Category Archives: Blog

Make, Create, Do

Three things I should be doing right now, but am failing at miserably. It is so easy to sit in front of an empty computer screen (empty but for the baleful glare of the white Word document), and let your mind drift. I see the riches that will pour into my hands when I become a best-selling novelist, the smart quips I will deliver at literary festivals, the change I can effect in children’s lives through my persuasive morals and admirable characters. I proudly declared on my college application form that I wanted to ‘be the next J K Rowling’. That I would create the next Harry Potter.

Doesn’t seem to have happened.

Because it’s easy to dream, it’s harder to buckle down to it and work. My friend has just gotten a novel published. We’ve both talked about the day when we would be celebrated writers, but unlike me, the daydreaming and glory-spying Slytherin, she went ahead and actually wrote her book. Hufflepuffian work ethic does count for something. It might not sound as fancy as the Slytherin ambitousness, but it gets you places.

When I am uninspired (which is fairly often), I listen to or read Neil Gaiman’s famous commencement address, ‘Make Good Art’. I think the man is a genius, and fervently hope to be like him when I grow up (a state whose attainment I postpone every year), so of course I take everything he says to his devoted fanbase very seriously. I put down random quotes from the speech on the sticky notes on my desktop, I quote him in my favourite quotes list on Facebook, I gush about him to all and sundry. But I have failed to put his advice into practice, haven’t I? Aye, there’s the rub.

It’s easier to say that I want to make, create, do something that causes people to admire me, read me, look me up on the internet, than to actually log off my phone, get off whatsapp, ignore the insistent Facebook notifications (which, really, are not that insistent. I like to pretend that they are). It’s easier to dream about what my panel at a litfest will be called rather than write the piece or say the words that would get me there. It’s easier to say that I am a Slytherin than to actually put the house’s principles into practice.

Not the principles that Voldemort and his cronies declared in their manifesto, of course. The other bit- about being ambitous and clever and wending your way to the top. Ends are not always bad for Slytherins, nor are the means. The books, to a great extent, stooped to simplifying and thereby vilifying the house. But an angst post about the literary and ethical demerits of this will appear at a later time.

The point of this post, really, is to say that I must Make, Create, Do. A public declaration has often had the effect of me feeling (sometimes nonexistent) judging eyes, deriding me if I fail to later keep up with the spirit of my words. I am hoping that this will have that effect, and that my lazy Muse will dust himself off or come back from his vacation in the wilds of wherever she/he has disappeared to.

Accio inspiration!

In hiberna noctum

This evening, I revisited a piece of music that was a constant companion of mine last winter. It rang out in my little hostel room, its re-run frequency reaching its peak around 5:30- 6:30 in the evening, as the season leached sunlight from the day. It’s not the most cheerful thing to listen to when you’re getting used to seasonal shifts, or in a constantly weepy mood, or living in a chilly hostel room with the threat of exams hanging over your head. But it’s beautiful and mysterious, and is so perfectly ‘Potter’ for those very reasons.

If there’s one thing the Harry Potter movies did well, it was the music. You can almost hear the growing darkness as you progress musically through the series- from the soaring and magical ‘Hedwig’s Theme’ that forms the backbone of the soundtrack for the first two movies, to the bittersweet air of ‘Lily’s theme’ that riddles the second  half of the seventh. As Harry grows older, the music ages with him, highlighting the increasingly personal nature of his fight against the Dark.

‘In Noctem’ was originally part of the movie- sung by the Hogwarts choir in a deleted scene. As clouds gather and ominous thunder rattles the windows of the castle, the various residents hold their breath, waiting for something momentous to happen. That something momentous turns out to be the attack on the school, orchestrated by Draco Malfoy (whose role in the book made me believe that he would turn out to be an important character in ‘DH’. Alas, I was wrong).  This is the invasion that results in the death of Dumbledore, an event which explains the lyrics of the song (‘Tell the ones, the ones I love, I never will forget’) and the final farewell they imply.

I think ‘In Noctem’ fits in wonderfully with the overall darker, more mature tone of ‘Half Blood Prince’ (the movie, the book read like a typical high school romance in parts). It’s a shame they cut this scene out, it would have been good payoff for all the stalking we’d done of Malfoy. Not to mention it would have finally shown him in the decisive moment of swinging his feet off his bed and walking into the war.

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Of course, one could argue that Malfoy started this journey when he took the Mark. But when we see him in the first few scenes of the movie (and the first chapters of the book), he still comes across as a schoolyard braggart, a kid in over his head and not realizing it, more taken with the glamour of being part of something that his idolized father belongs to than understanding what exactly that movement stands for, or the sacrifices it will demand of him. Over the year, he comes to realize the seriousness of Voldemort’s threats and the importance of the success of his mission. At the end, he is as adult as he will ever be in the pages of the Potter books- he makes a decision and then lives to regret the consequences.

I loved the development of Malfoy’s character in ‘HBP’, and I think Tom Felton did a great job translating his struggle in the movie. I rather wish Rowling had continued to give him some amount of attention in ‘DH’- the omission of Draco character building was one of the major problems I had with the book. It is as though he is fated, like the rest of his Slytherin housemates, to pass unlamented in noctum, to stage their struggles and transitions to adulthood off-screen, or on the director’s floor with the other deleted, shorn bits of the films.

 Carry my soul into the night.

In a boat with an adult Bengal Tiger

Three nights ago, I watched the Life of Pi movie.

In preparation for it, I read a bunch of reviews, whatever I could find online. One of them (Vulture) called it ‘transcendent’, another said it was ‘not long enough’ and yet another applauded the stunning visuals and noted that Ang Lee, celebrated director of Oscar winning films, had outdone himself. None made too much mention of the actors or the effectiveness with which Martel’s story had been translated on screen. I’ll make that my business then.

And just to get it out of the way- yes, the film is beautiful. It is spectacular, in the true sense of the word. There were so many moments at which I thought Ang Lee couldn’t possibly do better, only to be proved wrong within the next 15 minutes. It is visually probably the most lovely film you will ever see.

(The actual sinking of the ship and one shot within a swimming pool impressed me in particular.)

Though he is by no means the focus of the film (no actor is, really), Suraj Sharma does a wonderful job. It was so heartening to see that a first time teenage actor can be GOOD, that not all of them are cut of the cloth that made Kristin Stewart or Alia Bhatt. He was innocent and troubled when he needed to be, angst ridden and drained at other times, and overall, gave no indication that half the time, he was all alone in the filming sequence. He LOOKED like there was a tiger with him at all times, giving greater reality to the CG animal.

But again, like I said, the movie was certainly not actor-reliant. What propelled it was the overall cinematography. They could have cast any newcomer in the role, and if he had done a half-decent job, it would have worked. Kudos to Suraj for doing a more than half decent job.

The story- like I said earlier, when I read the book, I didn’t really ‘get’ it. The impact of that statement ‘When you look into an animal’s eyes, you see only the reflection of what you feel’, didn’t hit  me at all. In the movie however, there is a particular sequence that brings it out beautifully and vividly. I’m not going to spoiler it for you and tell you which one- but sufficeth to say that that was my favourite, favourite sequence of them all.

Richard Parker was amazingly lifelike. The friend I watched the movie with turned around at one point and asked ‘How did they train a tiger to DO all that?’. He didn’t even realize it was a CG device! While some may laugh at his naivete, I choose to look at it as a comment on the incredible richness and perfection of the CG animals in this movie. There was never a moment at which Richard Parker wasn’t moving or making a sound that a real Bengal Tiger wouldn’t have made. From little purrs to hacking roars to deep-throated growls, Richard Parker, or his supervising team, delivered.

The movie left me feeling curiously adrift and thoughtful, much like Pi was for most of its 125 minute length. It neither confirms nor denies the assertion that Pi’s father makes somewhere near the beginning, that animals do not have souls. Richard Parker is there for Pi at the most trying moment of his life, and without him, or whatever he represents, Pi would certainly not have survived. At the same time, you are never led to think of him as anything OTHER than a Bengal Tiger, a dangerous animal that you cannot turn your back on without great risk. He is not a pet, not a dog who will feel something like gratitude and look after you in turn. No, Richard Parker is a beast of the jungle, and he will never let you forget that.

‘Life of Pi’ is definitely a movie worth watching, and worth watching well, on the big-screen in 3D. Whether it’s the childish pleasure derived from watching flying fish nearly hit you, to appreciating the pure beauty of a whale breaking the ocean surface (and causing Pi to lose most of his provisions in the process), every image demands star treatment. It caters to everyone- those who want to be jolted into thinking about the deeper questions of the meaning of life, and those who just want to watch a good seafaring/adventure tale. Go see it, if you haven’t already.