Saturday, August 20, 2005

(North) Eastward Ho!

A real-life heroine we'll never see a Bollywood film on; after all, it's just the North-East right?

For a flavor of (what I imagine) the region's aura of neglect and remove from the "national mainstream" must feel like, I highly recommend Siddharta Deb's two books, Point of Return and An Outline of the Republic (published outside the USA as Surface). Deb is a talented writer, though at the end of his second novel I was left wondering what it all amounted to. No, that's too harsh: Deb moves and unsettles, even when one is not sure to what end.

I'm indebted to Bhaiya for the suggestion that I re-visit Mani Ratnam's Dil Se in the light of Deb's novels. To those who disliked the film (virtually everyone I know, I must concede), I say: I watched the film in the theater. Five times. At the Manhattan Twin back when it used to show Hindi movies. Yes, perhaps I do need help. Seriously though: despite a script that goes haywire in the second half (a Mani Ratnam speciality of late), I know of no other Hindi film that disorients its viewer-- thereby evoking the crisis at the heart of the national project-- like this one does. Plus, it features an unreal soundtrack by A.R. Rahman; what else does one need?

The sort of murkiness that informs Deb's novels (particularly the second) peeps through occasionally in news stories (this one pertaining to Kashmir). It's the sort of depressing, "layers upon layers upon layers" plot that would be at home in Melville's Pierre (a fascinating disaster of a book that recently spawned a not-so-fascinating disaster of a film, Pola X)...

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