Apologies for my shameless blogxistence

Apologies for my shameless blog-xistence

It has been almost one and half years, since I started this blog. My part of the blog universe, the little voice(a completely falsely-modest title), has been read, heard and remarked upon by many. Some credit does go to my shameless publicity at the bottom of emails and other not-so-subtle hints to 'go check this link'. Most most of the credit however, goes to people who have quite generously linked me on their blogs.

I have often promised to add a blog roll and never done so, making the Little Voice a dead end, of sorts, for readers who wander here. The only reason being, I was too lazy to create one. Time to make amends.

I have gone a step further to create an entire blog devoted to blogs I read quite regularly. Some of the blame for creating a 'entire new blog' goes to blogger.com for providing this hugely tempting button on the dashboard - 'Create blog' and the other being that, a great number of links seem too crowded on one page and encroach upon my current blog's Lebensraum.

My Blog Roll Page

The Return of the Games

The Return of the Games

The Summer Olympics have returned to the country where they first began. Albeit in much altered circumstances. Islamists have been asking Muslim athletes not to take part. An Iranian world champion refused to fight an Israeli and forfeited a chance for a medal. The ghost of the Munich games still haunts. Tainted athletes in the quest for personal fame risk bringing an entire country to shame. After weeks of speculation the Greek 200m winner Kenteris won't run. The rings representing the continents still have to bind the whole world together and the Baron Courbetin's Olympic goal is still as far as it was 108 years ago. Yet, the Olympic Spirit will be blazing strong in most athletes.

Nobody wants to know where you grew up, how much your sponsor gave you, what stuggles you faced to get on that lane. All that matters is the starting line, the sound of the gun and who gets to the finish line first. Everybody else can make excuses...later.

Whither India?

This could well be India's best year at the Olympics despite the excuses for non-performance of many of the 'outside chances'. For the first time we have a few athletes who are actually going there to compete and not just for sight-seeing.
The Indian women shooters and world records holders did not deliver but Major Rathore did getting India's first silver. So we have moved a little higher to the silver than the lone bronzes of the past two. Good to hear that he has swiftly been rewarded Rs. 80 lakh. Interestingly it's a Korean company Samsung that is offering rewards to Indian athletes winning medals.
The other medal contenders Paes and Bhupathi are one win away from a medal of some sort. To do that they have to win one of their next two matches. Today's match is big and will start a few minutes from now. They are a better pair than Kiefer and Shuttler. For now Paes and Bhupathy have left aside their money squabbles and ego hassles to rally behind Team India.
It seems that Pillay's Ultimate Dream will remain unfinished. Indian hockey looks to be complete shambles. Our neighbours in comparision have been demolishing teams and not making comebacks like ours against minnows like South Africa. Today's game with Australia is a a must-win. We will need a miracle or lots of luck to make it to the semi-finals. Last Olympics' lone Indian star Malleshwari exited with a back injury. She has never looked her best this year. Disheartening, that after winning one bronze Malleshwari thinks she is has more than contributed to Indian sport. Is their lack of enthusiasm a reflection on our lack of seriousness about our best athletes and sport in general, other than Cricket?
That finally leaves the best Indian athelete in Anju Bobby George. Hopefully by then we will have atleast two medals on the board. The flag bearer of the Indian team should not feel like Atlas carrying the hopes of 1 billion people and then be crushed by the weight their collective hopes. When she gets on the runway on the 24th we want her to fly.

My diatribe on Cricket coming up..

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo
Just saw Salma Hayek in Frida. A few months ago, I was at the Detroit Museum of Art (Post)where I saw Diego Rivera's famous 'Ford Murals' and was really impressed with his statement. That's how Frida first saw Diego as a 14 year old, painting a mural in her school.
I always had this impression of Salma Hayek as a 'dumb brunette' prancing about in movies like Desperado, but this movie changed all those perceptions. Hayek as Frida is one of the best perfomance by any actress that I have seen. Julie Traynor, the movie's female director has done a great job directing Hayek and a host of other talented actors in portraying the intensely tragic story of Frida Kahlo and her complex personality. A biopic on someone like Kahlo is always difficult without being overly sympathetic or sensationalizing the spicy details.

Frida Kahlo lost the use of her legs as a polio victim, then learned to walk. Then she again became a cripple as teenager after surviving a terrible bus accident and learned to walk again. She would undergo more than 50 operations which did more to break things rather than mend them. While recovering she began to paint and then showed her work to Diego Rivera, Mexico's most famous artist. Diego Rivera (played by Alfred Molina), an unrepentant womaniser, was impressed by her work but attempted to seduce her. Frida resisted and wanted to be evaluated as an artist. She asked for Rivera's genuine criticism of her work. She insisted on 'equality' and principles of 'comradeship' which impressed Diego and he never thought of her again as just another girl on whom he could use his fame to serve his own purposes.

They got married within a few months much against Frida's mother's wishes. The fat Mexican and his frail, crippled wife had a rocky relationship. Despite Rivera's constant philandering and Frida's bisexuality, they could not do without each other. She fought a losing battle in trying to make Rivera completely her own. She was not without her own amours. Most famously with painter Georgia O' Keeffe and Leon Trotsky. Trotsky (played by Geoffrey Rush) was given asylum in Mexico on Rivera's insistence. Frida's brief affair with Trotsky hurt Rivera deeply and they were divorced for a few months, after which Rivera returned.

The picture above has her famous moustache and shows the duality of her personality and sexuality. Considering the amount of personal tragedy and endurance of pain her story is almost like Van Gogh's. It is remarkable how she did not go mad. The movie ends with Frida being carried, bedridden, to her first exhibition in Mexico. Frida's story is a remarkable story of endurance and overcoming personal tragedy through Art.

The film uses a lot of special effects which I thought was a great idea but poorly done. For a great example of how to use special effects without it getting in the way obviously, see Amelie.


My Memoirs of reading "Memoirs of a Geisha"

Just finished reading Arthur Golden's unputdownable book - Memoirs of a Geisha. (Also see: Sumedha's review.) An extremely well-written fictional autobiography of the life and times of geisha-Nitta Sayuri. It is an astounding achievement considering how an American can attempt to write about a alien culture and esoteric tradition, and as a male effortlessly get in the skin of a woman and write such a sensitive first-person account of a geisha. The book is so well-crafted that this fact, will be completely erased from your mind after the first few pages you are convinced that this is a truly transcribed from the interviews given by Nitta Sayuri to a Dutch-born Harvard professor. The scholarship of Golden with regards to geisha culture is beyond doubt, though I was most impressed with his style of writing such a book. Every word, sentence, idiom and metaphor has an authentic Japanese feel to it. He talks with metaphors using the 'waves, the moon, cherry blossoms, plums in rice cakes' that it often reads as a Japanese translation. It is extremely hard to be so authentic without sounding contrived. If anything, the plot seems contrived with a fairy-tale ending. It hardly matters in the enjoyment of this tale, as he transports you to Kyoto's Gion district in the geisha heyday of the 30s and 40s. Almost effortlessly, you watch the geisha require two people to help her dress in their kimono and apply makeup. You take a walk with them along the Shirakawa stream, observe their rivalries, jealousies. You watch, as these girls sold by their desperate families into slavery fight like cats to make a success of whatever life handed out to them. As Mameha says, " We do not become geisha because we want to, but because we have no choice", as their personal desires were often sacrificed to what made most business sense.
Geisha are not prostitutes, but still are available for money. A whole lot of time and money, cheekily put, 'a lot of buck for a bang.' The kotah is a close Indian equivalent of the Japanese okiya. Reading this reminded me of Hindi films like Pakeezah and Mughal-e-Azam. Okiyas preserve the Japanese traditions of music, dancing, poetry and theatre. It takes years of training and following strict protocols and a lot of hardwork before one becomes a geisha. Ironically, we learn that most men who can afford the services and company of geisha rarely know how to behave and mostly end up drunk. Their dance and craft is in the end always secondary to what men finally just want - SEX. When Sayuri finally learns for what she earns the highest price, she wryly comments, "..it was as if somene was scratching the inside of my thigh."
The sexism of the times and the whole concept is exemplified by the fact that daughters of geisha had no choice but to be geisha and sons could even become heirs.There are very few Geisha left in Japan, now replaced by the cheaper versions of escorts. Female exploitation still continues in some form or the other.

Geisha may soon be relics of an age past,
But parallel lives of mistresses and wives will remain.
Despite everything somethings just don't change.

News Update
This is going to now be made into a movie produced by Rob Marshall (Chicago)