aftertaste lingers on. After every consummation.

I’m telling you: there something about kaapi

 

His Own Fan: Review of SRK’s Fan

SRK has done it all — especially where double roles are concerned. He’s done the normal bread-and-butter ones. He’s done double role with reincarnation. He’s done a “not a double role” double role, where his character fakes a double role that his (character’s) wife falls for. But in Fan, he’s gone and surpassed it all. His character plays his (SRKs) own double role, and another character plays that character’s double role. And what’s more, one character loves the other character!

Okay, don’t get me wrong. I’m not panning the movie. Not yet. In fact, given his recent woeful run of “I’m a star so I’ll prove I can get away with anything” movies (two with Rohit Shetty, one with Farah Khan), I’m glad he picked up a script that’s not juvenile to begin with. It’s another matter that … Like I said, I’m not panning the movie. Yet.

 

 

What I’m going to do here is to review two halves. This is a double-role of a review.

Role 1:

First half. Gaurav Chanda, a Delhi boy — just like his God, the actor Aryan Khanna (the double role of real life SRK, who’s also a Delhi boy) — is known in his  mohalla for playing “Junior” AK (Aryan Khanna, not Arvind Kejriwal, although I’m not sure the choice of initials was accidental)  in yearly mohalla competition, which interestingly, seems to have the budget of whole ward completely assigned to it (AK?) for their annual talent competition. In the part time that he gets between watching AK movies, collecting his memorabilia,  he runs a cyber-cafe. Okay, runs is too generous. But still.

The year in question, he again wins the competition, and gets twenty thousand cash prize for it, with with he decides to visit his object of affection, to present his trophy as B’day present to Aryan Khanna. Predictably he doesn’t get to meet him. Just in time, for him, comes a AK’s spat with a rising star. And he decides to switch to next level of fanaticism, to meet AK. It turns all bad for him, with Aryan breaking his heart.

Again, I’m not panning the movie. This part is actually quite good. SRK as Gaurav is quite a performance. A bit over the top, but intended, and carried out well. The story is almost all believable till this point. Execution is tight. Excellent buildup, to interval. Maybe 7/10 all combined. And for SRK movie, coming from me, that’s seriously lot. And I had begun to feel hopeful.

Role 2:

Post interval, we start an year later, for some reason. That gap has changed Gaurav. No one has bothered to give us a peek into this transformation (except for the dramatic exchange pre-interval), from a broken, dejected, angry fan to a revenge machine. Not that it’s hard to extrapolate the emotional leap, but more importantly, a not-so-bright, starry-eyed, mumma’s boy turning into a very competent (in the dark sense, but still), at home in the foreign land (yes, we move out of India for some reason), smooth operator. No questions should be asked. This is Bollywood after all. You see, you got the warning as Gaurav mouths Aryan/SRK line: the real drama will start now. And so it does. As a catch-me-if-you-can saga starts, you even get a literal taste of it, for what seems like an eternity of a running chase, as the script decides to trade action for everything else. There is just not enough content to give justice to the build-up of the first half. And Fan falters, and runs around like a chicken with its head cut. Finally ending on a predictable note — the way most of the negative protagonist stories do.

As tight the first half is, the second is a contrast. It’s well paced, I give you that. But it’s vacuous. Show-offish. And ultimately underwhelming. Nothing much believable happens. We move from one foreign location to another. The story never catches up.

I’d give this half 4/10. And I’m really being generous here. Because there were no songs.

*

It’s a brave effort, though, all said and done.

Going without a song/dance/humor. Trying to stick to a semblance of a story-line, which is missing in the big star movies lately. Something that no StarKhan looked likely to bite at, given present 300 Cr race. For that I really want to applaud SRK.

But, if you really look closely, it is an SRK showcase, literally (consider this: the film has really no other actor with any meaningful role). Not just of his talent, but of his achievements from past, his legend, his “I’m the king” persona off screen. In a scene, in the second half, his manager/assistant/whatever tells Aryan, “woh (Gaurav) sanki hai”. He looks almost hurt. “Phir mein kya hoon?” he asks. Reminding us of SRK who has boasted in past of his pathani temper. You gotta take him as he is. Just as you gotta take Aryan as he is. Just you have to take lot of idiotic stuff in the second half.

Fan is SRK’s love affair with himself. Or SRK’s love affair with his own stardom. But for a king of romance, it’s hardly a tribute to his best. It’s just canonization of SRK the super-star/super-hero/super-ego. Through Aryan Khanna. It’s a triple role, if you see it from a certain vantage point.

Verdict: Worth a watch, for the first half. But nothing you’d regret for having missed.