Friday, December 18, 2009

Space Opera: Avatar


Watching James Cameron’s Avatar on the largest IMAX 3D digital screen in Asia, at Big Cinemas Wadala, can be a pleasure and a pain at the same time. Funnily enough, the pain and the pleasure stem from the same fact— you are there... with the Na’vis, walking, flying, fighting.

The plot is predictable. A trigger-happy Col Quaritch is pitched as the villain from the onset. Jake Sully, the victim-of-circumstances emerges as the hero. And then there is the familiar love story of Neytiri and Jake. Here your sympathies are reserved for the blue-skinned-10-ft tall creatures. Pandora might just be the place one might want to escape to. On this planet, humans are the aliens. And you share the space of this fantastical land, with the 40’ x 70’ screen making sure that you are in for a joyride, from the moment you take your seat.

You duck when the horrible-half-hippo creature charges. You spill the popcorn when booming sounds from 15000 watt speakers shake you from every possible side. You feel claustrophobic when Jake dives into the sea. And yes, you soar when the beautiful, big, bright-coloured birds take off at unimaginable speed. The merging of the live and computer images are done to perfection...The forest real, the make-up immaculate, the colours crystal-clear, and the glo-lights technologically first-rate. The effects are gorgeously jaw-dropping. And that’s where the pain is, really. You see all of these around, popping out of the screen, jumping at you, taking you down under and high above.

The nausea and headache is almost instant, if you have motion sickness, or hate adventure sports, or are not used to gaming on Xbox. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one to experience sudden heat rushes. I found many taking off their 3D glasses (brand new and extremely tight) and tilt back on their seats. Having said that, Avatar is a film meant to be watched on IMAX 3D. You might shrug away thinking 3D is gimmicky. Indeed it is. But if you watch it in 2D, go ahead watch it in 3D and then again, in IMAX 3D. If gushing is what this is, you’d know why only when ‘you are there’.

In 2D

Perhaps the best thing about watching a 3D film in a 2D screen is that you can effortlessly concentrate on the story and its characters. In a 3D screen, most of the time, you’d be wowed by the super cool effects and might even be lost in them, to the extent that you forget what the story was all about in the first place.

Well, at least I was so utterly taken in by the real-life experience in IMAX 3D that the story didn’t really matter. In 2D, ‘you are not there’ figuratively, you can’t realistically hallucinate creatures are charging at you, or the glowing dust falling on you. Although you remain to be fascinated by the awesome mingling of imagination and technology, you turn your attention to the story for the first time.

It’s a different issue altogether that Avatar is a mumbo-jumbo mix of all the sci-fi movies you might have seen so far. But it delivers in its blending of adventure-action-drama, so much so that you’ll believe your eyes for over-two-hours that the film runs.

Original article: Published HT Cafe, Dec 18, 2009:

-Jayeeta Mazumder

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Weaving Worthlessness

When I woke up this morning, I had a distinct sensation of an uncomfortable feeling inside my throat. My conscience had been pricked. I gulped down almost half a litre of water at one go.

My friend had just called me up and I came to know about the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Deprived of the luxuries of a TV at home, I started imagining live footages in my head. I stretched my imagination but couldn’t quite get a clear close up of anything. I consciously blocked it all out. I called to enquire about my friends in Mumbai. They were okay but obviously shaken. One friend told me that it was crazy and that she felt as if it were all a part of her nightmare and not happening really. I felt at a loss to come up with any consolatory words. I hung up…. probably more to avoid my constantly pricking conscience.

Thoughts began hovering over my journalist-mind. Will these attacks lead to regional riots now? Will the “terrorists” be captured ever? Will our intelligence wing find an unexpected way out? Will our so-called emergency cabinet meetings come up with a sudden solution (result of a fading faith in the guardians of our nation, perhaps)? But my faith extinguishes in a millisecond as I read more and more latest news, sitting here at office, crippled in action.

I am reminded of my memories in Assam… the frequent curfews, blasts in every corner of the city and my child-like eyes awed and frightened at the sight of tolling jeeps occupied by men in full black uniforms. In fact, even after all these years, the first image that flashes through my mind when I hear of a blast or a terrorist attack is one of those many nights when the entire city would remain cowered under sheets, praying hard for a calm dawn to arrive.

And today, again and again and again, as I sit and ponder over my pessimistic thoughts, heaviness sets in and I duck in…. in pain. While I recall the comments from all those helpless Mumbai dwellers, I feel the sharp sting of shame. I know that opinions will now lead on to many opinions, speculations will be formulated, meetings will be conducted all over, and security will be stringent for a few days. But do not look for a concrete outcome. Peep into the homes of the affected commoners and you will get your answer. For you, me and all of us, out there on the streets, it’s a sad tale of ‘one day as a common man in India.’

Tomorrow, we’ll get up and get ready for work, sit before the computer to slave, talk about idealism and discuss our novel ideas about ‘how to save our nation,’ badmouth our country politicians and the inefficient intelligence system…. and then? Then, we’ll eat our communion supper and tuck into the comfort of our quilts.

I am a part of this very ‘comfort-coveting-idealistic-inactive’ youth and I’m seeking to punish myself as every word I’m writing here reminds me of my worthlessness as a ‘responsible’ citizen. I draw sadistic pleasure from the stabs of pain as I write each word. I am nervous, palpitating, dissatisfied. I seek mad ecstacy in pain and I seek to wipe away the blood, that’s not mine, away from my hands right now!

--Jayeeta Mazumder

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Trespassers on Dreamland

We are allowed entry…they are not.

On my way out of the adorned main gate of the City-Centre mall, SaltLake, I chanced upon this bunch of rag pickers loitering lazily beside the polished shops. Nothing except their eyes looked bright as they searched for an uninhibited entry into the unknown that lay beyond that gate. They felt beckoned by it. A little girl stood beside the gate, picking her nose, and eyeing another girl walking smartly with her mother by her side. The dirty rag picker girl dropped her hand to her side, craning her neck to gaze at the other girl walk in and mingle with the colourful world inside. Her group suddenly started moving away unwillingly. The security guard was shouting abuses at them and shooing them away. They looked positively frightened but took their steps hesitantly. Smiling and talking amongst themselves, they seemed unperturbed by the guard's constant complaints. Perhaps they were used to a reception like this at the gates of all such cosmopolitan dreamlands. Their soiled clothes wore testimony to it. They stopped a little near the huge glass-paneled Sony showroom screaming 21st century sophistication with a number of LCD TVs showing hues of an untarnished rosy life. They peered in, their noses flattened against the cool glass. Another stream of abuses came from the guard and they were off, chattering away happily. These fragile glass walls...the impenetrable walls of the fortress of dreams…But they had found a way to pierce its opacity, peering through it with their bright black eyes. As they left, their freshly blown breath and their hand prints remained on the otherwise clear surface of the glass door. But I knew they would be wiped away sooner or later.

--Jayeeta Mazumder

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Ganga

Smitten by the sun's golden rays
The wavy waters giggle on.
From a distance, I see with my brows pinched together
The lone man on a thin boat, as he glides away.
But I hear no humming music in the air
And I wonder why poets wrote so.
Thousand million footsteps of lovers
has the shore borne
Their traces have been wiped away
And no one complained.
I stepped onto the launch ever so gently
The familiar smell of the city air struck my nose.
I saw familiar faces squirming.
I saw the bustling busy Howrah Bridge.
The waters underneath clapped in the breeze.
The puja flowers swam hesitantly on it.
They didn't stop though, a I had thought
They flowed to reach the desired destination.
I looked up at the clouds painting the sky mysteriously
But was unable to figure out a specific pattern.
I looked down to find the faces of those happy lovers,
But I met with a muddy reflection of the muddy sky.
When I touched the other side of the river,
I turned back and felt as if it beckoned to me again....
I give in, and I go back.

--This is my city that struggles and never stops,
that looks beautiful in all its muddiness,
that never stops beckoning me
as I willingly plunge into its luxurious lap
Ah! this is my city...the city that breathes and is alive.

Jayeeta Mazumder