Saturday, June 12, 2010

I believe in small towns

I was raised in a small temple town in south India, that was a bell jar of life, love and prejudices. It felt self contained and comfortably familiar - a severed outpost of progress way in the days of trunk calls and rationed television.

I remember mornings of temple chants, ground coffee or anise and those blazing afternoons with distant songs on Radio Ceylon wavering on on thin air. Picture this: a collage of small eateries with spicy food, barber shop with a bright rooster against a rising sun mirror etched on saloon doors, Charles Bronson at Regal Talkies which was Victoria Edward Library by day, opening movie shows where foul mouthed men pranced on railings over the queue to reach the counter faster, gold foil tickets, jubilant shadow confetti when the hero shows up on screen. Nights came with percussive mincing of 'parothas' over flat hot girdle, migrant Rajasthani men serving hot milk over nuts served on streets and street fights that ended invariably with bloodshed. There were colourful visitors too - caucasian backpackers - residual free spirits of seventies with their long hair, worn cottons and lost destinies; complaining North Indian pilgrims in bright saris and bus full of tonsured heads off loaded near the temple; Tamil poets and Sanskrit scholars deep in discourse under cackling monkeys at the temple. There were street acrobats, dancing bears and movie announcements with posters on wheels or a brass band playing old tamil songs. The west temple tower stood sentinel, like an ornate backdrop, watching us grow up.

School smelt of early fear for the system and yoghurt on hot rice. The walk from bus stop was across an old banyan tree and a graveyard full of stories. There were plots to throw blankets on that unsuspecting nasty teacher and beat him up right at that cemetery. Education was taken too seriously by most of us. BUt the classes were boring and most often without an objective. Stealing glances was all that was permissible with girls in public, unless you were brave. However, we did have our share off school sweethearts and juicy gossip. Those weekend cricket matches at the school grounds should not have ended at all - small ice boxes on wheels that sells lollies. Stories involving catapults, dead snakes, garden lizards and the reluctant stride to extra classes after matches.

Literature was largely Tamil pulp, comics like Rip Kirby or Lawrence David translated and paperbacks from Higginbothams. There was the street library too run by an old man with his taped-together spectacles. I grew up with a thirst to know more. Seasons changed, Skylab fell (our school was sure that it will fall on the admin block), civil war broke in Ceylon, radios went silent, refugees came in, love died and new ones flowered. And one day like mine shrapnels we graduated from school to disperse into the wide world of our joys and agonies. A few stayed. But most moved out.

I was thrown into the shifted reality and culture of a creative school. I had to catch up real fast. This readies you against all hurdles without losing the honesty, values and integrity borne from growing up in a small town under the temple towers.

I believe in small towns.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fall of the Idiyappam Western: Quick Gun Murugan - A Review

Design education in early nineties was as western as it was before with most of the masters, inspirations and innovations borrowed from video tapes and books. While we were confused, MTV invented very pop vernacular kitschy look and really did not take it further. In 1994 Quick Gun Murugan (QGM) arrived as a short promo in Channel V as a part of the new look. This promo was the most refreshing piece of creative yet. For us young creative bunch Channel V was suddenly the font of exciting ideas. They hired most of my friends who specialized in video.

Quick Gun Murugan, for a Tamilian, was a proud moment then. We knew the origin of these ideas and could educate the far removed of movies from 70s. Altogether the expectation on a QGM, the feature film was big. Ages back when I was hired to act in a Channel V promo Rajesh Devraj shared the initial script and I loved it. The script did change since then and the movie was late to ride on the initial wave too.

QGM the movie is a bunch of one minute shorts loosely strung together with a weak narrative thread. Some of these are hilarious and most, downright sad. I think this could have been a brilliant movie if everything was not so over the top, particularly yamalok.

Grown up on Jaishankar idiayappam westerns, I am appalled by the inferior technical detailing in QGM. Overall reminds me of a Calvin strip where he wonders whether enlarging a popular art comic will ever make it high art.

I would have been happier with some fifty one minute shorts than one big movie. Taxes my threshold!

Disappointing! But little flower is worth it, is worth it!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Call Back: A visit to a place I consider alma mater

A few months back  there was a regroup vacation of a bunch of schoolmates who mattered in a place, considering that most of us have lived away for more than fifteen years, we would still call home. The meeting was a blur of stories of wonder, success, suffering and survival well-doused with malt liquor. I went back again to imbibe the city, awake and thirsty. These are some glimpses of that trip.

Narasimhan aka Naresh A typical street Shankwala Bhavan The North Tower Temple ceiling

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Monday, April 20, 2009

A new way to blog

I am excited about this new app that I have got on my iPhone that lets me post entries. This makes blogging more immediate with instant gratification. This will make me more regular as a blogger I guess.

And this post should include a photograph too. Let me shoot my office at lunch.

Posted from iPhone

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I am media?

It has been worrying me right through the broadcast of the Mumbai 26/11 incident and further when I read the keen effort behind the meaningful work like Mark Tully or some old reportage of Marquez. As an ardent fan of right representation of information I feel cheated when I can intelligently put the truth together and when I see a seemingly detailed yet superficial illustration of things that matter, in the media.

It gets worse when it gets sensational and stupid. Picture Barkha Dutt walking up to bedsheets hanging from a window in that cursed hotel talking about how people used that as a lifeline, mindlessly repeating the same thing. Where is the homework? Reportage is like my daughters fighting over who is first. Analysis is about supplying verbiage and making people cry. Presentation is intrusive, voyeuristic and worse, narcissistic (Arnab from Times Now should be seated in front of a two-way mirror).

We need a media entity that is observant, non-intrusive, analytical and acts as a catalyst to reach solutions. I think social media has a power to be just that. See this

(On a completely bitchy note, the high pitched yapping pup din of all of the Prannoy protégés are appalling - Rajdeep, Arnab and Barkha)

Can we?

Last week was traumatic for every Indian on this planet as we were going through disbelief, anger, incomprehension, concern for all of us who remain and recovery. We cursed and blamed everything in sight over all this - religions, countries, politicians, bureaucrats, luxury hotels, fishermen, news anchors and more.

I believe that this calls for an attitudinal change that erases the grey spaces in rules. How can I drive without a license in India? How can I evade tax? How can I enter a secure zone when a dumb PVC tube metal detector beeps and the policeman is reading hindi pulp? Our comfortable mid ground in everything is the easily penetrable no man's land. Our security too stays on this mid ground.

If we can come to consensus that as citizens we will not break or flex a rule, will assist others to stay on the acceptable side and will create a wee bit of order in this enjoyable chaos of India, we probably will notice an anomaly earlier. When will we hold our elbows tight and stand in a queue?

But can we? Can I?

Monday, September 01, 2008

A Director's Profile

I was given this task of writing Indrajit Nattoji's profile to be published wherever necessary. Being a long-standing friend helped me write this piece and have fun doing it. Watch his movie when it is out and tell me if all this is true. His profile follows:

Indrajit Nattoji is a movie maker with an exotic combination of narrative panache and irreverent humour. He has always been comfortable in placing the mundane or the real against a complex perspective of human experiences that creates his brand of jocular art. Indrajit also has the ability to blend organic storytelling with the precise craft of cinema.

He began his career as a documentary filmmaker, which again is a fabulous excuse to get an all-paid trip around the country with a camera of your choice. This taught him relevant skills in deconstructing a real situation into intelligent modes of presentation. He also recognised the hidden irony in fleeting instances of the world.

He would have remained in that illusory realm of roaming about playing mouth organ with his bare hands if not for love. He fell head over heels for the Ford Mustang and consummating needed money.

He traded his ideals for moolah and tighter narratives when he started a production company in New Delhi called Watermark.

On recognising the mutual match in the genre of storytelling Channel V hired him as a Senior Producer and he moved to Mumbai to work with them for three years. These three years sharpened his wit, added style to his imagery and strengthened his managerial skills. Then he decided to start his own gig called Blink Pictures - a production house that jaywalked the roads of advertising commercials to glory. He rose to fame brushing shoulders (even if he had to stand on a step ladder) with celebrities like Hrithik Roshan and John Abraham as he directed them for endorsed products.

By now, he was a fully evolved film maker who was invited to flaunt his knowledge on 'Popular Street Culture and Advertising' in public by Promax BDA Los Angeles Conference. He did that well too. More international and Indian accolades followed.

Indrajit decided to move on to the greater plains of feature length movies with style and witticism. He recently decided to get married, push weights at the gym and make his first feature film all at the same time. Soon he will be introduced as a man with wit on top, washer-board abs in the middle, a smiling wife by his side and a few hits behind him.

Now, they say, there is a Ford Mustang somewhere heartbroken and pining.

Indrajit Nattoji is a Communication Graduate from National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India, with a specialization in Film and Graphic Design.


Friday, August 01, 2008

Going Vernacular

I spent three days in Hyderabad doing a progress check and start developing the district tabloid for Sakshi, the newspaper that we designed along with Dr Mario Garcia of Garcia Media, Tampa, FL. Mario has published a new post on his blog that talks in detail about Sakshi, the newspaper (with a neat credit to Apparatus). Thank you Mario.

Follow this link to read it.