RSS Feed

Author Archives: sheena dlima

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.

Please stand up

Please stand up

If you live in Bombay, off late you’re probably measured for coolness by the number of times you’ve visited The Comedy store at Palladium. The Dark knight? Sure. NH7 Weekender? Definitely!  But XXXX’S set at The Store, OMFGSOFUNNYIALMOSTKILLEDMYSELF. I’m not exaggerating. Yes, I admit that the heady rush of exhilaration has died down somewhat. In 2010, it was the biggest thing since Jesus. Suddenly every publication in the country was doing profiles of upcoming talent and writing trend stories that just about stopped short of taking off their metaphorical shirts and throwing them on stage. Acquaintances wanted to be comedians. During sets, women friends made eyes and started touching their hair a lot. Twitter exploded with one-liners from hopeful amateurs. And amateur nights? Yeah, there was probably a bar somewhere in Belapur or Thane, that didn’t have one.

At Project Small Fry, we attempt to document the vein of a subculture that may in the future be held as the first record of the stirrings of a great youth movement. What do you mean, we don’t really do that? Well, the “babble” about TV and books are supposed to be a build up, okay? In any case, we’re a big fan of stand up comedy ourselves. We follow who needs to be followed on Twitter, we go to The Store (if we can afford the tickets) we free ourselves for things like this. All this is reason enough, to try and write about what’s great and not so great, about the stand up comedy scene in the city.

What’s great:

It’s a lovely alternative entertainment option. And it isn’t always expensive. Shows with local talent cost as much as the latest (dumb) Bollywood screening at PVR. And you get to listen to someone poke fun at the latest (dumb) Bollywood screening at PVR.

It will open your life to a lot of off-the-beaten-track entertainment options. Fun fact: Comedians are a restless bunch, always trying to break new ground and work on new cool projects. Like All India Bhakchod, a podcast by comedians Tanmay Bhat and Gursimran Khamba, for example. The more projects, the more laughs. It’s simple maths really.

You will start giving mainstream entertainment the slimmest sliver of a chance. A month ago, the only reason I’d agree to watch even 30 minutes of programming on MTV, would be if you told me that Raghu was converting to Buddhism live on Roadies season 8. Now, when I hear that a comedian I like, had something to do with the script of a television show or wrote such-and-such awards ceremony, I’m more likely to watch. Read Sharanya’s column this week to understand what I mean.

Jokes about Andheri. Jokes about parliament. Jokes about Pooja Bedi. Win.

What’s not so great:

Nine times out of ten, a stand up routine is not somewhere I would take my mother. Now calm down. I’m not talking about the cussing or even the jokes about religion. But, speaking as someone who is actually a patron of stand up, I gotta say, sometimes, comedians get carried away with the laughs. When that happens you can almost see the blood of super human recklessness rush to their faces before they leap, Willy Wonka like, over the line that goes from hilarious to offensive. Check out this clip from Louis, a clever sketch show by legendary comedian Louis CK. Jokes that skim the edges of sensitive issues had best make a point. If it’s a potshot without a point, I won’t laugh. Why should I?

The bandwagon people. These are the people in the audience who are laughing so hard, they’re almost doubled over. “What did he just say? I missed it,” You might ask of such a person. “Oh. I didn’t catch it either,” they’ll reply, eyes streaming over with mirth. So annoying. Though technically, this isn’t stand ups fault. It’s kind of the fault of human nature.

That’s all folks. More about this trend when it develops, I guess. For now, we love how stand up is going in the city. We love the veterans and the newer comics.  We love how fresh and new it all is. We love how funny has become a business and how it’s new enough to not be tainted (as far as we know) with the hypocrisy of most industries in the country. We love that years from now, when it actually is tainted, we’ll be able to shake our heads and say that this, 2010 to 2012, was comedy’s golden era, that we were unknowingly part of a revolution in entertainment and that we wrote about it on Project Small Fry.

%d bloggers like this: