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Mad moments from Mad Men

Mad moments from Mad Men

You know what we don’t talk about enough? Mad men. It’s a great show and we still only mention it in passing. Well, yesterday, I realised that would have to change. If you haven’t watched up till season five, this post may contain spoilers.

I am all caught up with the series now and though I’m a little late to this party I allowed myself to be swept up in a decade of great fashion, old timey advertising, office politics and great, nuanced characters. Seemingly against my will, I found myself disliking some characters at first and then slowly growing to respect them (Hello Megan Calvet Draper). Through these five seasons I have laughing out loud, cried and actually come to terms with all the mainstream fuss about how Don Draper is the sexiest man in shoe leather (see what I did there, with that old timey phrase?)

Here, according to me are the best moments in the series:


How Roger and Draper met. The story is pure back handed humour. Oh Don, you crafty old dog you. Its great how the writers show that the young Don still had that kind of steel edged ruthlessness to him, though it always presents itself cloaked in charm and manners,

Joan Holloway Harris playing the accordion for her douche husbands doctor friends. Zou bisou be damned. If I had to pick musical highlights, this one wins hands down.

The boy Dick Whitman and his conversation with a passing tramp.

Betty Draper taking a shotgun out into the garden and cigarette firmly in mouth, aiming at her neighbours birds.

Pete and Trudy Campbell doing the Charleston.

Every single thing that ever came out of Roger Sterling’s mouth.

Peggy Olsen being adventurous, whether it was with her sexual identity or her lifestyle.

That moment when Don and Megan announce their engagement and the phone rings. “I’ll get it,” she says after there’s a huge pause where no one knows what to do. AWKWARD.

The way Don breaks up with people.

The way Don hooks up with people.

Roger’s LSD trip. How great is it, that an orchestra plays every time he opens a bottle.

The way the writers mixed up the timelines in season five. Example: Far away places.

Megan Draper angry. Now now, there’s no need to throw the plate at the wa…oh. well, that’s that I suppose.

The anti-anti-Disney post

The anti-anti-Disney post

I blame my older cousins for taking away my childlike naïveté. Did Santa really climb into our 4th floor apartment (through a locked window grill) while we were at midnight mass? (“They put the presents under the tree when you’re waiting at the car.”) The truth about where babies come from? (“I’m not lying. Here’s a dictionary, look up “intercourse””) The tooth fairy. (“Don’t tell them when the next one falls off and see what happens.”)

As it turns out I followed that last suggestion. Sure enough, the tooth was still under my pillow the next morning. Know what I did? I left the offending thing under my pillow and came to breakfast announcing that it fell off while I was brushing. I got my coin the next day. I know what you’re thinking, but no, I didn’t do it for the coin. I did it because I was pretending to myself, that the tooth fairy did exist and that the parent’s thing was a lie. As a kid and even now as an adult, I’d rather pretend, than face up to uncomfortable truths, even when I know better. That’s why when I see things like this on the internet, it irritates me. Come on. As children, we were told a lot of lies and now that we’re adult, we know better. That’s how life works but after cynicism became cool, people have forgotten to ignore and pretend. It seems to me that everywhere I look, there’s just more evidence of how pop culture in the 90’s set us 90’s kids up for a harsh world of bitter truths, or how Disney taught us all the wrong lessons (Hey thanks a lot, Disney. Because of you, I sing songs to random birds all day and think that the perfect kiss involves someone dipping me.)

The point I’m trying to make is simply this. Nobody took away any life lessons from the Disney princesses and from the 90’s. We just watched them and moved the fuck on. Lots of women today think that being kissed while you’re asleep by someone who’s never met you is borderline creepy (but if you’re into that, hey, no judgement) and the same women have probably watched, read and enjoyed Sleeping Beauty. And if any guy tries keeping an ordinary woman locked up against her will, the way the beast did belle, then he shouldn’t complain that he won’t be able to have children anymore.

As adults, we live and handle this world, the way it’s meant to be lived and handled or we die. The television we watched and the books we read when we were between the ages of 6 and 12, have nothing to do with how we live our lives today, so why bring it up and ruin a good thing? I think the ending of My fair lady is terribly unfeminist, but it’s still my favourite movie, right?

And life isn’t as dramatic at art and really Cracked? You’re going to blame The fox and the hound for segregation? Everybody should just please remain calm and slowly remove the coolness-crises arrow from their respective knees.

Oh, but I’m probably inclined to agree with this.

On another note, everyone please have a happy and safe Diwali. Remember, a great Diwali is a Diwali where our eardrums stay in one piece for usage through the remainder of our days.

 

What if life were more like theatre?

What if life were more like theatre?

If you think the headline of this post is arbitrary, then you obviously haven’t seen Neil Patrick Harris’s Opening speech for the Tony awards 2011. Side Note: It’s getting a little predicable that NPH breaks into song every award he hosts, but I for one am not complaining.

But no seriously, while it’s all very well for us to do high jumps and leap about madly, here’s just my two pennyworths on life being a stage and all of us actors (somebody famous said that; I’m not sure who)

For one, we wouldn’t wait so much, unless we were waiting for Godot. Half our days, years and lives are spent waiting for something whether it’s for something as mundane as a bus or a train or something large like the realisation of a cherished dream. If you listen to Sharanya and I, our days are divided by our actual, desultory lives and waiting for something awesome and magnificent to happen so we can ride the wave of brilliance and land up on the shores of a whole new world. If they wrote a play about our lives it would have to be one of those make-believe, fantasy ones where we wake up afterwards and say “Aw Shucks”.

If life were more like theatre, there would be more epiphanies. We’d follow our actions with lessons about the actions; we’d watch a fellow actor do something or say something that would impact our lives forever. We’d come to horrible, gripping realisations (“I’m a dime a dozen, Pop, and so are you.”- Biff Loman) or say things laced with irony and backstory (“Deliberate cruelty is unforgiveable and the one thing I have never, ever been guilty of.” – Blanche DuBois). We’d exclaim more and better (Stars hide your fires).

If life were more like theatre, we would never have to live down our mistakes and move on. We’d never let bad blood stay curdled and congealed and quiet, we’d excite it so it would bubble to the surface and gush out, making everything infinitely more dramatic. Estranged fathers and sons stay estranged and stony in real life, the prodigal son doesn’t really ever come home but he may end up crashing into a Ferrari and sending the bill to his old man, a best friend turned foe will never really confront you at sword point in the street and when you’re jealous, you won’t really strangle your girlfriend in her sleep.  As characters, we’d all have to be deeply damaged (again, Blanche comes to mind) or crazy, or happy or confused or deliberate or severe and we simply can’t be the confused mudge we are now. The worst thing? There’d be no denouement, no flourishing The End, no applause, no velvet curtain and no getting out of character to a sweet three minutes of audience appreciation (may or may not include roses thrown onto the stage). In real life, there’s just life which follows life which again follows life and it’s a vicious cycle until it ends when we die.

But seriously, like NPH says, wouldn’t it be grand?

Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty?

Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty?

Thank goodness October is coming to an end. What with the late evening monsoon rains and the blistering mornings, I for one, have had enough of this month. November is going to be more fun of course because it starts with the Weekender in Pune. It is finally upon us once again. YAAAAY. Let’s all high five because were so cool and hipster like that. (If you haven’t already checked this years line up, here it is.)

I have been thinking about the weekender and music festivals in general a lot this past week. I love being at a gig because it’s like the whole room is friends with each other. I went to my first concert pretty late in life. I was already in college and Parikrama was playing at MICA, Ahmedabad. The place was packed with a whole load of IIM, MICA and CEPT rock heads while the St. Xavier’s crowd (which included me), tried hard to look less preppy than they were. I’d tell you now, how Ahmedabad’s rock scene is pretty amazing and how we know all about alternative entertainment too, but you’d probably laugh or throw a Himesh joke at me, so let’s move on.

Of course I’ve been to more gigs since then and now I can finally say I’ve cracked the code. Gigs are not really gigs. They’re parties that are disguised as gigs. Live music can set your soul on fire because it’s happening right there in front of you and you can see it being made. I love it when people listen to music together; it makes you feel like you’re all part of something larger. It doesn’t even matter whether the person bouncing about next to you is a stranger or your best friend, when that chord is hit or the artist hits that note, you might as well be from the same womb.

Of course there are gigs that I haven’t enjoyed but the ones I have enjoyed more than make up for it. Some performances stay with me for days and days afterward. When Goldspot played at Blue Frog I smiled for a month.

The weekender last year was like that, only bigger and brighter. I have many memories, some happily obliterated due to excesses of liquid refreshment (Bring on the rum buckets! Aaar) but I especially remember bumping into people I knew from Bombay, trying to make my way to the electronic stage and getting sidetracked into staying at the Dewarist stage for a little longer. And I particularly remember running, racing, sprinting, actually, with a very close friend because we wanted to find someone and bring them to The Dewarist stage. We ran so hard and so far, fuelled by the energy we waste cooped up in day jobs that were the next step to something big, the energy of the cold evening air and the sounds of people having a great time everywhere around us. I hadn’t run that fast since I was a child and my heart was bursting. Music, like books and art, will do that to you sometimes.

Enter the Russians

Enter the Russians

The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment were names I’d just heard a lot, mostly from superior Delhi University type friends who spoke of the writer in tones of hushed awe and respect. I, in my whole life of reading, talking about reading and finding new things to read, had never read the Russian Masters so I decided to go for it. Two weeks ago, I began my first Dostoevsky. The Brothers Karamazov. And I couldn’t be happier. My train and bus commutes are like watching mini episodes of The Wire. In my head I’ve named my future children, Katerina and Anastasia. My days are filled with this book, its atmosphere, how it’s written. Of course, in two weeks I’ve barely made a dent in the tome but every page is promising. This book promises to be a family saga of great dramatic, proportions and so far I’m riveted like never before.

There are a couple of things I love so far about reading The Brothers Karamazov. One, the unnamed narrator, who seems to be the most chilled out guy on the planet. There is a bit in the text where he is giving the reader the story of Smerdyakovs birth and suddenly he brings the tale to a hasty end by saying apologetically, “But I must not bore you with stories of servants.” He seems so real to me, just like the rest of the characters do, but I don’t know anything about him except that he seems to belong to the same village as the Karamazovs. Will I learn his identity at page 1045, or is he going to be He who must not be named until the end. I don’t know.

The second thing I love about this book is the fact that each character is very lovingly and painstakingly sketched out but not in a way that makes me feel like I know them intimately. Some actions, the curl of a lip or a sneer perhaps, aren’t explained at all and I’m left wondering why the person did it. It’s like I’m watching the story unfold before me but I’m still not invited inside the actor’s heads. It’s very strange and unsettling. Sometimes, when a character is narrating a story to another – Dmitri Karamazov talking of why he is leaving his fiancé for instance – I somehow, seem to distrust them just a little bit. I catch myself thinking “I’m sure that’s not the whole story. He is definitely glossing over some things.”  I don’t know how Dostoevsky does it. I feel like I’m learning to read all over again.

The third thing that really fires every neuron in my brain is when the plot takes a whirl with drama. This morning, on the train, I missed my stop because I was so engrossed in a scene where Dmitri Karamazov throws his father to the floor and kicks his face with the heel of his boot.

It’s amazing. I have no idea why I haven’t read Dostoevsky before but I do know this. Now that I have started, no reading is likely to be the same.

Three pieces of literature that taught us true things about love

Three pieces of literature that taught us true things about love

And what it all comes down to is that love as an emotion is so powerful, every writer and his grandfather must use it in one way or another. From the star-crossed lover theme to unrequited love, poetry, drama and novels just plunk it in there. It was obviously easy to get it right at first (My love is like a red, red rose indeed). But as time passed, people changed. What’s more, facebook was invented and with it came relationship statuses. So literature started fucking it up. We got all manner of insipid pulp lit, supposedly about strong confident women, but with a love story at the heart of it. We got 50 shades of grey.

Wait, wait. This is not another one of my superior rants. I’m actually going to talk about books that got it right. There are several but only three have impacted my life and my perception of relationships that hold a romantic tenor.

The scene where lady Macbeth goes all “Be a man!” “From this time/ Such I account thy love.” OUCH. From Macbeth. Don’t even deny it. Sometimes in a relationship, the girl gets the guy to do stuff he wouldn’t do normally, by hinting delicately that he might not be man enough to rise to the occasion. It might not be as dramatic as murder, like it was over at casa Macbeth. But still, “Oh. Okay. I don’t know. Whichever guys I know think nothing of killing lizards. It’s sport to them.” Check. And mate.

Gloria and Anthony Patch from The Beautiful and the Damned. When insecure meets insecure, there can be no awesome. Write that down and put it up on the fridge. In my experience, the more insecure you are, the more you’ll stress out about not appearing insecure. It’s only human nature. That’s why in relationships, two messed-up souls who seem to have it together only end in tragedy. This makes for great and poignant story lines. But off the page, its more hysterical weeping over vodka martinis, punching walls, threatening to throw the beloveds possessions into a river or taking penknives to mattresses to carve out names into the coir. I may or may not have seen all of this in real life. Living in women’s hostels can be pretty instructive.

Scarlet and Rhett from Gone with the Wind. There I go defying my hipster-ness by citing the most talked about love story of all time after Romeo and Juliet (I’ll never be that much of a sellout.). The Scarlet and Rhett angle to love is the most amazing, because the can’t-see-past-the-end-of-ones-nose philosophy (Props Mary Poppins) happens to one in every four people. “Oh my god. Eddie liked me, when I liked Joe. But I actually liked Eddie all along. Isn’t that the craziest”? Cosmic misdirection and misread signals are the hugest part of this ladka-ladki chakkar. And only one novel nailed it.

I’m Mole!

I’m Mole!

You guys, I’m Mole. From the Wind in the Willows. I’ve only just realised it and had to weep to someone because who wants to be personality-less Mole? He hid himself underground till he was sick of it and then he attached himself to Rat and embraced a new life, but he was never as cool as Rat, though he always tried. I’ll probably never be as cool as Rat. It’s so creepy when an author or scriptwriter creates some sort of version of you that he totally dreamed up out of nowhere. It’s worse when its an animal. Hands up if you identify with at least two of the weirdest creatures from Alice in Wonderland (For me, it’s the flamingo at the croquet game, and in my incompetent days, Bill the Lizard, Jury Member from the Trial scene). I wonder if the writers know they’re doing it. It’s pretty damn annoying regardless.

As far as characters go I always like the ones that are not like me. If a character in a book or film, is too close to the real me for comfort, I’ll immediately back away. For instance, if I were to be completely honest, as a kid I was like the shy and timid Beth March but I avoided this absolute truth because I wanted to be feisty like Jo. In films too, I have to aspire to the personality types of characters, or I’ll hate them right off the bat. I’d rather be happy-go-lucky and risk taking Kumar than the uptight, paranoid play by the rules Harold but I suspect that the opposite is true. I totally want to be House MD, witty and brilliant, but I’m so completely Wilson – seemingly well-adjusted and easily manipulated.

So anyway, since I’m on this whole self-actualisation trip, I might as well come clean. These are three characters that I’d want to think I’m like, against the one’s I’m actually like.

What I want to be: Bobbie Wickham and/or Stiffy Byng from the Jeeves series. Spontaneous, quick on their feet and inventor of hare-brained schemes that never end up working.

What I’m actually like: Florence Craye, pseudo-intellectual and little formidable and scary. “The root of the trouble was that she was one of those intellectual girls, steeped to the gills in serious purpose, who are unable to see a male soul without wanting to get behind it and shove.” Bertie Wooster, Joy in the morning. Sigh. It’s kind of true.

What I want to be: Kima Greggs from the Wire. Capable, smart and quick.

What I am: The Bunk. Good at his job, but undeniably lazy and disgruntled with everything.

What I want to be: House MD. Witty, sexy, confident, brilliant, self-assured and downright amazing.

What I am: Wilson. Sidekick to awesomeness.

What I want to be: Stan from Southpark. Chilled out and cool. He even has a girlfriend until he went goth. (“They’re all a bunch of conformist bastards.”)

What I am: Tweak. I can panic on demand. My philosophy is “If there’s a reason, even a small one, to flip out like a pancake, do it and don’t think twice.” A lot of people think Tweak’s character was over the top. Not so. I’m like that. I even twitch when I’m nervous.

Okay that’s enough honesty for today. I still want you guys to like me after all (another reason why I’m like Wilson) and I don’t want you’ll to walk away saying “she’s the crazy half of this project.” That’ll just be sad.

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