Tuesday, August 4, 2020

a balloon ride, 10k views and some clarity

The last few days have been quite eventful. 

We went to Hunter Valley, a beautiful place, and thanks to Sravani, rode a hot air balloon. I was skeptical about the ride, assuming that I'd be bored standing in a soaring basket for an hour, but it turned out to be an amazing experience. The weather was a delight and the ride was incredible. One of the things we didn't realise until the pilot mentioned it, and which seems obvious in hindsight, is that because the balloon is propelled by the wind, you don't really feel movement. Because you're not fighting against the environment, it feels calm and reassuring. Take what life lessons you want from that. We were also thrilled to have a Masterchef-ish fine dining lunch and it was another memorable experience in its own right. Third anniversary turned out to be, despite our sour mood for not being able to cross the state, unexpectedly good.  

In other news, I sent the Cinema Kaburlu essay to Baradwaj Rangan sir as a submission for Reader's Write-in because I felt a few of his readers might enjoy watching it. He said he couldn't publish an already published work but said that he and his team liked the video a lot and asked if we were open to it being published on Film Companion South. That was an offer we couldn't resist and so now it's on their Youtube channel with over 10k views, way above anything I could've hoped for. 

More interestingly, after a brief mail from Meheranna got me thinking, I had the wonderful luck to read and discuss Isaac Singer's Gimpel the Fool in the Bangalore Writer's Workshop, and had sort of a eureka moment. Though now the write-up seems like an analysis of Telugu cinema, especially after FC posted it and the discussions that followed, what I was originally trying to understand was the relationship between myths and society. 

Why are we who we are as a people? What shapes our individual worldviews and our identities as one people? Language, geography and race seem basic but then we started identifying with others based on our shared myths- religion, nation etc. What qualities do we prize in our people, how do we process misfortune, what 'life lessons' do we teach our children? 

The fact that the most basic of our beliefs are learned came into my conscious thought after I had the immense fortune to read Erich Fromm's Man in Capitalist Society (which I haven't finished yet) and Rick Roderick's Masters of Suspicion (an astounding tour de force of intellectual history). And because I watched these films around the same time, I thought I saw patterns in them that reflected what I was learning. So I used those films to understand what Fromm and Roderick were saying. The film comparison actually started after listening to Devdutt Pattanaik compare Rama & Krishna to Rajnikanth. Then I was able to put those two together and say that:
    1. since so much of the 'Hindu' worldview (avatars, karma, bhagwan stuti, rebirth etc.) comes from our 'religious' stories- stories of gods, their devotees and the relationships of the god when s/he takes a human form
    2. since that must have percolated into the minds of writers as it does to most of us, 
Our stories (predominantly film because that's our only true pop culture) must reflect those ideologies. And we probably like them so much because they meet our expectations of what the protagonist does.

Another learning from this entire process is that though I've always treasured bottom-up, organic learning, top-down, conscious questioning also has its uses. 

Good stuff. 

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