Monday, January 23, 2006


I'm obsessed with food, and I'd like to imagine that I have, over the years, tried food from pretty much every corner of the world (most recent extensions to the repertoire of my palate have been Senegalese and Burmese). When it comes to food, i'm the equivalent of what Derek Zoolander called a 'try-sexual' - yup, I'll try pretty much everything (When it comes to sex, on the other hand...). According to my grandfather, who I think I inherited some of this from (I'm pretty sure he would have tried sushi with gusto, which is something most Bengalis, who like their fish but like it well-cooked, recoil instinctively at the thought of), there's a word in Sanskrit which describes me well: Sarva-bhookh (or One Who Eats Everything: ever notice how Sanskrit words, when translated into English, tend to sound really portentous?). My mother, though, has a less impressive word for me: 'Habhaat', which pretty much means 'glutton'. The literal translation involves greed for rice, so as a child I was always prone to declaring that I was 'not a Habhaat, but a Ha-mangsho' (for the non-bengalis, this means, approximately, that I was accepting my gluttony, but claiming that it was restricted to meat and not something as prosaic as rice).

This willingness to experiment, coupled with an inherent tendency towards carnivoria (it's a word if i say it is, okay?) has meant that I've tried, and liked, most kinds of meat. I recently tried rabbit and snails, and loved both, have had superb veal in the past, and can even summon up enthusiasm for something as lowbrow as chicken, though I have to say that chicken in the US usually tastes remarkably like rubber, unless you splash out on the really expensive organic stuff, but I digress. I love beef (steak is something I actually, physically crave from time to time - while on the topic, I have to mention the thin-sliced steak sandwiches at my favourite neighbourhood restaurant/cafe, which is marinated to perfection and served, without further embellishment, on thick-cut Portuguese bread with Portuguese-style fried potatoes on the side - on which more in another post , crave lamb, especially roast lamb (one of the only things the British truly know how to cook), and will happily devour large amounts of sashimi, especially if someone else is paying .

The irony of it, though, is that after all this exposure to every possible variety of livng creature that can be eaten, the king of meat to me remains good old goat meat, preferably halaal. Oh for the melt-in-the-mouth feel of a good goat meat on the bone, on a day when my mother's mangshor jhol has turned out just so (it's always excellent, but there are days when it is truly sublime). So, my point is: after all my wanderings through the cuisines of the world, I am back, like a good Bong, craving mangshor jhol and bhaat. Maybe I AM a habhaat, after all. Or at least a ha-mangsho. As long as it's pathar mangsho...

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Dreams Interrupted

I've been having some pretty fascinating dreams lately, and I could do worse than record the details of some of them for posterity (or the lifetime of this blog).

My current favourite is a dream I had about a month ago. What made it unique, at least for me, was that it was a film. Not one I was watching (in the dream), nor one I was an active participant in (in the sense of being a protagonist). But something I was both conscious and yet unaware was a film, in the way one can only be in a dream. It was as if I was inside the frame, but not visible. A fly on the wall, I suppose. But there was this curious feeling of being both within and outside the frame.

The plot was quintessential Indian New Wave, as was the cast: Shabana Azmi appeared both as her present, older self and as she was in the '70s (but as two separate charqacters, on which more in a second), and her partner (and presumably husband, since there was implied cohabitation, and the film did not appear to be critiquing the norm of matrimony) was, of course, Naseeruddin Shah. There was a flashback to the Oppressively Feudal Indian VIllage (somehow I knew it was oppressively feudal, since all this was implicit), where there was Poverty, but a Happy Family and Hope in the form of the Big City (basically, I dreamt that the mother-in-law/mother of my main protagonists was serving them a dinner of sookhi roti and onions on a mud floor. Curiously, said mother/mother-inlaw was played by an older Shabana Azmi, which gave the film an oddly Oedipal undertone. They say all Indian men want to marry their mothers, an idea the film seemed to have internalised and taken to its logical conclusion.

In the next bit, the action seems to have moved to the Big City. Here, the Oppressive Shadow was not that of the Zamindar, but rather of Big Business, symbolized by a skyline of smokestacks. Cut to Shabana and Naseer (now clad in in the activist costume of khadi kurta and Nehru topi) and earnest, handsome, bearded young man, earnestly plotting union activity, strikes, and such in front of decaying red-brick factory plastered with political graffiti (The mise-en-scene is some combination of the Badarpur Power station and North Calcutta walls covered with anti-Mamata slogans). However, Ma (now unseen) is still around, since they must rush home for dinner.

Then came a bit that showcased the editor's technical prowess. We see our lead pair running across a busy street to catch a bus home. However, Naseer stops on the way to talk to someone, so that Shabana has crossed the street by herself. Naseer rushes to join her, but our (and his) view of her is obscured by a line of buses, including the one they intend to catch. Said bus begins to move just as Naseer crosses the road, so he runs after it and just about gets on, thinking that Shabana is already on it. In fact, of course, she is waiting for him at the stop. As the buses move away, we see her. Camera cuts to intense young bearded man, who is across the road, looking intensely at Shabana. Cuts back to Shabana, looking at hm. Sexual tension is palpable. Will there be an affair?

I'll never know, because just as the plot was morphing from Indian New Wave proper to early Mahesh Bhatt, I woke up. Quite exhilarated by my Adventures in Parallel Cinema-land, I might add.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Golden Globes

Did anyone else catch them? I usually have very little patience for these let's-pat-ourselves-on-the-backathons, but I ended up watching the GGs this time around, partly because this meant a reprieve from my excel spreadsheet. In the end, I have to say I rather enjoyed it, and even considered live-blogging. Didn't in the end, because a) nobody reads this and b) it would have meant getting up to get my laptop, and I'm lazy.

Just a couple of comments, then. First off, what the hell was Isaac Mizrahi up to? I can't decide whether I found his antics hysterical or borderline distasteful. Actually, this is all ex post: at the time I was cracking up. Anyway, he played the gay-designer card to the hilt: among other gems, he asked Eva Longoria about her feminine grooming regimen (though it appears she has lately been waxing eloquent (pun intended) on the orgasm-enhancing properties of a brazilian), more or less fondled Scarlett Johannsen's boobs, and looked down Terri Hatcher's cleavage and rifled through her handbag. Wonderfully juvenile and much funnier than the usual red-carpet cooing over the beautiful dresses.

Speaking of which, most of the women looked hideous. Drew Barrymore, for one, took the whole 'Globes' part of the evening much too literally, leaving her (presumably not golden, but definitely oversized) orbs to support themselves. It's called a bra, Drew. They sell them all over the place. And frankly, if you're doing the whole bra-less thing, what's the point of wearing something that comes all the way up to your neck? The other fashion trend of the evening appeared to be the return of the Empire waist. But the worst dress, by quite a margin, was Rachel Weisz's, which looked like someone decided to wrap her up in khadi raw silk and literally tie things up with a little bow. Giving her a run for her money was Gwyneth Paltrow, who looked like she was channeling a costume for an amateur production of the Ugly Duckling.

The awards themselves were mercifully short (unlike the stupid Oscars where the technical awards go on and on) and I was glad Brokeback Mountain won best Picture and Director, because I loved it. Sadly, playing gay, which is allegedly supposed to be a surefire way to rake the awards in, didn't swing it for Heath Ledger, because, I guess, Capote was way, way gayer. I haven't seen Capote, but I thought Heath Ledger was magnificent in Brokeback. I haven't seen anyone draw out a performance from somewhere so far under the surface for quite some time.

Speaking of gay, though, given that three of the films which won awards (Capote, Brokeback Mountain, and Transmerica) had non-hetereosexual principal characters, and two of them concentrated on the sexuality.gender aspect of their lives, it was quite incredible that the 'g' word itself was the elephant in the room: we heard all about tortured romance, difficult circumstances, 'star-crossed love', and so on ad infinitum, but no mention of gayness. In some situations, it appears, we're still stuck with the Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name, though it may certainly be Rewarded At The Globes.