Life and times of SchizoSherlock

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Nuovo Cinema Paradiso

It all started with a silly cat and mouse chase. Me chortling, clapping with my little podgy fingers and bouncing on the couch, watching the moving pictures with wonder. That was the starting point or so my mom says. I have no recollection of the moment but it does make an interesting story. This love affair with the television which later translated into a love for English cinema probably began (as my mother claims) when my parents were changing my nappies. ‘Love affair’ though reeks of impermanence, my emotions were anything but.
By the time I was twelve, STAR had nothing more to offer. At fifteen, I got a late birthday present in the form of HBO. I gorged on mini series, movies and by end of season, was a veritable scholar on ‘entertainment ’. At eighteen I joined college and was introduced to a whole new world of pirated CDs. All my pocket money went into that one big splurge at Palika Bazaar. Amidst people haggling and bickering over T shirt prices, shopkeepers peddling X-rated discs to innocent kids, there’s a tendency of getting distracted. But the thrill of the hunt for that elusive piece of art was reason enough for multiple appointments. Of course, DVDs came a little later and therefore my demand for a ‘bigger pay packet’ was justified at that juncture. By the time I turned twenty, my world was rocked again by a radical breakthrough in technology. Broadband made Palika redundant; it was to be the age of DVD rips and torrents. Piracy had assumed a whole new level and students were basking in its sunshine.
I realize now that I really started getting my feet wet in the late 90s. The decade was the perfect time to mature as a cinephile, since it had the highest concentration of flat-out masterpieces. With regard to films, as you will see from the list, I do have significant blind spots, the most glaring of which is avant-garde.
What does Umberto Eco say about lists? That we like them "because we don't want to die"? I guess I take these ridiculous exercises so seriously because, deep down, I think he has it exactly right.
My list of underrated cult classics (in no particular order)
1. Dogville
2. Before Sunset
3. Mulholland Drive
4. Blair Witch Project
5. 25th Hour
6. Insomnia
7. Dead Ringers
8. Boy A
9. Session 9
10. Amistad

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Start

New Year’s malaise finally caught up with me. I fell prey to chicken pox on New Year’s Day and the doctor’s verdict of 2 weeks of complete isolation just added insult to injury. My social life went for a toss and more importantly it led to a complete waste of my last official vacation. Unable to enjoy Delhi’s winter, I was left to rot, with only my quilt and laptop for company. I missed waking up to foggy mornings; I missed the warm winter sun and the calm winds which fool you into shedding your woolens. Janus has definitely not been kind to me.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


The spice of a story, the element that makes it more than simple heroes and villains, lies within the character of the antihero. What makes an antihero? Is rebellion against authority all that is required, or is antihero just another word for exciting villain? The line between an antihero and a villain has always been hazy and open to discussion, but lately the distinction has become moot in some cases. In certain long dramas that evoke the epic spirit of the earliest stories, characters that appear as villains initially evolve and develop only to be absorbed into the storyline as antiheroes.
What I am talking about is the true post-modernistic archetype: the antihero is someone with some of the qualities of a villain, up to and including brutality, cynicism, and ruthlessness, but with the soul or motivations of a more conventional hero. Many of the protagonists of Western stories fit into the broad antihero mould, especially those who are shown as having turbulent, violent backgrounds and conflicting motivations. Frequently, it is this mental conflict that serves to link the discrete episodes which compose such stories.
My interest has always been the female anti hero. For a female anti-hero, it appears that beauty or physical attractiveness alone is not enough to off-set the brutality, amoral behaviour, or ruthlessness needed for a true anti-hero. It seems to take a combination of physical beauty, innate intelligence, and some sort of triggering event – but not the jaded, ‘world-weary’ technique often seen in the male anti-hero – to set the stage for a believable or rather acceptable anti-heroine. If the balance isn’t achieved, one is left with a psychotic or clichéd character.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Stand-up comics often bemoan the fact that "everyone's a comedian!", and its true: every one appreciates humour (to some degree) and most are capable of generating some form of spontaneous humour. But this very ubiquity makes humour harder to understand formally, since humour assumes many guises and operates with subtle differences in myriad contexts.
Therefore I feel sarcasm is the highest form of wit, contrary to what Oscar Wilde believed. It is also the primary weapon in the arsenal of the anti-social. Not only is it good for amusing oneself, it is a surefire way to get the ever present detritus off your back. Telling someone that they suck is not sarcasm, it’s honesty. Replying to every negative comment with a joke, while amusing and infuriating for your target, is not sarcasm. Sarcasm is defined as "A keen, reproachful expression; a satirical remark uttered with some degree of scorn or contempt; a taunt; a gibe; a cutting jest." If, for example, someone tries to make conversation by uttering these lines “Hi. Nice day today, isn’t it?” The correct sarcastic reply to this would be “Oh yes, it was a lovely day, and I had just begun to enjoy it before my tolerance of inane comments was tested. But thanks for wasting my time anyway; I'm going to look this way now.” This answer would probably make the other person feel belittled. That’s what good sarcasm does, because after all, everyone else is below your disdain. How can you begin to master the sarcastic wit now that you can recognize it? Well, sometimes watching the masters perform their art is the best way to learn. On that note, read as much Ambrose Bierce as you can. Another good source is the character played by Matthew Perry. Mr. Perry has brought sarcasm to the great unwashed, and you can benefit from watching his performance. Of course you have to set your sarcastic sights on potential targets. This does not require much more than the standard trip to your college or for that matter a convenience store. Sarcasm is the one skill you can never truly master. There is always another rung in the ladder to true sarcasm. But maybe now you'll make people cringe in horror every time you open your mouth to respond to their inane questions.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Inglourious Inglouriouser

My first Tarantino experience on the big screen turned out to be a big disappointment.
The Inglourious Basterds started even before the movie began. The archaic font employed in the credits and the use of the old Universal logo reeked of Tarantino, which inherently is not a bad practice but repetition of such a device has transformed it into a gimmick; a means of perpetrating a vibe without actually creating it through storyline and character development. The ‘tool’ seemed like a crutch and sent across the message that Tarantino didn’t want to evolve as writer and director. The movie was sporadically exciting, intermittently breathtaking but ultimately squandered the goodwill it built by dropping all pretence and revelling in its squalid existence. There were a lot of characters, some of which seemed like they could have been cut without doing the film much harm. It was a one man show though, Christopher Waltz portraying a cruel, arrogant Nazi, Hans Landa who is above all, motivated by self-preservation. Hans Landa was mesmerizing; his every on-screen moment was compelling. But therein lay the film’s most egregious failure; Landa simply had no equal in the film, no counterpart who could match him in verbal dexterity and charisma. The other performers were scattered along the spectrum, Mike Myers’ appearance as a British officer was so laughably bizarre that any semblance of story went out the window. The plot was not complicated and unlike previous Tarantino movies, there were very few stories running in parallel. All his detractors had complained about the length of the movie and to a large extent their argument was valid; 148 minutes were mostly filled with inane dialogues and long drawn out scenes. Few ‘stills’ were memorable like Landa’s exchange with the undercover agent(read actress) and her subsequent cold blooded murder, but it seemed that on more than one occasion Tarantino had trouble putting all the individual scenes together. The Inglourious Basterds didn’t have the filmmaking panache and wit of the moving image to forgive it, its sins like Kill Bill. It was a slightly more contained bout of silliness, but silliness nevertheless.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

I want World Peace!

Next few days will see scores of articles, commentaries, facebook updates and tweets on Obama’s Nobel win. Here’s my two cents.
He’s the first black American president with a name that sounds more like Osama, with charisma and promising speeches. Does he deserve to have his name etched next to the likes of Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King? Has the Committee awarded him the prize just to encourage nuclear non- proliferation, to profess support? Is it a reward for his naïve but nevertheless colossal ambitions and intentions to have peace with Cuba, Iran and rest of the Islamic world?
The Oslo jury’s rationale for the award is hope. According to the panel, hope breeds peace. In that sense, Obama has made the world hopeful of a more just international order. But other than that, he has achieved very little, just shown goodwill. Hope is not tangible. It will fade over a period of time.
The problem with Obama is that he’s verbose. He tends to ‘over speak’ and frequently fails to accomplish his grand ideas. He has not achieved several important goals he set out to do.
• Guantanamo Bay is still operational
• Health care reforms have been met with mind numbing opposition in the senate
• Permanent military bases in Iraq are still being constructed
• Israel is still building settlements
In light of the above, it would have been better to wait for a couple of years and see if his talk of world peace transpires into action. Doesn't the awarding of the NPP for a short-term political position or set of positions diminish it as recognition of service and achievement? What if Obama is not successful on his policy on disarmament? Or a more multilateral approach to international relations? Or open dialogue with Russia? But it seems that the prize has been given more in prospect, than in retrospect.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

For Old Times Sake!

CP has always been the place to reminisce with old friends. Central Park, lovely October weather and nostalgia pangs.
Every time there’s a jamboree, the anecdotes are repeated, but you don't complain. You sit there lost in thought and as clichéd as it may sound, you are transported back in time to some of your most treasured memories. Every once in a while you get excited because unlike others, you always remember the minutest details and now it's your turn to contribute. Your stories, like a magnifying glass, make large the specks of memory under the lens. Of course, every recount is embellished, and frankly speaking, you love it that way. You sit there wondering what happened to the promise. The ‘pact’ that you made with each other after school, of staying close forever. You were inseparable back then(Lavu, Goliath, Player, Dip, AB – the gang), but as it happens in that period of your life, you just drifted apart, went your separate ways.
But that has always been my excuse and as someone rightly pointed out, I have always been bad at maintaining relationships. Delhi though, has been a blessing in disguise. Except for a minor setback(read B-school) everything else has fallen into place. The city has given me a chance, to once again, connect with my old friends and more importantly, spend time with my parents. In the overall scheme of things, B- school is just a minor glitch. But I am a little envious of my kin. They have all, without exception, managed to do what they always wanted to do in life. It’s an eclectic bunch. From an art designer(whatever that means!) to a journo, the gamut of vocations in the group is a little scary. And here I am, the exception. Stuck in a B-school, leading a conventional life of an MBA student. But there is no point cribbing about it. Perhaps I lack courage to take the bolder decisions in life.