In Love with La La Land

Ingrid Bergman once said, “Film as dream, film as music. No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.” These lines, while written about cinema in general, hold passionately true for La La Land.

Anybody who knows me knows I can talk nineteen to a dozen about movies. However, I always find it strangely difficult to explain what specifics I love in the movies that I really, really fall in love with. La La Land is one such film. I could talk objectively about the movie, and say that the cinemascope shots, the frames, the mis-en-scene, the LA skies, the jazz music, the costumes, the set designs, the intricate balance between reality and dream, the cinematography, the acting, the choreography, the script… are all perfect to the T. But I would not feel like I am doing the movie any justice. I feel like the audience can tell when a movie is a labour of love, sweat, tears and aspirations – it bounces off the movie frame and reverberates in the hearts and minds of the people who are experiencing it. La La Land is the best example of that feeling.

From the very first shot of the LA skies and the mind-bogging traffic, I was transported to another world. The entire movie seemed to be tinted with a magical touch. The characters were grounded in reality, but were grandiose at the same time. Director Damien Chazelle struck the perfect balance between making them human, but also extraordinarily other-worldly.

Technically, one of the very clear reasons I immediately took to the movie was the use of jazz music. The movie had some amazing jazz pieces built brilliantly, and made me fall in love with old jazz all over again. Furthermore, all the small bits that comprise a whole film were in perfect harmony with each other. The lighting in the film complemented the music; the music complemented the costumes; the costumes complemented the dances; and the actors complemented each other. I can only imagine the painstaking efforts that would have gone into achieving such a feat.

I was also overwhelmed with the feeling of nostalgia while watching the movie. There is a kind of timelessness to the movie that is difficult to pinpoint – the characters drive a Prius and use mobile phones, but really, the story could have been happening in the early 1920s for all its worth. It reminded me a little of old Hollywood classic musicals like Casablanca, Singin’ in the Rain and many, many others. For a film lover, this movie is pure delight. However, even for people who have previously scowled at the mention of song-and-dance musicals, there might be something marvelously magnificent to witness here.

While the movie did everything right when it came to the technique, it never once missed a beat when came to the feelings, the characters and the story either. In its essence, La La Land is a straight-forward story of people who aspire for bigger things (or “The Fools who Dream”, as Emma Stone crooned) – however, it is the small moments that the movie got completely right. The awe and wonder on Mia’s face when she sees Sebastian play Jazz for the first time, the fluttering of hearts when hands touch, the floating feeling of falling in love, the disappointment, the hurt of rejection, the fear of failure, the maturity of adult love that believes in letting go..all of it is nuanced. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling do not sing a single false note in this grand orchestra. Emma Stone has (rightly I must add) received a lot of praise for her impeccable acting. She is a myriad of emotions in every single frame, and she is beautiful. However, I would also like to speak about Ryan Gosling for a minute. His is the more “internalized emotions” brand of character. There is a scene where he overhears Emma Stone’s Mia speak to her parents about him, and the look of happiness, love, guilt, shame, and all else that lies in between this spectrum will break your heart. He wants to justify to the world why he deserves the love of a good woman. It is heartbreaking and brilliant in equal measures. He provides Emma Stone enough material to play with so that she delivers a performance that will be remembered for years to come.

This is one cinematic experience that should not be missed – if only to remind us that there is incredible beauty in nostalgia and wistfulness as well.

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A day in the life of a technical writer

7.30 am: You wake up. You have decided you WILL read during your free time today. Not just technical documents carelessly written by the developers, but actual books. You know, the ones you used to read. A thousand years ago.

9:30 am: You reach your desk, all pumped for the day. You are going to complete the work you have, but take periodic breaks to read at least 20 pages of the book that has been lying at your desk from the past two years.

9:32 am: You open your system, and see that the build of a toolkit broke. You panic, a hundred percent convinced the changes you made earlier caused the build failure.

10 am: You have finished building all the components you worked on, trying to rectify your mistake. Everything looks okay, but years of low self esteem issues convince you that you did something wrong.

10:30 am: You gather the courage to approach the Powers That Be and ask them about the build break.

10:40 am: They laugh condescendingly at you, and throw a bunch of technical jargon, which ultimately means you did nothing wrong.

11 am: You are already an hour and a half later than the schedule you had set up in your head about finishing reviewing the PDF for your team member. You decide to be review it quickly and efficiently.

12:00 pm: You are 6 pages in, in a PDF that is 60 pages long. A real sense of panic is gnawing at your core at this point. You chide yourself for nitpicking, and decide to speed things up.

1:30 pm: Due to constant encouragement from your inner Goddess, you are 25 pages in. You smile as you lock your system to go for lunch.

2:20 pm: After spending a good part of the lunch hour playing mobile phone games or discussing the person you used to be, instead of reading THAT DAMN BOOK, you return to your desk, to continue your review work.

5:30 pm: You have successfully finished reviewing the PDF. You almost write a mail about having finished reviewing when you realized that you missed checking for consistency across standards in writing. With a sigh, you reopen the PDF.

6:30 pm: You have finished reviewing, finally, the PDF.

6:40 pm: Your eyes are tired, your mind is filled with words like “named signals” and “selector string”.

6:42 pm: You yawn your heart out, and decide to leave for the day.

Your book is lying at the corner of your desk, unblemished and untouched. The only thing outside of your work that you managed to read was a buzzfeed article about 8 Ways to Decorate Your Office Cubicle and a quora article that consisted of a debate between South India cuisine vs North Indian cuisine. You also managed to half listen to 2 and a half songs in between, but you cannot recollect what the songs were.

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I am changed, forever – HIGHWAY (MOVIE) REVIEW

Now, this is a first for me. I haven’t actually reviewed anything, not really. But with Highway, the Hindi movie, I felt like I had to. But, my review is coming approximately 10 days too late. Not because I only just watched it. I watched it on the day of its release – 21st February. And then I watched it again, on 23rd February. And then one time more.

And yet, I couldn’t bring myself to talk about the movie. This might be the movie that has affected me in the most obvious, profound ways. Ways which I cannot even fully comprehend. For a week and a half, I felt like I was looking at everything around me in a haze, in a blur. The only thing that seemed really real to me, that still seems real to me, is whatever Imtiaz Ali showed me. The only truth seems like the one spoken by Veera. And Mahabir. The only sound that my ears truly registered is the whispered, melancholic ‘Maahi Ve’.

This movie was like beautiful poetry to me. Somewhere, somehow, it was a poetic lamentation infused with beauty of nature, beauty of oneself. There is a scene in the movie, where Veera sits on a rock, in the middle of gushing, clean waters, and laughs. Just breathes and laughs. And then she cries. Then she laughs and cries.

This is what did while watching the movie. I don’t know if that is what catharsis is, or what being moved means. But I laughed and cried and loved with every single frame of the movie.

I have always believed that the best changes are the ones that you can feel. We all change, constantly. But the change within us that we can feel, are the best kind of changes. Every time I watched this movie, or listened to a song from it, or even thought about it vaguely, I felt something shift within me. Sometimes majorly, sometimes imperceptibly. But the change was always there. But only this very second, while writing this review, did I realize that the change that was happening within me was nothing but healing. I am healing because of this movie. I am, as corny as it sounds, feeling more closely because of this movie.

I read all the reviews I possibly could about this movie. All tweets. Everything. And some reviewers didn’t like the film, and some did. But this film feels so personal, that it doesn’t feel like anyone can understand it as well as I do. So, it doesn’t feel like anyone talking about the movie is doing it justice. Even though by no means was I a part of it, this film somehow belongs to me. And yet, I want to share it with everyone. It is within me, and outside of me.

I know all of this is confusing. Heck, even I don’t understand what I feel. But the fact that a movie has made me feel and think and, most importantly, live, at all, is a feat. Before this movie, I felt like I was floating through life, watching, observing, but not really living. Seeing life through a frame. Now, this movie has gently prodded me to put the frames down, and experience. And I cannot NOT do what the film wants. So here I am, vulnerable and strangely enough, happy.

PS- the movie also inspired me to take a trip to Himachal. Which I hopefully will. Soon.

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What Fanfiction Means to Me.

I had a debate about the nature of fanfiction writing today. Many people fail to understand the obsession with it. We were discussing it in my Popular Culture class, and the whole thing just made me uncomfortable. My discomfort led to the reveal that I write fanfiction. Most people were amused. Others confused. One girl looked back at me and said, “And you said I was a nerd?”

Shortly after my very able, though a little misguided, teacher left the classroom, a friend of mine – well, more of an acquaintance I care about, approached me and spoke to me about it. She sprung question after question, and I tried to answer them effectively. But I couldn’t. she was theorizing fanfiction. Looking at it from an academic – well, more psychological than anything else, point of view. I tried to make her get it, but the conversation ended with me saying things incomprehensible to her, like “Sherlolly” and “I am a fan of being a fan”.

Right then, someone asked me if I am ashamed of being ‘found’ as a fanfiction writer. And someone else asked me if fanfiction means fantasy fiction. The word ‘commodity fetishism’ and ‘regressing back to play’ was thrown around. And I looked around my classmates, my teacher (who was still standing outside), and thought to myself, “They just don’t get it.”

Not sure what this post was about. But I just had to write it down.

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I miss home today. Which is weird because I don’t really know what home is. Home is ambiguous. Is it that place where I spent the sixteen years of my life, from where are attached my memories of loved and lost ones? Or is it that place where I was supposed to have been born and brought up in, if everything had gone according to plan.? Or is it this city that I currently live in, that I feel attached to and detached from every other minute, the intensity of the two conflicting feelings so strong that it could only be compared to feeling bipolar? I don’t know. I don’t even know if it’s home I am missing, or just the feeling of belonging somewhere, anywhere.

Maybe, however, it’s not a tragic story. Maybe I truly belong to many spaces and places. Instead of belonging nowhere, I belong to a lot of places at the same time. However, that brings me pain too. Because then I am nothing but a puzzle. If I need to search for myself, where do I start? What do I take with me on this journey of discovering, (or recovering) myself? What part of me should I let go of? I do not know. Unlike usually, where I am exhaustingly optimistic, I am not going to end this post on a hopeful note. I am just going to wish as I type these words that one day, I will be home, wherever that might be.

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Feeling Universal

I spent my time watching a lot of older How I Met Your Mother episodes today. It felt good.

Sometimes when I watch that show, I feel like I am Ted, and the whole world keeps taking the romance away from my life. Then, I realize that 99% of the people watching the show must also feel the same way. It feels good to know that what I feel when I watch something is a feeling felt by millions when they watched it. Makes me feel less alone. Like if I can have that honest moment of feeling something with a bunch of people I will never meet, hear or see, I can never be truly alone.

Think about it. Think about a song that you love, a painting you admire, a poem you adore, or a silly forward your friend messaged you that brought a smile to your face. It becomes all the more special the minute you either share it with someone you love, or you realize is loved by people you might never know. It gives you a huge sense of community, of belonging, doesn’t it? I will go a step further and say it makes me feel faith. Like, if what I feel is so universal that it was felt by many others when they came in contact with the same piece of art, then I can be sure that this world is a good place.  

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So, I found this Hindi poem online that blew my mind away. I decided to translate the first paragraph in English. I have, mind you, never done anything like this before. S please bear with me. I hope anyone who reads this blog likes it.

सपने – Aparna Bhatt

कुछ सपनों को जो पंख दिए,

वो खुले आसमान में उड़ने लगे,
बादलों की छांव मिले,
तो कभी तारों की महफिल सजी।
नरमनरम हवा के पालनों में पलने लगे,
कोरेकोरे ये सपने रंगों से खेलने लगे,
सुनहरी धूप की धागों से एक नया जहाँ बुनते हुए,
बिखरेबिखरे यह सपने अपनेआप में ही सिमटने लगे।


When some dreams were given wings,

they soared in the open sky,

sometimes, they got the shelter of clouds,

and sometimes they sat in the gathering of stars.

In the warm nurturing wind they were nourished,

these empty dreams started playing with colors,

using the threads of the golden sunlight, these dreams sowed a new world for themselves,

these scattered dreams started gathering themselves up.

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