Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Akshay Patra Indiblogger Meet : The Who When Where and What

All pictures used here have been clicked by Kuntal Gupta. Thanks Kuntal for letting me use them to colour my post. You're da man.

The Indiblogger meet had been announced almost a month earlier, and was to be held on the 20th of Feb. I had signed up for the meet pretty early, and it was heartening to see the number of potential attendees swell up as the day for the meet approached.

The Venue, right beside City Centre I

I am one of those people who have this bad habit of punctuality, and keeping up with it, I reached the venue a good 15 minutes before noon. I knew that the Five Little Indians were to play near the end of the day's proceedings, and I could hear them jamming from outside the auditorium as they set up their rig. I went in through what I suppose was the wrong entrance, thus having to hop, skip and jump over the wires and the apparatus strewn about, and hopefully not subjected to too many looks of consternation.

The Hall was mostly empty, with barely fifteen twenty people there other than the Indiblogger team, all decked up in their finery of Indiblogger Tees. I went and registered (it was fun watching the names and updates come up on the screen projected on the wall) and found myself a quiet corner to sit, not quite sure what to do or what was happening around me. I spent my time watching people come in, register, walk up to a huge marquee/banner thingy kept there by the IB team and spraypaint all over it. After a point of time even I couldn't resist the pull of graffiti.

 IndiGraffiti in progress

Indiblogger's version of a Welcome Mat

A few minutes later walked in somebody who looked vaguely familiar. On a hunch I went up to speak to her, and it turned out that she WAS one of my seniors from school. Well, the familiar face of Debosmita immediately updated my status from lost puppy to at-peace-with-myself.

Within ten minutes or so, more and more people had started trickling in, and the band, by then done setting up their stuff, packed up their instruments and went off to do whatever it is bands do in when not playing music, thus leaving the auditorium in relative silence and people like me (who basically knew nobody and so were listening to the band jam with full attention) at a loss as to what came next. A lot of people seemed to know each other already and I could see clusters forming all round. By then the IB team had decided that they better get things rolling soon, so Anoop took the mic, called us to order, and steamrolled through the first three bits in their agenda in three minutes flat.

Then came the thirty seconds of fame, where all the bloggers were given half a minute (of Bengali Standard Time) to speak about themselves and their blogs, our names being displayed at random on the screen. Well, I shall (very tactfully) not go into any further details about this (mostly because I stumbled and bumbled through the whole thing). Let me sum it up by saying that there were a lot of laughs as the bloggers introduced themselves and everybody was treated to liberal doses of applause.

 30 seconds of fame

Right after that, the The Akshay Patra Foundation  was introduced to us, the main sponsors of the meet, and we were given a presentation and a talk about how the Foundation was doing a really amazing job with their mid day meal scheme in 8 states across the country. The final bit in that presentation was a (slightly long) recording of a speech given by Narayan Murthy, where he spoke at length about why the Foundations work was so important and their vision for the future.

The presentation in progress

Anyway, lets skip to the lunch bit. It was then that people actually got talking. Sumptuous quantities of good food helped, of course. A few of the Indiblogger people could be heard talking about how much they wanted to have proper Bengali food. The food court was quite palatial and snippets of conversation floated about everywhere along with the aroma of the food till we were shooed back into the auditorium where we found chart paper and sketch pens lying on all chairs. Rakesh and I deduced that they were (for some yet unfathomed reason) for hanging about our necks, though Animesh was sure his wouldn't go over his head. The IB team shortly confirmed my suspicions and told us to hang the charts behind our backs and go around and get commented on, the real world equivalent of blogging. in a way. This was really reminiscent of school, and for the next 30-40 mins there were yellow-yellow-dirty fellows (and the occasional person in white) walking about commenting and getting commented upon. It broke what little ice remained between the people present.

 Live and let comment

We literally had to be forced back to our seats, and then a lottery was conducted with the charts to find lucky winners, though they weren't awarded any prizes as far as I could see. The meet was then entering its final phases and the bloggers divided themselves into groups and one spent time discussing the technical aspects of blogging on one hand while the other group discussed about blogging for social issues.

This was the tech discussion. That's me straining to hear what is being said.

A third group secretly separated themselves from the rest, and we, in the true spirit of Bangaliana sat around a round table and indulged in full fledged adda. I remember Kuntal, Rakesh, Aritry and Deborshi being there, and we were joined from time to time by Addy and Vineet who not only kept us entertained but also told us a lot about the whole Indiblogger experience. It was total unadulterated fun till Anoop told us to wind up, which included moving all chairs and tables to make way for the band.

 Five Little Indians

FLI took the stage and stated outright that they don't do covers. They immediately launched into one searing song after another. The bass boomed, the drums shook up the whole auditorium, the guitarist might as well have had an extra pair of hands, and the vocalists complimented, harmonised, and to put it very bluntly, kicked absolute arse. All of us present moshed and sung along till we were hoarse.

 Five Little Indians in full flow

6 o' clock and the performance over, we slowly made our way out, collecting our Indiblogger Tees, shaking hands and taking numbers and URLs.

The Indiblogger team had put a lot of effort into this meet, and it was picture perfect. All of us had an absolute blast, and I look forward to more such meets in the near future.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A different flavour of homecoming

Raul scored against Valencia a few days back. Even at this age, he astounds me. He is not a magician like Messi or Ronaldo, but what he has already achieved is still worth an ovation. He is hardworking, and he does what he is supposed to do. Score. He has done so for Spain and Madrid year after year. And now he is doing it for Schalke. Way to go, Raul.

In Black and White

And my mom was like, Kal TV te Roman Holiday diyeche. Dekhbo bhabchi.
I was a bit surprised, since I know my mom doesn't watch many english movies. And this movie was almost as old as her. So I asked her when she had seen it before.
Turns out it was one of the first movies my dad took my mom out on a date to.

Friday, February 18, 2011

For a favourite crazy doctor

One of my best friends is getting married this sunday. And I'm quite pissed at myself at not being able to make it. way more pissed than she is at me, i think.

she was one of the people who turned me into a chocolate junkie. (should I be thanking her for that?)
she was the person who made me fall for western classical music, especially the cello.
she was the person who made me realise that mumbai isn't that bad a place to be, actually.

she's a charming and sparkling person by day and a chainsaw wielding, coffee drinking crazy doctor by night. awesome combination, i say.

so. this one's for you. :-)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Never Let me Go - The movie

Based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Directed by Mark Romanek.
Screenplay by Alex Garland.

There are very few movies which live up to the book its based on. This one is one of them. Probably because the author was involved in the whole process, the movie captures almost everything that was in his book. For me, this is probably the best movie of 2010. Maybe because it does not seek much attention, it is not brash or loud. It is a very quiet movie, just like the book was. I have already written about the book and why I like it so much, so let me talk about how the movie turns out.

The screenplay is absolutely brilliant. Some elements from the book have been subtly altered, and some have been entirely left out, but it has been done so in a way such that the flow is never hampered. This is not easy to do, since the the movie goes back and forth like the book, narrated by Kathy H. The narration itself is quiet, but each word resonates ever so deeply.
Mark Romanek has done a great job with the cinematography. He has deftly given swathes of colour, warmth and emotion to a movie whose content and context is so bleak. The lights, the sounds, the loneliness, the words spoken and unspoken, everything adds to the atmosphere of the movie to make it a poignant watch.

And finally, the acting. Much as I like Keira Knightley, I have never thought much of her as an actor. But in this movie she excels. The role of Ruth, beautiful, sharp Ruth is divided between her and newcomer Ella Purnell, who plays a younger Ruth in Hailsham. Keira Knightley is a far cry from her usual glamorous self. This role asks for an edginess, the rawness of a person whose life falls apart bit by bit, and she is all Ruth is. Probably her best performance till date.

Andrew Garfield was also a new name to me. As the grown up Tommy who has managed to check his bouts of rage, and then to the Tommy in the final stages as life finally overcomes him. His happiness, his pain, his anger, his acceptance, Andrew Garfield has brought to life all the contrasts that are Tommy.

And finally, Carey Mulligan as Kathy. I had seen her just once before in a small role on TV which I had absolutely loved. And here, she steals the show. The director realises the full potential of the character and the actor playing it and focuses a lot on her. In many ways, that is strange since Kathy is the quietest in the trio. But the empathy and the sadness that one sees in her eyes all through, as well as her smile in lighter moments, she speaks volumes through her expressions. Her voice and her eyes, every word she says, that is what keeps this movie together, that is what makes it so beautiful.

This is the sort of movie which could have easily gone so wrong. But thankfully, it gets almost everything right.

Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro

It has been years since I first read this book. And I have kept coming back to it again, and again, and again. The story of three people walking a road which has been set for them by the world around them. This, however, is not a book of rebellion. It is one of acceptance. Narrated by Kathy H, the reader follows the lives of Kathy, Ruth and Tommy from their childhood days at Hailsham, a boarding school where all the students are 'special', and all of them have a fixed purpose in life. It is only slowly that Ishiguro reveals the nature of the world around them, their predestined fate and how each of them cope with it. From Hailsham we see them growing up as the author paints a beautiful portrait of their lives, so familiar yet so different. Once adults, life takes them separate ways, but the three friends remain tied together. Ruth, the donor slowly falling apart, giving up on life, the contrasts in her character getting highlighted all the time. Tommy, the donor who braves life in his own way, his rage subsiding as he slowly comes to terms with what is to be. And Kathy, the carer who walks with us in this story, her quiet and serenity somehow smoothing out even the harshest of edges by a bit.
Ishiguro continues in his tradition of writing books which have no clear climax, or shall we say, closure. The melancholia that is in the pages seeps into the reader. But he never uses that melancholia as the driving force. The vitality that is there in the book is also very real, very tangible.
In an interview the author had mentioned the difference between the book and the movie as modes of expression. The book, he claimed, need not give the reader much to go upon. He most certainly does not. He gives the bare necessities, and the rest is for the imagination of the reader to fill in. Let us just say that in this book, however might your brushstrokes be on his canvas, what remains at the end of the book is bound to be beautiful.

Chords and notes in half light

One fine day, we decided to jam again.
Gourab, Sujato and me.
We convinced Gourab to pick up his mandolin again, which had been gathering dust for over a year. For some reason, it manages to accompany the acoustic guitar like very few instruments can.
an autumn evening outside. dimmed lights in the room. beads of perspiration with each strum, each note we played. the traffic outside. The slow whirring of the fan keeping rhythm.
The mandolin had rusty strings, sulky with disuse. one string had snapped, and Gourab had used a stopgap measure in the form of a guitar string for the evening.
4 chords were decided on, A-minor, C, G and E, and this is what it resulted in.
Somehow, i feel the composition has been able to capture the autumnal vibe. I wonder if you feel the same.


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