Thursday, April 23, 2009


I was at Arclight Cinemas in Hollywood for the screening of Nandita Das's new film called "Firaaq," which is part of the ongoing Indian Film Festival at Arclight. It was a late screening but I actually welcomed that since I cannot deal with traffic in Los Angeles, just like a million other Angelenos.

I had read about the subject matter pertaining to the film and I knew that it would be intense. I don't want to spoil the film for anyone who may want to rent it on DVD, so I won't give the whole movie away. The film is about the aftermath immediately after the Gujarat riots in 2002, where three-thousand Muslims were slaughtered to death, women raped, and children brutally murdered by fundamentalist and fanatic people who don't deserve to be called Hindus.

While there is very little graphical violence in the film, my heart nonetheless was pounding. Nandita Das does a brilliant job of conveying the violence in the way the actors intoned their dialogues, in the way their eyes look scared, tired, and wary, and in the way their frustration, anger, fear, and utter hopelessness was borne in the deep creases of their demeanor. There are several stories that run parallel, and each gives us a glimpse of how the violence affected each and every social strata of society. You must go and watch this film for Naseeruddin Shah's brilliant performance. He has this inane ability to redefine himself each time that he takes on a new and difficult character.

Nandita answered a few questions from the audience at the end of the screening. From all her answers the one I liked the best, and the one that summed up the film was:

"This is a fictionalized account of a thousand true stories."

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Categorically Not - Doing Darwin Differently

Yes, it is that time of the month again - "Categorically Not." I have been attending these talks for the past three years, and I have never found the talks or the variation in the subject matter uninteresting. KC Cole who organizes these talks at the Santa Monica Art Studios has this beautiful ability to bring scholars from different subject areas to talk about a particular topic. Tonight's topic will be related to Darwinian Evolution.

Doors open at 6:00 p.m., and the program itself starts at 6:30 p.m. I highly encourage arriving early as seats are limited and the place fills up quickly. They ask for a $5.00 donation at the front door to cover expenses for refreshments. If you are looking for some intellectual stimulation, please do come.

Santa Monica Art Studios is located at:

3026 Airport Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90405
(310) 397-7449


Here's a description of the talk from the Categorically Not website:

Darwin's Origin of Species has been around for 150 years, but people are only beginning to appreciate evolution's richness and beauty--the wild and wonderful life forms that seem to get weirder and more interesting with each new discovery. As for Darwin himself, his 200th birthday this year has already been the peg for a multitude of celebrations. So for our April 19th Categorically Not! we're doing Darwin a bit differently, exploring what evolution tells us about differences between male and female behavior, how life may have evolved on alien worlds, and what artists have made of nature's grand creations.

To wit: Darwin described females as coy and passive and males as ardent and indiscriminate. He didn't tell us why this was the common pattern he saw. And Darwin's generalizations are often not what moderns observe. Patty Gowaty--Distinguished Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UCLA-- will describe new theory that says it is the different social and ecological environments the sexes inhabit rather than inborn sex differences that determine commonly observed variations in reproductive decisions of females and males.

And what about life in the billions of possibly habitable worlds beyond our solar system? How strange might life be? Astronomer (and self-described biology dilettante) Chris Impey, the youngest ever Distinguished Professor at the University of Arizona, will ponder whether or not Darwin's dominion extends to alien creatures that might have no use for water or carbon or even a sheltering star. Impey has won 10 University of Arizona teaching awards, and is the author of The Living Cosmos: Our Search for Life in the Universe.

Artists have created their own wealth of works based on life's bounty, and we'll hear about some of them from Rosie Mestel, a geneticist-turned-journalist who is now deputy science and health editor of the Los Angeles Times. Rosie will explore the ways that art has borrowed from biological themes to create glass, knitwear, napkins and home decorations. Who would imagine that a herpes virus would make such exquisite doilies, jellyfish such stunning chandeliers, a human gut look so adorable when worked in wool in stocking stitch?