Monday, 16 March 2015

Cinema At the Gym-Ina! (So It Can Vaguely Rhyme)

#Funtimes #Khet #Mom # Bros4Lyf
 Still: Karan Arjun (1995)
In an attempt at being a more fulfilled human being, I have bought into the most popular stock option available to ‘young women my age’—going to the gym. This new found gym-rat avatar bodes well for me—it gives me an excuse as to why I’m tired and sleepy at 11:00 p.m. (there is no actual reason for this. Sometimes I am tired after having slept a full nine hours post doing nothing), and it’s my one reasonable claim to actually ‘taking care’ of my body—lathered by vats of cream-based desserts and unapologetically fattening meats.
So I am swathed daily in a sea of my own sweat and a thick coat of feel-good pheromones that are washed away by a hot shower as I emerge my shiniest, happiest self and begin the workday. I am inordinately proud of this un-extraordinary achievement, mostly because I am forced to battle the same terribly boring stimuli on deadbeat-repeat. These consist of
1)   A playlist that’s been looped so often it would make scratchy vinyl sounds if it were the old days.
2)   A TV with no sound that plays a Hindi news channel that unwaveringly reminds me of my lengthy stint as a schoolgirl, struggling to read words like Pratirodh and Paraadheen.
3)   Countless Health-In-Your-Face posters of unnaturally hot women like Nargis Fakhri and Lisa Haydon (who ought to be banned in general for the infinite damage she’s done to the female psyche simply by existing) on the cover of Healthy! Healthy! Healthy! Magazines with tips for a ‘Bang-able Bod’ or how to go from ‘Fat To Flat in 15 Minutes’ or whatever.
At some point that Zor-Laga-Ke Do-It-Do-It vibe started to get to me, and my inner couch potato sought counsel with my new work-out wizard self. We came to an understanding—I stay on the cross-trainer, but try to get them to change the channel from goddamn Hindi News/Sports.
And so, I used all 200 grams of charm I possess and got them to switch over to…’well anything else, really’, were my exact words. They informed me that, regardless, the soundtrack of Death By Trance needed to continue, attaching the phrase ‘gym policy’ and a fairly polite shrug of the shoulders. Ergo, I had to find something with subtitles, so I could read the TV (working out both brain and brawn, eh? Plenty smart.)
Alas, the one English language channel they possessed (AXN) had no signal. In a mild effort to help, they flipped it to Zee Cinema (my ‘I’m Truly Doing Nothing With My Life’ channel), which was playing Karan Arjun, a film whose original reel should’ve been lost at the godforsaken Mela instead of it’s duo-Khan leads.
As it happens, watching some Bolly Masala on volume zero is more educational than you’d imagine. I managed to watch a whole 45 minutes of this muted melodrama without being distracted by the dearth of sound. Turns out, watching this film without the chaos of sound effects and dialogue let me focus on about a million other aspects of the film that would never otherwise have come to the fore.
Like, how much villainous men need to move their heads in order in emphasize their points. Or how their echoing laughter while they mess around with an aging Rakhi conveys how truly evil they are, because, you know, Laughter + Someone’s Else’s Tears + Old Person Angle = Full-Time Bastard.
I loved how dream sequences had a healthy mix of Shah Rukh tossing and turning, his lower jaw glazed with sweat, on his charpai interspersed with NFAI archived footage of what looked like Jalianwala Bagh (but I’m guessing was the Kumbh Ka Mela judging by a stray Ferris wheel I saw in one half-shot). The footage, treated with the gloomiest black and white and stilted screen movement, was reminiscent of the Civil War documentaries Discovery used to make way back when (and could easily be mistaken for it without the dramatic soundtrack).
All You're Going To Do Is Talk? Excellent! Still: Before Sunset (2004)
So, to keep from making this a film studies dissection of various frames, I’ll stick to the basic fact I took away from this experience—we care too much about what’s going to happen. It breaks my heart when somebody says “I don’t care if it’s well written—as long it’s got a good plot”. Because, my god, I’m so far gone the opposite, I’m no longer relatable. I’ll watch the swill of the plot world—just because it’s written brilliantly. I don’t care if a movie doesn’t leave a room—in case you’re wondering, yes, I loved the Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight films—so long as the conversation is amazing. I don’t mind if a character doesn’t grow, doesn’t learn… just that he wastes away beautifully.
And I realised, with film, you’d think the dialogue was the way it was written. But really, it seems only the vehicle to carry forward a melodious cacophony of sounds, visuals, expressions, body-movements... The dialogue has us so hooked on what’s next we forget to focus on what’s right now. And watching Karan Arjun on mute amidst the perspiring walls of the office gym taught me what six months of a film class could not.
If it helps, Anuradha ma’am, if you’re out there. I finally think that Cinema as a Language makes sense—and isn’t eye-rollingly pretentious.
…Well, maybe the pretentious part is still true.

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