Putu the Cat

Fear me, if you dare. Meow.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Give me Moore


Salon.com carries an interview with Alan Moore, a writer Putu has admired immensely since Watchmen. It's all very political, though, but his views are interesting. Also two paragraphs about Tom Strong, a hero Putu needs to get to know better,  from Salon...
In "Tom Strong," Moore reaches for the hero at his most archetypal, trying to reel, as he puts it, "the tape of the superhero" back before Superman. In the tape before Superman are the pulp characters that inspired him -- Doc Savage, Solomon Kane -- as well as the charm and freshness of Tintin. Moore wanted Strong to have a Victorian origin but still be around today, wanted him married because "married superheroes are somehow sexier" and knew, in some way, that the hero should be friends with a talking gorilla.
What's appealing about Tom Strong is precisely how unrealistic he is, how very little attempt there is to link him to the drudgery of daily life. Little if any concern is given to the fact that Tom is 100 years old and looks 39, or to the fact that, when called upon, he will be sent back into time and travel to Venus. Moreover, Tom Strong acts not out of a desire to feed his ego or a pathological need to hurt but out of what Plato, in his "Republic," deemed "justice": each person in a society performing the role to which he is most suited.

Bit more about Moore from the introduction in the article...

Similarly, "Watchmen," Moore's groundbreaking serial that blew the comics genre wide open, unmasked our presumed comic-book heroes as nothing but a set of neuroses and psychoses in action, figures who look the other way (some in protest) as one of their own unleashes a devastating act of terror that kills half of New York's population -- ironically enough, in order to save the world from nuclear annihilation. It is the same kind of warped cost-benefit analysis that, some would argue, led to 9/11 and its resultant wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and who knows where else.



Putu is in no way related to another cat of the same name on the Internet, who belongs to a blogger named Monish who runs an erudite and entertaining website. Monish's cat, though, seems to know remarkable little about the intellectual realms in which Putu treads so effortlessly. If we leave all thought production to the humans, as the other Putu seems to have done, the end of the world is nigh. Still, Putu will not pass judgment, and wishes Putu The Other a long and happy life.

Friday, July 23, 2004

SOcialite evenings

Evening is when wine flows, laughter tinkles and a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Putu trots out to take the town by storm. And since Putu is a very discerning cat, Putu meets only the very cream and is the cat who gets it.
Yesterday Putu met Amitav Ghosh, who is fabulous. very charming, very down-to-earth and completely unfazed by the literary superstar thing. Putu missed his reading while trying to squeeze in too much in one evening and is unhappy to report that Sandip Ray's Bombaiyer Bombete is a bit of a bore. Putu's tail started waving early into the movie and disappeared entirely at some point of time later.
Putu and Amitav discussed book availability, science fiction and Calcutta, Amitav being suave and bhadraloky and Putu behaving like incoherent fancat.
But before I rush off...here's summer reading from the Guardian, and the Catwoman movie is apparently bad, despite this...

wonder how.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Belles Celeb

And page 3 hits Putu's school contemporaries big-time...there's Shayan Munshi and the Riya/Raima duo of course,  but read this...
Putu, of course, is no stranger to these elite circles. Why, only yesterday Putu watched a Taiwanese film at the French Cultural Centre where Putu even saw the Mr. Khanna mentioned in the linked article. The film was good too, Putu thinks, though so boring that Putu fell asleep in the hall. But Putu suspects the end was a twist. Now what was the name of the movie again? Something about last people somewhere.

The Hungry Tide

Last night Putu finished reading Amitav Ghosh's 'The Hungry Tide' last night. Here's a review by Alok Rai in Outlook and a another one by Mithu Banerji in the Guardian. What's striking about Ghosh's work is the way he seamlessly manages to narrate so many stories at once. The book is as much about the Sunderbans, as it is about colonial policy under an eccentric Lord Hamilton, life in the rich fertile soil of the tide country, the merciless resettlement policies of the Indian government post 1947 leading to the central events in the book, dolphins and their habitat patterns, as well as about the complex relationship between the three central characters- Kanai, a middle class businessman from Delhi with a ear for languages; Piya- an Indian-American grad student who studies dolphins, and Fokir- a poor fisherman who lives in the tide country. Ghosh manages to convey the breathtaking beauty of the Sunderbans without even once romanticizing the perilous existence that those who live there face. The introduction of these two 'foreigners' (even though Kanai speaks the language of the locals, he is in reality, as much a foreigner as Piya), upsets the fine balance of life in Lusibari, a fictitious island. Ghosh has written with incredible lucidity, erudition and empathy for his subjects- The Hungry Tide is not different, and it might just be his best book to date. A final review by Sagarika Ghose in the Indian Express.

Putu watched Fahrenheit 9/11 and was not one bit impressed. Michael Moore can be an engaging, if occasionally quirky filmmaker. Bowling for Columbine, despite the controversy it generated, managed to outrage, move and provoke all at once. Fahrenheit 9/11 has a different agenda altogether. In fact, the agenda is rather simple- oust Bush come November 2004. To that end he uses a number of arguments-the disenfranchisement of voters in Florida that led to Gore's loss,  links between the Bush family and the Bin Ladens, Bush's incompetence in dealing with 9/11, the false case for war, the recruitment of soldiers from poor and lower middle class backgrounds by unscrupulous army recruiters and so on. But Moore takes on way more than he can tackle and the finished product is a garbled, long winded account of all that went wrong with the Bush administration with no real coherent argument.

If you read what Robert Jensen has written here and here about the movie, that quite effectively sums up what Putu has to say too. Jensen makes a number of valid points: that the Moore is covertly racist, that his movie is really made for white middle class Americans, that it whitewashes the Clinton era, that by arguing that Bush is the sole culprit for all that has gone wrong he misses the larger point about the empire building project that America has embarked on since the end of WWII, and so on.

Much of Bowling for Columbine's magic lay in Michael Moore himself- his ability to get a vast range of people- from the loony brother of Timothy McVeigh to two kids who were injured at Columbine, to talk candidly. But F9/11 has far less original footage and the bit that does, either tends to be overly dramatic and pointless (what IS the point of reading out the Patriot Act in an ice cream truck? Sure it makes for good documentary footage, but it does it serve any real purpose? Why harass senators to send their kids to war? Would he? Would the war be okay if senators' kids were fighting it rather than poor Hispanic kids?) or highly moving, as in the interviews with Lila Lipscomb. And footage like that of Bush sitting in a kindergarten classroom, just after he's been told that the second tower at the WTC has been hit, is actually rather poignant. I'm not sure what Moore thought Bush ought to be doing- and for the only time in the movie, Bush comes across as a mature, sensible leader, facing a grave crisis, before a classroom of five year olds.

There are also several inconsistencies in the movie. First, the entire focus on the 'Saudis' (Moore pronounces 'Sau' as in the Hindi word for hundred for some strange reason) is disconcerting. It's almost as if any association with any Saudi is suspicious. You are left wondering if he'd been happy if the Saudis had been bombed instead of Afghanistan. Then, there's the entire bit about army recruitment. Moore suggests that this is an unjust war, and it's being fought by predominantly non white soldiers who've been duped into fighting for a cause that many may not believe in. It's a strange case to make: does Moore think that a) a just war fought predominantly by non whites is okay? or that b) an unjust war fought by white kids is a fair deal? These are two related and in some senses, unrelated issues and Moore entangles them, all the while ignoring the 'American Project for the New Century' that had been well underway under Clinton. Finally, his big omission is not Blair and the UK, as this Guardian review would suggest, but Israel. In a film that centres around American foreign policy in the Middle East, the omission of even a mention of the I-word is baffling.

Having said all this, Moore doesn't always waffle. He has fascinating footage from Iraq showing detainees being hooded and photographed (remember he shot this before Abu Ghraib became public), he has some compelling footage from Iraq and Bush, as usual, can be trusted to make an ass of himself in public, from time to time, which is always entertaining. All in all, if you're apolitical and you haven't read 'Dude, where's my country' (which contains much of the material this movie centres around), this is a must see movie. If you have read the book, and you are a political person, it is probably still worth seeing a movie, that might well change the course of an American election.


Being a Culture Vulture in Calcutta

I went to watch this play yesterday put up by Jayant Kripalani, based on the script by Manjula Padmanabhan. The play is called Lights Out and deals with how in an ordinary middle class neighbourhood a bunch of men over days repeatedly rape and brutalize a woman while the rest of the neighbourhood which can hear her screams for help stand by in mute impotence. The play clearly suffered from less than inspired acting, but parts of the play are so meandering and implausible that the irony is lost.

The acting was, on the whole, quite poor. Putu must admit some bias here. One of Putu's fat cat cousins was in the play, and Putu clearly felt that he was the best actor on stage. But it's true- till Bikram entered the play was uniformly dull. Even Bornila Chatterjee, who did a wonderful job in the last Kripalani production was too subdued and too one dimensional (i.e. hysterical housewife) to make an impact.

The audience for the play wasn't great either- they kept laughing at the wrong moments. It was only when they were told at the end of the play that the whole situation was real, that they were shocked into silence. But that shock should really have come much earlier. It ought to have been obvious that the play was making fun of the hands off attitude of the middle class in India that doesn't want to get involved because what is happening next door involves 'poor' people, or maybe a 'whore'.  In fact, Putu felt that the prostitution angle ought to have been pursued more vigorously- the entire debate about rape and prostitution is a lively one, and not just in legal circles. However, the brief dialogue between the protagonists on this fell completely flat. The whole religious/exorcism thing was overdone and by the end of it, was so implausible that the characters too were beginning to lose their credibility. The unfortunate bit is that the play had the possibility of opening up a number of different avenues for exploration and tried to do too much, in too little time, with a cast that was clearly not up to the mark, that it ended up being more farcical than it should have.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Spiderman II

Starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina
Director: Sam Raimi

”With great power comes great responsibility.” This was the oft-repeated message in the first Spiderman movie, which introduced troubled teenager Peter Parker and his wall-crawling alter-ego to the big screen.
The cast and crew of Spiderman 2 obviously got the message. They had great power – the studio, the comic-book, the talent - and with it great responsibility; the expectations of moviegoers world-wide. A responsibility they have fulfilled beyond all expectations - Spiderman 2 not only overshadows its predecessor, but is also the best superhero movie made yet.
While the special effects, especially the free-falling fight sequences, are spectacular, the strong characters and involved acting are what reel you into the web. This is a movie where the costumed caperer is unmasked both physically and emotionally. Maguire and Dunst excel as Parker/Spiderman and the love of his life, Mary Jane Watson. But the key character is the fabulous villain, Doc Ock, played with maniacal charisma by the superb Alfred Molina. In all comic-book movies, it’s the villain who makes or breaks the movie – Jack Nicholson as the Joker in Batman, for example – and Molina’s performance as a benign-turned-mad scientist battling for control of his own mind against his creation, four AI-powered anaconda-like cigar-lighting, bone-crushing, bank-robbing metal tentacles, as he strives obsessively towards a successful fusion experiment, earns him superhero-movie immortality.
At the end of Spiderman, Parker chose duty over Dunst, and it is the conflicts engendered by this choice that drive most of the movie. It’s not easy being a superhero. In trying to balance a life of spandex-clad vigilante-hood with normality – a pizza-delivery job, a science degree and a tiny rented flat – Parker begins to lose the people dearest to him and wonders whether it’s all worthwhile. Worse still, his powers start malfunctioning, leading to spectacular crashes off the tops of skyscrapers. When Mary Jane gets engaged to a handsome astronaut, his depression leads him to throw his costume into a trash can and start over as a normal young man. His life seems easier, but the superhero’s call is not easily denied. Because to defend the city against a maniacal eight-limbed monster, you need a superhero, even if his costume itches a bit…
Spiderman 2 is intelligent, colourful and vibrant popular cinema, full of action, adventure, romance, drama and humour. Watch it.

Friendly Neighbourhood.

Yes, Putu knows this is from the first movie and therefore putting this picture here is not strictly relevant, but Kirsten Dunst has always had a special place in Putu's heart. She's fine, as humans go.
So, now that Ive finally seen the movie, can feel free to read the reviews and agree with the good bits, because I think it's absolutely fabulous and cant wait to see it again.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Let's talk about sex

Is Putu male or female?
Putu is a cat. If Putu has kittens, you will be the first to know. Until then, if this question keeps haunting you, you are gender-obsessive and should be spanked with a big wooden spoon.


Gurinder Chadda in the Guardian on (what else?) multiculturalism, but thats not all. good profile. And on the superhero frontier, my refusal to read a single Spiderman review continues.but read with enthusiasm that Brian Singer of the X-men movies is going to direct the next Superman movie. and here are two more, on robots in film and real life, here and here. NYTimes also has an interesting profile of Colin Farrell. Though I hate their whole self-righteous Mr. Farrell bullshit.
In books, though it's a little dated now, here's a long interview with Hari Kunzru :) and Sheela Reddy's piece on Shiv Khera and plagiarism in Outlook. This week's Bibliophile is actually decent. Incidentally, Ms. Reddy is thinking of chucking it all and going off to Hyderabad to write a non-fiction opus...and Putu is all in favour. Putu would give her a big thumbs up, if Putu had thumbs.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Bumper to bumper

To start this blog off with a bang...
The Guardian's fiction special is what you should be reading now, so go there. This new Blogger template thing is so cool.
Saw two Woody Allen films yesterday, Manhattan and Annie Hall, which makes me realize, for some odd reason, how much character Calcutta has, as a city with an organic life of its own, as opposed to Delhi's aggressive concrete-boned auto-corpuscled soullessness. but enough bitching about Delhi, will be out of here soon.
Am dying to read the reviews for both Spiderman 2 and Shrek 2, but wont... at least not until ive seen the film. Though ive heard the process is supposed to work the other way. But do try the Which superhero are you? quiz. I was, predictably, Spiderman.