Jeff Nichols: Take Shelter. 2011

“There is a storm coming…like nothing you have ever seen, and not one of you is prepared for it” screams Curtis (played by the very talented Michael Shannon) in American director Jeff Nichols‘ film ‘Take Shelter‘ (2011). I would say nothing quite prepares one for a film like ‘Take Shelter’ as strands of the real and the non-real interweave to create this tapestry of a brooding, melancholic and menacing exploration of notions of anxiety, marriage and commitment, and communication in interpersonal relationships. This is probably one of the few films from that year that made me sit up and take notice of the classic independent cinema. A theme of a married couple with a young child going through difficult and intense times is a theme that has played on screens in darkened halls over decades now, and therein lies Nichols’ genius, for he takes this familiar as a doorbell universal theme, and retells it with a mastery and a quiet restraint far beyond his years. Read More…

MP Ranjan           I choose not to write ‘obituaries’. Well, I find most of them well meaning, but, most times unbearably eulogistic, with the expected greatness of a life well lived, heaped and thrust upon the recently departed. He passed away yesterday, and I recall that November afternoon, sixteen years ago when I first conversed with M.P. Ranjan in the quiet confines of a rather atmospheric room at the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, India. He was chairing an interview panel and I was the interviewee, and my chair was placed to face the panel chair, expectedly so. After the panel’s round of questions seemingly got over, I looked across the mirror like table top, to the serious but friendly faces, to finally rest on the panel chair, the bearded gentleman who appeared to be watching me very closely. Then he spoke. “So, what are your fears?”. Read More…

Richard Tuschman: ‘Hopper Meditations’

I have long admired American painter Edward Hopper‘s poignant interpretations of twentieth century urban resignation, longing and alienation. So, it was with a bit of a pleasure that I discovered the ‘Hopper Meditations’ photographic art project by a graduate of the University of Michigan school of art, graphic designer and photo-artist Richard Tuschman. Separated by time but not in spirit, Tuschman’s project is not only a tribute to the poetic perceptiveness of Hopper, but also, to my mind, brings interesting material to the co-relations and tensions between traditional painting and contemporary digitally enhanced visual art. Like the perennial debate of the relationship between word and image, the relationship between the painting and the photograph is hinged on the tensions of the ideas of contradiction, irony, mimicry, and ‘what is complementary?’. Read More…

Erich Fromm: Society, consumption and affluence

One of the ‘lesser’ figures of the Frankfurt School of critical theory, psychoanalyst and social theorist Dr. Erich Fromm was certainly one of the most accessible – I did find his ‘To Have or to Be?’ and ‘Escape from Freedom’ lucid reads, with much less of deciphering to engage with. As a person of orthodox Jewish faith fleeing Nazi persecution in the 1930s (like many other intellectuals of the Frankfurt school, and like political theorist Hannah Arendt), Fromm began studying and theorizing about the nature of human freedom, equality, mass industrial society, consumption and happiness. His work throughout was broadly enveloped in a Marxian humanistic democratic spirit, and his general distaste for warfare and mass manipulation of a bureaucratized society, finds voice in many a page of his publications. Read More…

A look at the oldest operating bookstore in the world!

Tucked away on a street in the busy and iconic traditional neighbourhood of ‘Chiado’ in Lisboa, Portugal, is Bertrand. A shop with a somewhat no frills front, and walking down Rua Garrett, you will probably not notice it so much, with all the other glitzy stores announcing their ware. The B for Bertrand, white type on orange, greets you cheerfully, if you do happen to stop by. ‘Livreiros’ is what you notice and ‘1732‘. 1732? Yes, one reads it correctly, for this is the oldest operating bookstore in the world, in business since 1732. Read More…

PhD Scholarships in Transcultural Studies, Heidelberg University, Germany 2015

The Graduate Programme for Transcultural Studies (GPTS) of the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context” at the Heidelberg University, Germany, is offering up to four doctoral scholarships, starting in October 2015. Applicants must hold an M.A. or equivalent in a discipline of the humanities or social sciences with an above-average grade and must propose a research project with a strong affiliation to the research framework of the Cluster.

These scholarships are awarded for up to three years and the application deadline is March 15, 2015. Read More…

India’s AAP and Spain’s Podemos: Distributive Justice and Rise of the New Populist Left

“Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought. A theory however elegant and economical must be rejected or revised if it is untrue; likewise laws and institutions no matter how efficient and well-arranged must be reformed or abolished if they are unjust.” – John Rawls in ‘A Theory of Justice‘.

In the Spanish capital of Madrid and about seven thousand kilometers away, in Delhi – the Indian capital, significant ground surges are being felt in the political arena, surges that may very well mark the beginning of reformation and abolishment of unjust institutions in their respective spheres of influence. Both India’s AAP (abbreviation of ‘Aam Aadmi Party’ – Common Peoples Party) and Spain’s Podemos (translated from the Spanish as ‘We Can / We Can Do It’) rose to national political prominence with unprecedented rapidity, united with the central rhetorical and political position of zero tolerance for all forms of corruption, especially political corruption and corruption in high office. With regard to this, I choose not to use the term ‘Populist’ in my commentary title in a pejorative sense, but more to hint at the ground surge popularity seeded by a certain kind of political rhetoric founded in distributive justice and egalitarian ideals. Read More…

Notes on the Selfie #1

In the very few attempts that I have made, in pointing the camera at the self, I have failed and faltered in remarkable and noteworthy disgrace. The case in point being, the random stranger who finds himself / herself standing in my proximity or disinterestedly strolling by, loudly, sternly, disapprovingly hurling the word “Smile!” in my direction. That moment rattles me beyond comprehension, for here I am, trying to do what the rest of the camera afflicted world is doing, and trying very hard to project, I repeat, project, a sense of the-cup-overfloweth happiness, and failing every time, or nearabouts. And I truly marvel, yes marvel, those gifted creatures, who break into spontaneous and unadorned insta-joy, from the death-is-I-morose to the 1200 watts of the cup-overfloweth in a split of a second every time, with the precision of a neuro surgeon, and the practice of a retiring saleslady. Then I slump back and half-murmur to my bewildered and somewhat flummoxed self, as I do ever so often, “Here is a generation who can smile without meaning to, here is a generation who can smile without feeling a thing, here is a generation that comprehends presentation over spectating more than you will ever do in your brief lifespan”. The ‘news’ feed with its ‘epic’ pointing at the self moments – ‘too-bad-you-weren’t here parties’ ‘leap up in the air vacations’, ‘bet you can’t touch this’, ‘ya-who buddies’, ‘ecstatic partnerships’, ‘super yet nonchalant achievers’, ‘mirror-mirror-on-the-wall’, ‘we-have-just-met-we-don’t-know-each-other/s-from-Adam-and-Eve’, and so on, you get the gist of it, are truly embedded in the fabrication of its own fabrication. Still trying to wrap my disjointed head around this one. I will, I suppose, eventually, a smile or grimace at a time. Read More…

Andrew Levine: The Day My God Died (2003)

“The day that I was sold, was the day that my God died” said the child. I first encountered Andrew Levine‘s ‘The Day My God Died‘ in a film festival in Mumbai, India in 2003-04, and it continues to stay with me to this day. Four years in the making, and against all odds, this independent documentary film remains a vital and important work in talking about the tragedy of the child sex trade, of girls sold into sexual slavery – human trafficking that engages in the worst forms of human rights violations. A film graduate of the University of Utah, USA, Levine first visited India and Nepal as a tourist, but came back again, to tell a story of a multi-billion dollar industry with children as a commodity being brought and sold, recruiters who scout them, traffickers who deceive them, the pimps and the brothel keepers who buy them, and the police and custodians of the law with their hands outstretched and their eyes closed. Justice indeed is blind. At the same breath, the film profiles motivated and outstanding activists and abolitionists like Anuradha Koirala (founder director of Maiti Nepal) and her incredible work in the rescue and rehabilitation of the girls sold into sexual slavery. Finally, it is a film about the resilience of the human spirit in the face of unimaginable pain, betrayal, torture, imprisonment, disease, death and loss. Watch.  Read More…

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