Monday, August 31, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Film review: Gran Torino
Walt Kowalski brought back old and glad boyhood memories.
I haven’t watched Clint Eastwood since Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby, but boy, he can still do his stuff! Old and bent and hoarse and tired, at 78, he brought back a rush of delight as I remembered the days of Dirty Harry, The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, Where Eagles Dare, For a few dollars more, and even Every which way but loose.
Gran Torino (name of a Ford classic car, actually) was released worldwide in January this year. The disk was lying with me for a few months: I wish I had made time to watch it sooner.
You can read all the summaries and reviews on the Net, so I won’t bother telling the story here. Or even to write an exhaustive essay about why I liked the movie. This is just to say that I am happily amazed to see that all the old fire is still there, though he doesn’t do one whit to make himself look and sound a day younger than he is. He wheezes up stairs, spits blood in the washbasin, can’t pull heavy loads any more. But he stubbornly prefers living alone to living with grown children who don’t want him or in an old age home. He is nastily narrow-minded and racially prejudiced and foul-mouthed, yet a lot of people can’t help feeling there is a good man in there, struggling to come out… always has been. A decorated Korean-War veteran, he carries bitter memories of a horrid past. His guns are always close at hand. He dies heroically to save people he apparently cared so little for that he called them gooks to their faces. He doesn’t even fight the way he used to in his old movies: the heroics are of a far higher, understated order. And he goes, the old diehard atheist, with a ‘Hail Mary’ on his lips, leaving his house to the church because his wife would have liked it, and his beloved Gran Torino to the only friend he had found. As some people acknowledge, he was a man, to the last.
Mr. Amitabh Bachchan - with all due respect - still has to learn a great deal from geezers like Sean Connery and Eastwood. I remembered the Modesty Blaise story A few flowers for the colonel (wonder how many readers will even know what I am talking about!) And I remembered the line from The Old Man and the Sea: ‘A man can be destroyed but not defeated’. If Hemingway had been around, I think he would have begged Eastwood to play
Watch the movie.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
If there is one important truth about me, it is that I have tried to be a true and good teacher to the best of my ability all my life. Nothing hurts such a person more than a sign that someone who pretended to be a devoted and special student for years and years finally proved to be an insensitive ingrate. I am referring to the blogpost I wrote on May 01, 2008, titled "Don't be a teacher with a heart". I do wish more people would chip in with comments on that post, telling me how they would feel if they had been cheated like that after they had done their best to be a teacher with a difference... and whether they can honestly condemn teachers who become scoundrels with not a care about whether their old boys and girls go to blazes after they have paid their fees in full, once they have had experiences as painful and galling as I have had.
Sunday, August 02, 2009
The Washington Post apparently conducted a socio-psychological experiment in 2007 involving Joshua Bell, a great contemporary violinist. The sad results are provided and commented upon here. I thank my bright young pupil Harsha for bringing this to my notice.
Rarely do men and women of even the highest talent and skill and goodness get the respect and attention they deserve from the public unless they happen to be in the right time, place and ambience. That is because individuals among masses of people do not have minds and tastes and opinions of their own, they do just what everybody else is doing because that is ‘expected’ of them, and that applies as much to gossiping as to gaping at paintings of great masters in art galleries, pretending that they understand and admire…
In my very modest station in life, I have had enough opportunity to witness this phenomenon. When they come in droves to admit their children to my tuitions, they cringe and fawn as though they are begging an all-powerful emperor for favours (I am still embarrassed by the kind of language they use), and then they cannot recognize me at shops and hospitals and banks, and yet I know they would come in droves again if they heard I was being lynched, just to watch the fun.
Plato called democracy a pig’s philosophy, and despite still being committed to it myself (if only because I know too well how much more awful all other alternatives can be!), I can perfectly understand why he did so, and why the greatest democrats of all ages have rued its shortcomings, sometimes in good humour, sometimes bitterly, as when Churchill said he knew very well that though large crowds came to hear him speak, they would be far larger if they were going to see him hanged. And Einstein said he had no illusions about who would draw much larger crowds if he and a famous
Just one little ray of light: the first link says that at least a lot of children stopped to watch the musician, in wonder or at least idle curiosity. Children are born intelligent and sensitive, they are made dull and crude and ‘busy’ and callous by their elders (see the quote from the great psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud, at the bottom of this page). But, as Tagore said, the birth of every child is proof that God has not yet lost faith in Man…