Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Avatar Review: John et Jim

The Eye
As the latest James Cameron film stops being the flavour of the season (well, almost), it assumes a whole new avatar for me.

A warning must be issued here. This isn’t a “review” of the film (I mean, two paragraphs about the plot, one about the technique, one about the acting, one about this and another about that and an easy and oversimplified good-mediocre-ugly categorisation issued at the end very conveniently dismissing all other opinions) so much as a journey into the corners of my thoughts. This review discusses topics I’d hardly imagined it’d when I saw the film. This is, as you’ll discover, two (maybe more) reviews for the price of one. There was something I wanted to review on this blog since 2009, but never could. Avatar gave me ample scope to do it this time. Issuing a spoiler warning for this film (and the subjects I’m going to discuss) is not only completely pointless at this stage (given the film has grossed a meagre $2.7 billion), but defeats the entire purpose of my review itself. You’re advised to avoid reading this piece if you are not familiar with any of these (which I believe is unlikely).

In anticipation of Avatar, I wrote a post describing my fond memories of Cameron’s Titanic. To this day, watching Titanic remains my most wonderful experience inside a cinema hall. I was expecting Cameron to reawaken the five-year-old in me, inspire awe and induce heartfelt emotions with another powerful drama. I was ready to bow before the King. A few weeks later, I was off to the theatre, bursting with excitement. After the screening was over, I found myself sorely disappointed. I could hardly understand what the fuss was all about. Was I being over-analytical in watching a film that was simply supposed to be enjoyed and experienced? (I didn’t even take my notepad along!) Did I grow too cynical and fail to enjoy the simple pleasures of life Avatar was supposed to provide? Where was the plot? Where was the excitement? Where were characters I could deeply care about? Where was the drama? The visual effects were brilliant; 3D was also great, but I got used to it so quickly that it, in my view, could no longer be used as an excuse to camouflage the hackneyed and predictable plot. I tried every bit to be swept by it. I just couldn’t go with the ride, perhaps because I’m not particularly fond of amusement park rides. Even taken as an experience, this one didn’t quite measure up to Titanic. “Oh, Jim, did you really have to do something this unimaginative?” I said loudly as I exited the theatre, much to the bewilderment of people around me. It was a perfectly forgettable movie, I thought. Then began the problem (and, needless to say, now begins the review).

Sunday, 9 May 2010

The Celebration Begins!

Rabindranath Tagore
The world-wide celebration to observe the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore begins today. Rabindranath turned 149 today. I don't think I will be able to express in words what this day means to me. It offers me a passage to look back at the days of my childhood. Today, it will be a completely futile attempt on my part to give an account of my feelings of those days and my thoughts on Rabindranath and his vast body of work, because it will be endless. So I will keep this post short.

Bishnu De asks in a famous poem whether Rabindranath is all about the celebration that surrounds his birth and death anniversaries. All these years, after all these celebrations, it seems the same to me. On the morning of 25 Boiśākh, we turn on the television to watch the celebration taking place. We recite his poems and sing his songs with heartfelt passion.Some of us listen to Rabindrasangeet every day. Rabindranath is the reason of our cultural pride and rightfully so.

But for all our passion for Rabindrantah's works, we have strangely ignored Rabindranath himself. We love reading his poems and singing his songs, but not often do we pay attention to the thoughts and ideas expressed in the poems and songs. We have little time to look a Rabindranath's revolutionary ideas which were way ahead of his time. We have perhaps forgotten Rabindranath the thinker. It's the halo around him and his work that probably attracts us too much. We do not like to waste time to rediscover and interpret his works, because we have a notion that we know everything about Rabindranath. As I learnt from people very close to me, Rabindranath needs to be discovered everyday. He was not a man with stagnant ideas. It is fascinating to study the way he constantly changed.  His works need to be looked at. His ideas are as valid today as they were a century ago.

Rock-n-roll remix of Rabindrasangeets and some abysmal music videos are not really what I call "reinterpretation". frighteningly, Rabindranath is being abused today. Only today, I caught some astrologer on a TV channel proclaiming that – are you ready for this? – Rabindranath promoted astrology! There are soaps which integrate  out-of-context and horribly-sung Rabindrasangeets to add layers of meaning to them. Filmmakers alter our national anthem to use make their awful films something "deep" and then tell us that Rabindranath's intentions for writing it weren't very noble. Even the dates of his birth and death are tweaked conveniently. There are many more awesome gems, but in discussing them any further I will be giving them undue importance.

It is exciting for me that his works will be translated in many languages and be spread all over the world. People from other cultures will perhaps be able to do what we don't: perceive Rabindranath in a new way. Mixing of all forms of culture to form an enriched, superior form of culture was all Rabindranath wanted.

This year-long celebration, I hope, will bring us a new Rabindranath and help us get rid of the stagnancy of ideas.

So let's make this celebration a successful one! Let's rediscover Rabindranath!

Monday, 3 May 2010

Galilean Nights: Event Overview

I am so late in writing this post because of the fact that I didn't know how I should have begun writing this. And to be honest, I still don't. This post has been under development for more than six months. So I decided to do away with any sort of beginning and get straight to the point. So here's everything (well, almost) about my Galilean Nights event . . .

This programme, like the 100 Hours of Astronomy earlier in 2009, was organised by Prof. Dhiranando Roy Study & Research Centre.  In case you don't know, Galilean Nights was one of the Cornerstone Projects of the International Year of Astronomy 2009. Organised between October 22-24 2009, this programme aimed at reaching out to the people to show them the wonders of the night sky. This programme also intended to spread awareness about the great man we are remembering in IYA2009: Galileo Galilei. The main focus of Galilean Nights was on the objects Galileo observed 400 years ago and revolutionised modern science: The Sun, the Moon, Jupiter and Saturn.

I had originally planned to hold the event on all the three nights. But the pressure of my studies did not allow me to do what I'd intended to. But I had to organise it because I knew I'd die if I didn't. So I decided to hold the event for one night only. Saturday, October 24, seemed to me the best date to organise the event as more people would be able to come to the event during the weekend.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

This and That . . .

It's been ages since I logged on to Blogger. Much to my delight, the homepage informed me that four comments were waiting to be published. I could hardly hold myself. Who could leave comments on a blog that's as good as dead? Who could possibly care about my random opinions? No one, I thought. And I was right. But the comments I saw pleased me in a different way. It's always a good sign when spambots leave ads on your blog. That means your blog's getting popular (among spambots, of course).

Blogging will not as sporadic this year as it was the last year, because I won't be blogging at all. You might see a couple of posts in the next few weeks. This is my final year and the NEWTs are very important. Since laying out my thoughts on the blog isn't as important as saving the world from the Dark Lord, I'm afraid you won't be seeing much of me in the year ahead. There are a great many things I wanted to write about. At first, I wanted to go back to the Leaves from My Japan Diary series. But I don't think I'll be able to do that because it will consume much of my time and energy. But I will write a few posts in the coming weeks. An incomplete overview of my Galilean Nights event has been gathering dust (the Pullmaninan one) in the drafts folder for about six months. I will also write about a major astronomy event I did in December. I will try to  write about some films I saw recently. I hope I can write about Avatar, which has provoked my thoughts in a way I did not expect it to do. I had some film and book-related posts in mind, but . . .

Gosh! I almost forgot why I started writing this post in the first place.

Happy Bengali New Year! It's 1417, folks! Last year, I wrote a post on the Bengali New Year. Looking back, it surprises me how much effort I put forth for that little post, with diacritical marks and all. This year, I have decided to do away with the diacritical marks. Instead, I will use the Bengali script.

শুভ নব বর্ষ 

This is exactly what the title of that post is. The arrival of Boiśākh means a lot to me, as I have discussed in that post. 24 days from now, the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Rabindranath Tagore will begin. I was delighted to find his mention in the New Year wish from Mrs Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State. It that is any indicaion, I am sure the worldwide celebration of his birthday will be hugely successful. I hope the entire world rediscovers Tagore's works and looks at the Bengali culture with a fresh perspective. This effort will be immensely important for the growth of the Bengali language and culture and how the world perceives the Bengali culture.

Hope this year brings happiness to one and all. But the beginning of this year shows little promise of happiness for us in this part of the world. It's freezing in Kolkata. As I write this, I can see flakes of snow outside the window. A thick sheet of snow has covered the entire country. It will only get colder in May. I don't know what I'll do then. Fascinating, no?