Category: Art

Disposable Film Festival

What is the Disposable Film Festival? From the horse’s mouth:

Selected by MovieMaker Magazine as one America’s “coolest film festivals,” the Disposable Film Festival was created in 2007 by Eric Slatkin and Carlton Evans to celebrate the creative potential of disposable video: short films made on everyday equipment like cell phones, pocket cameras, and other inexpensive video capture devices.

DFF

Surabhi is one of the finalists in the Competitive Shorts Program. The opening night event is going to take place at the historic Castro Theater in San Francisco on March 24th. The theater can seat close to 1,500 people, but the groupon is already sold out (thats 700 seats gone) and the show is likely to sell out very soon. You can still get your tickets over at Brown Paper Tickets. The exciting line-up consists of 25 super-short films from all over the world.

Finally, here’s the promo video to pique your interest:

Yeh hai Mumbai meri jaan

Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found
Image by Brajeshwar via Flickr

I can’t claim that I know Mumbai: I’ve never lived there and the only times I’ve visited have been short work-related trips. Yet I always thought that all Indians should have some innate familiarity with that city of dreams, just by virtue of being Indians (not to mention the healthy coverage of Mumbai in Bollywood movies). Everyone is familiar with the Gateway of India, Bollywood movies and movie stars, vada-pav, local trains, monsoons, Marine drive and such. And thus, I felt a strange mixture of fascination, sadness and yes, a bit of betrayal recently, as I read two compelling books about Mumbai.

In Maximum City, Suketu Mehta rediscovers Mumbai as he returns (multiple times) to the city he grew up in. Through his eyes, we catch a glimpse of the lives of gangsters and foot soldiers, students and school teachers, bar dancers and prostitutes, yogis and Jainis. Names like Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Tanuja, Preity Zinta are instantly recognizable and lend the book a voyeuristic appeal. At times disturbing, but always intriguing, Mehta paints a vivid picture of Mumbai, one that I did not know exist. And yet, the book felt “safe”, for Mehta was usually telling stories about others.

Shantaram
Shantaram

On the other hand, Gregory David Roberts as Shantaram is at once more intimate yet surreal. While reading it, I remember thinking to myself “fact is stranger than fiction” many a times over. Shantaram is as gripping as an autobiography of sorts can be, but probably contains a tad too many preachy one-liners and life lessons. It was even more fascinating than Maximum City because it is set in a time when I was just a kid — Mehta’s stories are far more contemporary. I found myself Googling for the various characters and places in the book, desperately trying to judge the fraction of fiction in the treatise. But it doesn’t really matter — Mr. Robert’s story is an incredible one nonetheless.

Meanwhile, I think I’m going to stay away from books about Mumbai for some time now, lest I feel completely alien to the city I never really knew.

The San Francisco Taiko Dojo

My wife and I had been thinking about learning Taiko, so after some quick Googling, one fine Tuesday we dropped in at the San Francisco Taiko Dojo to “observe” the adult beginners class. We only stayed the first hour or so, and it was interesting to say the least. First, there was the intimidating workout: everyone was counting in Japanese; the workout included sets of 60 pushup, situps, scissor kicks and tricep dips! And then there was the class itself — there seemed to be no “orientation” for beginners or a structured way to learn the ropes; everyone there just seemed to know what they were doing; there seemed to be a lot of understood etiquettes — there was an expected way of doing pretty much everything. Suffice to say that we decided to start classes the following week.

BTW, if don’t know what Taiko is or have never heard Taiko, I refer you to the mighty Wikipedia and the mightier YouTube:

I’m on a temporary hiatus from Taiko right now, but I had an amazing experience the few months I spent with SF Taiko Dojo.

Yes, there are rules and etiquettes. But in a society where anything goes and freedom rules and any kind of “discipline” is often frowned upon, SFTD was almost refreshing. In many ways, it was reminiscent of the Gurukul system in ancient India.

Taiko itself is a wonderful art form. There is something powerful about a Taiko performance. A single drum is an excellent percussion device, but in a group, Taiko takes a life of its own. Like most art forms, you can pick up the basics real quick. But to go deep into Taiko, you need time, patience and a lot of hard work. The veterans at SFTD have been playing for 10-15 years and still learning.

Needless to add, Taiko is also a fantastic full body workout. It is a combination of dance, drumming, music and more. The classes are fun, but you do need serious commitment if you want to become an advanced Taiko player. The folks in the adult beginners class are a merry bunch. Before our first class, I was extremely anxious, trying to memory numerals in Japanese from Wikipedia and worried whether I’ll be able to keep up with everyone. There was help every step of the way. The class won’t stop for you, but it will not leave you behind either :)

But the best part of SFTD is the opportunity to learn from Sensei Tanaka. His accomplishments in the world of Taiko are well known, so I won’t enlist them here. What surprised me was the humility and generosity and the energy he brings with him, even after doing this for more than four decades. He could easily delegate the adult beginners class to one of his many advanced students; yet he still routinely teaches the class himself, ever so patient and understanding. Better yet, his expertise in Taiko is matched only by his wistful humor.

So if you are in the Bay Area and are looking for some inspiration, do checkout San Francisco Taiko Dojo.

Udaan and Whitespace

There are movies, and then there are movies.

Udaan Poster

Udaan is one of those rare movies where it seems like the crew had an intense clarity about the movie they wanted to make, and that is exactly what they did. They did not make it for the money, they did not make it to please a broad audience, they did not make it to please the critics — they made it, because that was what they wanted to show.

I’m not going to talk about the story or the characters much, just Google those things if you are interested. Instead, I want to talk about an analogy.

Any good designer knows the importance of whitespace, whether in layout or typography. Architects have long understood that negative or empty space is just as (or perhaps more) important as filled space. Watching Udaan was a good reminder that good moments in a movie need their space as well.

I didn’t feel rushed as I saw the movie; it felt a bit slow at times, but there was no hurry to get to the end. There are several scenes that are made poignant by the lack of dialog. The same goes for the music. Amit Trivedi has done an outstanding job with the background score as well as the soundtrack. The lyrics (by Amitabh Bhattacharya) are fabulous and are fittingly given their space in the songs — Amit makes sure that the music recedes and does not overwhelm so you can pay attention to the words. But when the voices take a break, the music that fills in the gaps is just as good.

As my wife observed, “this movie has craft.”

How the mouse moves

Random interesting find of the day: IOGraphica. Here’s mine for about 7 hours at work:

Such a simple app, but such a fascinating output. An easy way to create computer generated art! Couple of observations:

  • I have a dual-monitor setup at work. I use the left monitor for email for browsing and the right monitor for code. The mouse patterns clearly reflect this usage pattern. I tend to rest the mouse roughly equally on the both the monitors.
  • I was very intrigued by the fact that most of the mouse motions are very smooth. Most curves almost look parabolic. There are very few jerks and jittery lines. Once again, nature seems poetic even in the most chaotic and random actions.