Author Archives: anonandon

Mr. Turner

Early on in Mr. Turner, the painter’s father goes to buy paints for his son. There, he enquires after the cost of the ultramarine. The shop owner says that he has the best price and the best pigment. The ultramarine comes from far away Afghanistan, says the shop owner. The senior Mr. Turner buys some and also asks for some Indian red and some chrome yellow.

And with that little, insignificant detail, the colonies imprint themselves upon the work of an artist who is considered an epitome of British art. Ultramarine came from Afghanistan because it was obtained from lapis lazuli. Indian red was called that because it was made of natural iron oxide from deposits near Madras. These colours show up in so many of JMW Turner’s paintings. As I was watching the film and its glorious shots of the English countryside — many of which were supposed to remind the viewer of specific paintings — I kept thinking about the pigments from the colonies that would render that British-ness on canvas.

Just consider “The Fighting Temeraire”, which was voted Britain’s “greatest painting” in an online poll conducted by Radio 4 in 2005, more than one hundred years after Turner painted it in 1839. In Mr. Turner, director Mike Leigh recreates the scene in which Turner saw the warship. The Temeraire was a French ship that had been defeated by the British Navy. It was renamed Saucy and played an important part in defeating the Spanish during the Battle of Trafalgar. WhenTurner saw it — or read about it. He claimed to have seen it, but there are some who believe he just read about it because there are no sketches of the scene and there are factual inaccuracies between the painting and the reality — it was being towed into the breaker’s yard, to be broken. “The Fighting Temeraire” brought together Britain’s might and the nostalgia for a bygone era against a spectacular background.

Minus the bit about it being a warship that was a symbol of British victory twice over, much of Turner’s painting is fiction. For one thing, it appears to be going in the wrong direction, considering the sunset. Also, at the time of the Battle of Trafalgar, the British Navy had renamed the warship. It was called Saucy. “The Fighting Saucy” doesn’t have quite the same ring, does it?

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From Mr. Turner, by Mike Leigh

 

But watching Turner’s fiction recreated in Mr. Turner, all I could do was wonder how much of the colonies that were considered the anti-thesis of ‘civilization’, how much of that ultramarine from Afghanistan and Indian red from Madras, went into creating a painting that’s Britain’s favourite and by an artist considered quintessentially British.

Because Coney Island could totally be one of the models for TRAGICA. (photo: mine)

Enter Tragica

A new year is upon us, yet again, but if you think that this is just another arbitrary event in the lunar cycle, rid yourself of such cynicism. As anyone who has been following the news knows, ever since India’s landmark general elections last year, the Big Brother of South Asia has voted for change and progress. At the start of 2015, we no doubt stand on the brink of sweeping transformations that will sweep away all traces of the Third World country that India once was. We will enter a glorious era of VPNs, vegetarianism and voracious development. So lest we forget where we came from, here is a humble request: let us build a monument that will remind generations of all that makes up India today. Let us build TRAGICA, a Third World-themed, Indian amusement park.

Entry to TRAGICA will be ticketed and the ticket price will vary depending upon inflation, which of course won’t exist in 2015. In the off chance that there is a teeny tiny bit of inflation, ticket prices will go up a corresponding teeny tiny percentage.

Tickets will entitle the bearer to the following:
— Entry into TRAGICA, where the air is overladen with the smell of synthetic curry powder
— Free access to multiple water stations that offer the visitor a choice between polluted holy water of the Ganges, chemically-toxic lakes and oil spill-spiked river water. Mineral water bottles will be available at premium prices.
— Access to internet, give or take the random list of websites that the government of India has decided is not suitable for Indian consumption.

To ensure visitors feel a warm sense of belonging, there will be no ticket checking counters in TRAGICA. However,in order to enter different areas of the amusement park, visitors will have to go through STD booths where they must speak into a phone that will scan their voice and fingerprints. Visitors will not be made aware that they’re being scanned. They will only hear a maternal sounding voice that asks one or more of the following of the visitor:
“Have you eaten properly?”
“What did you have for breakfast/ lunch/ dinner?”
“When are you going to get married?”
“Is there some good news you want to share?” (only for women aged 25 and above)
“Are you wearing enough warm clothes?”

Because Coney Island could totally be one of the models for TRAGICA. (photo: mine)

Because Coney Island could totally be one of the models for TRAGICA. (photo: mine)

Facilities:

TRAGICA will have state-of-the-art rides (see below) along with an arcade games section (see further below) as well as a pool and a safari.

Pool: Infinity pool that will the twice as large as the largest swimming pool in China. No swimsuits will be allowed in the pool. Only people who are fully dressed, minus shoes (socks: optional), will be allowed to enter the water. No lifeguards since that profession was created by vintage American television show, Baywatch. Instead, to watch over and protect the virtue of those coming to the pool, there will be a corps of senior citizens who will tirelessly scan the pool and poolside with their baleful, judgemental gaze.

Safari: Covered jeeps will take visitors into carefully controlled environments where English-speakers, Leftists, intellectuals and feminists can be observed from a safe distance.

Rides:

1. The Local Train. Two compartments — General and Ladies — of a genuine Mumbai local which will run on authentic, wood and metal tracks. The objective is to pack in the most number of people and successfully get on at the first station and get off at the last. During the journey, there are additional games, including Half Seat and Breathe Easy.
— Half Seat: how long can you perch and remain seated on half a seat?
— Breathe Easy: how long can you remain conscious when your nose is stuffed into a stranger’s armpit?

2. The Joyride. The visitor gets to pick one from a range of vehicles, including two-wheelers, three-wheelers, four-wheelers and buses. Driving their chosen vehicle, the visitor must negotiate a terrain that is partly a racing track and partly dodgems. The racing track is made up of dirt roads, paved and potholed roads, speed breakers that damage your vehicle’s chassis, and highways.
There is the option of hiring a driver and playing as a passenger. If women choose this option after dark, they have to pay a Rape Culture fee.

3. Swachchh Bharat Abhiyan. A rollercoaster ride through a miniature Indian village, which is scattered with thousands of toilets. The seats of this ride are shaped like broomsticks. The objective is to find one that actually flushes.

4. Happily Married. An elaborate rollercoaster ride that is for adults only. The ride has the following sections:
• Hindu Marriage, in which the carriages swing wildly between two poles labelled Arranged Marriage and Love Marriage to the soundtrack of Sanskrit mantras. Under the carriages is a large pit of flames. Barfbags will be provided.
• Muslim Marriage, in which the carriages go through an obstacle course made up of mannequins that pop up without warning. To make the mannequin move aside and give way, the visitor must press one of the two buttons — “talaq” and “nikaah” — on the seat’s dashboard. You can’t use either button more than three times in a row. How many talaqs/nikaahs can you pack into five minutes?
• Political Union, in which the carriages are made to swing violently into and bounce off three cushioned pillars that are shaped like large, faceless, human figures. They are titled Wife, Lover, Party Leader.
• Divorce, a circular spiral that plunges the carriage into a downward swirl. It is accompanied by a soundtrack of legalese terms being yelled out and the soundtrack of Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna.
• Inter-Caste Marriage, in which the carriages make a death-defying downward plunge from a great height only to surge back up and end with everyone hanging upside down.

Still Coney Island, still one of my photos.

Still Coney Island, still one of my photos. But I can’t help but imagine the rollercoaster in the left to be one of the loops of Happily Married.

Arena Games:

1. Kiss and Run. A two-person game that requires a male and female partner to go through a series of make-out spots without getting caught by the lurking moral police. If the moral police catches them making out, the couple will be slapped. If a couple is able to cover all bases without being caught at one spot, they get a coupon for unlimited snacks from TRAGICA’s food court. Same sex duos are technically not allowed, but will be allowed if no one objects.

2. Exam Crunch. A game for those not inclined to get too physical. The challenge is to find the leaked paper from others playing the game and then sit in an examination hall to answer the questions. Bonus points for those who can cheat. Sample questions:
“Q: When was the first case of plastic surgery recorded?
A: When Shiva successfully attached an elephant’s head to Ganesha’s headless body.”
“Q: What is the most advanced military equipment India has produced?
A: Arjuna’s bow, Gandiva.”

Arcade Games:

1. Brown > Green. Celebrating being brown and Asian, this game is all about taking pride in the Asian Brown Cloud. The objective of the game is to attack NGO settlements scattered across the map of India using weapons like the RBI Fireball, the MHA Arrow and the Environment Ministry Swipe. The last clears out forests and creates mining camps in their place. Each of these makes the Asian Brown Cloud more brown, which is a good thing because brown is beautiful.

2. Pacman Gharwapsi. A saffron Pacman goes around a maze littered with symbols, each of which has a different affect upon the saffron Pacman. The chicken leg turns the Pacman green. The fruit turns the Pacman yellow. The wine glass gives the Pacman a halo. At the centre of the maze is a home, which is what the saffron Pacman is trying to reach and no matter which symbol Pacman eats, this house starts burning down. Can Pacman reach the house before it burns down? Will Pacman burn in the house? Pro tip: the only way to win this game is to find the secret exit to Bollywood.

3. Love Jihad Slot Machine. Heart-shaped coins must be put into the machine. The player has the option of accepting the jackpot when either three Hindu, Indian film heroes or three Muslim, Pakistani heroes line up at the end of a successful spin. If the player asks for the jackpot after getting the three Muslim, Pakistani heroes, they’re forced to drink Gangajal (water from the Ganges). During the trial run, some of the test users figured out a way to only get the Muslim heroes, but this glitch will hopefully be sorted out before TRAGICA opens.

hey-girl2

Ravi Varma Remixed

I made most of these years ago — before I knew of “memes” and what not — and someone reminded me of them recently. Ravi Varma, popularly known as Raja Ravi Varma, is the grandaddy of Indian kitsch and calendar art. His paintings were once extremely popular in India but as you might be able to tell from what’s below, his art is not what you’d describe as timeless.

It took me forever to find these and I was pretty sure that they wouldn’t be half as funny as I remembered them to be, but they’re actually not bad. I’m glad my taste in fonts has improved though.
abs breast-exam credit-card fashion flute hey-girl hey-girl2 masterji one-big-fat-sandwich sniff sniff2 spinner underwear

Best. Interview. Ever.

Willow and Jaden Smith are my new favourite people. At first, Willow seems to winning the contest, but I think Jaden catches up with his explanation of what is a heartbeat in a foetus. Einstein, Newton and obstetricians, read the quotes below and eat your heart out.

WILLOW: I mean, time for me, I can make it go slow or fast, however I please, and that’s how I know it doesn’t exist. (And you thought Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, in which a black hole on the other side of a worm hole leads to the back of Matthew McConaughey’s bookshelf was a doozy.) 

***

JADEN: There’s a theoretical physicist inside all of our minds, and you can talk and talk, but it’s living. (I’d like to christen my inner theoretical physicist Ennackal Chandy, after George Sudarshan. Presuming it didn’t die when I failed Physics at 14.)

***

What are some of the themes that recur in your work?

WILLOW: … the feeling of being like, this is a fragment of a holographic reality that a higher consciousness made. (She’s going to grow up to be a curator. I’m certain I’ve seen that as the wall text of an art show somewhere.)

***

WILLOW: When you think about an apple, you also think about the opposite of an apple. It’s a tool for understanding mathematics and things with two separate realities. But for creativity: That comes from a place of oneness. That’s not a duality consciousness. And you can’t listen to your mind in those times — it’ll tell you what you think and also what other people think. (Someone check Westminster Abbey. Newton’s grave may have cracks in it as he whirlwinds inside, providing an equal and opposite reaction to these words.)

***

WILLOW: That’s what I do with novels. There’re no novels that I like to read so I write my own novels, and then I read them again, and it’s the best thing.

JADEN: Willow’s been writing her own novels since she was 6.

***

JADEN: When babies are born, their soft spots bump: It has, like, a heartbeat in it. That’s because energy is coming through their body, up and down.

WILLOW: Prana energy.

JADEN: It’s prana energy because they still breathe through their stomach. They remember. Babies remember.

WILLOW: When they’re in the stomach, they’re so aware, putting all their bones together, putting all their ligaments together. But they’re shocked by this harsh world.

JADEN: By the chemicals and things, and then slowly…

WILLOW: As they grow up, they start losing.

JADEN: You know, they become just like us.

(Aum)

You can read the entire interview here.

Women at Windows, New York City

 

ormond-gigli

“There were models, socialites, my wife (second floor, far right), the supervisor’s wife (third floor, third from left), all wearing their best dresses. I moved them around to spread out the colours and told them to pose as if they were giving someone a kiss. As I was photographing, I noticed some of them were on the windowsills. As these were made of cement and sometimes break off, I shouted at them through a bullhorn to stay within the frames.” ~ Ormond Gigli

bandaloop-delhi8

Vertical Dancing

Apparently there is such a thing as “vertical dancing”. As far as I knew, pretty much all dancing is done vertically and I was all set to put vertical dance just below “short form journalism” in my list of Best Pointless Terms*. But it turns out vertical dancing is an actual thing and vertical refers to the surfaces on which the dancers perform. It may sound silly, but the effect is absolutely dreamy.

The dancers in this video are from a company called Bandaloop, pioneers in vertical dancing. A few years ago, Bandaloop came and performed in Delhi. They performed against the LIC building designed by Charles Correa, whose shiny surface gave each dancer a mirror image partner. I had no idea any of this had happened, but I did find a video (hooray for YouTube). I’ve no idea how much fun this would be to watch if you’re on the ground, craning your neck to see these seemingly Liliputian dancers dangling in mid-air. On video, however, it looks quite gorgeous. Particularly loved this solo piece:

You can see selected excerpts from their Delhi show here.

*Common sense suggests “short form journalism”** would be the opposite of “long form journalism”…for which, as a matter of fact, we already have a term. It’s known as “journalism”.

**I stand corrected. So “short form journalism” is one of the “new realms of the news and media landscape”, “challenging traditional news models and constantly redefining what news is.” Leaving aside the complicated business of mixed metaphors (how is a realm is challenging a model?), I now know what “short form journalism” is: scouring Twitter and Facebook for trending topics. It’s hard keeping up with the cool kids.