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Fashion Muse of the Month: September (and truly year round) Inspired by Diane Keaton

Fun, fearless, female. This woman had my heart many years ago when I stepped into the world of Woody Allen with Annie Hall. Diane Keaton wasn’t the quintessential Hollywood heroine, in her speech, style or stage presence. I went on to watch everything directed by him and featuring her, and fell in love some more. To be unabashedly dapper (and yet gracefully feminine) in a suit is a charm she’s taught women of the world, becoming a fashion icon of the late 1970s with the neckties, fedora hats, baggy pants she adorned. Wearing it with aplomb in the film and often in her appearances on the red carpet, she sure knows, even in her greyed glamorous avatar, how to pack an androgynous fashion punch. And like every style icon, it isn’t simply about what she wears but almost always also about what she says and does. Having started her family on the other side of fifty, she says of motherhood, “I think that it puts you in your place because it really forces you to address the issues that you claim to believe in and if you can’t stand up to those principles when you’re raising a child, forget it.” For laying out the truth on that and other matters and for being the duffelbag (as opposed to tiny purse) lady, she’s my forever favorite female and a more than perfect (and truly year round) Fashion Muse.

Images via Pinterest

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Two Hoots for Tom Cruise

New Yorker recently called him “the good kind of crazy“.
The husband said “go fall in love with him again”.
Two Hoots for Tom Cruise_Image via pagesix.com
In college cafeteria debates when he was pitted against Pitt, I always sided with Tom Cruise. He was formulaic, chiselled, too handsome to be any good as an actor. But I watched everything, even Vanilla Sky, or especially, because he was semi-naked in parts, though Eyes Wide Shut is better for that. And including the time we (then boyfriend, now husband, who makes an exception for Cruise starrers to his ‘Nothing below 7.5 rating’ for movie viewing) ran across an empty parking lot, chased by questions from napping bus drivers, to watch the first day first show of The Last Samurai.

Something went amiss when he became a Scientology crusader & to my mind went cuckoo. I was done, with reading everything about him. The films? That was another story.

Reprising his role as Ethan Hunt in the fifth instalment of the Mission Impossible series, he’s joined by the usual company of comic sidekick, trusted friends & a brand new leggy lass, this time taking on a ‘rogue’ former British Intelligence agent.

Adrenaline rush entry, check. High speed chase, in a car & bike, check. Masking, unmasking, check. You could not see it and still know everyone gets out alive.

On a Sunday afternoon in a movie hall full to the brim, Tom Cruise’s wide screen entry received whistles once reserved for gyrating sirens. Toddlers and octogenarians were also in attendance, to watch a quintessential Hollywood blockbuster, not the film, but the man. Jumping on Oprah’s couch in real life and, off tall buildings & flying airplanes & down into shafts in films, he is the entertainer who wants you to forget what you had for lunch. He does his own stunts and wants everyone to know that. This series in particular is his way of celebrating his awesomeness, while leaving no time for analysis, discourse, comprehension. You sit, watch, leave.

This is not Color of Money or A Few Good Men, opposite stalwarts like Paul Newman & Jack Nicholson. It is Tom’s world, where no one, not even the villain, overshadows him, quite unlike action packed thrillers in recent times like Heath Ledger as the Joker in Christopher Nolan directed Dark Knight or Javier Bardem’s slow, studied evil form against Daniel Craig’s Bond in Skyfall.

Mission Impossible is not the platform for anyone else to shine, to play the anti-hero, to lead an audience astray. In this self-created world, Ethan Hunt is Tom Cruise –  pure good, unmatched, and, as Alec Baldwin will tell us at the fag end of the film, “destiny”.

Few will complain or question. Off screen he may have missed the Golden Statuette thrice, but for many movie-goers filing out as the familiar M.I. soundtrack comes on, he had them at “Hello”. And if the end is anything to go by, we’ll be seeing him again, soon.

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Finding (Digitally Enhanced) Mojo and then some

There is never a dull moment when you’re living with a toddler. For the most part you are juggling the ball, trying not to get a bloody nose (like Daddy did earlier this week) and mostly attempting to keep things on your turf. Basically to not play like Brazil against your German-inspired toddler.

At other times you just sit back and marvel at the things she says and does, knowing well enough that in time her eyes may not light up at describing the things she did at school or when you were not around.

As part of our customary rhyme/cartoon viewing at dinner (because it’s easier to hold a child down with that and 20 minutes isn’t killing anyone and go feed a two year old before you go judging) we get on YouTube (no TV since that always plays the wrong things when you’re watching), I ask what she wants to watch, she points it out on the screen and then we sit back and have dinner in quasi-peace. Usually we end up with the Famous Five, not the children’s book series but either the Five Little Monkeys that continue to jump on the bed and bump their heads or the Five Little Ducks that disappear for a bit only to resurface towards the end.

But yesterday, thanks to search result algorithms powered by the Google Gods, the screen showed up a new item, a series called ‘Peppa Pig’. It was new and looked harmless enough so we gave it a shot. Within five minutes of watching, I felt elated at having discovered something wonderful. Peppa Pig is a little girl pig living in Britain with her younger brother George (what else could he possibly be called) and her parents. They go about their happy routines like visiting the amusement park, taking a holiday or getting lost in the fog, with Daddy Pig always managing to do something stupid that is made nicer still with the narrator stating the goof up in a nonchalant manner. I love it.

British comedies have always been super special. Peppa Pig is a pre-school series but heck no one does sardonic better than the Brits. Look at Outnumbered, if you haven’t already; a sitcom on a middle class family in London with the parents being ‘outnumbered’ by their three delightfully unruly offspring. The beauty of the show is that the dialogues of the children are not written by 30 year old TV writers. Instead, these are improvised. While the scene and the setting are discussed with everyone, the kids are left to being themselves and what a crazy bunch they obviously are.

Or spend a rainy afternoon with Withnail and I. The adventures of two unemployed (and decidedly unemployable) actors makes for perfect alone time viewing. From the squalor of their city apartment to the marsh madness at the country cottage, this acerbic tale of two men performing the sacred art of ‘resting’ before taking a holiday by accident is enough to make you smile years after you first discover it.

And then perhaps you can walk up to a barman and delight him thus (quoting Withnail):

“We want the finest wines available to humanity. And we want them here, and we want them now!”

Mommy said TV was bad for you, and it probably is. But there are delights that it could throw up without turning anyone into gun toting villains or broccoli hating dimwits. And it is for these delectable treats that one should (under adult supervision after ensuring the said adult is wine-proof) indulge in audio-visual activities, with the hope of compressing a little bit of sunshine in deftly produced tales meant for joyous merrymaking.

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’tis Nobody’s Business

Alone time, whether self-imposed or induced by circumstance, can often be fairly refreshing, as opposed to depressing as some people will tell you. One must hail alone time as the elixir for embattled souls and for those who’re as self-obsessed as certain people I know (yours truly included).

Whether you spend these glorious alone-hours indulging in tomfoolery or otherwise is merely a matter of personal choice (as ‘personal’ as choices can possibly be).

There are countless activities to choose from:

Making burnt egg-toast to satiate evening hunger, while dancing not-so-gracefully around the pan.

Wearing clothes with a colour combination that has the potential to cause blindness.

Watching movies rich in nonsensical content in entirety, and preparing to criticise them later.

Sending countless emails to friends who’re definitely busy at the time.

Telling yourself that you need to get back to work and not doing so at all.

Continuing to prance around the room.

Identifying the source of strange sounds emanating from certain corners of the house, just to make sure one is indeed alone.

Indulging in time travel (of the imaginary sort of course).

Sleeping and waking with particular disregard for dawn and dusk.

Not being busy at all but grumbling at the sound of the doorbell.

Losing oneself in the pages of a book and resurfacing only when the world comes searching for you.

…I’m sure there are those who use their time (whether alone or otherwise), rather judiciously (a term stubbornly closed to interpretation).

However, it is of no concern to me and neither should it be to you.

Suffice it to say that ‘tis surely a treat and luxury to be unnoticed and unheard, though only for a while.

And imagine what great potential something must hold when it is best described thus:
What you do on your own time is nobody’s business.

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Twisted (K)aleidoscope

Eating fruit yogurt (pineapple flavour, if you must know) and listening to INXS is supposed to help me generate ideas for my new piece. In between the will it, won’t it game, I consider the convenience of writing my thoughts (random as they always are) in the sequence they come to me. Let all who read on be forewarned: This is an experiment.

If one could sort life like a music playlist, things would be just fine. That i can get the late Michael Hutchence to start the show, have Kurt Cobain and Roger Waters follow, is the exercise of one of the best kind of personal choice.

Incidentally, the Pink Floyd song ‘Coming back to life’ reminds me of the time a friend and I wanted to hear the song so bad that we were ready to leave a trying-to-be-a-party at another friend’s home and go sit in the car and hear it (the only option available at the time).

That day also happened to be the time when one witnessed brilliance from close quarters…opening of a wine bottle with a screw driver as the cork screw could not be located. The cork fell into the bottle after being pushed this way and that and as expected, didn’t enhance the taste of the ‘warm’ (it had been worked at for a long while) wine. Someone floated the sacrilegious suggestion of putting some ice in the tall wine glasses. Rest assured, things didn’t go as far that.

From wine glasses to another kind. What is the most difficult thing to find without your spectacles?
Well, your spectacles.

For reasons unknown, I just remembered this restaurant in Delhi (lets not name it), that had created two seating areas demarcated as ‘smoking and non-alcoholic’ and ‘non-smoking and alcoholic’. Asthmatic non-alcoholics could not have been happy.

Have you ever wondered how marketing managers of cigarette companies live with themselves? For several years now they have probably been taking inspiration from the film ‘Thankyou For Smoking’ (some people will tell you I really sell this film). Three words for you : go get it.

Come to think of it, there are quite a few things I sell to people around me: contact lenses, bananas as breakfast, taking notes to keep from sleeping, carrying a book to read everywhere, etc.

Perhaps after reading this piece people will also see the benefits of blogging. How else can you get away with something like the above.

Needless to say, this stream of randomness could flow on forever.
I must practice restraint and build impenetrable obstacles in its path.
Au revoir dear reader.

Rest assured there are better days ahead. Amen.

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(F)lashback ’07: The Night of The Fog

On a balmy weekend in June nearly seven years ago, I found this film The Fog while surfing channels. It is supposed to be scary so I watched in eagerness. I got to it after it had been on for about half an hour so it took me a while to understand who or what was going to spook me. Of course they made it easy by putting the name of the scare-element in the title.

So basically the Fog is following people around and killing them. And I was sitting alone in my living room, trying my best to imagine that the Fog was going to get me too. It didn’t happen. I mean how unpredictable are car breakdowns or phone lines going dead or people (very stupid ones) going out into the dark, menacing night with a lantern. You will get killed.

And there is no forgiving the unpalatability of actually seeing a ghost in a horror film. Why do they assume that people with bad make-up can pass off as ghosts? Who actually decides that this is what ghosts must look like? Is there a council out there that lays down guidelines on appropriate ghost look and behaviour?

In real life people usually get scared of things they sense but don’t actually see. So when I was following the trio in the Blair Witch Project, I knew anything could happen and I was excited. Well yes it’s a jungle and there are going to be animal sounds and weird shapes in the dark. I didn’t get scared out of my wits but at least they weren’t showing me women in white or men in black.

I guess it is mostly a case of to each her own ghost. I remember getting spooked by the T-Rex dinosaur in Jurassic Park when I saw the film as a kid. It was raining that night and I could swear I saw that slimy thing outside my bedroom window. Then there were the late night visits to the boarding school bathroom, made spookily-special by rustling trees and howling winds and the knowledge that like every other Convent yours was built on a graveyard too.

That was ages ago. Now there aren’t any imaginary beings outside my window or monsters under my bed. I have to try real hard to let well-intentioned horror flicks scare me. Perhaps the time has come to send a message across to those who care: Spirits of the world unite and spook me baby one more time.

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Today I met the Queen…

…Not the octogenarian in England.

I’m referring to the Hindi film that has been receiving rave reviews since it released about two weeks ago.

Over the years most of my movie viewing experience has involved waiting for reviews (mostly from multiple ‘professional’ critics) before standing in line for a ticket. There was the sole instance of running across a deserted parking lot to catch a 10am first-day-first-show of ‘The Last Samurai’. But that was more about a Tom Cruise phase and mostly about the boy I was running with.

As it stands, I end up watching very few Hindi films in theatres. The industry produces an obscene number of very trashy material every year that I have no tolerance for. And when there is something interesting to watch there’s the challenge of finding a willing partner. One CAN watch a film alone, (It was just me at ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ for instance), but something about Hindi films makes them more family outing (adults only) friendly. As it turned out, all through dating years the boyfriend never wanted to step anywhere Hindi films. But now that he is the husband he has no choice.

So after the girls at work (and random people on twitter) were gushing over ‘Queen’ (“Every woman should watch this film”) I decided to force my man along and make a Sunday of it. Keeping clear of spoilers, I had been given to understand that this was going to be about a woman finding herself, in some form or another.

Having seen it and under no obligation to keep quiet, an elevator synopsis would explain it thus (SPOILER ALERT): Simple, sober, homely Delhi Girl gets stood up at the altar – decides to go on her honeymoon alone – Gets to Paris where she faces troubles at first but triumphs, meets French-Indian free-spirited woman who helps her loosen up (with ample alcohol) and widens her horizon (not ‘Mulholland Drive’ wide. That’s illegal here) – our Delhi girl then travels to Amsterdam where she continues her vacation at a hostel, sharing her room with three appropriately-ethnically-diverse men (French, Japanese, Russian) and finally finds herself.

I will give the film brownie points for not labouring on any matter endlessly and instead maintaining the feel of a holiday everyone is taking alongside the girl while she ‘discovers’ herself. But I will not call it a “path-breaking” film and am surprised so many people are labelling it that. It is peppered with several formulaic features like typical Delhi humour that has become quite common in recent films (Punjabi music, jokes, supporting actors and their quirks), cardboard characters she meets during her trip with their little background stories (Parisian girl with child out of wedlock because “that’s what people do here”, Muslim girl working at a strip club in Amsterdam to support her family, Japanese roommate who lost his parents in the Tsunami etc.). The only real departure it makes from the norm (of Hindi films) is side-lining the need for a male partner in the scheme of things.

It seems to me that the main reason everyone is applauding this film is the centrality of the female gaze and perspective and the fact that the film ends with a rejection of the reconciliatory advances of the fiancé who had left her at the altar. Perhaps the culmination with her walking out of his house after an honest hug is to complete the circle the film had begun with their cancelled wedding at the outset.

So riddle me this: Why is it that in coming-of-age films with central male characters, women are incidental to the story (usually only as sexual partners) and not linked to the man’s journey to self-discovery? And here everyone is rushing to applaud a film where a female character’s self-worth emanates most significantly from her rejection of a subscribed relationship?

Perhaps a truly “path-breaking” Hindi film that sets out to celebrate freedom would be one that does not need to establish a male character who must be rejected/accepted by the woman in order for her to discover herself.

And it should be family outing and popcorn-cola worthy. For all else there’s After Hours with Simone de Beauvoir.