Friday, January 22, 2010

Arundhati Roy: Goddess of Strange Things

Like Khuswant Singh, Arundhati Roy also made it to The Week's list of '25 Most Controversial Indians'. I enjoyed writing both pieces since I admire both writers...

There can’t be another ‘Catch -22’, ‘Catcher in the Rye,’ or even a ‘Gone with the Wind’. Some books, some authors are like that, only. One memorable book and khatam. Place in history guaranteed. They are the blessed ones. For the rest, it’s a slog. One book follows another, follows another, follows another. Till it’s all over. Author gone, books gone. But Arundhati Roy belongs to that elite league of one book wonders. She doesn’t need to pen another. As a matter of fact, she shouldn’t. What could possibly top the spectacular success of ‘The God of Small Things’? Arundhati rewrote thwe rules of the game with her very first book. And with that, she walked into history. Admirers say gushingly, she was probably born with a golden quill in her hand. She is that gifted. It doesn’t matter a jot whether or not she writes another novel or even another line. Her spectacular debut into the literary world will forever remain one of the strongest, most defining moments of the early English writing\publishing scene on the sub-continent . And it has a lot to do with fortuitous timing, a canny literary agent and India’s 50th Anniversary. That’s fate. Fame and fortune meekly followed!
But beyond the Booker – well beyond the Booker – Arundhati would still have made her mark as an original. A very attractive original. It was always there. Today, she may have chosen to step off the conveyor belt of controversy and concentrate on the music of grasshoppers or the dance of spiders, but whatever she chooses to put her petite self behind, is touched by magic – and she is smart enough to know it.
Arundhati breaks rules in style. Starting with punctuation. While lesser writers ( everyone else, stupid!) struggle to get those p’s and q’s in place, here is Arundhati ignoring – no, defying – those silly diktats of some antiquated grammarians, to create her own rhythms, her own unique sentences with capital letters arbitrarily strewn around in unlikely arrangements that challenge common usage. But hey – that’s the whole point! ‘God…’ was a carefully crafted work that scrupulously avoided clichés and forged a brand new language from the same old words – only, Arundhati’s way with them changed everything. She knew exactly what she was doing, even why she was doing it. That book was no accident. It was genius. Nothing about Arundhati is accidental – not even the throwaway acceptance speech at the Booker Awards (“….I was in the loo.”). And certainly not the burgundy coloured silk saree ( looked great in photo ops) she wore for that glamourous occasion. Arundhati’s clever construct is a brilliant marketing device that has been put to great use by her to draw attention to all that she finds wrong with the world ( pretty much everything!). Her passion for the many causes she espouses is not fake even if critics wonder how her focus shifts from the Narmada dam to nuclear proliferation to expressing her sympathy for Maoists ( current concern). The one common thread remains a consistently pro-Left, anti-establishment position that has won her an international audience of like- minded supporters who loyally hang on to her every pronouncement and utterance.
In India, her fan following seems to be dwindling, but blame that on the ATS ( Attention Deficit Syndrome) afflicting Gen-Y.This generation doesn’t read – it tweets. For them the Maoists could be the name of the latest rock group. If it’s not on Facebook, it doesn’t exist. Not that Arundhati cares. Her constituency lies elsewhere – mainly overseas.Seen more as a political activist than a writer these days, Arundhati picks her wars\adversaries very well. She takes it this far, and no further. If she courts arrest, she spends a night… not years… not even a week, in jail. But the international press is invariably around to record these dramatic moments and flash the images to the world. The image becomes the message. It works!
For all that, there is something most compelling about Arundhati Roy. Critics find her calculating, others call her naïve. It is hard to tell whether it is the head or the heart that propels her into taking controversial positions vis-à-vis the state. At one point she had sweetly declared herself a “republic” and threatened to secede from India. That didn’t happen. The guess is she still belongs to the Union Territory and has not raised a personal army so far, nor printed her own currency. But nothing can be put past this ball of fire. India needs an Arundhati Roy. So does the rest of the world.
***********************
About 'Avatar' - excuse me for saying this and shattering several illusions - it is no better\worse than any cheesy formulaic commercial desi film. Take away the special effects and huge budget - what do you have? Yet another soppy love story with zero depth . The only thing missing was a rain dance. I also found it condescending and racist, offensive and bigoted. The 'superior' but exploitative white man Vs the nature worshipping natives who are so 'pure' and ... and.... primitive! Good fighting evil...come on, Cameron.... we do it better in India. At one hundreth the cost, too. The dialogues were a joke , rarely going beyond, " Holy shit! Let's go! Let's go. Go. Go. Go!" If it was Cameron's way of sending out some sort of an eco-friendly message via those weirdly conceptualised blue 'savages', I didn't get it. Rather, the package was so obvious and naive, it certainly didn't justify that indecent budget, which, if better employed might have saved many more forests. As for that clumsy kiss between Jake and the blue chick - help me, while I gag. Couldn't the two have just touched tails and connected as they'd been doing all along with those banshees and other bizarre creatures?
Not worth the 3-D glasses - mind it!

44 comments:

*Aham* said...

Booker for the looker!

true to her name, Arundhati has very starry looks, yet comes across as someone very earthy and grounded.

She is smart, intelligent, suave and sexy.

I care not if her activism is a PR strategy.

Any ways, Narmada is no Dahi Wada...

some strip, some link up with the naamcheen ... as compared to that I find speaking for causes a nice PR strategy, if it is one.


for all that we know,
What we think of as PR could be real pyaar.


there is no way that we could judge it na.


___________________________________


I am thinking De...
if avataar was made by an Indian, it would be seen as a Kabeele waalon ki kahaani...

We might also have some song sequence with Jilleley Jilleley type of song... hai naa..

Hobo ........ ........ ........ said...

When You producing Hindi movie?
Or
Writing a Hindi movie story/script?
Or
Direction?

Waiting...

goodluck said...

But Arundhati is too polarised and political. And her Booker novel is not the best. Read some of the regional novelists whose writings have much better content and style. Arundhati is hyped by vested interests. Actually I feel she is like one of those blue creatures depicted in that weird film Avatar.

ABHISHEK AGRAWAL said...

Arundhati rai very much inspired me on the social issues.Her writings are live because she live the events,because she works for those about which she write.She is not just a writer ,she is tourist of her life.

supriya said...

arundhanti roy...stands out undoubtedly...!!! what work...my god..!!

Tan said...

You described Arundhati very well here, gorgeous! I always knew there are things about her that people might consider arrogant but still would not try to reveal. She’s good and enviable in her writing, her acts of maturity and all that she does in her daily life. Thanks for those words, again :)

Now, I won’t go into the Avatar’s review. I would want to go for a 3D one with my wife, as it would be our first ever 3D movie in theatres. It’s costly, but would be nice as an anniversary event, I guess.

I would like to tell one thing here. I know you are a casual blogger and you like to be so, but still I would recommend using MS Word while writing the posts. I’m not challenging your knowledge and misspelling-proof writing, but at times, we do make mistakes – all of us. And I don’t think it gives a good notion to people like us, who look up at you and want to be writing like you someday. Please use MS Word or any other word editor with a spell check and formatting enabled so that, even the smallest of the mistakes can be avoided.

Happy writing and happy ‘tweetting’…

FYI… I’m not in Facebook… and I exist!!

I blog at: Thus Wrote Tan!

Latha said...

I don't agree with you entirely. Yes, her speeches are impressive to the extent of brainwashing. But if we think coolly some points are made just for the heck of it.
"Talibans treat the women badly because they don't know what to do with a woman !"
Justifying Maoists is one thing & justifying Talibans is....come on. Just because she wanted to join the bandwagon of Bush haters, she need not have gone to the extent of becoming a Taliban advocate.
One 'Bharatnatyam' performance in Doordarshan, one film scripted, & acted, 'In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones' (1989), [she also acted in 'Electric Moon' (1992)] & one book. She gets bored when she does everything just once. (one child ?).
I hope this biological sister of Prannoy does something worthwhile using her brilliance.
She was given Sahitya Akademy award & she rejected it.
She had first accepted the National Film Award for Best Screenplay in 1989, for the semi-autobiographical screenplay.
Do you agree with her that 26/11 should not be seen in isolation but must be understood in the perspective of widespread poverty, Partition of India, 2002 Gujrat riots, conflit in Kashmir etc ?

The Panorama said...

I love Arundhati Ray. Loved the way you have described her in this post. Wah wah:)
As for Avatar, I loved it but yes. the storyline was nothing great but still it worked for me.

Madhu said...

I just LOVED your review of Avatar, because I felt the same way. I could not have agreed more.

I feel the same way about Lord of the rings, Harry Potter and the like. If you really ask me, I think the Amar Chitra Kathas, the Panchatantras, the Tinkles of the world have so much more charm.

P.S. I love reading your blog, your tweets and everything you have to say (or shout, if you are on one of those Indian shows with Arnab and Barkha). Thank you for being.

Love.

no signal said...

I concord on both issues. Avatar has no story line. But the graphics are once in a lifetime thing. One must watch it. Of Arundhati.. well what can be said about her. She's close friend of Medha Patkar. Both have common permanent temporary-address. That's Jantar Mantar.

life said...

shobha regarding Avatar..when all those pandora guys gathered together and praying for the chief scientist lady i thought that our own asharam bapu might come onscreen...-:)

Vikas said...

and you thought 'Pyar Impossible' was good, people aint spending $700million world wide for nothing! Its interesting to know someone as prolific as you hates 'Kaminey' & 'Avatar'....and embraces Pray Impossible and 'dil bole hadipa'....sad but true!!

Sharmila Ganguly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sharmila Ganguly said...

It's nice to see one special lady give another her due. We do not see enough of it.

Manjiri Kale said...

Dear Ma De...

No Comments from me....
bcoz I unknown about "A R" & "A"

Shwetha said...

sorry to play the grammar polic but your post is filled with spelling errors galore:

hundreth= hundredth

conceptualised = onceptualized

thwe rules of the game = the rules of the game

patrickg said...

I am Shobha De, my main purpose in life is to stay in the news. I watch every Bollywood movie in town and then rip them apart. Well like i said it is my blog and i desperately need to hog the limelight. Do not blame me if i look for a Schindler's List in Avatar. Heck how can i praise this movie when the whole world loves it. Sorry folks getting old and need to resort to cheap tricks to stay relevant

Balvinder Singh said...

to become a famous author today, one will have write a book in 140 characters.

funky-philosopher said...

respected ma'am... i have gr8 regard for your seniority and unparalelled calibre as an intelligent writer... but i have a request: please do not underestimate the Generation Y to the extent of accusing them of not knowing what maoists are! ... and not everyone on facebook, including the Gen Y, is so ignorant :) ... lots of dem amateurs are outstanding quizzers and sure do know a lot. well, every generation has its extremes!!

Manjari Singh said...

Do lets us know about happenings os Jaipur literature fest

Ashish said...

facebook flirting http://iitashish.blogspot.com/2010/01/facebook-flirting.html

t o m s o n CHERIAN said...

sobhaaji,

cant make out whether you are appreciating or deriding MS roy ..!


and reg Avataar, i agree with you..!

Alex Engwete said...

Your mention of The God of Small Things sent me on a frantic search of the many shelves crumbling with books in this house. And I'm all dusty... Unlike me, people around are big "consumers" of Indian lit and they tell me the book is definitely somewhere... Well, I couldn't find the goddamn jewel... But I'll soon get the book and read it... Stumbled across something promising though, which I never read: The In-Between World of Vikram Lall (M.G. Vassanji): never heard of the author (the extent of my ignorance indeed, and I don't even know whether the book is worth mentioning in this context)... But the name of the author and the title of the book sound Indian to me!... On the other hand, there were 2 copies of The Namesake (never even saw the movie, btw)! Go figure why...

Talking of movie, I watched Avatar too and I liked the common mortals I was bedazzled by the special effects at first, till my daughter made about the same comment as you by saying: "The story line is flat!"... Well, you said they don't read, but they know the stuff it takes to concoct a good story: video games maybe... This being said, did you hear about the uncanny coordinated reactions of the Vatican and the Chinese authorities? The former gave the thumbs down for promoting the worship of nature and the latter just pulled the movie from Chinese theaters after a few days without any explanation. Conventional wisdom claims the Communist Party felt uncomfortable about the underlying message of the rise-of-the-oppressed-masses that the movie contains... So, just for that reason, please do give kudos to Cameron... :-)

Alex Engwete said...

Correction:

Meant to say (second paragraph): "... and like the common mortals..."

'Simply Indian' Cooking said...

I hate Arundhati Roy, she is always writing bad stuff about stuff happening in India.

Hurlin a shoe on her!

Anil Kumar said...

Nice to know some details about these controversial people.

You seems to have taken a back seat on the latest snub of Pakistani players by IPL sluts like Neeta ambani, daaruwalaa, shilpa or zinta.

Seems like you have a soft corner in your heart for these sluts and raanduve owners !!

Writing about non-sense bollywood movies is a waste of your time. Do a review only if the movie is worth watching, otherwise just ignore them.

shrikant kumawat said...

The article about Arundhti roy is a good one. She is one of the best writer we have in India undoubtedly. the reason behind her being not so popular in india is that we are just chetan bhagat type reader, can't digest the strong stuff.
but i don't agree with your idea about AVATAR, that is very nice movie, the special effects was so advanced that will change the way movies are being made, bollywood can't compete with such a movie at least for next 20 years.

sonal said...

Dear Ms. De,
U have the time to go and watch some Bollywood films like 'Wanted' which less said abut is better, and then u go out and Trash a godd film like Avatar.I dont watch too many hollywood films and some of them of the ilk of Star Wars and others I am unable to connect with.Avatar was however mindblowing for itss animation and besides it had a beautiful story to tell.Just as a small film like slumdog millionaire becomes ssuccessful becoz of the old cliched theme of the underdog winning despiteee misfortunes, so does this film celebratee the age oldstory of good vs evil. This story works or its spiritual message, its message of ancient vs the modern, theeee traditional and ancient vs the new,science vs spirituality, man vs machine, and is very relevant in todays time of conflict and cimate change!An amazing film , which rises above the ordinary with the universality of its theme, and that explains its success in India.A movie like this dosent need a tight storyline, it is self explanatory.

Sree PJ said...

Regarding Avataar..

If Avataar would have been made in India would it have reached the world audience?
White Men portraying White men as evil ... is it not a brave thing to do?
All this while you have films where wars in the name of "wars against terrorism" were justified but this one is lot different.
Regarding the love story, it is not possible to pour in more emotions into animated characters.

doesmybloglookbiginthis said...

Arundhati Roy changed the way I viewed everything about writing. I read"God..." at a time in my life when I was most impacted by it. Though, I have to admit,I think she does need to get back to her original job i.e. writing if she wants to keep making political statements that will register her on the consciousness of us short attention span Gen Y-ers.

As for Avataar, I didn't look for too much of a heavy story in Avataar. Of course it's overtly simplistic in it's themes and pedantic style, (the mineral they're looking for is called "Unobtanium"..I mean, COME ON!),I'm afraid that people went and saw it with a lot of distorted expectations because what the film is, is a triumph in film making technology. We as a movie watching audience having been pampered with some fantastic CGI and animation. And This movie is a culmination of that. Avataar is one step for films,but giant leap for film making.

Nilu said...

Dear Ms. De,

No comment about Arundhati Roy - I have yet to complete reading her "God of small things".

As for Avataar, here is my review of the same - http://nilusnatter.blogspot.com/2010/01/avatar-movie-review.html

Regards,
Nilambari

Prerak said...

Avatar has to be simple. The sole purpose is to put across the message with limitless imagination. He could have have complex story, but after all movie is the medium of STORY TELLING not to show of stories, for that we have books.

Sharanyaa said...

About Avatar.
I have to agree in the sense that it's just an extension of the "Red Indians get ousted from their own land by crazy white men" theme.
Why do the unsuspecting Na'vi need a WHITE man to come save them from everything?
But James Cameron is a genius. Here's why:
1. By naming the movie Avataar, he's got all the Indians watching
2. By bashing the U.S. Army and portraying their green, the middle east and chinese
3. By taking technology and the film viewing experience to 'another level of reality'; pretty much everyone else; primarily the tech-heads
4. While he was at it he also told Africans and Native Americans that a lot of concepts were borrowed form their idea of spirituality.

What more do you want?
He can have Martians watching it if he wanted

Swashbuckler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gb said...

i daily check your blog for new write up. For the last 4 days u have not added any which is disappointing to me. I feel satisfied only by reading Big-B's blog.which is another craze of mine.

Sid said...

What Arundathi does, isnt that an easy access to fame? The statements she makes are all for catching eyebrows... no real identification with the cause needed. Give her anything the Indian state is doing and she will take a stand against it. I think the Indian media should stop highlighting her views, we have enough problems already...another pest is not needed.

Latha said...

Well said Sid. Wake up others.

Santosh said...

I like Arundathi. She makes me laugh. It is incredibly entertaining to watch a grown women make a complete fool of herself.
-- Over and over again.

As for Avatar yours is probably the most honest review I have read. I had the same feeling when I watched the movie. All that was missing was an item number and it could well have been a bollywood movie.

anupamaa said...

Im surprised that you have not brought out a single claw or even a nail against Arundathi and her pro left stance. Both of you are poles apart in everything, right from your writing to your lifestyle, but maybe that is what makes me love you both the equally. Yin and Yang

nila said...

That article about arundathi roy was awesome. At least there people like you to appreciate her great work

jeena said...

De and roy are all a bunch of jokers who write crap for a crappy audience. What the hell knowledge do they have about anything they talk about?!
Ridiculous jokers in india. No style or class.

Anant Raman said...

Similar ideas about roy, she really seems to be going too far with this maoist issue. http://filledcanvas.wordpress.com/ discusses nearly similar ideas

Vrinda said...

I really like the way you write, but regarding AVATAR I think it is one of the movies ever made. I liked every bit of it. The story is just like old wine in new bottle. But its ok, I felt the Imax ticket price 250Rs is too cheap for that movie. Its an awesome movie.

criticpapa said...

Your post was quite good than other blogger, so simple yet imformational.

anyway I'm william
mind if I put a link back to you?


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