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Rave Out is about books, films and music that we like. No time-wasting, just the good stuff!

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27 October, 2009

This Video Hurts the Sentiments of Hindu’s [sic] Across the World

By Amitava Kumar

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I loved Nina Paley’s brilliant animated film Sita Sings the Blues. If you’re reading this, stop right now—and watch the film here.

Paley has set the story of the Ramayana to the 1920s jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw. The epic tale is interwoven with Paley’s account of her husband’s move to India from where he dumps her by e-mail. The Ramayana is presented with the tagline: “The Greatest Break-Up Story Ever Told.”

All of this should make us curious. But there are other reasons for admiring this film:

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20 March, 2009

The Hard Edges of Modern Lives

By Amitava Kumar

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This new film is the latest remake of Devdas, but what is equally interesting is the fact that it is in conversation with films made in the West. Unlike Bhansali’s more spectacular version of the older story, Anurag Kashyap’s Dev.D is a genuine rewriting of Sarat Chandra’s novel. Kashyap doesn’t flinch from depicting the individual’s downward spiral, but he also gives women their own strength. He has set out to right a wrong—or, at least, tell a more realistic, even redemptive, story. If these characters have lost some of the affective depth of the original creations, they have also gained the hard edges of modern lives.

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11 October, 2008

New York Cricket Club

By Amitava Kumar

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Literate Indians should be familiar with Ashis Nandy’s remark: “Cricket is an Indian game accidentally discovered by the English.“ A Trinidadian Indian by the name of Chuck Ramkissoon, in Joseph O’Neill’s superbly inflected novel “Netherland”, is also fond of making bold pronouncements on the behalf of the game he wants to introduce to the U.S. “I’m saying that people, all people, Americans, whoever, are at their most civilized when they’re playing cricket. What’s the first thing that happens when Pakistan and India make peace? They play a cricket match…”

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11 August, 2008

The Desperate Passion of Ben Foster

By Aspi Havewala

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I could barely recognize Ben Foster in 3:10 to Yuma, but I was blown away just the same by him as in his star making turn from Hostage. What makes Foster so special in Yuma?

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14 May, 2008

One Chai and a Wills Navy Cut

By Amitava Kumar

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Pablo Bartholomew’s beautiful photo-show “Outside In” opened in Manhattan a few evenings ago. The exhibition is being held at Bodhi Art in Chelsea. Black-and-white photographs from the seventies and the eighties—reflecting Bartholomew’s engagement with people and places in Delhi, Bombay, and Calcutta.

These are not the pictures that made Bartholomew famous. The undying image of the father brushing the dust from the face of the child he is burying—that was the iconic photograph from the Bhopal tragedy in 1984. It also won for Bartholomew, still in his twenties, the World Press Photo’s Picture of the Year Award.

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12 November, 2007

Brown is the New Black

By Amitava Kumar

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I’m coming to the party late—last weekend, for the first but not the last time, I watched Manish Acharya’s comedy, Loins of Punjab Presents. Behan____, what a film! 

I will not rehearse the synopsis or plot, partly because of the lateness of the hour, but also because it is available here. Instead, let me note quickly that the comedy keeps ticking, and the attention to detail in all matters, from the plot to the casting, makes this film a pleasure to watch.

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26 September, 2007

Winding Up

By Amit Varma

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A couple of evenings ago, my cousin Debika and I were discussing how we’d react if we were told we had just a few months to live. She said she would try and do everything she liked in that time, and surround herself with her family. I said that I’d be inclined to save people I cared for the pain of watching me die—whatever that took. Ironically and unexpectedly, shortly after this conversation, we found ourselves watching François Ozon’s remarkable film Time to Leave.

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21 September, 2007

Vintage Vega

By Aspi Havewala

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Over ten years ago, Suzanne Vega hit a terribly sexy groove with an album called Nine Objects of Desire that made me seek out every CD she has done since then. She’s kept us waiting for six years for her new studio effort, but it’s such vintage Vega that the reward is well worth the wait.

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16 August, 2007

Independence Day

By Amitava Kumar

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I’m writing this on August 15. It is our Independence Day. A young Kashmiri Muslim told me in Srinagar a few months ago that this is the day on which everyone there tries to stay indoors. This is not because the people support Pakistan, but because they are most suspect on August 15. You are questioned, searched, and locked. If any of the readers have had a chance to view Sanjay Kak’s powerful documentary Jashn-e-Azadi (How We Celebrate Freedom) you’ll see how Sanjay, coming in to Srinagar for a visit around Independence Day, is struck by the fact that the only people present for the ceremony are the cops and members of the armed forces. (That’s Rave Out #1. For Jashn-e-Azadi.)

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09 August, 2007

Snogworthy jams + social commentary

By Aspi Havewala

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Once while eating dinner in Montreal, our friendly, intoxicated waitress plopped herself in my lap and proceeded to tell us about how obsessed she was with the CD that was playing - singing out the lyrics at an ungodly volume and flinging her arms about. Wow, I thought to myself, people who listen to Morcheeba sure seem to have a lot of fun, and promised to check them out.

Several CDs later, they are firmly one of my favorites. And their trip hop meditation, 2003’s Charango remains one of my most played CDs.

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01 August, 2007

Tacky loopiness and bravura singing

By Aspi Havewala

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A lot of people like batsmen who step out to the bowlers and hit huge sixes. I, for one, am highly entertained by batsmen who do the same but get caught in the deep. I love robust ambition constrained by mediocrity of execution – it’s my type of entertainment.

Despite sharing Amit’s fondness for Indian Idol 3, I love the potent mixture of tacky loopiness and bravura singing on Zee TV’s Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2007.

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25 July, 2007

Disembodied Japanese heads etc

By Aspi Havewala

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Anung Un Rama is the virtually indestructible creation of Beelzebub himself. He has red-skin, wears a goatee, a tiny ponytail and has blank yellow eyes. His head bears two sawed-off horns. He is the Beast of Apocalypse - his fate, to plunge the world into chaos. There is only one problem: Anung Un Rama - or Hellboy as he is readily known - doesn’t seem to think much of this plan.

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17 July, 2007

Challenging the bounds of poetry

By Falstaff

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If the function of the poet is to push the limits of language, then few poets writing today do it as splendidly as Anne Carson. In her verse novels (Autobiography of Red, The Beauty of the Husband) and her collections of essays and verse (Men in the Off Hours, Plainwater) Carson consistently challenges the bounds of what we call poetry, blending the classical with the modern, the surreal with the mundane, creating a tough-minded oeuvre of rigorous yet revelatory power.

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11 July, 2007

All about Deep Throat

By Arun Simha

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Bob Woodward’s The Secret Man can be termed as the concluding part of the trilogy (Parts 1 & 2) on the Watergate scandal. Mark Felt, the No.2 man in the FBI was identified as Deep Throat in 2005. The book reveals the gory details of the author’s trysts with Felt.

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09 July, 2007

On the periphery of Indian history

By Salil Tripathi

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There is a Nigerian renaissance in writing, it seems. Helon Habila won the Caine Prize last year, and Helen Oyeyemi, 22, has written two novels about ghosts and spirits of the kind Wole Soyinka alludes to in “Ake”. But to see how global African writing is, try Biyi Bandele‘s “Burma Boy.”

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06 July, 2007

Timeless satire

By Chandrahas Choudhury

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Had the satirical Bengali writer Parashuram (1880-1960) been alive today, one can imagine him writing brilliant pieces about the attempt to prove Pratibha Patil worthy of the presidency, on our attitudes to foreigners revealed by matters like the Greg Chappell controversy, or the love of Indian housewives for saas-bahu serials. But as Parashuram cannot come to us, the only other option is for us to go to Parashuram, and this can be done by picking up the wonderful edition of his Selected Stories published last year by Penguin.

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04 July, 2007

Like a convention of water bugs

By Space Bar

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How little we know about the silent comedy of Hollywood becomes clear when we recall having seen only one or two Buster Keaton films and dimly remember the name Harold Lloyd. We know silent comedy because we know Chaplin.

If we remember the era as an era at all, it is because of James Agee’s masterly tribute to silent comedy, published as ‘Comedy’s Greatest Era’ in the September 5, 1949 issue of Life magazine. In it he says:

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29 June, 2007

Sleepless in Seattle

By Amitava Kumar

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I have just finished reading Jonathan Raban’s Surveillance. I recommend it highly not because it is a political novel (which it is), not because it is a smart novel (which it is), not also because as a political novel its smartness lies in throwing open the question of politics as well as representation (which it does, unlike say, Jay McInerney writing about 9/11). Not because here’s a major writer who blurs the line between fiction and non-fiction (a line that reveals goosebumps if you touch it right). And not even because the protagonist has a bright, young daughter (which she does, and I’m all for bright daughters and the joy that they bring), but because, living as I do in a world that is marked not only by the war on terror but also by little, irritating stuff like readers’ reviews on Amazon, I’m delighted to find that Raban has much to say about the former and also a little about the latter.

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22 June, 2007

Timbaland goes dissin’

By Aspi Havewala

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In American music today, no producer is bigger than Timbaland. He has charted numerous careers, recently propelling Justin Timberlake into the top drawer and putting Nelly Furtado’s career back on the rails.

I’ve been massively enjoying his much awaited solo album - Shock Value. Despite the fact that through the course of the album you keep tripping through a list of marquee artists, it is very much a producer’s album - full of delightful little sonic pleasures and brainy-rapper attitude.

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20 June, 2007

The charmingly callow Azhar

By Chandrahas Choudhury

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One of the greatest cataclysms of my teenage years was the day I discovered that an army of termites, nibbling and burrowing away out of sight, had laid waste to the wooden bookshelf that housed all my cricket books. Some of the books themselves, having after all been wood in a past life, had also not survived the attack. Out of the ruined city of cricket literature I fished out my prized copy of Harsha Bhogle’s Azhar, which I diligently read every year. I was not to know it then, but in a couple of years the reputation of the book’s subject was to be similarly in tatters.

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