Life of Pi

It is always with a feeling of impending doom that I watch an adapted film where I have already read the book. It is very difficult for an adapted movie to satisfy a book lover.

In that sense, Ang Lee deserves credit for pulling it off. Instead of being an re-interpretation or reiteration of the book the film becomes the completion of the book. May be it also reflects on the personality of Ang Lee he doesn’t feel the need to forcefully change something to establish his authority over his work. The visuals and imagery of the film were what the book was lacking. My only gripe is that the spiritual discourse and Pi’s tryst with religions in the beginning was a little bit too much on the face. Because of that hammering, it is now difficult for the movie to transcend the author/ film maker dictated meanings and symbolism.

Regardless of nitpicking, Life of Pi is one of those poetic masterpieces that you know you are going to love even before the title credits are over. One of those stimulating reminders that cinema can enrich us rather than just provide some mind numbing cacophony.

Francis Itty Cora

An ex-private from American military  (also an ardent cannibal) who lost his potency during his sex crimes in Iraq war is searching for his roots in India aided by 3 women in a posh prostitution ring called ‘The school.’ Through their investigations, the historical fact versus fiction story of a cult which originated from the mysterious 15th century Indo-Italian merchant called Francis Itty Cora gradually unfolds.

This is in the vein of an Umberto Eco. Or to quote a more mainstream example, in the vein of Dan Brown. But some times it does get boring when the writer starts indiscriminately dumping all those facts he got from the net. As some one commented, it is not Itty Cora, but Wiki Cora.

To say the least, the it is spicy and a well sold book in recent times. I don’t want to imply that the book sold well because of that. But I didn’t find anything special about this novel either in terms of language or the content except a desperate attempt to shock and impress. There is no grace about it.

Delhi world book fair 2012

Delhi world book fair is back. Went there yesterday and obsessively browsed the titles in the stalls. Couldn’t even finish 50% of the fair in a solid 4 hours.

Book fests can be an adventurous journey where you even don’t  know what you are looking for. If you want to buy an Amitav Ghosh or an Orhan Pamuk or a Deepak Chopra, you don’t need to a book fest. You can just order it sitting at your home. The treasures in book fests hide not in the stalls of the big publishing houses but the small and obscure stalls which may throw in front of you even more obscure titles. Some of those really make you go after them. You know from your heart that you need to get them. Also if you don’t lap them up there itself, you may never find those books again in your life. Those books are the rare homeless butterflies that suddenly fly out into the sun for a brief moment never to be seen again.

Our Game

Tim Cranmer is a self retired British civil servant (and a covert intelligence operative) living in the country with his young mistress Emma, tending to his vine orchard, trying hard to believe that world will allow him to have the middle class existence that he desperately want to sink to. But the nemesis for his escapist life comes in the form of Larry, his idealistic protégé who refuses to share his cynicism about the world. Larry sets into motion a chain of events which consumes Tim and his girl friend and  propels him from the sterile suburbs of England to the conflict torn regions of Russia.

I like the world of espionage that appears in the novels of John Le Carre. You get whif fof a brutual ground reality in there. There are no heroes here. It is all about cynicism or greed or hot headed idealism. Spying is not about beautiful beaches, sexy girls,   preposterous gadgets or one to one physical engagement with adversaries. But it is something that happens during the meaningful pauses of diplomatic conversations or empty chitchats in the corridors of beaurocracy. After John Le Carre, it is very difficult to ignore the juvenile nature of the world of James Bond.

Gang leader for a day

In 1989, when Sudhir Venkatesh, a sociology student enters Robert Taylor home projects in Chicago,  he was just planning to administer a questionnaire on  life and poverty in those urban ghettos. But he ends up living the life of an outsider there (with privileges of observation one can say) for the next one decade. He befriends J.T., the gang leader of the Black Kings, a local group involving in a chain of activities including drug dealing, prostitution etc. Then follows his experiences which tests his own ideals. Is he an impassive inert academician or an earnest intruder? Things get pretty complex when he tries not to pick a stance.

The highpoint of the book is when J.T. gives him the reigns of the gang for one day to prove to him that being a gang leader is not about sheer muscle power, but it’s all about business skills. The kind of decisions that test Venkatesh include deciding which among his groups would clean up a building and avoiding loss and bad blood that would arise from it, finding and punishing a peddler who is mixing dope with impurities to make some profit for himself etc.

These memoirs really give insights into the life on the back side of the high rises. The struggle for survival, the daily turf games with corruption and armed gangs, the collectiveness hardened by hardships… This book is not about the author and how he naively navigates an hostile alien world. But the focus is on the painstaking earnest account of a world where a person’s only choice is between being poor and being a criminal. And this is not fiction.

 

10 books that I cant have enough

It was poet Balachandran Chullikkad who once said that ‘great art is that forces you to go back to it again and again.’ With my personal experience I can’t completely agree with it. I can watch ‘Pirates of the Caribbean (1st part) n number of times but I cant force myself through ‘Barry Lyndon’ again. But it doesn’t mean that the former is greater than the latter.  I have once blogged about movies that I watch repeatedly. Here I will talk about those books which I have find myself reading again and again- often randomly, in bits and pieces, just to get the feel of it.

10-Candid

This French satire by Voltaire makes fun of everything under the sun- religion, theologians, governments, armies, philosophies, and philosophers, blind optimism. He also pokes fun at the popular adventure and romance cliches. Obviously what makes this book endearing to me is its humor and wit- that too humor and wit with a purpose.

9-The catcher in the rye

Personally I don’t think it is a great book. But its strong point is its characters. The protagonist has an unique voice- something hundreds of writers and readers have tried to mimic since reading this book.

Continue reading

Slaughterhouse-Five

Reading Slaughterhouse-Five reminded me that often what we label originality in terms of screenplays can be cliche in terms of literature. Nonlinear structure? Jumping back and forth through time? Some original ideas to re-imagine an alternate world? It is all in there in Kurt Vonnegut’s absurdist classic. And that too in a book written 40 years back.

Slaughterhouse-Five is the story of Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a ingenious demonstration of fluidity of narrative, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his traumatic experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.

But what really made this novel charming to me is it’s dry humor- and the ability to evoke it without going into too much trouble.

See how Vonnegut describes an intoxicated Billy trying to find the steering wheel.

‘Billy found himself out in his automobile, trying to find the steering wheel. The main thing now was to find the steering wheel. At first, Billy windmilled his arms, hoping to find it by luck. When that didn’t work, he became methodical, working in such a way that the wheel could not possibly escape him. He placed himself hard against the left-hand door, searched every square inch of the area before him. When he failed to find the wheel, he moved over six inches, and searched again. Amazingly, he was eventually hard against the right-hand door, without having found the wheel. He concluded that somebody had stolen it. This angered him as he passed out.

    He was in the back seat of his car., which was why he couldn’t find the steering wheel.’ Continue reading