Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Miniscule Musings

  • In what continues to be NF's morbid fascination with brutal, genocidal regimes (which, admittedly doesn't augur well for his state of mind in the long run), here is another brick in the wall.

    Just when you finished the three blood soaked volumes of The Gulag Archipelago, thought you knew all about the Soviet horror show (starring the Gardener of Human Happiness, Stalin himself) and began to act blasé, you come across yet another forgotten gem that teaches you the virtues of humility. See for instance the article Comrade Stalin's Secret Prison at Open Democracy (Russia section) and shudder all over again at the 'torture dacha' Sukhanovskaya (apparently there were 52 different kinds of tortures perfected there) - not hidden away in some half forgotten Siberian tundra but perched atop a Moscow suburb! Many legendary people passed through its gates (the bloodthirsty Yezhov met his end there himself!) though hardly any are left to wax nostalgic about their wonder years there. Here are some cherry-picked gems from the fantastic piece:

  • Executed prisoners’ ashes were usually either used as potash fertiliser, thrown into the sewers or dumped on a city waste tip.
  • Some prisoners who were classified as not only ‘enemies of the people’ but also ‘personal enemies of Stalin’ were beaten up one last time before their death. “Before he’s off to the other world – smash his face in!”  He [Beria] loved visiting Sukhanovka and had his own office there, with a personal lift to take him down to the cellars to take part in interrogations.’ 
  • (According to the historian Lidia Golovkova) Which regime does Lidia Golovkova think was worse: Stalin’s or Hitler’s? ‘I think they learned from each other. For example, the special prison trucks that were used to transport prisoners, where the exhaust pipes were turned inwards and the occupants died of carbon monoxide poisoning on their way to the crematorium – those were invented by the Soviet Cheka. The Nazis were just perfecting the technology when they installed gas chambers in the death camps.’
Just the way Tarkovsky learned from Bergman - right?
  • NF's old friend and animator-in-chief Somnath Pal is discussed in the supremely cool Kyoorius design mag! (Hat-tip: Bejin Hakumei.) Also featured are his stunning artworks and formidable skills in name-dropping that would warm the cockles of Nirmal-fuckin'-Verma's heart. Do read the entire piece here: Somnath Pal: Freezing Stories into Frames.

  • Courtesy, The Believer magazine, here is an excellent example of long form journalism (something that's now being revived in India by the incredibly awesome The Caravan magazine) about Ramanujan - his lost notebook, his batshit crazy genius and obnoxious habit of writing down pithy answers to seemingly never-to-be-asked-in-the-near-future questions (though in his defence, they were composed under divine duress). Overall, a very well written piece, though alarmingly radioactive levels of exotica make their appearance, especially when the writer goes to SASTRA and Erode, Ramanujan's birthplace. Here is the piece in full: Encounter With the Infinite.

  • The ever-excellent continues to produce astounding reportage. Here they opine on the finest five Hindi books of 2014 -  an idiosyncratic, somewhat middle-of-the-road non avant garde based list which also features the veteran hardboiled writer Surender Mohan Pathak's latest! 

    NF's salivating already!

  • While NF has been a fan in general of Anurag Kashyap and his brand of Hindie filmmaking, his output, admittedly has been a little uneven, especially when it comes to his inability to tie together brilliant sequences of scenes into a coherent, cohesive, narrative whole (this problem is at its most vexing in Gulaal). In general, NF would quibble sometimes with his self indulgent, 'style over substance' filmmaking when in one of his bad moods. 

    Ugly however, is ironically enough, a breath of fresh air! It gets everything right - the style is just right and the script oozes substance - tight, indie filmmaking at its best. Do watch it and be amazed at how radically modern Hindi cinema has emerged from its populist trappings.

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