Learning Dispatch — March 25th, 2016 — Reading and Viewing

Why the dispatch? — I want to understand how I can make my learning more social. I love having interesting conversations with friends and colleagues about new things I learned. So these dispatches are part of an effort to get those conversations started. I am also very curious to know more about what you have been learning this past week in return for sharing some of the learning highlights of my week.

I started exploring some Russian fiction this week. I also bought a new book about New York city and saw a lot of old and new Indian movies this week. Here is some raw thought and reflection on what I was fortunate to learn this past week:

Film 1 — Masoom

Masoom (Innocence) is the story of a middle class family in India and how an extra — marital affair and a child from the affair challenges the couple’s trust in each other. I thought about how it takes you years to build a relationship but one mistake in a moment of passion can bring it all tumbling down. The music was really good. Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi play the lead characters and this is easily one of the best performances of their career according to me. I loved these two songs from the film — Tujshe Naraz Nahi Zindagi and Lakdi Ki Kathi.

Film 1 -Kapoor and Sons

I saw this film at a theatre close to my home this week. Kapoor and Sons is the story of an Indian family living in the hill station Conoor. The patriarch of the family is a retired military man. He has two sons and five grandkids. One of the sons (Rajat Kapoor) stays in this family home in Conoor with his wife (Ratna Patak Shah). Two of the grandkids (Sidharth Malhotra and Fawad Khan) stay abroad and are writers. The story unfolds over a family reunion. This is a character led film and not a plot driven film. Each character has a personal conflict that the viewer finds out about. Each character also has a relationship conflict with every other member of the family. This unfolds through the movie and is resolved through the interactions of the characters in the film. You leave the movie wanting to be a member of this family or maybe wanting to be part of a family dinner with all these broken beautiful people. Shakun Batra is a talented director and writer and I look forward to seeing more of his work. Here is an interview with the film’s actors

Film 3 — Mirch Masala

Mirch Masala — It is a 1987 Hindi Film directed by Ketan Mehta. The story is about a local tax collector of a village in India (Subedar — Naseeruddin Shah) and his exploitation of the village community he is in control of. He often harasses the women of the village and wants to now spend a night with a lady (Sonbai — Smita Patel) from the village whose husband is away on some work. The villagers are helpless and approach Sonbai to concede to his demands. The strong willed Sonbai refuses to accede to his demands and works with a small group of working women who make chilli products (mirch masala) to protect her dignity. The central conflict of the film which for me was the subedaar’s lust for Sonbai keeps you gripped to your seat and as the movie progresses with every dialogue you await its resolution. You can watch the movie on Filmistan here.

Reading Chekhov’s Narrative Prose

Read a Chekhov short story titled ‘The Lady with the Dog’ that this Russian writer wrote in 1899. I recently saw a high school theatrical production of Chekhov’s most well known play ‘The Seagull’ and wanted to explore his writing more. I was surprised to know that he is more well known for his narrative prose and short stories in Russia than for his play writing. I read this story and understood why. Many of his stories revolve around the themes of love, family and disease. He shows rather than tells like any good writer does. But what stood out for me in this story was his sharp concise and clear style of writing. His deep understanding of human beings and their central conflicts is reflected through this story of Dmitri Gurov, a married man who is attracted to Anna Sergeyevna, a female neighbor that recently moved to his part of town. Here is a link to a book about a critical study of Chekhov’s prose and drama by Donald Rayfield

Reading ‘The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City’ by William B Helmreich.

This sociologist from the New York University makes use of his training as a social scientist and his upbringing in this grand city to tell us about a journey he undertook where he decided to walk through every block of the five burroughs of New York City (over 6,000 miles) over a 4 year period. When you read this book it is like you are having coffee with him at you favorite coffee shop down the road and William is telling you stories about everything he saw during this learning adventure. The book tells you stories of New Yorkers that you normally do not here about. The baker down the street, The 80 Korean churches in the city, the food that keeps your culture alive in a foreign country, and the longing for home of the large immigrant population of the city. Read more about the book here

Music I have been listening to

Yann Tiersen — Comptine D’un autre l’apres midi

Bolna from Kapoor and Sons

Agar Tum Saath Ho from Tamasha

A Million Years by Alexander Ebert

Also watch this interesting four part video series from Excel Entertainment about the making of the cult Hindi film — Dil Chahta Hai (2000) followed by Dil Chahta Hai: Through the Lens of Psychoanalysis by Cinema Beyond Entertainment

Image Credit — Masoom — Image and New York Nobody Knows — Image

Abhishek