Category Archives: Bollywood

Of Octavio Paz and being Kamli


‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’ by Hokusai

The beloved does not know defeat. She labours until her lover’s stone will is pliable, or will reduce all veils in between them to ash and smoke.

When I left that sea, a wave moved ahead of the others. She was tall and light. In spite of the shouts of the others who grabbed her by her floating clothes, she clutched my arm and went off with me leaping.

Is there any sleep for the beloved, for she whose love remains alive like the night? Black skies are cruel to she, who needs sunlight but is instead condemned to the dark,

Certain nights her skin was covered with phosphorescence and to embrace her was to embrace a piece of night tattooed with fire.

The beloved is ephemeral, forever changing form. She is hard to define, to describe. She is flippant and frivolous, escaping the touch of reality. She is the embodiment of madness.

At unexpected hours she roared, moaned, twisted. Her groans woke the neighbors. Upon hearing her, the sea wind would scratch at the door of the house or rave in a loud voice on the roof. Cloudy days irritated her; she broke furniture, said bad words, covered me with insults and green and gray foam. She spit, cried, swore, prophesied. Subject to the moon, to the stars, to the influence of the light of other worlds, she changed her moods and appearance in a way that I thought fantastic, but it was as fatal as the tide.

Such is what the lover can do, the beloved in her madness went from still lake to flowing river. In the lanes and localities her eyes trace, the evening is the lover’s world. No wonder she is awake when the world sleeps.

Stretched out side by side, we exchanged confidences, whispers, smiles. Curled up, she fell on my chest and there unfolded like a vegetation of murmurs. She sang in my ear, a little snail. She became humble and transparent, clutching my feet like a small animal, calm water. She was so clear I could read all of her thoughts.

The beloved will become an ascetic, a mystic whose kohl-rimmed eyes will make the lover forget his own ascetism. She will become him to overcome him.

Her sensibility, like that of women, spread in ripples, only they weren’t concentric ripples, but rather eccentric, spreading each time farther, until they touched other galaxies. To love her was to extend to remote contacts, to vibrate with far-off stars we never suspected. But her center … no, she had no center, just an emptiness as in a whirlwind, that sucked me in and smothered me.

The beloved can be the morning dew that steals the fragrance of flowers, but in a blink can become the flood that erodes mountains. Then the night becomes her enemy.

She had nightmares, deliriums of the sun, of warm beaches. She dreamt of the pole and of changing into a great block of ice, sailing beneath black skies in nights long as months. She insulted me. She cursed and laughed; filled the house with guffaws and phantoms. She called up the monsters of the depths, blind ones, quick ones, blunt. Charged with electricity, she carbonized all she touched; full of acid, she dissolved whatever she brushed against. Her sweet embraces became knotty cords that strangled me. And her body, greenish and elastic. was an implacable whip that lashed, lashed, lashed.

In a state of losing herself, the lover becomes the means to recover the self. The beloved is after all, like a garland of stars around the neck of the lover-moon.

Love was a game, a perpetual creation. All was beach, sand, a bed of sheets that were always fresh. If I embraced her, she swelled with pride, incredibly tall, like the liquid stalk of a poplar; and soon that thinness flowered into a fountain of white feathers, into a plume of smiles that fell over my head and back and covered me with whiteness.

Yes, the beloved is utterly mad, utterly crazy for the lover.

Note: I’ve been dwelling on the meaning of the popular Bollywood hit ‘Kamli’ from Dhoom-3 for a few days now, and its striking resemblance to a short story by Octavio Paz titled ‘My Life With the Wave’. This post is my attempt to express the marvellousness of the parallel by translating the lyrics of ‘Kamli’ into my own prose (loosely adapted from the translation on this site:, accompanied by Paz’s wonderful prose (translated without a source and available for download here: All block quotes are from the original English translation. 


On subversion and masala Bollywood (Part 3) — GoW2 and why masala endures

Standard, Part 1 and Part 2, for some reference. And major spoilers will be discussed ahead, do be warned. I’ve had a long month of work, work and more work, so I’m aware this critique is very late.

I’m also under quite a bit of pressure. My previous posts on Shanghai and GoW1 have attracted far more readers than I’d dreamed of, publicised by heaps of people, and Anurag Kashyap has himself admitted he read it. Many times. So now I have performance anxiety. 😐

Plus, I’ve been avoiding all the mainstream reviews of GoW2 because I’m convinced they’d jinx the film for me. No, I wanted to keep Sardar Khan’s gleaming head in my mind when I start watching this film, because if anyone could top that first part, it would be Nawazuddin Siddiqui in a pair of Ray-Bans.

A friend on Facebook said this after watching GoW2: “I used to be ashamed of all those afternoons I spent at home watching ridiculously, bizarrely, brain-fryingly random Hindi movies on Set Max. Now I know that Anurag Kashyap — someone the world considers an artist — also watched them. I feel validated.” This was my exact reaction to the film.

Read the rest of this entry

On subversion and masala Bollywood (Part 2) — the brilliance of Gangs of Wasseypur 1


First, I highly recommend you read my initial post on subversion as a storytelling technique in Dibakar Banerjee’s Shanghai.

Previous Disclaimer applies: This is not a review, but a detailed critique like I did with ‘Shanghai’. I will analyse several aspects of the films which will include spoilers so please do not read if you haven’t watched GoW1 yet.

Also, this was meant to be about both GoW films, but after I finished drafting the post for the first part, it was already over 3000 words long and I thought, screw it. There can never be too much of a good thing. So expect a Part 3 to follow up when GoW2 releases. 🙂

When I think of bald Bollywood actors, the first name that comes to mind is Shetty, whose gleaming head and meancing glare often made Dharmendra flex extra muscle in numerous 70s flicks. The second name that comes to mind is Shakal of Shaan, whose eccentricities extended to owning an island, having a shark for a pet, and wearing ridiculous costumes.

So it’s an obvious conclusion to look at Bajpai’s fully shaved head through most of the film and wonder whether he is protagonist or antagonist. You realise early enough that protagonist and antagonist are really just matters of perspective, and that Kashyap has already subverted our very idea of what a Bollywood hero is.

Of course, anti-heroes in Bollywood have been a factor since the 70s, but never has there been such an anti-hero who is very clearly a villain — someone who enjoys killing but for the sake of poetic justice, who shamelessly lusts but with such seduction and who loves but with such selfishness.

Read the rest of this entry