So after all the shoo-sha, Hugo has had an India release. This will probably sound ungrateful but really, the distributors shouldn’t have bothered. In Mumbai at least, there are about 4-odd shows of Hugo, and all of them are at night. At PVR Phoenix, for example, Hugo will be on at 9.50pm. In Nariman Point, the show starts at 8pm. Clearly the distributors forgot that this is supposed to be a film for kids as well as adults. Then again, maybe kids these days go for late shows to the cinema. Who knows? The other day, I sat at brunch, with my eyes goggling like that of a choking guppy, while listening to friends discuss how their primary school kids are expected to have their own iPad (the latest version, preferably). I was 15 when I got my first gadget for school: the Casio Scientific Calculator, which had it’s own plastic cover. I can’t remember exactly how much it cost — about Rs. 300? Maybe Rs. 500? — but it seemed exorbitant and turning it on was like casting a spell correctly. Using it and getting the answers, that must have felt like winning the Nobel Prize. Since I never got a correct answer in the subjects that required the scientific calculator, I’ve no idea what it felt like to use it the way it was supposed to be used but I do remember feeling like a real student because I had my own scientific calculator. Maybe the iPad is today’s scientific calculator. Back in school, I couldn’t resist the lure of having that gadget even though I knew it would do nothing to improve my grades in Maths or any other subject. By 15, I’d made peace with the fact that only half of my brain works, and that’s on a good day. But regardless of the fact that the scientific calculator was going to be powerless to improve my prowess in mathematics, I determinedly bought the damn thing. I was convinced I needed it. Without it, I’d barely qualify as a student, I’d told my mother.

(To be fair, considering my abysmal performance in maths, physics and chemistry, with or without the calculator, I barely qualified as a student. There were abandoned pipettes that could get higher grades than me.)

Ultimately, ignoring my mother’s eye roll, I went and bought myself a Casio scientific calculator. I remember opening it and turning it on. I don’t actually remember using it. The only accessory I’ve used and found useful over the years is the notebook. The physical notebook, that is. While I totally get that programs like Evernote are fabulous things, the fact of the matter is that writing things down works for me. Which is why I am very proud to say that I haven’t sunk my annual savings into an iPad. Ultimately, I need to put things down on a page. It’s another matter that I never seem to be able to find the page I need while flipping through the notebook, but I know it’s there and that it will eventually emerge. It may be hidden but it’s handy and when I need to kill time, the scribbled-upon pages are there to help me out.

Unless of course I’ve left the notebook at home, as I have today. Which basically means that I have about 60 minutes to kill and my plans of clearing a little of the backlog for this blog — the backlog that is fast turning into an immense stockpile of logs — seem somewhat inane when I don’t have my trusty notebook. Maybe I should have bought the iPad after all.

But what the heck. Let us (er, me) push my limits, set new challenges, go forth where I’ve rarely gone before and write a post about an exhibition that I saw about a month ago, relying only upon my memory. Yes, that’s me. I’m all about adrenaline and intrepid behaviour.

Anon Goes to an Opening.

Location: Rashid Rana’s new show, Chemould Prescott Road.

Time: Evening.

Characters: Anon and Madame Gravitas*. 

*I’d tell you who she is but she’s not precisely a famous person. However, she is someone who approaches the world at large and the art scene in particular with a combination of dismissal, contempt and benevolence that heads of departments in university have for the first-year student. I’m not sure that she wields the power that a head of department does, but what do I know?

Anon: Hello

Madame G: Oh, look. There you are.

Smiles are exchanged. Wine glasses are taken from nearby waiter. Silence. 

Anon: So how do you like the show?

Madame G gives Anon a look and a smile. Anon feels a little like a caterpillar that hasn’t yet learnt how to munch a leaf.

Anon: Right. Of course.

They look around at the works on the walls. They are large “photo-paintings”. Remember how back in the days of the VCR, you’d hit Pause or Rewind or Fast Forward, and the screen would go black with greyish streaks running across? These works were reminiscent of that old sight. It was as though the large prints images on enormous tv screens, which had been interrupted with patches of black and streaks of grey. Rana usually takes small images to create a photo-mosaic that shows a large image that is completely different from the composite images. In some of the new works, the small images are of signage (most of it in Urdu; all of it from Pakistan I’m guessing). You can see portions of a larger image, which seems to be a classical work of European art. They seem terribly familiar but the wall text doesn’t tell you which paintings Rana has, in a manner of speaking, interrupted with slabs of black.

Anon: So can you recognise all the paintings he’s used?

Madame G: But of course. That’s obvious.

Anon: I thought I could tell a few of them, but I’m not sure.

Madame G flashes Anon a smile that is possibly pitying her. Anon wonders if she should try munching a leaf.

Anon: That, for example, is a David, right?

Madame G: Caravaggio. That’s a Caravaggio.

Anon: Really? Ok.

Madame G: We’re all so quick to celebrate and turn people into celebrities, but you know the Guggenheim would never show something like this. It’s just not inventive enough.

Anon: Hm. So whose painting is this?

Anon points at the work directly in front of them. It is mostly black, but at the edges, you can glimpse greenery and grappling bodies.

Madame G: Oh that’s so obvious. It’s the skjdfhskjhg gymnasium by Csdkdkjfgdfjkghkdjfh.

Anon: I’m sorry? Who was the artist?

Madame G: Cdsihgkjdfghkfdjgh. It’s essentially young men in a gymnasium, wrestling, you know.

Anon: Oh.

Madame G: It’s very obvious to anyone who’s seen some European art. It’s a classic.

Anon: I’m sure it is.

Anon makes noises about needing to find a leaf to munch and gets the hell out, determined to Google the crap out of European art and figure out the artist whose name she has not caught so that in the future she can sound a little more knowledgeable about art.

Except, as it turns out, this “classic” is not a real painting. Rana got a few men to wrestle against a staged backdrop, and used that for the work that Madame G and I had been facing (and others). Also, I have it on good authority that the painting that Madame G had said was a Caravaggio was actually a David.


Ok, it’s 4.57pm. I’ll be off now.

3 thoughts on “iPad, Calculators, Rashid Rana

  1. “Remember how back in the days of the VCR, you’d hit Pause or Rewind or Fast Forward, and the screen would go black with greyish streaks running across?”

    omg, it’s called vhs-core, do you know nothing about avant garde video art at all??

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