Sunday, December 25, 2005

Of Phantom and Sati

It’s X’mas today, so here’s wishing all you folks a Merry X’mas and lotsa joy and sunshine in the coming year.
The malls of Gurgaon are pretty swank. The other day, after a drink at TGIF at the Metropolitan Mall, S and I picked up some dried-fruits confectionary and, to my delight, a trilogy on Alexander by Italian historian and archaeologist Valerio Massimo Manfredi, and A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar. I loved the film and plan to read the book after I am through with Shalimar. (Yes, I have still not finished it. Reading Rushdie is an education in itself, and as I had said earlier, it takes a lot out of you. Great fun, nevertheless).
Yesterday, on the X’mas eve, we decided to see The Phantom of the Opera on the Zee Studio channel. This January, on a snowy Manhattan evening, I was lucky to see the show at the Majestic Theatre on the 44th street (the Broadway has a beautiful feel about it; for theatre lovers, it’s a neon-lit fantasia) and what a delight it turned out to be.
ALW’s music has this strange quality of getting into your bones and you can experience its effect on you. The signature tune of the Phantom is truly one of the most intense that I have heard. The film does justice to the musical and is very well made. Gerard Butler as Phantom and Emmy Rossum as Christine are super.
I am fascinated by the catacombs underneath the Paris Opera House. Years back I had read Frederick Forsyth’s The Phantom of Manhattan. The novel brings the legend of the mysterious Phantom back to life, but more importantly, has a great description of the building of the Paris Opera House. The Internet tells me that it survives in much the same form. “It occupies a three-acre site and some idea of the labyrinthine nature of the building can be appreciated if one considers that the auditorium accounts for less than one fifth of the total space. There are over seventeen storeys, seven of which are below the stage level; the stables for the opera horses still exist. There is a monument to La Carlotta. More important, there really is a lake underneath the building; it is an integral part of the design, and the water level acts as a ballast, raised or lowered, depending on the weight of the stage, seven storeys above it.” Can you imagine that!
After lunch today, we decided to check out RPG’s Raincoat, but lo and behold, the VCD turned out to be (thanks to the shop at Khan Market) that of Aparna Sen’s 1989 flick, Sati. So, Sati we saw. Besides Shabana’s performance, it didn’t work for me. The pace is dreary and while it is brutal in its depiction of the early 19th century rural Bengal and the prevalence of the dreaded Sati pratha, I didn’t find the story compelling enough. Looked like the typical neo-realistic art cinema stuff of the 80s. Take care…