Monday, June 28, 2010

All that is gold..

Today I was talking to my favourite cousin Mishti (God bless her dad for coming up with that nickname!) about, well, guys. Fourteen year old that she is, it is so not surprising that our opinions on our celebrity crushes shud differ widely.

The actors I worship for their physical beauty and force of personality she calls "tired old uncles". Fair enuff! But to my credit, I respected Jeetendra and Amitabh a lot more when my mom admitted she always fancied them. Anyway, after Mishti had finished dissing Christian Bale ("he has such a bad temper!") and Daniel Day-Lewis ("the butcher guy with that big mustache? From Gangs of New York, really now, tai?"), followed by the luscious Viggo Mortensen ("Aragorn?? No wayyy!!"), I decided to ask her about who she thought was cute. I was not surprised when Zac Efron came up immediately followed by, erm, Robert Pattinson. I was totally expecting it.

Then she talked about some new HBO show called True Blood that her friends had started watching (something with vampires in it to spend the dreadfully tough times between the Twilight movies, I suppose!). She said that she thought this Swedish actor who played a vampire called Eric was really hot. Interesting, I thought. How kids these days (I've always wanted to use that phrase!) seem to have this crazy vampire fixation while I insisted on sleeping with the light on and the window locked for days after I'd read the abridged version of Bram Stoker's Dracula in school inspite of my dad's repeated exasperated assurances that there were no vampires in the whole of India, let alone in Worli where we lived!

Coming back to Mishti's flavour of the month Swedish vampire guy. He's called Alexander Skarsgard, and he's the son of Stellan Skarsgard (who was in the awesome Hungarian film, Taking Sides) and the brother of Gustaf Skarsgard (who was in this really cute Swedish film, Patrik 1.5 that we saw at the Kashish film festival at Prithvi theatre).

All this we discovered after googling him and Mishti absolutely insisted on us checking out the character this "so hottt" guy plays on True Blood on youtube. Well, safe to say, he's no Dracula. I thought he was way, way more deadpan than deadly. But I have to agree with Mishti that he is incredibly good-looking. Man, anything's better than glittering vampires and whimpering virgins!

Thereafter, we skipped to related youtube videos that had the "so hott" actor talking about his vampire character. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the man seemed intelligent, articulate, remarkably soft-spoken, and incredibly, a trained architect.

While I was getting increasingly impressed with Mr. Skarsgard with his really cool last name and gentle demeanour, Mishti seemed to be thinking the exact opposite thoughts.

"Wow! He is so cool on the show! Too bad he's such a dork in real life." she pronounced. "Not so hot anymore, sis, he's just another regular nice guy-next-door."

Before I cud point out I've never really had six foot four inch-tall, blond blue-eyed Swedes staying next door to me, Mishti had moved on to talking about the next Twilight movie.

On the bus home, I cudnt help smiling at the thought of all the things to be learned about guys, relationships, love and life Mishti still has in her glorious glittering future. Stuff that I have kinda passed thru growing up.

It is the regular, nice, dorky guy-next-door who takes you home at the end of the day. And if he looks anything like Alexander Skarsgard, consider yourself seriously lucky.

Like they said about Aragorn, "All that is gold does not glitter." ;)

P.S. It seems a little cruel to end this post without a single picture of Alexander Skarsgard, but thats kinda besides the point. :D

P.P.S. I have used the word "glittering" wayyy too many times in this post, but it goes with the theme, so...

Before it ends

Sometimes, you need to know, to really believe in your heart, that no effort ever goes to waste. That all your reassurances and all your kindnesses have not been for naught. Especially the love that you pour into someone else. Someone who let all that love slip over their skin. To paraphrase Def Leppard, where is that place, that place where love goes after it dies?

Tell me, do you believe that good things happen to good people? And that it all evens out in the end? Do you?

Well, I did, too.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sweetcakes and milkshakes

Its been ten years since I first saw Before Sunrise, I was 12 years old then. I distinctly remember watching it on Star Movies and thinking it was so romantic to spend a night walking around a European city with someone you've just met and feel an immediate connection to. Today I saw it for the third time and tomorrow I shall be twenty-two. Nearly the same age that Celine is in the film. Of course, now I understand more of the subtext in the conversations that the film largely consists of. I also see the remarkable acting that goes into scenes like the one in the listening booth where Jesse and Celine are forced to stand close together, and they look awkwardly away from each other, nervously avoiding eye contact.

Only today did I notice the easy, gentle manner in which Jesse reaches out to brush Celine's lock of hair away from her face only to realise that she may not think it appropriate considering they'd only just met and draws his hand back abruptly, an action strangely mirrored by Celine in the second film as she reaches out cautiously to comfort Jesse when he tells her about his agonising nightmares but she recoils suddenly as he turns to face her with tears in his eyes.

I remember having thought the film was flawless beginning to end when I first saw it.
And as it so often happens with films you've seen a long time ago and loved and then revisited, you find yourself wondering why it was that you didnt notice any of the flaws before, few though they may be, which you can quite clearly see now. No movie you've really loved the first time around ever really matches up to the memory you have of it. Thats why, unlike school girlfriends, I find the very idea of watching Titanic every year highly silly and cringe-inducing, while they moon over Leo's long-departed boyish charms.

I also remember having thought of the ending of Before Sunrise as perfect. I thought the hasty decision to meet at the same station six months from their magical night was wonderfully romantic and I was certain that they do meet. I mean, how difficult cud it be? If fate brought them together once, it wud do so again. In fact, I cud have bet that thats what happened, unaccustomed as I was to films that did not have happy endings.

And then last week, I saw Before Sunset, the prickly sequel that continues the conversations the protagonists started ten years ago. Except, this time, Jesse and Celine are more jaded, less idealistic, more bitter, less trusting and the movie doesnt feel so beautifully romantic as the first one did. In fact it feels fraught with anxious tension instead of the languorous dreaminess of the first film.

We learn that Jesse and Celine did not in fact meet at the station like they'd promised each other, that they spent ten years of their lives apart. Now they meet as if by sheer chance, clever old fate bringing them together again to show them how much time and happiness has passed them by. She is in a relationship with a man she does not particularly care for and admits it has been this way with many previous relationships. He puts up with a loveless marriage only for the sake of his son, his only source of happiness in life. Thus, in the second film, he unconsciously traces the same path that his parents had taken with their unhappy marriage, something he said he disapproved of in the first film.

To me, ensconced in my little world of facebook and mobile phones, it seems unbelievable that they never found each other all those years, having never even told each other their last names.

The second film seems to be about missed opportunities and second chances as much as the first was about taking a chance when you feel you have a connection with someone.

Ethan Hawke's pretty poutiness from the 1995 film is replaced by a solemn weariness that goes well with his now-lined face and noticeably forced smiles while Julie Delpy's upbeat confidence, that I so admired from Before Sunrise, is still there but is probably tempered with maturity and a certain wistful quality that I swear wasnt there before. At the end of the movie, we still dont know if the two end up together like they're meant to, or if rational, adult decisions get in the way of true love.

I dont even know if this time I really want them to get together as much as I did before. Perhaps I have also grown more cynical and jaded about the idea of love and happy endings. If they do get together, maybe they end up like every other couple their age, in a limbo between happy contentment and peaceful resignation. If they dont, maybe we'll have another film, set ten years later, with the characters in their forties, continuing their energetic conversations once again.

As I was watching the movie today, I cudnt help shake off the gloomy feeling that time only ever runs in one direction and ultimately runs out. And not only becoz like the characters, I didnt want the night in the movie to end. "The years run away like rabbits." Hawke pronounces in his phoneticatured imitation of Dylan Thomas' voice. Something I'd only laughed at a decade ago, made me really think this time.

Earlier in the movie, Jesse and Celine are in a cemetery when Celine tells him about having come to the same place as a teenager and noticing another teenager's grave, thinking, Wow, we're the same age! And now Celine was twenty-three and the dead girl was still thirteen. Thirteen forever, she says. Only by dying can we stop the onslaught of time on our bodies.

And as I turn a year older, maybe my big birthday gift should be realising that the older we get, the more people we know, the more we learn, we not only have a lot more to lose, but also a lot more to gain with every chance we take.

And for posterity, this, my favourite lines of dialogue from the first film,

Jesse: Sometimes I dream about being a good father and a good husband. And sometimes it feels really close. But then other times it seems silly like it would ruin my whole life. And it's not just a fear of commitment or that I'm incapable of caring or loving because... I can. It's just that, if I'm totally honest with myself I think I'd rather die knowing that I was really good at something. That I had excelled in some way than that I'd just been in a nice, caring relationship.

Celine: You know, there was this older man I once worked for. I think, 52 years old. He said he'd spent all his life working. Working to build his career. And now, all these years later, he wished he had done something else. Married a good woman. Raised children. Had a family. Loved. I mean, think about it. You know, I believe if there's any kind of God it wouldn't be in any of us, not you or me but just this little space in between. If there's any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing something. I know, it's almost impossible to succeed but who cares really? The answer must be in the attempt. And, isn't everything we do in life a way to be loved a little more?

P.S. I really dont intend this post to make a lot of sense. It was just to clear my head a little.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Unknown Pleasures

Why does nobody think it strange,
that in these times,
everyone finds ennui more pleasurable
than change?
Why does everyone prefer the turd
of the jejune
to the ambrosia
of the absurd?
I know why.
Becoz its
so damn comfortable
to never even try.
To never even seek to know
the jolt of life
as the disenchantments of bleak dreams
more familiar grow.
And the indifferent world spins at leisure,
while the blinded generations grope in the dark,
clawing at every distant
unknown pleasure.