Saturday, December 25, 2010

Publication in ken*again

Read my story "Damaged Goods" in the latest issue of the literary magazine ken*again:

Monday, December 20, 2010

Film Review: Black Swan


Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan strikes you as a well narrated tragic masterpiece where the protagonist's flaw in character is her child-like innocence. The drama narrates the strange vicissitudes of the life of a young ballerina as she sheds the raiment of mollitude and adorns the evil prowess of a femme-fatale. In a broader sense, it is a story of art consuming the artist.

The dream like movement of the plot is well threaded with the wonderful choreography, and Natalie Portman comes out as a sensational queen of both drama and dance. She is perfect; her face a pool of emotions, each sentiment is penciled into her features with deft mastery.

For years the pious Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) has served her term in a New York ballet company mastering her techniques and generally polishing her act, but what she lacks is the acting prowess. The company having suffered an alteration of fate, the director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) decides to rejuvenate the under the weather corporation by recasting the classical Swan Lake. He selects the na├»ve Nina to play the role of the protagonist, even though he is unsure of her prospects in the portrayal of the black swan, the double of the pious white swan, and this is where the conflict strikes. A clattering windmill of admonitions, cheering ups and even sexual stimulations could not fully unveil darkness in the angelic diva. What Leroy doesn’t realize is that Nina is too unpretentious to don the dark attire without hurting herself in the process. She is gullible, she is scared. Under the authority of her overbearing mother Erica (Barbara Hershey), Nina is a child of subservience lacking heavily in the power to assert herself. But her journey to the realm of darkness begins with the advent of her competitor Lily (Mila Kunis), a sexually deviant female exuding the aura of darkness in every breath. She is a natural "black swan," and Thomas Leroy casts her as Nina's alter in the drama. Feeling thwarted and wronged Nina peels off her suave exterior and displays the characteristics of the dark, primeval self.

The thrilling suspense of the movie grips you from the beginning. The atmosphere of darkness, the cerebral horror, Nina's doppelganger, all predict a grim finale for the narrative. The disturbing scenes of graphic injuries send chills down your spine and you are left with the cardiac organ getting crazy inside your rib-cage.

Black Swan is a perfectly written gothic novel where each scene is chronologically threaded with the next. Despite the marked ambiguity of certain events, Black Swan comes out as a drama that doesn’t require a high gray-matter content to decipher. Of late, several Hollywood pieces (Inception, for example) have used the decipher-it-yourself technique in their works leaving a sizeable portion of audience vying for the correct interpretation of the cinematic riddle, and thereby making them focus their attention on the mathematical calculation rather than on deriving pure pleasure from the motion picture. But appreciation of art is not a forced process; it is natural and spontaneous. Black Swan deftly balances this artistic truth with perfect harmony, and the resultant magnum opus therefore comes out flawless and un-blemished. The subtle movements in the plot, the astounding visual effects and the incommensurable depth in the story leave the audience spell-bound. Never for a moment the plot seems thin or dragged out, never does the director lose his focus. In fact, the entire effort shows so much perfection that I, like many of my co-viewers, sat appreciating the work even after the final credits have rolled.

A review of Black Swan would be incomplete without a paragraph of homage to its protagonist. Natalie Portman has surpassed herself in the role of Nina. She is beyond perfect. She is a cross between an arch-angelic superwoman and a half-baked adult with no sexual experience. Her transmogrification strikes us as the wrath of hell. I still feel the goosebumps on my skin when I recall the miniate-eyes of the black swan. Portman's academic background as a pupil of psychiatry has undoubtedly helped her drink in the tricky role to perfection. She has come a long way from the brat in the Closer; she seems more matured. Her final words go through you like a pair of sharp knives inflicted on an already wounded surface. "That was perfect," she says as volumes of unspoken emotion fill her eyes, and then she empties her lungs; an artist sacrificed at the altar of art.

The supporting cast in the movie balances the spectacular lead performance. Mina Kunis is exquisite as Lily. She too seemed matured and out of the cocoon of Jackie (Kunis's character in "That 70's show"). She is a woman of great attraction, not the starry eyed teenager in love with unicorns. Barbara Hershey as Nina's imperious parent seems more like the wicked witch holding the pretty princess captive rather than a mother-cum-career-coach of her ballerina daughter. Winona Ryder as Beth also deserves a round of applause. Despite appearing in only a handful of scenes, her presence is vital in the drama.

The chiaroscuro like cinematography is breathtaking, and so are the editing and sound effects. The director Darren Aronofsky plies with the audience's expectation and unfolds before their eyes a drama of a lifetime. This epic tale of innocence killed at the hand of its vicious replicate is one of the best cinematographic renderings in 2010. After Christopher Nolan's Inception, Black Swan comes out as the second biggest hit of the year.


My Rating: ********** Ten out of ten. 


P.S. CNN i-Report of the review:

       IMDB link of the review:




Sunday, December 12, 2010

Snowy Nashville:-)

Let it snow!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Nerd Alert!

 Even if you are not nerdy you should act and/or look like one. This is the universal truth that dawned upon me this Friday afternoon as I sit entering mundane quotidian data in my journal. Today is a nice day for journal writing—cold weather, a chance of flurries, and a spouse busy with his work. Nothing can open you up like the above mentioned conditions, and if you are lucky enough to have all the ingredients together you leg the world and head for your notebook. For some moments I dabbled with ideas. I looked back with forced-pleasantry at the hinterland in my mind and tried to catch those fast-fish like images and memories that are now there and now vanished. I have, however, finally chanced upon something that I have been meaning to write about for sometime.

Today I remember that one day not so long ago when I realized that I should drown my cute and trendy wardrobe and procure a bunch of nerdy costumes and accessories: an over-large T-shirt with dirty patches, a pair of loose fitting trousers, a beaded neck-wear, and a geeky-eye wear; this last item being a must if you want to resemble something that is even remotely nerdish. I will tell you why I had this apparently outlandish idea. It so happened that a month back Vanderbilt University had several distinguished authors come over and enlighten the numerous writing enthusiasts, English literature aficionados and sleepy undergrads about their writing experience. The series of lectures being unrestricted and free to all, I was there to exfoliate my writing skills.

The series of public readings kicked-off with the appearance of Edward Hirsh, a name I am sure that is familiar to you all; and in case, you haven’t heard of this rhymester—although he seldom uses rhyme in his poetry, just google him.  The reading was scheduled to start at seven in the evening, and there I was with notebook in hand before the soon-to-be-opened entrance fifteen minutes prior to the start of the literary show. Initially I had thought to present self in complete formal raiment; however, later I decided to opt for something more regular— a pair of jeans and an evening top, red in color and snazzy to a degree. Imagine my consternation when as soon as I shimmered in and saw a group of listeners already seated dressed in baggy outfits, their hair undone and wild, their eyes covered by dim and thick glasses—a group of uggles, as you would undoubtedly think my first reaction was, but no, far from that, they were writers, real-life fiction-smiths dressed in a way writers should. I felt intimidated. For a moment I stood staring at them, wondering if I had walked into some other room; I asked a girl with geeky glasses who appeared to have just had recovered from a serious attack of depression, if that was the room the eminent writer would alight. The girl replied in an affirmative and scanning me asked whether I was there for the lecture. I replied nervously. At first I felt she couldn’t digest the news, may be she thought I was an anachronism— and I don’t blame her having just thought the same after drinking in somber-eyed spectacles seated in the room— but then she became almost cordial and told me that the writer would be there in a jiffy and directed me to a seat.

 The room was just another university room: large, white walled, a writing board hung up on the wall behind the teacher’s desk, etc. Having overcome the idea of turning about and leaving the damned place, I seated myself in one of the student chairs and began cursing my husband at whose insistence I had agreed to listen to the blasted lecture. I sat there wondering when the next hour would be over and I would get back home and partake of the wonderful dinner that I had prepared. The thought of food always cheers me, and I felt a little bucked up. I noticed at the moment that the rest of the listening-flock were blowing in, chunnering, giggling undergrads in pairs, and a sea of more nerds. I felt anxious. One of them, a girl wearing a hippy outfit and bogo shoes, seated beside me with a giant notebook and asked me if I were a writer. This is the one question that I dread. In lighter company I would have given her a ripe answer and said that I was a writer, one who is still mastering the art or words to that effect. But now I felt the life gasoline frizz inside me. A wave of diffidence broke in my heart and the vision of nerdy folks chunnering serious stuff clouded my conscience to such an overwhelming level that I denied my profession and replied in the negative.  The girl seemed displeased. I asked her if she had read anything by the poet, to which she exposed a set of fine teeth and showed me a few loose printout sheets. I realized she was a rookie. Relieved, I complemented her on her choice of earrings; she was touched. She complemented me back. “You have beautiful hair.” I smiled. Girls love complements.

A few moments later the writer blew in. He was a grandpa-faced individual with a genial manner and unish to me, nevertheless, they were good and I enjoyed listening to them. I noticed some of the students pushing their pens speedily and writing down every word the writer was uttering. I wanted to use my blank notebook, too. I took out my pen and began crafting words, things that I understood from the poems, basic things that passed my limited admiration. The girl beside me was busy with her scaly thighs; she scratched them absentmindedly and showed no interested to the dreamy poetic lines or to my sidelong glances.  Her notebook sat in her lap, face up and her Pentel Wow! rolled in the page-divider.

After half an hour I had started liking the session and almost managed to turn my fears into serious purpose by trying to think deep. I felt like yawning.  After another half an hour, the session was over and the public clapped their hands. The writer humbly stood at his designated spot soaking in the adulation and giving the audience a glad eye. He dedicated five more minutes of his precious time to answer the questions that we might have. I had hoped a query deluge, but when I saw most of the geeky blighters surrounding me pretending not to listen to the last sentence the poet had spoken and still writing busily God knows what in their ledgers, I felt reassured. Kind of funny it was to observe that the nerds complete from top to bottom in nerdy attire had no question to pose to an academic who was standing with an expectant face on the podium. I realized that may be I was wrong in feeling so much intimidated by their looks. May be most of them were ordinary writers like me engaged in the process of strengthening their skills. Eventually some people rose and posed some questions to the writer, but I didn’t hear most of them. I was experiencing a moment of epiphany. I felt that in this generally flavicomous group I may be a minority in appearance, but I do stand in the same level. I was a writer.

That night when I got home I thought about the experience, turning the whole evening over and over in my mind. I had always found it difficult to walk into a group and tell people that I am a writer. I still question myself if I am indeed one; I am unsure, I am humble. But then it occurred to me that the best way to alter situations of poorly handled career details would be to dress like a nerd. Adorn the geeky outfit and half of the job is done. People will look at you and “feel” the aura of prescience exuding from your bod and would stop short of posing the career query. Judging by the intelligence level of humdrum people I come across in my daily life, I have come to the conclusion that vainglorious boasting is the right way. In case you cannot sell yourself to the world and pretend to be it all, you will end up being a loner. And this is where a nerdy-outfit solves all your problems. Don them, love them, and see the wow glances you get. In a day you can feel, or at least pose, as a space-scientist, a jack of all trades without even trying to be one. It’s all in the dress, a complete package of confidence far more emboldening than a thorough knowledge of a beloved subject. I have been giving this idea of dressing like a literature-nerd a lot of thought. And, to be honest, if in a year I see myself in the same stratosphere, I am going to don such outrageous pieces of clothing. My finer fashion sense may scorn and rebuke my attempt, but it is time Jeeves take a back seat and let Wooster wear his purple socks, if you know what I mean. 

Have a wonderful weekend.