Monday, November 2, 2009

natter, chatter ... 'Talk to her'

Reading group's inbox flooded with run-on discussions on Pedro Almodovar's Spanish movie 'Talk to her'(2002). As informed earlier, Sowmya initiated an argument, in the form of a questionnaire, raising some vital doubts on reading/understanding this movie. Barath responded, though there are clues that indicate Benigno is gay as well as bisexual, it wouldn't have stopped him 'loving'/'raping' Alicia. This, he reasoned, might have been due to Benigno's back ground. He also maintained that Marcos "couldn't have 'raped' Alicia". He agreed with Sowmya's observation that 'when could have Marcos possibly raped Alicia?'.

Lenny brought the 'auteur' into account. Though, he concurred Benigno must have 'raped' Alicia, he questioned the motive of the director. He doubted whether the director wanted the audience to read things in a certain way. He discussed man's 'gaze', visual narrative, constructed 'feminity' and 'effeminity' and alternate sexuality. He concluded the author might have 'naturally' wanted the audience to imagine a relationship between Marcos and Alicia.

Jananie (after a long gap) contributed some significant points, thereby making the discussion vivid. She notified Almodovar was a gay and indicated a certain pattern in his movies -( All About My Mother, The Bad Education, Talk To Her, Volver). They were: a. sympathetic representation of non-straight men vs possible 'villainisation' of straight men.
b.sexual ambiguity of the male characters and their typification.
c. The focus on alternative/ambiguous sexuality contributes to the perception of alternative sexuality and/as disease in contemporary society.
She interrogated whether the assumed 'rape' is rape at all. She also added that most of his movies have a dearth of lesbian characters and the 'straight' women who appear are victimized by men.

Bipin was annoyed by the 'language' used by the participants and the constructed ways of 'reading' the movie. He urged for alternative readings. He considered the movie to be a thriller. He recounted that as he came out of the hall he was completely confused as to know who the 'culprit' was. However, he agreed that through the 'silent movie' the director conveyed the 'unsaid said' as to who could have been the culprit i.e Benigno. On the other hand, he also believed the movie is ambiguous and open to multiple interpretations.

Lenny built upon Jananie's contribution/suggestion. He augmented that sexuality and disease in this movie could be seen in the context of larger social frameworks and institutions such as religion and law, family and state, hospital and prison. He considered this movie also talks about the (in)capability of expressing feelings and emotions, and alternative forms of expression other than 'talking'. He noted that 'rape' and 'making love' were ambiguous terms to describe the alleged act/crime.

what a discussion we've had ... hope there's more to natter and chatter...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

hi - after a prolonged gap; here, attempts at a recap. (we know, we were other-wise-busy).

the reading group was quiet for the past few days. though we watched a couple of movies, the discussions weren't as lively as we've had earlier (why?). well, the spanish movie 'talk to her' - initiated a discussion. Sowmya initiated an argument over the 'rape of Alicia' on friday, post-screening. what followed was a set of questions and two long interpretations/readings. Apparently, Sowmya suggested whether this could be carried forward into a combined paper on "straight"ness of cinema.

remember, the group also watched the tamil movie 'paruthiveeran' a month ago.

these are the questions Sowmya formulated:

1. yes, all clues point towards benigno being gay. but why was he behind
Alicia in the first place? he could be bi-sexual but does that mean he
would not have made love to her?
2. why did the silent movie about the dwarfed man entering the woman
disturb benigno? he says he was disturbed and then we see the formation of
an embryo.
3. If Alicia cant recognise anything in her coma state, how can she
recognise marcos in the end? only because they made love?
4. i vaguely remember marcos saying that "benigno gave life to Alicia"
does he say that? if yes, what does it mean?
5. is there any indication of when marcos could have "raped" alicia?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Regional Shorts

Such a long gap, from the reading group! (is not good for anyone)

So the month's second reading session focussing on the theme of the month, 'Region' happened yesterday. The reading of the session had three readings: 'Poetry in the time of Terror', an innovative prose-poem piece by Robin Ngangom, a Manipuri Poet, Gulabi Talkies an interesting story by Kannada writer Vaidehi (and translated by Tejaswini Niranjana) and a story from Manik Bandhopadhyay titled the 'Ascetic'.

People: Sowmya, Bipin, Leonard, Shyam, Rajarishi, Prabhas and Viju

The session started off with discussing the Bengali story, 'Ascetic' whose motive Rajarishi traced it to the Vaishnava saint, Chiathanya Mahaprabhu. The motifs of leaving and return were discussed. Viju said the story reflected the prank twists of O'Henry stories. Rajarishi commented that the story was written as the counterpoint of another story of M. Bandhopadhyay called the 'Thief'.

Manik Bandhopadhyay's fights with Tagore and his ironical stories and his mocking of the Bhadralok were also discussed. The text was also deemed a male text.

Next in the line was 'Gulabi Talkies' a Kannada story by Vaidehi. The original story was written in a dialect of Kannada and the feministic overtones of the story were acknowledged first. The public-private spaces, the exposition of the altercations among the womenfolk, the marginalization of the women characters, the division between different kind of women of different classes, and the possibility of dissemination of articulatory spaces for women were discussed. The story also showed the emergence of early film viewing in the rural areas in much evocative detail. Sowmya commented that some parts of the story were used in introductory film texts.
Prabhas said how the talkies in the title might also signify the talking spaces enabled for the womenfolk due to the establishment of the talkies.

The third reading was a prose-poetic essay by Robin Ngangom, a Manipuri poet. His essay, detailing his position as a poet in times of terror, were strewn with poems he wrote and proved to be an interesting and innovative read.

The tone of the essay was discussed by Shyam and Viju. Shyam argued that the quoting of poets from other countries were ironical and was meant to show that the poet was intending it as a retort against the people who think all poets need to do is write poems of beautiful scenery and sentimental romance. Viju maintained that the quoting was meant to create a global lineage for the poet whose witnessing never stops. A poet in times of terror cannot but respond to what is happening around him/her.

The last paragraph of the essay which was meant to clear away the confusions proved to be totally against the whole essay thereby making the whole point of the essay, well, pointless.


Next Week
Friday , 18th
Video of a Dramatic Performance followed by a Presentation of his research work by Thongam Bipin.

The Week After (date not fixed)
Going to watch 'Quick Gun Murugan' or some other movie!

The theme of the next month (October)is tentatively decided to be 'Religion'. Since religion is such a vast topic, we are also searching for a subtopic under religion. Any comments on the topic should be discussed on our mailing list. It is working! Just select 'reply all' to any of our mailing list mails to make it active.

Please comment below the views on the current topic. Comments on the reading group should go to the mailing list.


P.S. Leonard (Lenny) is willing to be the co-writer for the blog. Yayness! Welcoming Lenny aboard!!!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Of Love and Foucault

We had the third meeting on July 22nd Wednesday(postponed from tuesday due to some technical difficulties) on a Michel Foucault essay, What is Enlightenment? This was an essay written partially in response to Immanuel Kant's essay, 'What is Enlightenment?'
The people who attended the meeting were: Sowmya, Aparna, Bipin, Viju and Praveen.

Viju, initiated the discussion summarizing the main points of the essay. The essay announces Foucault's project of a archaeological and genealogical (in Foucault's usage of these terms)analysis of a historical ontology of ourselves. Kant's essay is responded to in brief, but mainly it serves as a preface to the main points foucualt tries to elucidate in the essay.

Aparna said that the main project is an inquiry into the attitude of modernity, and the non essential study of Enlightenment for such an inquiry.

Foucault's resistance to anything universal and global was pointed out by Sowmya.

The essay was not easy and the discussion turned to the cultural studies register itself and many examples of bad writing, from many foremost critical social science thinkers were pointed out and criticized. Praveen commented on the obscurantism of many writers. The problems of translation, usage of foreign vocabulary, practicality of cultural studies were all commented upon.

During the tea session after the main session, issues of Dev D was discussed which further lead to a discussion of love. And thus Praveen gave us a theme for another month, love! And we are not discussing love poems of fourteenth century, or sentimental mush from mainstream movies or from our own lives(they can be there). But love, theorized. This is, of course, tentative. But I am sure everyone will have their own say in this, like in, presenting a paper on love?!

Won't we love it? :)

- Viju

P.S. Purists who who abhor such topics being discussed in the group may treat this is a joke and can take a vacation on the LOVE month. :D

Monday, July 20, 2009

Seeing Dev D

Our second meeting happened on 14-07-09 in the Mphil Classroom. The numbers dwindled to just five: Aparna, Bipin, Sowmya, Shyma and Viju were present for the meeting
The subject of the discussion was the Bollywood movie, Dev D directed by Anurag Kashyap. The movie was screened the previous friday.

The meeting started off with Aparna initiating the discussion. She compared the multiple adaptation of Devdas something akin to the adaptations of Shakespeare's Hamlet. The indecisive character of Hamlet, the protagonist of Hamlet, the play seems to be reflected in the poster of Dev D too.

Viju commented on the Dev D's characters meeting at the murky depths signifies their temporary stay there.

Shyma said that there is some steering away from the traditional binaries of modern and traditional as well as the london educated devdas and the image of dev d

Sowmya observed that the movie had too much colour and featured a debased hero. The role of chanda by a white woman and the NRI-ness of Dev D was highlighted. Again the movie was not trying to perpetrate that love is all innocent. Rather it is about the self. The inherent macho-ness present in Devadas characters was also commented on. She also tried to make a connection between the character's name, Devdas and the practice of Devadasi system prevalent in India.

Bipin made some amazing observations which seemingly everyone else missed. He said while in the original Devadas Paro is hurt by Devadas and gets a scar on her forehead. here Dev D hasa scar on his face by an accident which he himself is responsible. He also said about the possibility of many loves.

There were minimal discussions after the meeting. There is some uncertainty on tomorrow's meeting. I think Sowmya will update us on that.

Please post your responses as comments for this post below. Sorry for the delay.

- Viju

Thursday, July 16, 2009

To Kalyan

I am sure everyone has heard about Kalyan's father's death. He died of a heart-attack yesterday evening. This news has been shocking for all of us and we do share his incommensurable grief. Condolences from the deep of our hearts.

Kalyan, May your father's soul rest in peace.
And you, shall be in our prayers.

- the reading group

Thursday, July 9, 2009

First Reading

We had our first meeting and it was great!

The venue was changed from CIL lawn to our dear musty Mphil Classroom.

Participants: Shyma, Bipin, Praveen, Ambili, Sowmya, Sreebitha, Rathan and Viju

The meeting started off with Shyma's presentation. She introduced Kant, his obscure scientific discoveries and responded to the religious premise of the essay.

Bipin had issues with the initial passage itself saying how 'the self imposed immaturity' is not quite self-imposed, but rather a result of social conditioning.

Praveen brought in Ambedkar's perspective on enlightenment here.

Rathan tried to connect the spiritual nature of enlightenment, relating it to Buddha's nirvana.

Sowmya elaborated on the assumptions of the essay about the mind/body and nature/reason dichotomies.

Sreebitha pointed out that the 'intellectuals' were the only ones capable of enlightenment according to Kant. Though at the beginning of the essay, the mass seems to have included in the 'men', they seem to be missing towards the end.

Viju saw a major public sphere/private sphere divide that Kant seems to make in the essay.

The many discussions evolved out of this include
* Shyma said that while we are aware of the political readings of the essay, the religious interpretations of this are unavailable or inaccessible. Why?
* Bipin commented on the balancing act which Kant attempts at, which was a disappointment when considering the initial promise he holds out in the essay.
* The religious aspect branched off to several mini-discussions that involved issues like western enlightenment, Kant's intentionality, the essay's original premise, and 'Nirvana' as enlightenment.
* Foucault's essay, which we are discussing along with this one on 21st this month may probably give more insights on the essay and its implication

Praveen suggested that the topic of the next month to be 'Pulp Fiction' and everyone agreed heartily.
Fiction: A Mills and Boon Romance
Theory: Janice Radway on romance novels
Fiction: A translated pulp fiction from any local languages
Movie: Pulp Fiction

The movie screening (Dev D) is on Friday, 10th July, 1.30 pm at New Lecture Hall. Everyone is invited!

People! Put your typed responses to the essay as comments after this post. The discussions can continue after the responses.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

First Post

Welcome to all!

This is the official blog of our unofficial reading group,
Under the theory tree.

The reading group is an unofficial community of a bunch of enthusiasts from the Centre for Comparative Literature in Hyderabad Central University to read theory and fiction, watch movies, discuss them and have lots of fun in the process.

The reading group meets every Tuesday from 3.30 pm - 5.00pm. The tentative venue is the lawn outside CIL

There is no quorum to be maintained. The meeting starts with whoever has come and others join in.
Though everyone has to participate equally, an Initiator is selected to ... ahem, initiate the discussion.

We have tentatively decided to fill the month in the following manner:
First Week: Theory
Second Week: Movie Discussion
Third Week: Theory Again
Fourth Week: Fiction

The Schedule for July 2009

7th July - Answering the Question: What is Enlightenment by Immanuel Kant
Initiator: Shyma

14th July - Discussion of the Movie Dev D
Initiator : Sreebitha
This movie will be screened on 10th July afternoon. For more details contact Sowmya.

21st July - Discussion of both Immanuel Kant's and Foucault's What is Enlightenment.
Initiator: Viju

28th July - The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
Initiator: Sowmya

Click on the titles to view/download the respective document or movie.

What you can expect in the blog:
* Readings for each week
* Responses from the group on each reading
* Interesting movie and article links
* News and updates about the reading group
* and more!

Absolutely pissed by the retro looks, the design, the stupid caption? Well you are stuck with it unless you come up with something cooler, :P

- Viju


Group Name: Sowmya and Aparna
Blog Design:
Blog Header: Viju
Header Image: Dan Morelle through Flickr