Category Archives: Film

Layers in Wonderland

I went to see Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland last night. It was a surreal experience. Of course, even if it had been a classic interpretation of the story, it still would’ve been fantastical. Alice in Wonderland is, after all, one long, wild dream. But this was no gentle, Edwardian, jam tarts interpretation of Alice, but rather, a more macabre, menacing vision of Wonderland. Burton’s trademark stamp was clearly manifest – the craggy trees and mist, garish costumes and production design and familiar collision of old lace and punk rock.

To add another layer of surrealism, the movie was in 3D, which judging by the posters in the cinema, is the new hot gimmick. 80% of the upcoming films advertised as we sat through the opening used the same technology, and one even advertised a new Sky 3D HD service for home television. My sister and I peered at each other through our geeky glasses, both thinking the same thing – one day we’ll be telling our kids about the days all movies were flat.

I wonder how far we are from the vision of the future where virtual experience really threatens to replace real life. I know it’s a cliched thing to consider, but hey, shocking realities sometimes take a while to sink in. I’ve been reading from the Srimad Bhagavatam lately, which sometimes compare this life to a dream from which we wake up at the time of death, either to return to reality, or move to a new body, like Alice, falling down the hole into a world where things often seem so unfair, and chaos is the status quo. Once there, she forgets both her name, and the world that she came from.

I had a little laugh to myself on the way home. When I was young we used to make fun of my Dad, who would invariably find something spiritual to comment on in any piece of entertainment. Squinting as we stepped out of the dark cinema, we’d roll our eyes as he wasted no time pointing out parts of the film that had any connection with reincarnation, karma, India – if you could find it in a Disney cartoon, he would. Last night as the caterpillar spoke to Alice, suspended upside down inside a rapidly forming cocoon, I knew what he was thinking.

‘Are you dying?’ said Alice.

‘No, just transforming,’ said the caterpillar, calmly closing his eyes.

My dad spoke at the same time as I thought on the drive home.

‘I liked that part where the caterpillar-‘

‘-I know, me too,’ I interrupted.

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Filed under Film, Krishna Consciousness

Dandiya on the Dance Floor!

After a day at our regular Saturday dance class, where we’re preparing for a show in London next month, Tulasi and I changed and went straight to the Saanji of a friend. A Saanji is a traditional Gujarati event preceding a wedding, consisting of an evening of dance and music and general merriment. The best part is the Raas-Garba – a Gujarati folk dance form that everyone can join in with – young and old, dancer or two left feet, men and women, Guju or (in my case) not! I was really excited. Last time I went to a Garba event was for another friend’s wedding almost two years ago. This was only my third time doing it but it’s pretty easy to pick up, especially if you’ve learnt any other kind of dance.

How aware I am of my skin colour varies depending on the context. It’s surprising how little it crosses my mind for the majority of the time that I’m surrounded by Indians – probably because I feel pretty Indian myself. Sometimes though, I become aware when other people are surprised by something and comment. At events like this, Tulasi and I often get people telling us how amazed they are that we can dance traditional forms like this, as if we’ve grown up knowing them. I suppose if nothing else, it’s more evidence that we are not our bodies. Being born a certain skin colour does not predispose you to to act or think in a certain way. The subtle differences in style and culture are learned through environment, but the joy of movement comes from within, regardless of race. It was great to see all the wedding guests getting up and dancing with abandon, especially all the first timers, who looked like they were having a blast!

Arguably the most fun part, is the Dandiya – the stick dance. Everyone gets one or two sticks and after getting into two lines, beat the sticks of the person opposite in a rhythmic pattern. After going through the pattern with one person, everyone moves down the line to the left, and the pattern repeats again. The live musicians gradually get faster and faster, so slowly that before you know it, you’re twirling and hitting and skipping at a dizzying rate! If you can’t keep up the pace, the line gets messed up – one incentive to keep going!

By the end of the night I was totally exhausted. My legs wobbled dangerously and my feet felt like I’d been dancing on sandpaper cobblestones. It was so much fun though – I can’t wait until next time.

Speaking of Gujarati, since Slumdog Millionaire came out, every Patel I know (that means lots) is trying to claim their family ties with the lead actor of the film, Dev Patel. He hails from Harrow, just a ten minute drive from here – so everyone seems to know someone that went to school with him, or who used to be his peer mentor, or was his cousin’s best friend – the list goes on. They’re rightly proud. It’s a fantastic film and he really performed well in it, even more remarkable considering it’s his first feature film. The critics in the West have been almost unanimously proclaiming its glories, but there’s been a lot of controversy over whether it represents the ‘real’ India. I read a great article the other day by an Indian reviewer, that examines the issue, including whether or not it’s relevant to scrutinise a great piece of entertainment on such a deep level. Like any country, ‘India’ is comprised of so many different realities, none of which I think this film was seriously trying to portray. You can read the article here: ‘Fiction not Fact’.

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Filed under Art, Music and Dance, Film, Videos