Valerie’s Letter

V for Vendetta is one of my favourite graphic novels and movies. Written by the legendary Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd, it is the story of alternate reality England. Following a nuclear war, a fascist party comes to reign. Violent and authoritian, it rules the state by means of fear. It detains its opponents and those it chooses to discriminate (e.g. homosexuals) in concentration camps, where they are experimented upon.

One such person is known by the code name V, who wants to bring this party down, and bring back freedom to the people. He plans to groom Evey Hammond as his successor. He was at one point just another detainee in cell no. 5 (or V), whose blood reacts to a biological weapon to cause him to develop enhanced strength, senses and reflexes.

An important character in this story is Valerie Paige. Valerie is a fellow detainee of V, and is kept in an adjacent cell. Valerie had been imprisoned for being a Lesbian. While they don’t have any face to face interaction, he manages to read a letter Valerie wrote before dying. This is also the letter that is later found by Evey when she is detained. It is the contents of this letter that transform V (and later Evey) into revolutionaries.

While the letter is adapted for the current times in the movie adaptation, it holds the essence of the letter in the novel. A character who gets to spend a very short time in the story, she acts like a catalyst that leads to large impact on account of the changes she brings into V and Evey. Here is the scene from the movie when Evey reads her letter.

 

 

“I know there’s no way I can convince you this is not one of their tricks. But I don’t care. I am me.

My name is Valerie. I don’t think i’ll live much longer, and I wanted to tell someone about my life. This is the only autobiography that i’ll ever write, and – God – i’m writing it on toilet paper. I was born in Nottingham in 1985. I don’t remember much of those early years. But I do remember the rain.

My grandmother owned a farm in Tottlebrook, and she used to tell me that God was in the rain.I passed my eleven plus, and went to a girl’s grammar. It was at school that I met my first girlfriend. Her name was Sarah. It was her wrists – they were beautiful. I thought we would love each other forever. I remember our teacher telling us that it was an adolescent phase that people outgrew. Sarah did. I didn’t.

In 2002 I fell in love with a girl named Christina. That year I came out to my parents. I couldn’t have done it without Chris holding my hand. My father wouldn’t look at me. He told me to go and never come back. My mother said nothing.I’d only told them the truth. Was that so selfish? Our integrity sells for so little, but it is all we really have. It is the very last inch of us. And within that inch, we are free.

I’d always known what i’d wanted to do with my life, and in 2015 I started my first film: The Salt Flats. It was the most important role of my life. Not because of my career, but because that was how I met Ruth. The first time we kissed, I knew I never wanted to kiss any other lips but hers again. We moved to a small flat in London together. She grew scarlet carsons for me in our window box. And our place always smelt of roses. Those were the best years of my life.

But America’s war grew worse and worse, and eventually came to London. After that there were no roses anymore. Not for anyone. I remember how the meaning of words began to change. How unfamiliar words like “collateral” and “rendition” became frightening. When things like norsefire and the articles of allegiance became powerful. I remember how different became dangerous. I still don’t understand it: why they hate us so much.

They took Ruth while she was out buying food. I’ve never cried so hard in my life. It wasn’t long until they came for me. It seems strange that my life should end in such a terrible place. But for three years I had roses – and apologised to no-one.

I shall die here. Every inch of me shall perish. Every inch. But one. An inch. It is small and it is fragile, and it is the only thing in the world worth having. We must never lose it or give it away. We must never let them take it from us. I hope that – whoever you are – you escape this place. I hope that the world turns, and that things get better.

But what I hope most of all is that you understand what I mean when I tell you that even though I do not know you, and even though I may not meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, or kiss you: I love you. With all my heart. I love you.

-Valerie.”

 

It  is one of the most moving scenes from a movie that I have watched.

 

Written for the A to Z Challenge

 

Advertisements

Teeth

Teeth are important calcium based parts of the body. Primarily their function is to bite, chew and break down food so that it can be consumed and digested. Secondarily they serve as an offensive or defensive mechanism. Carnivores use teeth in hunting to capture and kill their prey. Teeth can also be used in self defence, in the act of biting the attacker.  Generally teeth are present in the mouth; however there is a movie that tells the story of a girl who has teeth in her vagina.

Titled ‘Teeth’, the movie is about a teenage girl Dawn, who has ‘Vagina Dentata’ or teeth in her vagina. The idea of this is not new. It is found in numerous cultures, and is used as a folk story to discourage rape, the idea being that rapist’s penis will be bitten off by the teeth in the vagina.

Dawn is part of a teenage abstinence group, and is ridiculed by some of her class mates for it. Two of her abstinence group friends introduce her to Tobey, whom she grows close to. After swimming together in a lake, they spend time in a cave nearby. They give in to their attraction towards each other and start kissing. Dawn doesn’t want to progress beyond that, while Tobey wants to have sex. In an iconic first occurrence, Dawn’s teeth bite off his penis.

Dawn later befriends another boy, Ryan from her class. Ryan doesn’t ridicule her like most of her class mates do, and is an emotional support for her when her mom is going through health woes. While initially apprehensive, the two successfully manage to have sex. Later, in yet another iconic scene Dawn finds out that Ryan did all this as part of a bet which involved him ‘scoring her’. He boasts of this in a telephone conversation with a friend while the two are having sex; which leads to (as some of you may guess it) her vaginal teeth biting his penis off.

The movie however is about more than just her teeth. There is a scene of a biology class where the text books have a detailed diagram of a penis, but that of a vagina is censored by a sticker. On being asked, the teacher merely says that it is inappropriate to show female genitals. This leads to further doubts and confusion in the mind of Dawn, who is left to resort to internet searches on her own.

Actress Jess Weixler, who plays Dawn, has done a wonderful performance. She is able to pull of the scenes which show her as a frightened and confused teenager, with as much as ease the scenes which show her as confident and in control person. The movie was premiered at the 2007 Sundance festival, and is a blend of drama, horror and comedy.

 

Written for day 20 of the A to Z Challenge

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a movie that I stumbled upon while doing a search on how our memories work.

Joel Barnish (Jim Carrey) is a withdrawn man with an inactive social life. One day on his commute to work, he has an urge to go to Montauk instead of work. On the way back from Montauk to New York he hits it off with Clementine (Kate Winslet), who is the polar opposite of him. She has brightly colored hair, and is an unrestrained person who speaks what she thinks. What they do not know is that they had had already been in a relationship for two years, and when it turned sour they broke it off.

The reason why they are unable to remember any of it is, is that Clementine had had her memories of Joel erased. The heartbreak of the relationship breaking off too much for her to bear with. While Joel was managing to deal with the relationship not working out, he broke down when he came to know that Clementine had him erased from her memories. Distraught, he goes to the same company (Lacuna Inc.) and signs up to get her deleted from his memories.

The way it works is that representatives of the company ask the customer to hand over all items they have that are personally associated with the person that want deleted. Then they ask you to think of the memories associated so that they can form a brain map specific to the person. Once the configuration is done, they attach a computer based apparatus to your head and begin a systematic deletion of memories while you sleep.
This dream/memory world is where most of the movies takes place. Starting with the earliest, Joel goes through all the memories associated with Clementine. The most recent memories are painful, and full of angst with all the passive aggressiveness they had displayed towards each other. The deletion of these memories serve as a catharsis for him. However as he goes further in the past, he begins to recollect all the happy and rosy moments he had shared with her. He begins to realize that the pleasure of these memories is worth living through the pain of not being in a relationship anymore. But being stuck in the dream/memory world, he cannot do anything to stop the process which is taking place in the real world in his apartment.

The memory sequences are absolute brilliance. The narrative of the story jumps across time here. From a scene which takes place in the past, to a scene in the future where the movie started, to what is happening in the present where the Lacuna crew is deleting the memories. The visual imagery as to how the memory gets deleted, and what Joel tries unsuccessfully to prevent it captures the viewer with awe.

The movie however is not just about these two. There is a crew of three working on the deletion, of which Mary (Kirsten Dunst) and Stan (Mark Ruffalo) are in a relationship. The third character Patrick (Elijah Wood), is using the personal files and objects of Clementine that had been given to create the deletion as means to gain knowledge to impress Clementine and date her. This small but very wonderfully told sub-plot is as interesting as the main story line.
We already know that Joel will be unsuccessful in preventing the deletion on account of him not recognizing Clementine in the future when they meet in Montauk. While they start afresh , oblivious to what has already happened between them they receive records of their memories from an employee at Lacuna who believes that the company has done something very wrong, and has sent all the customers their records. You will have to watch the movie to find out how the two of them deal with this disclosure.

The title of the movie is inspired from the poem Eloisa to Abelard by Alexander Pope. The poem is about the tragedy of a love affair that couldn’t be, and the heroine’s believes that she can only be at peace if she can forget about this love that could not be.

 

How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d;

 

This is one of my favorite movies that seamlessly combines romance, science fiction and philosophy. I will leave you with the trailer of the movie.

 

 

Written for day 5 of the A to Z Challenge

5 off-beat Bollywood movies to get you started

Movies are an integral part of India. Be it the popular Bollywood which makes mostly Hindi movies, or the other regional –woods like Tollywood (Bengali), Kollywood (Tamil), Mollywood (Malayalam)  and so on which makes movies in regional languages, cinema touches many people. The movies made can be split broadly into two categories: mainstream cinema and off-beat cinema. Mainstream movies are your run of the mill Bollywood movies. They either use well established or upcoming stars, are easy going on the story line (possibly with a bunch of plot holes), and have song-dance routines. Typically these are happily ever after movies, and are meant for enjoyment with friends and family as a welcome break from the drudgery of life. Their main motive is to reach out the most to the average movie goer and make as much money as possible. Off-beat movies are also called parallel cinema or art movies. These are not your average light hearted movies. Most of them involve shunning of the song and dance routines, which makes it difficult for everyone to watch. The movies are thought provoking, and dark. Some may make you laugh, but will utilize dark-comedy or satire to do so. Typically they deal with realism, or the morals and motivations of the characters.  Off-beat movies generally don’t perform that well financially. It is easy for most mainstream movies to make millions for their makers and have wide viewership. Off-beat movies on the other hand are critically acclaimed and well made, but do not gather in as much revenue. These are generally viewed as a means to showcase talent, or experiment.  That doesn’t mean however that they must be taken lightly. Some of the most interesting and thoughtful movies have been off-beat movies. Since people need to develop a taste for such movies, sometimes off-beat movies are made with a touch of mainstream masala. This may be in the form of having famous and popular actors, addition of songs that go with the plot (and do not have uncalled group dance sequences), or some sweetening of the story line. I would like to share 5 such movies with you that I believe are a must watch to develop a taste for more serious off-beat movies. Dev D: This is a modern adaptation of the old Bengali novel Devdas by  Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. The novel has been famously adapted into movies with Ashok Kumar and Shahrukh Khan as the titular character. Devdas and Paro are childhood friends, and develop romantic feelings for each other after Devdas leaves his village for schooling. When he comes back, he is not allowed to marry Paro as she is from a family of lower status. While Paro moves on, Devdas drowns himself in alcohol at the court of Chandramukhi, with the help of his friend Chunni. Soon she develops feelings for him, but Devdas does not return them. The alcoholism takes a toll on him and he visits Paro one last time before he dies.

This modern adaptation is quite different. Paro (Mahie Gill) is much more confident and bold unlike the soft spoken versions before. She can match Dev (Abhay Deol) in his passion and wants him physically just as much as he does. While the parents approve of his match with Paro, a misunderstanding causes the jealous Dev to not marry her. Paro harbours no more feelings for him and moves on. Chandramukhi (Kalki Koechlin) on the other hand is a teen, who has to shift as her boyfriend makes an MMS of her performing oral sex on him. When this becomes public, her family first leaves the country. After her dad’s suicide, she comes to back to the country and lives with his family in the village. Unable to come to terms with culture shock and misogyny, she runs back to the city where she becomes a prostitute under Chunni. Dev meets Chunni over drinks and drugs, and begins to spend time with Chandramukhi. What is wonderful to see is how both the women are strong willed and ready to take control of their lives, and how Dev is brought back on his feet by them. The movie has a wonderful soundtrack by Amit Trivedi which complements the psychedelic take on the novel. Aks:
Aks is the story of Manu Verma (Amitabh Bachchan) and Raghavan (Manoj Bajpayee). Manu Verma is a cop who is given the job to protect the Indian Defence Minister on a foreign trip. Raghavan is a skilled (albeit psychopathic) assassin who manages to kill the minister. Manu and his partner team up to catch Raghavan at the cost of his partner’s life. There is a fight in the jail when Raghavan is sentenced to death, and the two end up shooting each other. While Raghavan is presumed death, his soul latches on to Manu and tries to take control over his body. The movie is about this fight of the two souls in a body, and how Manu has to now save his family and his world from the evil spirit within him. The movie features wonderful performances by both the actors. No Smoking:
Directed by Anurag Kashyap, it is one the lesser known movies that utilize a fantasy dream world. The movie is the story of Kay (John Abraham) who not only is a chain smoker, but a narcissist. His wife (Ayesha Takia) cannot deal with it anymore and threatens to leave him unless he quits smoking. Left with no option he is lead to a rehab centre called the Prayogshala (Laboratory in Hindi) by his old friend Abbas (Ranveer Shorey) who started to smoke with him in the first place. He signs a contract with Shri Shri Shri Prakash Guru Ghantal Baba Bangali Sealdah Wale (Paresh Rawal) so that he would do ANYTHING asked to quit smoking. He is blackmailed into threats that for each time he smokes a worse punishment will dealt onto him. This includes from hearing loss, making his brother with a sick lung to breathe in a gas chamber full of cigarette smoke, cutting of fingers and killing of his wife. One he realizes that the Guru’s disciples have infiltrated his life to ensure that, he has to come up with a plan to escape them. The movie uses fantasy lucid dreams, the concept of karma and souls as well. Delhi Belly:
An air hostess (Shenaz Treasurywala) agrees to make a delivery for her colleague’s friend as her friend is unwell. She gives the package to her boyfriend (Imraan Khan) and his debt-ridden roommates (Vir Das and Kunaal Roy Kapur). The package contains smuggled diamonds which are to be delivered to a local gangster, but is mixed up with a stool sample when one of the roommates gets diarrhoea after some street food. Hence the name Delhi Belly. Taking this as insult, the gangster kidnaps the air hostess. The film is about the hilarity that ensures as they sell off the diamonds and try to rescue the girl. This is a relatively short film that features no intermissions. The movie contains generous use of Hindi curse words, and potty humor. The movie is made by newcomers Abhinay Deo, Akshat Verma. It is one of the few Bollywood movies to have most of its dialogue in English, with generous Hindi curse words thrown in. Gangs of Wasseypur:
Gangs of Wasseypur was shot as one movie which was 319 minutes long. Since it would be difficult to release a movie over 5 hours long, it was split in to 2. The movie is set in the Wasseypur and Dhanbad cities in the Bihar state. Sardar Khan’s (Manoj Bajpayee) father was killed by Ramadhir Singh (Tigmanshu Dhulia) who is a coal magnate and politician. Khan swears vengeance upon Singh, and promises to not kill him but make his life miserable. While he becomes a gangster in his own right, he is not able to fully deal in and gets the shot to death. After his and his older brother’s deaths, and spurred on by his mother (Richa Chaddha) the youngest heir ( Nawazuddin Siddiqui ) takes on the family business as he tries to exact the vengeance his father couldn’t. The movie is more just than the vengeance over dead family members, but deals with the politics of the region and how people come together or fall apart. The movie has generous use of the local regional language, and curse words. The soundtrack shuffles from rustic songs, old family songs, and some eclectic dance numbers. This one is a must –watch film that cover over 30 years of story. This post is a part of the Miss Lovely Activity in association with BlogAdda. Miss Lovely, an off-beat film directed by Ashim Ahluwalia is set in the lower depths of Bombay’s “C” grade film industry. It follows the devastating story of two brothers who produce sex horror films in the mid – 1980s. A sordid tale of betrayal and doomed love, the film dives into the lower depths of the Bollywood underground, an audacious cinema with baroque cinemascope compositions, lurid art direction, wild background soundtracks, and gut-wrenching melodrama. Miss Lovely is scheduled for commercial release on 17 January 2014. You can check the trailer of the film

When the phone rings…

He was taking deep long breaths. Slowly as he gathered more strength, he crawled in her direction. He left a trail of blood in his wake, from having been shot in the gut. She was lying motionless a few feet away. Her body didn’t move except for the occasional heave her chest gave when she would take in a breath. She was hanging on like him, for a precious few moments before they would both give way to their injuries. It didn’t take him more than two minutes to crawl up to her, and place his hand over hers but it seemed like forever to her. He smiled, and with great effort opened his mouth to tell her that in the end it would be all right. He turned his face and opened his mouth to speak.

TTTTRIIING TTTTTRIING the phone rang.

What the bloody hell?

This is exactly what first comes to my mind when the phone of someone next to me rings in the cinema while I am all engrossed in the movie. I mean, it is only basic manners to keep your phone on silent or off while you’re in the cinema. Not only can some people not do that, they have to carry on extended loud conversations. I can understand if it is an emergency, or if you’re telling that ‘I am in a movie where I won’t be able to talk to you properly on account of the sound from the speakers ‘, but I cannot understand people telling their dinner plans on the phone. Take it outside and call them back. But let me listen to what is happening in the movie.

But loud chatty callers are not the only ones that get to me. It’s the people who come late, especially if they’re friends. I think there should be an entry time limit, if you’re later than this you can’t enter the cinema house. On the normal day, I can put up with the late comers as long as they don’t give too much of obstructions. But you will have some one or the other who cannot find his way, or will walk abnormally slow and keep coming in front of the screen. It is worse when it is a friend who is late. Because now I will have to wait for them outside with their ticket to get them in. This will primarily lead to two scenarios. In the first I wait for them and miss out on the starting scenes, or I go inside catch the starting and come out when they call me. Not only am I missing out on some scenes, but I end up disturbing other cinema patrons too.

I remember that I had taken a day off to catch the first show of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and had to cancel the plans as one of my team members had to apply leave for a family emergency. Since only one of us could go on leave, I cancelled mine on account of his reason being more crucial than mine. The next day I went in for the morning show to enjoy the movie in peace. I had already cancelled two calls, but someone from work kept calling. I went out to take the calls, and missed slightly more than five minutes of the movie in trying to explain something (after having the other person fail to understand that I was out to watch a movie). I couldn’t sit back, and left the cinema to catch a different show where I wouldn’t be disturbed. And this was only thirty minutes into the movie.

I have tried discussing this with some friends whenever I have made my first ever movie plans with them. A friend in particular says that movie watching is a leisurely activity, and it is ok for people to come late as they have bought the tickets. I agree that they have bought the tickets, just in the same way that I bought mine. That doesn’t mean that they should come in the way of the leisure of other audience due to having coming late and so on …

 

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda