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Theatre on screen

Theatre on screen

First, happy 2013. Second. I presume you have all unlike me, not been living under a rock and have therefore watched 2009 film Nine. Sometimes, the earth shakes under your feet and you find yourself questioning the very foundation upon which you have built your life. For me, the foundation is musicals and the day was two weeks ago. I discovered that not only had I not watched Nine, a bonafide musical in the flesh, starring Daniel Day Lewis and a bevy of lovely ladies but I had not so much as heard of it. I pounced like those lions do when they spy a gazelle.

In a minute I was plunged in the somewhat messed up head of Luigi Contini, a genius Italian movie man in the 1950s who finds himself driven to near madness by the women in his life.  As far as musicals go, this one is for those of you who either really, really, really love the genre or want to see sweet-faced Marion Cotillard play an injured wife or Penelope Cruz play a sassy but insecure mistress. Yes that’s Penelope Cruz and Marion Cotillard in the same movie but for those of you who want steamier stuff there’s a heavy lidded Fergie (the whore), a crisper than fresh toast Judi Dench (the confidant), an elegant but puffy-lipped Sophia Loren (the mother), a svelte blonde Nicole Kidman (the muse) a blonde and playful Kate Hudson (the temptation). Still, though the movie was very much to my liking, I couldn’t shoo away the nasty suspicion that it would have been about 20,000 times better had I seen it as a stage production.

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Which got me thinking about screen adaptations of theatre and how technically the movie screen short changes us without us knowing it. Let’s face it, about 80 per cent of those who don’t have the luxury of looping on a Burberry scarf and “going to catch a show” in New York, have to rely on movies like Mary Poppins, Chicago, The Lion King, The little shop of horrors and so on to get our fix. If you ever want to compare Disney’s The Lion King to the stage production, Youtube it. But I warn you, the movie will never be the same for you. The stage affords so much more grandeur. I guess the point of all of this is, I’d better get rich fast and catch a real Broadway show, where a stage is packed to the rafters (pointless show, don’t ever watch) with singing, leaping, pirouetting dancers. Hashtag wishlist. Hashtag get rich or die trying.

Gushing over The Inbetweeners, because I can

Gushing over The Inbetweeners, because I can

The great thing about writing for your own website is that nothing ever really gets put away. No story is too dated because see, if Small Fry was a publication, I would never have been able to have my little gush about The Inbetweeners, an old show (E4 aired the pilot in 2008) that I recently discovered and loved instantly.

The Inbetweeners follows the misadventures of four teenage boys in some humdrum English town that for some reason reminds me of Pune. The characters are amusing, though they somehow become caricatures of a type. There’s the uptight Will, also the narrator of the show, who wears blazers over his school sweater and is unbelievably pretentious and stuffy. There’s the naive Simon, who somehow gets cuter as he gets more pathetic. There’s the little pervert Jay who’s got plenty of British swagger and who believes he’s irresistible (he’s not) and then Neil, the dumb one, who personifies the adage, ignorance is bliss. The show has incredible tight plots, razor sharp dialogue and thankfully, the teenage angst is kept to a bare minimum. And despite its obviously exaggerated comic sequences, a lot of the banter seems real.

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The boys have all agreed that Will’s mother is “fit” and insist on holding long drawn out conversations involving their fantasies of her in front of Will. It’s this kind of light hearted rubbish that makes the episode easy to digest, but not in a moronic way. After weeks of watching shows like Breaking Bad and Homeland, it feels good to just sit back and laugh. And oh, the way I laughed. I have this theory that things just sound funnier in a British accent and it’s no secret that the more slang a show gives me, the happier I get. Of course, I wouldn’t know if it is legitimate British schoolboy slang, but get this… A party with girls is a “party knee deep in Muff or Cludge.” (Don’t ask), and for some absurd reason being gay is “being bent.” I mean, who cares if it’s realistic?

Also, one character I’m particularly fond of is the irate, bitingly witty, sometimes downright evil head of the Sixth Form, Mr Gilbert. That could be because years of reading the Just William series has given me a certain soft spot for evil school headmasters who viciously pour hate-orade on their students. (Snape did have the funniest lines) Seriously though, out of the million reasons you should watch the Inbetweeners, Gilbert is in the top five. Great unwholesome, laugh till you cry entertainment is number one.

South Park FTW

South Park FTW

Opinion on whether South Park is the most amazing show on earth is divided.  There are the people who believe that it’s obnoxious, crude, filthy and that watching it for hours at a stretch can affect your mental balance in the kind of way only a sputtering Arnab Goswami can.

I am an objective outside observer. There was a phase in my life, a dark phase, where I was unemployed, disillusioned and uncertain. That phase was spent in a haze of South Park. When I think of that period of my life, I remember dreaming of small squat little boys talking in unnaturally high pitched voices. When I cried myself to sleep, I imagined my eyes as little crosses and for a really long time my days were divided into reality (which alternated between frenzied job applications and a kind of comatose stupor) and Southpark.

Well, that phase of my life is over and now I can only watch one Southpark episode or maximum two at a time. Still I think of those days fondly and I remember even now, what an extraordinary and clever series it really was. So what if it gives you a headache sometimes, here are some reasons it kicked some serious ass.

All cool shows have a little slice of satire but I’ve never seen it so delicately executed as it was in Southpark. Every other episode has a “haha-but-that’s-so-true” moment and what’s brilliant is it’s delivered with the kind of unintelligent toilet humour that would otherwise make you sick.

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That twisted brilliant episode “Scott Tennerman must die.”

The running gags. Whether it’s someone killing Kenny again (“Those bastards.”) or Stan barfing all over his girlfriend Wendy, you really have to hand it to the show for keeping ridiculous crap like that consistently funny. And for over 13 seasons.

The characters. Sure, they’re just a bunch of annoying sounding, dirty mouthed little dudes being wildly inappropriate and having dope adventures in a hick mountain town, but dig deeper. There are some profound character sketches there. Remember Butters? Timmy? Or even Token Black? (because he was the token black kid, geddit?). There are layers to these guys, that you wouldn’t even believe.

Out of the blue literary references.  Would I like a little Charles Dickens along with this weeks episode? Yes I would, please and thankyou. There is dialogue lifted straight out of A Christmas Carol in the episode Starvin Marvin, in season one. And it fits beautifully into the context of the plot.

Celebrities. Tons of them, worked into zany unbelievable story lines. A rogue Barbra Streisand. A hunted gone to seed Britney spears.

The lines “Godammit, Cartman,” ,“Screw you guys, I’m going home.” And the vague expression “M’kaaaay.”

Political satire, current affairs and alternate universes.

It’s unashamed inoffensiveness.

Give it a try, maybe  a second chance. This animated series is a study in awesomeness. Just dont watch it when you’re unemployed.

Old school forever

Old school forever

Hey, remember when Reader’s Digest used to be good? Remember when there used to be fights about who got to read it first, till things got ugly and there were time slots allotted to each family member? Remember when the joke page used to actually make you laugh? Remember when there were bleeding heart stories about how a mother helped her five year old son fight cancer, or adventure stories about how someone fought off a grizzly bear? That slim, notebook sized volume had such a great exhaustive tank of good reading, that I remember certain stories even to this day. Ooh, remember the one where…ah never mind. I don’t recall exactly when it was that the magazine just straight up stopped being as entertaining as it used to be. I’ll wager it was around the time Brooke married her 700th Forrester husband on The bold and the beautiful.

But the magazine had some glory years, I’ll tell you that much. Reader’s Digest and the National Geographic were the only two magazines that my household didn’t give away to the raddi waala. You just didn’t do that kind of stuff. For years, a falling down bookcase in my grandmother’s house held editions from the early eighties. Tattered things that held great big-hearted true life stories. And we even had a separate shelf that held those special edition RD Volumes- you know the ones that were denser than the Bible. Yeah, we were purists all right.

Sundays were spent at my grandparent’s little cottage back then and there were three main events in the day. Lunch, which was always amazing. A 3 o’clock, kids movie on Star Movies. And then going to the bookshelf and choosing a dusty, hard cover volume of Readers Digest, special edition. The dust would stick to my fingers and mix with the sweat on my palm and form a kind of grimy paste, but I would read lovely illustrated stories like Good Morning Miss Dove, My son Goggle, Old Yeller and Mr Hobbs Holiday. There was no greater joy than a Sunday and reading.

I was reminded of this exhilarating joy when I read this argument recently. Its heavy stuff, but let me sum up the essence of what Piper is saying. A real book, a paper and jacket cover and ink book, actually stands for something larger that what it is. It’s how your body acts when it’s reading. How you lie down on your back, holding your book up on your stomach, or on your stomach with your ankles crossed in the air, or propped up on your elbow, or sitting up at a table or whatever. When you’re reading a book, your whole damn body is reading with you. Your fingers feel the paper, the paper yellows over time and the heavy weight of a book in your hands can never ever be replaced by some cold, chrome thing. In any case, I’m fighting a lost cause. Technology will be technology after all and it will go on ahead and change lifestyles and values. But it gets me upset, because when it comes to certain things, nothing beats old school. Reading and literature is one of those things. A grandiose Forrester wedding is another.

Lucy Lawless is Ron Swanson’s new love interest and other stories

Lucy Lawless is Ron Swanson’s new love interest and other stories

We’re changing it up, guys. That’s right. Instead of a tribute apiece every week, Sharanya and I will be doing an incredibly cool round up of what’s been making news the past week, what amazing thing the internet has thrown up and just other things that made us squeal with delight or weep in abject despair. Don’t worry. We’ll still write tributes to our heroes (and trust me, we’ve not even made a dent in the barrel of guys we love), but we’ll just write them as columns. Send us what you think of the new format. Or just continue loving us and sharing our stuff and generally making us feel cool about ourselves.

Exactly one month from now NBC’S Parks and Recreation will return to your television screens- err your laptop. Savour the feel of that for a moment. Are you doing it? Yeah? Okay! Ah Parks and Rec. The super enthusiastic Leslie Knope. The ever-cheerful Chris Tregar. Tom Haverford and his over exfoliated hands. And Ron Swanson. If there’s anyone who I’m dying to meet again it’s the all-male rock star who gave us the Swanson pyramid of greatness, hates government and is so awesomely manly that his toenails have to be sanded down (too strong for clippers). Which is why, I was super kicked to hear that Xena – The Warrier freaking princess, Lucy Lawless is going be Ron’s love interest in the next season. Though the two Tammys made for some fun times, it’s time to move on. Ron needs an all-woman ass kicker. And I have high expectations for the season, you guys. Will Donna Meagle become more than just her Benz? Will Tom and Ann last or will they be Dun-zo? Will they give Jean Ralphio more screen time? High expectations. Really high.

Two words. Pussy Riot. Either you just said, “I knoooooow, that’s terrible.” Or you just shrugged. Or you Googled. I feel the same way. I haven’t listened to their music and I haven’t seen any of their videos, but this is just way canned. Is George Orwell, looking smugly down on all of us? Is someone keeping track over how slowly, so many governing bodies are quietly extinguishing basic human rights?

So, we know that Harry Potter is probably the greatest thing that ever happened to me when I was in my teens. Well, him and the fact that we got an internet connection at home when I was 14. But you know, what do I know? My fan girl-ness extends to gushy blog posts and willing “Accio Maggi cup noodles” to work when I’m too lazy to get dinner. This, right here, is the real deal. As the story suggests, you will either love this table instantly and or you’ll brush it off, and judge people who like it. I’m in the first category. Really. Why don’t fans do fun things like this more often, instead of writing lame best selling BDSM novels? Oh the fame and glory thing. Right.

Sidin Vadukut’s column on the Olympics, is the greatest thing about the games apart from the actual games, cough circus cough, themselves. Yes, it beats Michelle Jeneke’s dance warm up. And by a very small margin, Mary Kom.

What is UP with Star World’s promotions for Grey’s Anatomy? What would Meredith do? Seriously? Seems to me, whatever rubbish is going on in my life, I would always strive to do the exact opposite of whatever Meredith would. I stopped watching Greys Anatomy when every character in the show had at some point or another slept with the other. I don’t ever want it suggested that weepy, annoying Meredith Grey and I may have something in common. Please. Don’t. My life is sad enough as it is.

So apparently, Sarah Palin was a Little House fan when she was a kid. This article uses Palin as a start off point to delve once again into who actually wrote those stories of the pioneering Ingalls family (So, Rose Lane rewrote her mother’s diaries. Big deal). I actually found the story interesting because of the new things I found out. Thing number one; Lane and Ayn Rand were friends? WHUT? Somehow it’s hard to find a connect between Atlas Shrugged and the fact that Pa shot a Christmas turkey about the size of a small cow. Thing number two? Lane was part of the Parisian Jazz age of the twenties. From a farm in Missourie. Talk about taking “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore,” to the next level.

 

– Sheena

 

In which we get incredibly self-indulgent

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In which we get incredibly self-indulgent

Let me take a moment here to pat our backs, raise a drink, and generally discuss how awesome we are.

Project Small fry is now a full four months old. *A million hi-fives all around.* And yes it’s a huge deal. As writers, Sheena and I are two terrible things, lazy and arrogant. I can tell you from experience, that you cannot start out like that.

The wonderful thing is, the PSF you see and read now is actually a continuation of a tiny idea we had a year ago. One day, we were stuffing our faces with cinnabon at Pali Naka and we had one of those “where are we going conversations” that were becoming all too common. We were feeling extremely hemmed in at our jobs and life had lost its sparkle and charm. We are in our 20’s dammit! We should be doing kickass things like writing plays and going to Assam! People at coffee shops should be talking about us! The president should be inviting us to tea!

As writers we had forgotten about writing for us. At work, it was work. We started saying meh at each byline, we pitched story ideas that got shot down. We read constantly and felt envious perpetually. We were restless and bored with company. Partying and alcohol had lost its flavor. We needed a 180 degree whirl of epic amazingness.

After whining and crying and hoping that blank word documents would show us the way, we decided to do something about it.

Let’s write! For the love of writing and for the discipline we lacked. We wrote down rules.

Basic Rules

Must write 5 articles in a week.

Articles 1, 2 and 3 must be submitted before 12pm of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Articles 4 and 5 can be submitted anytime between Friday and Sunday (12am)

Minimum word count: 100 words

Fiction and non-fiction may be submitted.

No poetry. Nobody wants to read that.

All posts must be marked ‘read’ by the other member. Feedback is optional.

If any of the co-founders want to add a rule, a mutual consensus must be arrived at by discussion.

Exemptions

You are allowed to slack off three times in a month, no questions asked.

An extra two can be taken in case of death or displacement.

Punishments

If articles 1, 2 and 3 are not submitted before deadline (a half an hour margin may be kept), the defaulter will be charged 50 Rs.

On slacking off more than three times a month, a fine of 100 Rs will be levied.

If either member backs out mid-month (due to de-motivation, extreme cynicism or any other reason) the fine levied will be 800 Rs.

We were pretty broke at this time, so having to pay money seemed like good motivation.

We started off superbly, we were eager and this little secret project of ours made us feel incredibly cool. I came up with the name Small Fry and it seemed like a great idea to call it Project small fry, like it was an important mission like Project Manhattan or Project Chicago. What? It was a big deal for us.

We wrote stories filled with angst and philosophy, about moon gazing and navel gazing, our fickle lives in this fickle city and about the illusions of passion and the hollowness of existence. Little vignettes that tried to be dark and funny. Short fiction that we would break up into series to take the pressure off. Gosh, we were cute.

For the first month, we sent in our stories way before deadline and discussed it excitedly the next day at work (we shared a desk). And by the end of it (4 months it lasted. Kind of poetic, no) we were writing it 3 minutes before deadline.

When it became a chore, we gave it up.

Six months later, we were back to our emo gtalk conversations about our lives and where we were heading.

Then randomly, one day, Sheena sent me an outline for a website. A tribute, two columns….

We both had the same guidelines in our head, don’t write for the lowest common denominator (we do that at work anyway and we were inspired by David Simon’s “Fuck the average reader” philosophy.), don’t explain all your references, if they didn’t get it, they were not our intended readers anyway. And just like that, this website began.

Every Sunday, we sit down with our laptops for about 5 hours, 3 out of which are spent talking or playing scrabble and writing.

It’s been four months since we started. We figured out wordpress, asked all our friends for opinions and masthead designs and even if four months is nothing to get nostalgic about, what the hell.

Okay now for the next bit. We are changing things up here a bit. The Dr. Deman column is now defunct. No, we haven’t run out of heroes, hero-worshipping comes naturally to us. But there will be a whole new thing to look forward to next week and you guys are going to love it. YAAAAAAY. Already, so much excite.

 

Picture by Nikhil Chalam

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