Pondering On Suicide (Warning: Morbid Content!)

Is getting od’ed on Heroin a valid suicide option? Is it maybe the best way to die? Quickest, painless, sure-shot method? A perfect way to bid farewell? The body that one leaves behind is not physically damaged. One just goes unconscious after a perfect lethal dose and doesn’t feel a thing, before the drug turns off the heart and the lungs. I was thinking. It seems really attractive. Why do most people not try this? Why  do they choose ghastly methods like jumping from a great height, jumping in front of a train, drowning, hanging, cutting themselves up to kill themselves? Dying isn’t easy. Why make it worse? Overdosing on Heroin seems to be the most elegant, the most peaceful way. It might not be the most economical. At an average of Indian Rupees  700 (roughly $12) a gram on the streets, it is certainly much higher than prescription Barbiturates. But it is hard to acquire lethal dose of Barbs, and mostly they have been replaced by Benzodiazepins, which unfortunately do not cause fatal overdose in most cases. Besides Benzodiazepines have an antidote. Either way even at the slightly steeper price a lethal dose of Heroin is easy to accumulate and if we counterbalance the inferior quality of street Heroin with quantity, I suppose a 5 grammer would be lethal enough. So if the price of your death is about INR 3500 ($60), it’s not too much, eh?

But then again if one has to die it must be for a cause. Life is precious and it does not make sense to give it away for some trivial reason. Or whatever may the reason be it should be dedicated for a cause. So what should it be? Maybe it’s a good idea to die for the young girls getting raped and killed in the most inhuman ways in India. I think that is the need of the time. Lots of people on the street marching, lighting candles, protesting and shit, but do they really care? How much do they care? Do they feel ashamed?  Maybe if a person kills himself in broad daylight it would force people to think. Or maybe it won’t.  People in this country are already desensitized. It’s a sad situation. And after all I am no difference. I am a fucking misanthrope. Not a misogynist for sure, but a misanthrope, yes. Well then why die for humans? Let’s think of something else. Maybe Greenpeace? What? Damn, that’s a fucking joke, right? Greenpeace! That shit is only for humans not ‘Earth’. Earth will live for another 7.5 billion years before it gets absorbed by the Sun, which would by then, have turned into a Red Dwarf. So what can it be? What do I really, really care for, apart from Cinema? Think Raene, think. Animals. Yeah, that’s true. Which animal? Oh that’s easy. Tigers. The Royal Bengal Tigers. The true kings of jungle. Yes, tigers are a worthy cause. Less than 2500 are living in the wild. The poachers are killing them rampantly. Nobody cares. The numbers are decreasing rapidly. Especially in the Sunderban of Bengal. Less than 250 remain. It’s heartbreaking. The beautiful, majestic beast once this land loved, identified with, even worshiped is reduced to a marginalized existence. It’s time the west takes notice. And take action. Now this is a genuinely worthy cause I can die for. So let it be the tigers.

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Save the Bengal Tigers

But will it really make any impact? Not in India. There are far too many people here. And the value of human life is close to nothing. People die in accidents and the dead bodies lie on the road amid traffic for hours. No one batters an eyelid, let alone stopping the vehicle. In here dying for tigers, man that would be the top subject for stand up comedians at prime-time. Such is this country. No, it can’t be in India. What about New York City? Manhattan? Nah, the people there are too cold and too busy. They are always running. Besides US have their own problems. Their gun laws. Their habit of poking their nose up everyone else’s ass. Yeah, there are many. Forget NYC. Europe? I think so. Prague. They will love the drama. Dark Asian bum killing himself at Staroměstské náměstí  for Tigers Of Bengal. A gruesome death in a beautiful backdrop.  Oh they gonna lap it up.

But it has to be spectacular. Heroin wont do. No way. Its too subdued. No one would notice. I need to chuck the idea of a comfortable death. People need spectacles. And nothing makes a spectacle like a burning man being swallowed in raging flames. Remember Thich Quang Duc, the Buddhist monk who burned himself to death in Saigon, Vietnam on 11 June 1963. That was heroic. The photos of self-immolation still raise hair. And that calm face of the monk awaiting death while in the flames. This is the stuff of legends.

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Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc in his dying moments. Saigon, 1963

It’s not the process of death that scares me. It involves suffering, and suffering is predictable. It’s the aftermath that’s shit-scary. It’s the unknown. Sometimes being a believer helps I guess. Sometimes having an average IQ is a gift. People are jealous of you when you belong to the top 1% of the smartest humans on earth, but they do not know the burden of intelligence. When you do not believe in God, afterlife, reincarnation and all those fancy stuffs, you realize it’s very lonely out there. It’s just yourself that’s all you got. And after the moment of death the ‘you’ does not exist anymore. That is frightening. Who are we? It’s funny that we know so much about the universe but so little about ourselves. We all have heard about parallel universes. Is it possible that ‘WE’ ourselves are those parallel universes? I mean, think about it. We know the universe from the point of Big Bang till now. We do not know about what happened before the Big Bang. And the observable universe is predicted to expand till a point, then contract and collapse back to a Big Crunch, which then gives birth to another Big Bang. This cycle is one possible scenario, not ultimate fact. But imagine ourselves as the observable universe. We do not know what we were before the event of insemination of the ovum that we came from. Am I that winning sperm? No. Am I that egg cell? No. We don’t know about their true nature (in a spiritual sense) prior to the fuse. I probably can say I am that diploid zygote which was made up of those two, which eventually expanded into me. I can see that zygote as the Big Bang (no pun intended). And I am eventually going to collapse in a death, which one may call Big Crunch. Anything outside this timeline is not observable and hence can only be speculated. I feel there are ample reasons to think that we are parallel universes, living inside a larger universe. And in each of us, other little parallel universes live and die, like blood cells in our veins, oblivious to the fact that they are a part of another universe in a yet another universe. That’s food for thought. Or maybe just ramblings.

Let’s come back to the self immolation plan. It would hurt. Sure. Maybe I should take a shot of Heroin before I set the fire. Hmm. Makes sense…will see. Maybe I should sell the satellite rights to make some money for my dog? He can have a good life, the remaining 6 or 8 years he has. And sell exclusive rights to photographers. Yes this will become front page material. Maybe I should invite Ayra. I am sure she would enjoy the live show. Let’s think about it. Let’s give it a serious thought. And all those pansies who would think I was a coward, damn you cunts, you have never been there. It takes mega balls to kill yourself, going against your primal instincts of self preservation. Respect, Mr. Cobain.

Disclaimer: It is a thought process recorded in words. The author is not suicidal and not in any immediate danger. The author does not promote or oppose suicide, and takes a neutral stand on the issue.

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A Tribute To Tarantino

Ok so here is a tribute to Tarantino,  in my own humble way. Let us imagine Jules Winnfield now walks the Earth as he wished, and on his path he finds himself in the dirty underbelly of India. He has become what Vincent Vega predicted before his own death, a ‘bum’. Jules earns his living by underground prizefighting, like Butch used to do. And we catch Jules in the middle of a fight in his ‘interior monologue’ as he is cornered by the opponent while the audience shouts for his blood.

“Last night I had a dream. I was this petty driver driving my little auto-rickshaw. The roads were terrible; they were broken, flooded, there were potholes and pits all over. And yet I was driving the three-wheeler despite those obstacles. Just when I thought it can’t get any worse,  it did. The roads didn’t get worse. They vanished. There were no roads anymore. I was trapped in the middle of a concrete jungle of little houses. But I kept driving. I kept driving through people’s hallways, kitchens, bedrooms, toilets and I kept moving ahead. The walls could not stop me. May be that was a premonition for what is happening now. He tried to break my spirit. He cornered me in the ring and showered punches all over me. Then he hit me below the belt. I got knocked out stone cold on the floor. I saw black. It was only then that the dream from last night came back to me. As I was breaking through the concrete walls of the buildings with my little rickshaw, I heard the referee’s voice, ‘Four, Five, Six…’ I pulled myself up from the ground. My legs feel woozy, my bones hurt. I feel a sharp pain in my lower abdomen, where he punched me under the belt. I wipe the blood of my face to see clearly. I see him now. And I see the audience. They are after my blood. They all want me dead. But they do not know one thing. The strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. And I stand alone. Not a single soul by my side. And I stand here looking at you right in the eye, while  the referee counts to ten . Now I know the only rule of this game is that there are no rules. I am ready for the next round and I am lethal. I feel no pain. I am not a man. I am the powerhouse of retribution, the monolith of vengeance. And you are standing on my way. You don’t know what you are up against. But you will soon find out. You gonna find out that you fucked the wrong niggah. And you will know my name is Jules when I lay my vengeance upon thee. GET IN THE RING, MOTHERFUCKER!.”

 

The original monologue by Jules from Pulp Fiction, Ezekiel 25:17

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Is It Time To Rename ‘Film’ And ‘Filmmaker’ With More Relevant Terms?

Classic Hollywood Collage

Classic Hollywood Icons : (clockwise from top left: Rita Hayworth,  Marlene Dietrich, Dorothy Dandridge, Paul Newman, Gloria Swanson, and Marlon Brando)

 The rise of Hollywood during the silent era followed by the Golden Age (1920’s – 1960’s) established Motion Pictures as a solid, lucrative business. Filmmaking became an industry and directors, including the rest of the creative team were considered as skilled workers, not artists.

‘Film’ was named after the medium it used, ‘Photographic film’. This seemed to be a logical nomenclature till now, because it was difficult to imagine a different name for it. A motion picture is an extremely complex phenomenon, which not only involves the exposure of celluloid medium (or film), but also requires a prerequisite seclusion of its audience to a controlled environment (Cinema/Film Theater), creating an intersensory experience (audio and visual), and is temporal in nature (recorded past events disguised as unfolding present). It would have been an impossible task to find a fitting name for films which will represent all these characteristics comprehensibly. Hence calling it simply ‘Film’ was both convenient and sensible. But can we still call films by the same name? Does it still make sense or are we holding on to a relic of the past?

Let’s look at the term ‘Filmmaker’. This is an obvious Hollywood creation. The word means a person who directs or produces films. So by definition it does not exclusively mean a director. I think usage of both the terms, ‘Filmmaker’ and ‘Director’ are problematic. ‘Filmmaker’ is a generic term. It is a term closer to ‘Dressmaker’, ‘Shoemaker’, ‘Potter’, ‘Weaver’, ‘Blacksmith’ or ’Mason’, someone who makes ‘things’ or  ‘products’ for mass consumption. The word ‘Filmmaker’ is no way closer to ‘Painter’, ‘Sculptor’, ‘Poet’ or even ‘Dancer’. This is due to the fact that early and classic Hollywood never considered film as an Art form and filmmakers as Artists. Filmmakers never enjoyed the exalted heights reserved for Artists of other forms. Even though in modern times, Cinema has evolved into a serious and arguably the most relevant Art form, we have continued to use  this lackadaisical term ‘Filmmaker’ to refer the Artists behind it. An Artist does not make, he creates. That is the principle difference between an ‘Artist’ and an ‘Artisan’. It is time to make a clear distinction between ‘Artist’ and ‘Artisan’ and abandon the term ‘Filmmaker’.

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Top: Andrei Tarkovsky. Bottom: Aki Kaurismaki

 ‘Director’ on the other hand is a term which implies a formal administrative role with a tyrannical undertone. It has zero suggestions of ‘creativity or ‘art‘. Now the term director is an appropriate title for most people who direct films as a profession, especially those who do not write their own scripts. They mostly do a job. A creative job no doubt, but they are not essentially artists. The problem arises when these generic filmmakers are put alongside with genuine Artists, due to indiscriminate terminology. There is no distinction between, say, a Roland Emmerich and a Terrence Malick, both are referred using a common expression, ‘Filmmaker’. Tarkovsky, Cecil B. DeMill, Kaurismaki, Michael Bay all are indiscriminately mentioned as filmmakers. This is insane! There is absolutely no distinction between an Artist (Tarkovsky, Kaurismaki) and an Artisan (DeMill, Bay). The French term ‘Auteur’ attempts to make this distinction. ‘Auteur’ rightfully recognizes and credits the Artist behind a film. But the term undermines Cinema itself, by drawing parallels to literature, implying that Cinema is not a stand-alone Art form. Therefore in my opinion, the term ‘Auteur’ is also inadequate.

Most films today are shot digitally. The film medium is becoming exceedingly insignificant, because of various unavoidable circumstances (high cost of films, unprecedented improvement in the digital technology, aggressive push by the studios to digitize the multiplexes). So the practice to call a motion picture a ‘Film’ has become a dated practice. Over the time the word ‘Cinema’ has become a generic term too, covering a broad spectrum of Audio-Visual products, ignoring the vast dissimilarities between Artistic Cinema and mass-scale Film Entertainment. I feel a distinction must be made to draw a clear, dividing line between ‘Art’ and ‘Entertainment’. One can continue to call commercial films as ‘Movies’, as it is a pedestrian term which fits the bulk of the commercial films perfectly. But it’s time to coin a new, specific term for ‘Art films’. My suggestion is to call itKINO-ART. The word ‘Kino’ means Cinema in some languages. But my suggestion is based on a film’s intrinsic nature of movement, ‘Kino’ from ‘Kinesis’. The multiple frames per second movement of films, the principle behind the Moving Image’, has remained unchanged in the digital age (though the frame rate has varied sometimes). In my opinion, no other word captures the inherent nature and distinguishing feature of Cinema as the word ‘KINO’. For the same reason, generic terms like ‘Filmmaker’ or ‘Director’ should be exclusively used for ‘Artisan’ filmmakers, and never used for the ‘Artists’. If ‘Film-art’ is renamed as ‘KINO-ART’, then the ‘Artist’ behind its creation should be called a ‘KINOIST’.

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Terence Malick’s ‘Tree Of Life’ 2011 was shot digitally using a Red One Camera

Image And Its Logic: The Basis Of Visual Language

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Scene from ‘The Color Of Pomegranate’ 1968 (dir: Sergei Paradjanov)

Cinema has evolved considerably in the last 100 odd years. But what has remained essentially unchanged is its nature as a visual medium. Since its humble beginning cinema has been communicating to its audience through images. It’s true that the addition of sound has undoubtedly enhanced the medium and enriched the art form. The sonic aspect of cinema has become so indispensable, that it has become an integral part of the whole experience. And yet cinema has retained its early silent roots and remained primarily a visual art. Over the time, the film-goers became more accustomed to the complex visual expressions. The proficiency of the audience pushed the filmmakers to be more creative and articulate. As a result modern cinema has become increasingly eloquent and its audience, fluent in cinematic language.

The beauty of cinema lies in its expression. The majority of the films that are made are narratives, and quite possibly they will remain so till the end. But even in the narrative form, better films stand out because of their superior expression. It’s not the ‘story’ they are telling, it’s ‘how’ they are telling the story. A great story can be ruined if it’s told badly (Bicentennial Man, 1999) where as a simple story can become a great film if it uses the cinematic language to its fullest (Duel,  1971).   The inherent difference between cinema and literature is that cinema poses a limitation on explicit verbal communication, especially when portraying a character’s internal world. However this particular limitation has become the strength of cinema, as it has given birth to the cinematic language, an exclusive expression which is at once poetic and unique. Image based communication relies on the interpretation of audience. It makes the experience more engaging and less prosaic.  I would like to think that the essence of cinema is in its visual language.

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Scene from ‘Under The Seas’ 1907 (dir:  Georges Méliès) 

Despite being a visually communicative medium cinema uses the conventions of oral and written language. It has a complex grammar of image-vocabulary, syntax and semantics, all of which have formed over the years. Because of this it is possible to translate a written script into cinematic expression. Whereas the script will communicate only to those readers who know the written language, the translated images will be legible to anybody who is accustomed to the non-verbal cinematic language, irrespective of the vernacular language they speak. Let us take an example:

Words:

‘A young lady waits at an empty station for her lover. She met him a few months back in San Francisco. The train arrives. She is ecstatic to see her man. She does not know he has other plans for her.’

There can be various ways to translate these five sentences on screen. But let us stick to basic imagery.

Visuals:

  1. A young woman sits alone on a bench in an empty station. She looks at her watch impatiently. The signal on the platform turns to green.
  2. Flashback: The woman is in the arms of a man, smiling, eating ice-cream. At the backdrop the Golden Gate Bridge can be seen.
  3. ( A sound of train brings us to present) A train arrives.
  4. The young woman spots her lover in one of the compartments, ready to get down. She runs towards him with a broad smile.
  5. The man brings out something from his bag. Close Up:  It is an automatic handgun. He puts it in the inner pocket of his suit. Only then he descends the train with a wide smile and approaches the young woman.

It is safe to say, that this sequential imagery would be comprehensible to almost anyone at anywhere in the world.  This simple example demonstrates the universal nature of cinematic language. And yet cinema is not a true language system.  All languages by definition are a system of signs used for intercommunication. But cinema is actually a one way communication system. The image based syntax of cinema is a strange mix of a lexicon and a morphology, which does not exist in any spoken or written language. The ambiguity of the visual language may allude a part of its audience to a poetic expression, leaving the rest eluded from its apparent beauty.  And that is what, readers, makes cinema special.