Various Uses of Chutney

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“Did you watch Tisca Chopra’s Chutney?”, asks Mrs.Kapoor.
“No, I did not. Is it good?” queries Mrs. Das.
“Just too good! The way the wife teaches the girl a lesson!! Weaving that never ending tale of how anyone – animal or human-close to her husband, gets murdered eventually….very yummy!” Mrs.Kapoor happily sips her tea. It has ginger and cardamom in it.

On the tea-poi there are plates of crisp potatoe chips and a bowl of spicy chutney.
Mrs Das , who wears a sleeveless, pink flowery top, is aghast. “What, murdered?  Surely, that is a bit too much!  What is it? Some sort of fantasy tale? Did the girl believe it?”
“I think so… unless she wants to become a chilly plant herself, she will keep her earrings off his hands now!” Mrs Kapoor cackles delightedly.

Mrs Das thoughtfully sips her tea. The cardamom makes the tea too sweet for her. She grimaces. Her long white earrings catch the sunlight peeping in through the window.

“So how are things otherwise?” Mrs Das asks, after a pause.”How is your back pain?”
“Oh, how did you get to hear of that? It is very bad on full moon nights. You know, poor Ravi has to spend the whole night massaging pain balm on my back. Do you think, there is some connection between moonlight and back pain?” Mrs Kapoor’s kohled eyes open wide, as she stares ingenuously at her visitor.
“May be you should check with a doctor,” says Mrs Das and then realising her stupidity, “oh, fool that I am, your husband being a doctor… of course, he must have done everything needed…”
“Actually, Ravi asked me to just relax. He says I am doing too much yoga, and over strain is causing my back pain. I am trying to lose weight. Men likes slim women, and I love my parathas!” Mrs Kapoor shakes her head slowly, and sighs loudly. “You have nothing to worry, do you? You are so fit, dear!”
“How is Mr.Das doing nowadays? Such a charming man. Always reading all these thick, thick books! So much he reads and writes, I must say! Must be wonderful – all that peace and quiet in the house, eh?” Mrs Kapoor takes a potato crispie and dips it into chutney. “And since you have no children yet, you will have all the time you need for your hobbies, right?”
Mrs Das speaks very slowly: “I need to go now.”

At the door, Mrs.Das turns. “Who told you about this movie, Chutney?”
Mrs Kapoor scratches her head for a thoughtful second.
“Mrs Nair, I believe. Met her at an office party the other day. She said a lot of stories in short films are actually based on real life episodes. And she particularly suggested that I watch it.”

Mrs Das smiles tightly, ” Did Mrs.Nair give you any more suggestions?”
Mrs.Kapoor laughs happily, “Oh yes, she said that I should get new spectacles. Apparently she did not believe I was seeing properly! Ravi was annoyed! She was just trying to be helpful. Instead of buying new glasses, why get  angry, eh?”

When Mrs Das walks to her car, she is just not sure whether her ears  were cheating her or not.
“Bloody Bitch!” A loud hiss…

But when she turns, she sees only Mrs Kapoor, still waving cheerfully from the portico.

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Short and Spicy

I have been watching a lot of short films recently. Tisca Chopra’s Chutney,  for example, was absolutely delicious!

(I think  there was an inspiration: Saki’s short story – The open window – yet the adaptation was wholly Indian.Vera the tale spinner par excellence transformed her looks into a native Ghaziabadwali! ‘How does your garden grow’- a Hercule Poirot short story of Christie is also supposedly another inspiration. Lots in the audience have caught these nuances too.)

Watching a slew of Malayalam short films,  I particularly liked ( based  on The right kind of house -Alfred Hitchcock  Presents in 1958 ), the short film Grace Villa, that had Parvathy T and Rajesh Hebbar  enacting rather effortlessly.

I was left wondering on the veritable treasure house of adaptable short stories- covering everything from horror to ghosts to adventure.

‘Lamb to the slaughter’ by Roald Dahl, is one such story! Of course, it has been adapted into visual forms by Masters of the Art. Yet, we might have an Indian version of it yet! I will leave it to the reader to explore the story and then imagine the possible short film in an Indian context.

‘Witness for the Prosecution’ is another classic by Agatha Christie. I wait for the day an Indian short film creates a court scene, capturing that stunner!

We are often treated to trite stuff,  tripe,  or plain terrible fare as audience. Short films offer a welcome change.

Short film genre is pretty good opportunity for writers and adapters to showcase some of the classy works of world literature. Only request is that, they acknowledge the original with due humility. In the era of google and rather wise audience, one click can reveal the true inspiration. Better to accept gracefully than shout of originality, is it not?

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Ahalya: Film, Reflections

In the Panchakanya strotram, five women are praised for their qualities of head and heart, to use a cliche.

Ahalya, Tara, Mandodary, Sita and Draupadi are these women- if you know enough about them, you will know why they have been eulogised thus.

Ahalya, given the first mention, as a consolance to the ignominious fate she had to endure- she was turned into a papa- sila, aka stone of sin, for having slept with Indra, the God of the Devas who tricked her in the guise of her husband RIshi- Gautama. Of course, the argument went, had she really been a pure woman, she would have sensed that the ardent lover  in Gautama’s form was not her true spouse, would she not? If you cannot make sense of that logic, well, join the gang. Presumably physical expression of love was not Gautam’s forte and so when the lust ridden Indra went to meet Ahalya, in Gautam’s  body form, come on, says the critic, she being a devoted wife, should have/ could have/ bloody well shouldacoulda/… Eh?  No? Tough luck! Go, check your own morals, sorry amorals…

Well, better intellectuals and souls have debated ad nauseum on the ” purity” of Ahalya. I have compassion for the poor woman. Doomed to be a stone for being a woman. Punished for wanting love. Something resonating with the way Renuka, Parasuram’s mother was punished. Poor lady got her head cut off for being late for the prayer ritual. She had stopped to stare, you see, at a Gandharva and his consorts, indulging in water play- enjoying hedonism with such abandon. On that, later.

I wanted to write on Sujoy Ghosh’s short film ” Ahalya”. Very interesting 14 odd minutes.

Ms .Apte who opens her house door dressed in a silk shift that screams- seduction, seduction , was probably the most obvious- what do they say- red herring in the plot. Yeah, one does read ” Indra Sen” in the cop’s nameplate as he leans  near the camera.  If you have browsed through blogs on the topic, you must have by now, read about the obvious inspirations like the Spanish short film Alma ( simply brilliant!), Satyajit Ray’s  story of ‘Professor Shonku and the mysterious dolls’,about Roald Dahl’s award winning horror story ” The Land Lady” et al. (I was wondering if Hitchcock  was inspired to do Psycho from that one too, after reading the tale:)

Watch Ahalya at peace. Then sit back and ruminate. Or else, much better, laugh out at the cleverness of the director.  Turning into stone  has never been more interesting.

I am, in the meanwhile, wondering on the limitless possibilities of our epics to be the foundation of many a short film, loosely inspired by vernacular and foreign classics.

A Conan Doyle inspired- c’mon very generously- Speckled band- and Takshaka’s bite and  the Pareekshit tragedy. How does a worm turn after all, eh? It can be woven with the tale of Somerset Maugham – there is that  Malayan archipelago story about the worm in the head causing hallucinations- in the battle between men over a woman.

So you have a worm, a serpent,  an eponymous detective, a legend,  a writer, a woman, two men.

Name of film: Pareekshit! Howzzat?

Whoa- I am taking a break from mixing too many ingredients in the cauldron.Cannot afford for anyone to think that the writer is stoned, eh?

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