Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Chanel No 4, Camel No 5

Stuff that I shouldn't be doing instead of doing work:

Stuff No1: Cooking up inane conversations in my head with imaginary animals and imaginary people in real places. 

Prelude to the conversation: Setting the stage

I was aimlessly refreshing my inbox one fine Monday morning (or was it afternoon), when a newsletter for a literary event slated to be held in Jaipur, bounced into my line of sight. Not to be dissuaded by the providential provision of any singular moment that could let me abstain from work, I pounced upon the mail like a cougar in waiting and devoured its contents, right down to its last entrails. So far so good. Unfortunately, the whole exercise lasted merely two miserly minutes, stingy and lousy to say the least. But then, the very notion of Jaipur booked me on a flight of fantasy. I was up, up and away, tearing through the blue yonder, coasting along an ocean of infinitesimally tiny sand grains of golden hues. 

All of a sudden, I plummeted down in one big thud to the asphalt ground. No sooner had I realized my fall, did I realize that I was staring at a finely-bred Jodhpurian camel, squarely in the eye. An eye for an eye. Left. And right. What follows is an excerpt from the bilateral dialogue that transpired between the camel and I, which many might argue to be unilateral, but only in the presence of knowledge confined to the perimeter of basic logic.

For reasons of clarity, the camel shall heretofore be referred to as the camel. And I shall be heretofore referred to as I, except in special cases where another member of the camel's species, genus or clan is summoned upon, in which case the camel's name will be replaced by the clan/species or genus nomenclature. Same rules hold true for me. Or for the sake of accuracy, the same rules hold true for I.

The Conversation: Now, you’re talking.

I: Camel!
Camel: Aye!
I: Sorry about the song.
Camel: What song?
I: The one by Will.i.am and Fergie.
Camel: Haven’t heard that one before. Who are they?
I: They call themselves the Black-eyed Peas.
Camel: Peas that sing! Wow! Can I eat them?
I: After you get to hear what they sang, you just might.
Camel: Really? What did they sing?
I: They sang, ‘My hump, my hump’.
Camel: How could someone sing something like that, forget about saying something like that.
I: I didn't say it. The Peas did. They sang it. They sang it like you weren’t even around. 
Camel: Damn right, I wasn't around. Would’ve whooped their scrawny little asses if I were around, especially that Fergie’s.
I: I just told you I didn't sing it. I wasn’t even around. Just like you. 
Camel: I meant "I" wasn't around. As in I, me, the one with the hump.
I: Yeah, it's kinda weird they sang My Hump, My Hump. Like you have two humps.
Camel: Boy, don't get started on that. I am warning you. 
I: Yeah, cause you didn't even have, like, two humps. You have only one hump. 
Camel: That's right. 
I: They should have called the song just 'My hump'. Nothing more. Nothing less. 
Camel: Just because you said 'My hump' and repeated it with 'My hump' does not give me two humps.
I: I never said you had two humps. I just said the song had. And your brother. 
Camel: Don't involve my brother in this, please.
I: Why not
Camel: Can we please keep him out of this whole counterproductive counter-culture?
I: You mean the hip-hop subculture?
Camel: Yes. That's the one.
I: Why? So that he becomes a single-humped spineless pushover like you?
Camel: I have had just about enough of your nonsense. Just leave before I kick you in the nuts and chew your ears off.
I: Oh yeah, you and what army? The Bactrian camel 'so' totally rules. He'd never say something like that to me.
Camel: Oh yeah? If my Bactrian brother was so cool, how come you're not talking to him? 
I: I am too.
Camel: No, you're not. I am the only one who puts up with your shenanigans. The Bactrian would have whooped your ass in half by now.
I: My ass is already made up of two halves. Bactrian would have done nothing. 
Camel: Oh, just you wait.
I: You're just a sell-out. And you can't bear to see your brother go places. 
Camel: Go places? Do you have any freaking clue who you're talking to?
I: I do. You're has-been, no-good punk, whose fallen on hard times. 
Camel: So what? I have had my good times. And I've had them well. 
I: Did you?
Camel: Yes I did. I had femme fatales lining up alongside me to take pictures when I made the land-of-the-free smoke up in gay abandon.
I: Gay abandon? You still think the Peas did something wrong by singing My Hump?

To be continued…

Friday, August 26, 2011

Letting Go. And running back.

It's weird how we think we can change the course of the future by delving into history. Or in this case, the history of our instant messenger chats. Every time, you witness the crumbling of an important structure - a beam or a building block that you thought was responsible for holding together the temple of your life, you go back to the foundation stone. To check, if there were cracks there to begin with. How dare you lay cracked and perforated boulders to hold together the skyscrapers of your dream-house? You overlooked the fundamentals of construction because the promise of your dreams seemed more colorful and logical than anything on the horizon at that point of time.

Would you have even farmed these words the way they are framed had it not been for the supposed tragedy that beset you? Is it even a tragedy? Does it deserve a requiem? Weren't you aware of your own fallacy while you took to the skies majestically, completely in comprehension of the paper-plane life cycle that you embarked on? Does it take a fool so long to find he was foolish? Does he need to undergo the travails of a gold fish with a memory that lasts a fraction of a minute? Does he envelop himself in the endless loop of rapture and despair, fully aware that rapture ends in despair? Won't you run back in mock delight to embrace the opportunity when it presents itself all over again, with the dagger of deception concealed in its cloak? Will you cry out in pain? The one resulting from the preemptive understanding of deception? Or the one arising from desperation? Or the one rising from the ashes of your dashed hopes?

Go back to your chat transcripts. Go back to your ground zero. Go back to the place where the angels of your make-believe playhouse have fallen. Pick up the pieces of your dreams. Hope to salvage the situation by reading between lines. Hope to take things back to the way they were by examining each pause, each time stamp, each colon, each smiley, each pleasantry, each upper case admonition, each lower case expression of exasperation, each teary eyed repetition of a consonant that made up your name and underscored how much each alphabet meant with every subsequent repetition. Can you track the exact sentence that became the undoing of you? Can you track the exact phrase which set off the base charges of explosives that brought down your mansion? You do that and it won't change anything. Not until, you learn to let go.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Morality, Mortality and the Tarantino way

Yesterday, I got an opportunity  to revisit Kill Bill – Volume 2 all over again. Why? Because I can (Quentin says so too, when you ask him about why he includes so many violent and bloody sequences in his films?). And because they played it on DTH – I am a sucker for TV reruns; somehow the image quality on TV beats those home video screenings on DVDs hands down.

So, as I was flipping channels, searching for a movie I could watch on a rainy Chennai evening, my trigger-happy fingers screeched to a halt as soon I saw Uma Thurman wiping her tears to the sounds of Tomayasu Hotei’s Battle without honor or humanity. The flipping stopped then and there. My eyes remained glued to the telly, watching The Bride, minutes away from being buried alive. But my hands got busy searching for my cellphone as I furiously texted my equally crazy movie buff of a friend, to whom this blog posting is dedicated, pleading her to switch on her TV.

That done, I settled down with a plate of piping hot noodles, God bless the Japanese. Thanks to the miserable redneck Budd, Bill’s bro as played by the indefatigable Michael Madsen, The Bride does get buried alive. As my friend and I exchanged notes on the Cruel Tutelage of Pai Mei, I almost overlooked the snappy pace at which the movie progressed. There’s no question about how much I love the Kill Bill series. But it’s surprising how short it gets with every subsequent viewing. Maybe, knowing all the dialogues by heart and committing the order of scenes to memory can do that to an individual.

Now, coming to the reason why I started off this blog post in the first place. Somewhere near the end of the epic film, Bill, played by the enigmatic David Carradine (R.I.P.) asks The Bride if she really believed she could lead a life devoid of crime and killings. And the Bride regales him with the tale of the last assignment that Bill had sent her on – to assassinate Lisa Wong. The Bride goes on to tell him how Lisa herself sent an assassin to dispose off the Bride. The assassin disguised as a room service agent goes by the name Karen Kim.
Kill Bill Volume 2
But, here’s the catch, moments before the Bride could have her head blown off in her hotel room, an act of providence saves her from what seems to be an immediate death. As Beatrix Kiddo aka the Bride stands at her door, having just discovered that she’s pregnant, the applicator of her pregnancy tool kit drops to the floor, and the bride bends over to pick it up, just in time, as Lisa Wong’s assassin Karen Kim blows a hole in her door that misses the Bride by a hair’s breadth.

Their confrontation brought back to memory a scene from Inglourious Basterds – namely the aftermath of the tavern shootout that leaves just about two survivors to speak of, Bridget von Hammersmark and Sergeant Wilhelm, who (surprise…!!!) had discovered just a few minutes before that he’s become a father. 

Inglourious Basterds
Moving back to Kill Bill 2, The Bride beseeches Karen Kim to spare her life, considering the fact that she’s just become a mother. And in turn, The Bride would spare Karen's life. The assassin relents and retreats. And she even goes so far as to drop a ‘Congratulations’ on her way out.

Now, consider the fate of Sergeant Wilhelm from Inglourious Basterds. The young soldier is faced with imminent death at the tavern post the shootout. And Brad Pitt’s Lieutenant Aldo Raine argues with him about the prospect of letting the injured Bridget von Hammersmark walk free. They even reach a settlement, which means Wilhelm’s son doesn’t have to grow up without a daddy to play catch with. But just moments after the conversation, Bridget pumps the soldier’s chest with a hail of bullets and he drops dead.

Bridget's reasoning seems to be that letting him live would jeopardize the Allied mission. But, the audience is left wondering about the shadow of parenthood that was so unrightfully snatched, or rather robbed off little Wilhelm. And we’re also left wondering about the moral complexity of the scene. Do they orphan a kid or compromise the fate of the world? This question led me to another equally disturbing sequence right at the start of Kill Bill Volume 1

Kill Bill Vol 1

The scene in question involves The Bride confronting Vivica Fox’s character Vernita Green aka Copperhead at the latter's suburban home in Pasadena, Texas. Having smashed the living daylights of the living room, The Bride and Copperhead are interrupted midway when Vernita’s four-year-old daughter makes an entry as she’s just back from school. After packing the kid off to her bedroom, Copperhead offers The Bride coffee and beseeches her to spare her life, in the name of her daughter.

To which, the bride categorically says (sic), “Bitch, you can stop right there. Just because I do not wish to kill you in front of your daughter, does not mean parading her around will inspire sympathy. You and I have unfinished business. And not a goddamn fucking thing you’ve done in these last five years, including getting knocked up is gonna change any of that.”

Making her stand clear, and dashing Vernita’s hopes of a peaceful life as a housewife, the Bride discusses with her, the prospects of when they can go at each other, old school style. And that’s when Vernita attacks the bride with a firearm concealed in a carton of  breakfast cereal, aptly named 'Boom'. But the uber-quick Bride responds like lightning, slamming a knife into Vernita’s throat before she can even blink an eye. This entire sequence transpires right before the eyes of Vernita’s daughter Nicky, who’s just witnessed her mother falling to the Bride’s vengeance.

The Bride doesn’t attempt any consolation for the kid. Instead, she tells her, “Years from now, if you still feel raw about it, I’ll be waiting.” It’s a great chance for a filmmaker to pick off from and set off on a new tangent altogether. But the fact remains that the Bride did whack a woman who cried out to her on behalf of her child. The Bride is under the impression that Vernita and those who helped execute the massacre at the El Paso chapel in Texas, where the Bride was to be married, were responsible for the death of her baby. And, for that, they all deserved to die. And that’s all there is to it. Mortality. Morality. And the Tarantino way.

This post is an entry to the Reel-Life Bloggers contest organized by wogma.com and reviewgang.com