Sunday, June 26, 2011
Crossword Bookstores have again held a delightful event for all of us bibliophiles in Mumbai. So on 22 June 2011, we were honoured with the presence of Amitav Ghosh. He was here to launch and promote his second book in the Ibis trilogy - "River Of Smoke". The first one in the trilogy was "Sea Of Poppies" which was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2008.
I reached the Kemps Corner Crossword store an hour and half early, he was to arrive at 7 pm. The stage was set with 2 microphones and 2 chairs as we were to be entertained with a Q & A between Amitav Ghosh and Anil Dharker. The two arrived to an applauding audience. An introduction was given by Penguin publisher's representative and then Amitav Ghosh opened a copy of "River Of Smoke" to more applause.
Amitav Ghosh read from his new book and then a Q & A with Anil Dharker began. Apparently, Amitav Ghosh has many drafts before he comes out with a final product. He writes with a mechanical pencil, then with a pen and then finally onto the computer. He mentioned how writing can be a physically exhausting undertaking. He has his rituals before he can write, as obsessive as any author. He spends most of his time now in Goa. Anil queried about the research that goes into the book and Amitav held us spellbind with his answer. The book traces the Opium Wars and how China and India were forever changed at the hands of the British trading in opium.
Amitav mentioned how one Parsi character in the book took a life of its own and elaborated that it wasn't just the Parsis of India who became rich with opium trade. He cut to the present day when he mentioned the aluminium microphone stand and how Orissa is suffering through mining. He said that all of us benefit and lose through the devastation in other regions of the nation or world.
Anil was all praise for Amitav, going as far as to say that anytime soon Amitav would win the Nobel Prize in Literature ("if Nobel Committee know what they are doing").
Then the audience were allowed to ask questions. One person mentioned how reading is a lost habit in USA and same trend is appearing in India. Amitav Ghosh disagreed and said things have changed drastically in India. When he started out, selling 200 copies would be considered a success. There were no bookstores other than a small corner with a pile of old books. Now, he says, there are so many new writers, more publishers and a range of bookstores and books for the readers.
One old gentleman was very interested in Amitav's mention of a mechanical pencil. He quizzed the author about what it is and where to get it. Amitav entertained him and mentioned it's not available everywhere. Another person mentioned Amitav's fascination with the sea and how it appears in his novels with poetic descriptions. Amitav admitted he is a "sea person", that he has lived among mountains but prefers the sea - "the mountains divide locations while the sea brings us together".
Another fan asked that since his books are so picturesque, why hasn't a movie been made based on them. Amitav mentioned that an Italian producer was interested in adapting "The Calcutta Chromosome" into a movie. He also mentioned that one of his friends is adapting "The Hungry Tide" into a feature film.
I asked him why Indian authors and publishers don't seem to accept Science Fiction. Amitav had won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for his SciFi "The Calcutta Chromosome". I also asked him if he will write one more SciFi. Amitav mentioned a couple of Indian authors who have written SciFi and said that his own historical fiction takes as much effort as a SciFi, to create the fictional world and everything within it.
Soon it was time for the book signing and people queued up. I got 3 of his books signed by him, namely - Sea of Poppies, River of Smoke and The Hungry Tide.
Few snaps from my lousy mobile phone:
Amitav Ghosh with Anil Dharker
The book launch
Amitav reads from his new book, River Of Smoke
The Q & A session
One of the Signed First Editions
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Awwesomeness !!! Now awesome in 3D !!!
Just saw this wonderful movie in 3D glory. It is a thrilling movie with just the right mix of action, humour, visual effects and drama.
I immediately regretted not seeing Avatar in 3D. But this will have to do for now.
We find our hero in a rebel without a cause. An extraordinary test pilot who is chosen by the ring - the ring of the Green Lantern Corps' most celebrated hero Abin Sur.
The background to the Green Lantern Corps is given very well without breaking the pace of the movie. We find a reluctant hero in the test pilot who is the first human to wear the ring. On Earth he faces his demons about his past and on the other side of the Universe, an evil awakes and consumes the very essence of the living beings - feeding to strengthen its evil powers.
There are 2 things that I thought of immediately - of course the other powerful ring, the ring from Lord of the Rings which itself is based on the Icelandic saga of the One Ring. But this green ring is good and it channels the will of the wearer to do justice and defend the universe.
The other thought more clearly showed inspiration - the evil feeding on the essence of living beings - just like Imoteph rising from the dead in The Mummy. So while the ring and lantern idea may be original, the feeding part seems to have already been done in one blockbuster - which may have its source in ancient tales of vampires (somebody tell me if there is some other source of inspiration).
But back to the movie and the perfect blend of all things that make a blockbuster. Totally awesome choice of actors and characters. Yes, not only the cast is great, but also the fictional characters they portray.
There is love lost and found. There is estrangement between father and son/s. There is power and greed for more power. There is vulnerability and the human force of rising against odds - being irrational to surpass obstacles. There is spectacular special effects; in 3D. And there is a satisfying ending. With scope for a sequel, wink wink.
The reason why the first Spiderman movie was a big hit and why the Star Trek reboot was a big hit is why Green Lantern will be a big hit. It adds the human touch to the hero. Aspects of him that we can relate to. To find comfort in knowing that adversity can be defeated with righteousness.
A good movie to watch again, and I will next weekend in IMAX 3D.