Sunday, October 23, 2011

I am moving ;)


If you are reading this, you probably have been here before, or you are coming from a friend's blog, or you are a spamming bot.

If you are the first one, then I owe you my apologies for not having posted regularly here, for more than a year now. While work and my new film have kept me busy, it has also been because I have been writing elsewhere as well (mostly on social media and nothing earth shattering). Sorry to have kept you waiting and thanks for considering this place worth enough to come back to!

If you are a first time visitor, welcome to my World. Its not as much of a ghost town as it seems here ;)

If you are a bot then hey, you know the drill! Just go down on my post and blow it up ;)

Folks, the point of this post is to let you know that I have moved Filter Coffee to a different address. Mostly because Wordpress gave me more options to consolidate my stuff from other places and also customize. I hope the smell of fresh paint will motivate me to post more and better. Come over!


Monday, June 27, 2011

On Time Arrival...

It sure is a Dying Art.

Since time immemorial, one of the toughest questions ever posed to mankind has been “What is the best time to reach the airport for a flight?”

Millions of homosapiens including scholars, mothers, politicians, the common woman and the uncommon man, have tried different strategies over the last century (which is kinda time immemorial), without any credible answer. But on this fine June morning, circa 2011 AD, I might have cried ‘Eureka’ – Not while in a bathtub, not while running naked from there, but while taking a piss in this unreasonably cramped Jet Airways 9W 822 toilet.

The answer my dear friends, has nothing to do with flights. In fact, it hardly has anything to do with travelling. ‘Be the last person to get in, without dissing anybody’ is IT and I request you to hold your applause for a moment.

Let me first explain.

Imagine that your friend invited you and another person over for coffee. Or better still, beer. Now, if your friend is anything like my friends, she is likely to reach the place 15 minutes early (its not about the beer. My friends are just made that way). And if You are anything like me, you are probably going to reach there ten minutes late. Of course this would have been caused by bad traffic (which, contrary to popular imagination can happen on Sunday afternoons. Sometimes.) or an asteroid missing you narrowly. And when you walk in, questions will be raised about your punctuality, repeat offending, birth, etc. I don’t blame them. But the real, logical truth of the matter is that your friend was 5 minutes more unpunctual than you. And you my beloved, are the only person in that room who arrived closest to the scheduled time.

Relax your brows.

Think about it honestly. When beer is being served at 3:00 PM, you should arrive as close to 3:00 PM as possible. By arriving 15 minutes early, you are taking the host for granted, you are running the risk of catching him unprepared, you are patronizing warmer beer, you are being non-optimal in the usage of your lifetime, you are being a global warmer, but most importantly, you are just being an ass. Now, how that is better than arriving at 3:10 PM, is beyond me. In fact, the guy arriving at 3:10 should reserve the right to criticize, make fun and question the birth of anybody who came more than 10 minutes early. I am sure your high school math teacher will agree with me.

By the same logic, the most punctual guy on a flight is the one to board on the dot, without dissing anybody. Not the guy in 16C, who boarded a full 37 minutes before take off. Loser. Now this is by no means an easy ask. Your loved ones at home are gonna experience some high BP. The cab guy who you asked to break neck, will curse your unborn children. You might end up having a man-to-man chat with the guy at the check-in counter, who would claim that ‘Delhi is closed’, as though it was a fucking sandwich box. He will eventually let you check-in. The restless souls who have been in the security queue for hours will open their jaws in a synchronized manner when they see you ‘officially’ cut the queue, escorted by an airline staff. But then my friend, like Aamir Khan will tell you, you cannot aim for success, if you don’t have the stomach for excellence.

Like I said, it is a Dying Art. One that our friends and family, should help us revive.

PS: Please appreciate presence of the Salvador Dali picture on this post even though it doesnt have any bloody connection to the topic.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

with Love & a DSLR...

I saw two amazing films on Saturday night, made with love and with absolutely no artificial lights. One was a commercial and the other, Amol Gupte's "Stanley ka Dabba". More on the former, later.

"Stanley..." is an impossible film. Not just because the synopsis would have struggled to go beyond three and a half lines, but because it was shot on a still camera, on real people, with the only equipment hired being Love and probably a tripod. At a time when films are shelved for 'lack of overseas investors' and when pre-production starts a year before shooting, 'Stanley' is a slap-in-the-face reminder of why people started making films. And also, of why we go to the movies.

The worst thing one could do to the picture is to call it a 'Children's film'. Amole Gupte, who wrote 'Taare Zameen Par' (and was at the helm of that film for the most part), does not have a brilliant idea that he had made into a film. There are no soundtracks that will soar in the charts. Hell, the climax is not even a surprise, considering you figure that part out by scene 3. But you lose yourself in the screen, right from the first scene because the world he recreates is one where you have been. And one, whose smells and sights you remember intimately.

Apparently, the film was shot only during the 'theatre workshop' periods on saturdays and everybody but the protagonist (Partho Gupte), was just sitting through a class while the film was shot. But how a film 'is made' should never decide how 'it is viewed'. The details on this one - the mafia don-ish air of the kid playing 'Aman Mehra', the searching nostrils of Amole Gupte playing the Hindi teacher (I could almost smell the pan he was chewing), the tilted sticker of 'Mother Mary' on the glass door and the 'tadka' on the dal, couldnt have been captured better on the most expensive Arriflex on earth. For once, I absolutely did not mind the noisy kids inside PVR Saket or their squeaky shoes. In fact, it was a refreshing change to see such a long queue of boys and girls lining up for popcorn!

Watch this film, not because you were a fan of 'Children of Heaven', not because you support independent film, not because you want to take your child to a film without item numbers - but because this is the purest transition of an idea from heart to celluloid, that you will see in a while.

PS: Dont miss:
1. The opening animation of 'Amole Gupte Cinema'
2. Divya Jagdale's brilliant portrayal, which is an ode to all science teachers in India!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Ode to the comic fan

I first saw 'Unbreakable' when it was released in 2000, in a theatre in Brigade Road, Bangalore. I last saw it on TV yesterday. In between, I must have seen it at least 10 more times. Thats almost once every year, but I am still excited about it. Ironically, this is exactly how I feel about my superhero comics as well. I know exactly when Batman or Phantom or Bahadur is going to deliver the punch that'll put the villain out. Yet, I crave for it and feign the surprise that lets the goosebumps appear in key, pre-decided scenes of the comic. Surreal.

It was Shyamalan's absolute best as a writer and definitely up there as a director. It was also the time when the creator was always one step ahead of his audience - be it the climactic shock of 'The Sixth Sense' or the fantastic unraveling of 'Signs'. Far cry from the present, where he is huffing and puffing to catch up with his audience by the end of the first hour. Exhibit A: The simplistic 'Lady in the water' and the bizarre 'The Happening'. 'Unbreakable' though, is completely different from the rest of his cinema. Yes, it has the trademark 'shyamalan moment' at the end which hits you hard and 'ties it all together', but it is not a deceiving script that is written backwards from there. To borrow Elijah's (Samuel Jackson) words from the film, "This is a piece of art".

Some of this film's most powerful aspects are its smallest touches.

Like how all key moments in the film begin with a frame that is upside down - like how David Dunn's (Bruce Willis) son looks at the TV news reporting the accident of his dad's train, lying upside down on his couch. A brilliant metaphor for our askew perceptions.

Like how just the frames give David's character that super-hero shadow, though he is written as a regular guy. Five minutes into the film, you see the silhouette of David, standing inside the stadium with his regular raincoat on. Except the hood is exaggerated into a cape-like look; Even the name David Dunn has the same 'syllabic' ring to it as a Peter Parker or a Clark Kent.

But the most brilliant part of this film is how the character of Elijah is etched out. The absolute anti-thesis of a 'villain', because of his own frailty. Also the reason why every single scene that involves Elijah's character is associated with 'glass' as a metaphor. The opening scene of the film where Elijah's mother gives birth to him is almost entirely shot as a relflection on a mirror; The conversation between Elijah - the boy and his mother is shot as a reflection on a TV screen and he chooses David's car windshield to leave his note. And of course the more 'in your face' metaphor of his glass walking pole. When he announces to David in the last scene of the film "The kids. They used to call me Mr. Glass", you not just go through the 'Shyamalan moment', but also momentarily get nostalgic with all your favourite villains from Lex Luthor to Evelyn to The Joker.

The film also had some fantastic lines. There is a scene when Elijah asks David if he wakes up every morning with a 'feeling of sadness' and when David says 'yes', Elijah explains how that is because 'you are not doing what you are supposed to be doing'. That was a powerful line, one that everybody watching the film - comic fan or not, would remember and replay in their minds. I did, for a long time and I still do. In a scary, sentimental way, I even get what he means.

The film did not win any major awards, except from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror. It is not even top-of-mind among Shyamalan fans. But for me, it will always remain his best and probably the only film that ever married real life to the comic fantasy of our childhood.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

of kings, freedom fighters and childhoods

Weekends in the 80s were worth looking forward to for a few reasons - The prospect of He-Man on Sunday morning TV, followed by episodes of Mahabharat and 'Fairy Tale Theatre'; The hope of a long session of underarm cricket on the road in front; Weather permitting, even an hour or two on a bicycle hired by the hour. But nothing had us more excited than Dad coming home from work, carrying new issues of Amar Chitra Katha. The prospect of being transported to a whole new world through those colourful, graphic pages was and still remains overwhelming.

I have not known a childhood without ACK. So for me, it has been a grand parent, an encyclopedia, a friend and an oracle, all rolled into one! Those pages always had a way of breaking down profound revolutions, complex epics and mythological mysteries into simple rectangles of conversations that you would always understand and always remember.

Stacks of ACK was pure currency for a kid in the 80s. Worth much more than a pile of Enid Blyton or Hardy Boys or even notes from the science class. And definitely more trade-able than any of them. And come vacation, the most painful bit was to split your stack with your sibling. Of course in my case, it always helped to have a sister whose taste did not overlap with mine - mostly. She chose the Panchatantras and stories of Kings, while I chose the Mahabharata and the freedom fighters biographies. It of course never mattered that both of us have read every single comic, five times over. So the real fight was over the one thing that we both loved - The Jataka Tales. And till date, my favourite issue remains the fascinating tale of the entrepreneur who started off with a dead mouse.

Today, it pains my heart to see these books selling more as collector's items for thousands of rupees, in fancy bookstores, way out of the reach of a majority of this nation's kids. May be it is time to create a phone app to take it back to the masses? Or publish it in major newspaper publications as comic strips, in place of 'Beetle Bailey' or 'Peanuts'? Are you listening, India Book House?

It was only when news of Uncle Pai's death came out last week, that the enormity of what he has achieved finally dawned on me after all these years. On Twitter, I found people from three different generations recalling their childhoods memories reading ACK and Tinkle. How amazing is that? Three generations, whose knowledge of most-things-Indian, coming from the same source - a comic. I guess this tweet by Anand Ramachandran sums it all up for the rest of us.