25 comments on “Posting Delayed By Protest

  1. amazing, another ny ashkenazi leftie jew obsessed with b/w bollywood dance/music. oh. yes, virginia, there are doppelgangers. how filmie. yes a post of bollywood independence/ labor/proletariat protest scenes. re: wall street. when they were building the twin towers (or nelson and winthrop and we affectionately called them) i was away and heard news about rats, displaced by construction, overunning lower manhattan . an artist had taken to stenciling rats at the sites of rat sitings. a lot of stencils on wall street. was taking a cab back into the city andi mentioned this to the cabbie (point of this digression) and his response ‘girlie, the rats have always had wall street”. sic transit gloria mundi.

  2. Ann, thank you for your interesting comment – you’ve inspired me to write a very lengthy one in return :) …

    When I saw your words “ashkenazi leftie jew,” I thought, oh, is that what I am supposed to be? I have little Jewish upbringing per se and no Jewish religion, but ethnically, I guess you are right, and I suppose that Ashkenazi Jews with a Bollywood or Indian film obsession are in the minority. :) (Well, at least that is here in the U.S. But you know, classic Bollywood was huge in the old Soviet Union, where some of my cousins lived. I like to think that the Russians’ love of Raj Kapoor and Padmini transcended ethnic and religious backgrounds. :) )

    Thankfully, those of us who grew up in New York get to draw on all kinds of influences around us and are often internally multicultural. I’ve delved into ideas about how my own tastes developed, but if you’d like to share a little more of your history sometime, I would be happy to compare notes. Then we’ll get to see the extent to which the doppelganger principle applies. Maybe we actually come from the same family and one of us was kidnapped as a baby.

    Regarding the “twin towers” story… Wow, a tale from the building of the original WTC! (BTW, I just looked up the date when it was finally completed, and I see that I was eleven years old at the time. But I don’t have much of a memory of that… What do I remember about 1973? As I recall, the decline of Richard Nixon, the rise of glitter-glam rock, and the popularization of Superfly. Oh, also, as a child, I was something of a Beatles fan, and that year, I spent some accumulated allowance money on a George Harrison album called Living in the Material World… Well there you go, an early influence on the musical obsessions of my later years.)

    I think more people should share their recollections of the original WTC, especially after it’s been so sentimentalized of late. With all due respect to the mourning families and recognition of what a terrible loss of human life that was, people have forgotten that the buildings themselves weren’t really universally held in high regard. A few years ago, I was very amused when I read the radical-leftist architect Lewis Mumford’s critique of them. (He called them “just glass-and-metal filing cabinets.” Actually, they always reminded me most of what you see when you open a box of staples.) And as I have been reminded by some reading here and there, rats were not the only things to scatter; so did small businesses.

    Regarding the protest, you guessed right, it’s the Wall Street one! If I get spotted on TV or somebody reads my blog posts, I might never have a chance again to work on the midnight shift as a proofreader in one of those Downtown law firms. Not that there’s been much of a chance anyway during the last few years…

    Amen to your closing, “Sic transit gloria mundi.” But that’s a very Catholic phrase, isn’t it?

  3. hi richard s.
    tika, maybe you really are my choti bhai spirited away by dacqoits. i first saw a bollywood movie in 1970 at suny-binghamton. ibm was nearby and thus many indian engineers . the indian community approached the school and asked whether they could use a lecture hall on some weekends for film events. there had to be a student who knew how to run the equipment and i volunteered. had seen ray’s apu trilogy but this was my first bollywood. wowza. i was hooked. on so many levels – what we might now call social issues and the issues of post colonialism in what an indian acquaintance calls ‘social hits’. but mainly the dislocations of scenes in mumbai and suddenly girls with bells and tassels on their braids singing and dancing in the himalayas – and on to switzerland. fast forward to 1978 in ann arbor for the summer and find an indian film society. then the late 1990s and we get a cassette player and ask my local rental store to get bollywood films. the guy, who is indian, says ‘oh my god no i left india so that i would never have to watch another one’ but relents saying ‘ok i will get one that will cure you of this madness’. he gets lagaan, can’t keep it on the shelves because it is so popular. forward to a few years ago when i got a dvd player and netflix and now… your website. paradise. you share exactly what delights me so much. i do not have internet at home and so cannot really luxuriate in the website as much as i would like. i really prefer the old black and white films – there are just so many ‘cinematic’ moments, dance moments, music moments, i can watch the first few moments of usha kiran’s entrance dancing in patita in her ‘i can’t believe this guy loves me’ song (at least i think she is saying that because it isn’t translated but dev anand has just proposed to her), just over and over. o yes. but am pretty indiscriminate. utterly charmed. as another indian acquaintance says ‘they sure manage to pack a lot into those 3 hours.’ i just saw a film (with the young sashi kapoor as a boatman) where the heroine is going off to kashmir to relax because it is so peaceful there. ahhh …. sic transit indeed.

    twin towers – yes, they cleared away many iconic and idiosyncratic small businesses and destroyed many historic buildings. and displaced many people from their homes (but at least in some cases had to relocate people). have you read mitchell’s ‘up in the old hotel’? old new yorker essays that give a real sense of lower manhattan.
    and yes, the tug between a discomfort with the madness of crowds and the compulsion to be part of demonstrations. this i understand.
    all best wishes,
    ann

  4. Ann, thank you for all the details regarding how you became a Bollywood fan! I’ve discussed my own past with regard to this at different times from different angles :) , but I will have to type up another version in response to yours (just give me a few days :) )…

    You are obviously better acquainted with the movies themselves from a much earlier time than I am. (That is to say, earlier time in your life than I am in mine. I have actually gravitated toward a lot of films that themselves come from earlier times than many Bollywood fans know about, long before I was born. :) ) But I am acquainted with Indian music (including what is now known as Pakistani music) for quite a bit longer, and I was very much encouraged in this area by some people – especially one person – personally.

    And I have to admit, good old fusion music played a part in that for a long time.

    But more sometime later. :)

  5. hi Richard,
    truth in advertising: don’t be fooled.i am a dilettante (L. delectare =delight) of the first water. a flaneur (who learns the city by walking around) in general and of bollywood in particular. i have seen relatively little (although perhaps a wider range because i don’t flinch, well maybe a bit, at watching really clunky bollywood color films.) i have sent the link to your blog to so many people and those who grew up with bollywood (in india and pakistan) are the most impressed. and re: rats on wall street. have taken out robert sullivan’s “rats:observations on the history and habitat of the city’s most unwanted inhabitants” to see whether i can pin down my memory, but he doesn’t have an index. rats! will be in nyc sat. and so may check out the demonstrations. my son says unfortunately they are so diffuse that a message does not seem to be getting out – or is one of the inchoateness (if that is a word) of the left.
    all best,
    ann

  6. Ann, many thanks for sending this link around and for all the nice words! It’s remarkable to me that those who grew up with Bollywood are the most impressed. :)

    Regarding the protests, your son is right. But personally, having witnessed some of this, I think the diffuseness is not the result of inattention (as one might think) as much as it is a consequence of problems in the process and people’s approach to organizing. Also, there is much attention to style and lifestyle and the festival approach, leading perhaps too many people to think of this group – many of whom were probably born in the 1980s – as “hippies.” :-)

    So, I’ve dropped out of this to some extent already (for various reasons, not just those above)… But it’s fantastic that they took over this park and managed to hold it and are creating something of a sensation out of it. I liked the park as a place to go have a gyro sandwich before working at a midnight shift proofreading at some law firm in the area :) , but during the (normal) day, it’s really only been a center for business people on lunch breaks and tourists who wanted to check out Wall Street or “Ground Zero.” (Actually, I kind of liked the normal day there on weekends, when it was full of tourists, because it was nice to see people from so many different countries. As I always say, since I can’t afford to travel much, it’s good to live in a place where the world comes to us.)

    This “occupation” has successfully defied laws as well as conventions, and it is aimed at a worthy target, whether or not it is focused enough. And I’m hoping that it opens up enough space (literally and figuratively) for protest to grow in general, and for more people to become politically aware and involved, because that’s something that’s badly needed here right now. (Note to Bawa if you’re reading this: Yes, some are trying to recreate here what happened in Spain. But that’s a long way off, I think…)

  7. gosh, no apology to me (“mention not” as the subtitles say – mention of which, i just love the subtitles. learning something of the structure of hindi possibly by the consistently oddbeat structure of the english). but maybe to the other blog followers. but ny ny. there are recent bollywood films that feature ny – or an oddball ny of someones imagination (not sure where they are filmed – an interesting patchwork of really not the boroughs and really not the subway. really not.).

  8. I think you are referring to an apology that I already removed. (I keep revising the last comment to get it right. :) )

    Yes, it is true that a lot of these Bollywood films feature an (odd vision of?) New York. (I have seen a few newer ones that are like that, and read descriptions of many more.) Sometimes it’s fun to see such a film and spot places that I’ve been to a lot, but in general, it’s not very interesting to me, especially in a Bollywood movie, where I normally would expect to see someplace different from the stuff that I’ve seen every day for most of my life. :)

  9. i have never before participated in a blog so am not sure of the protocols. i want to include this link http://anthologyfilmarchives.org/
    to the film anthology archives because i wonder what the possibility might be for your ‘guest curating’ a screening or series of b/w bollywood wonders . just floating this to you. if you were interested then i would send them the link to your blog with a request that they consider it.

  10. Thank you, Ann. That is very nice of you. Let’s see what the response will be and what the task would involve.

    I’ve had other people suggest this sort of thing to me before, but no one specifically naming Anthology Film Archives and no one offering to do something as concrete as writing a request to someone…

    BTW, I did read somewhere that the Raj Kapoor/Golden Age film festival that took place in Toronto was going to be taken to New York City, maybe to the Museum of Modern Art. That’s one reason, among a few, why I finally decided not to go up to Canada for that festival this past summer, though I was considering it. But I haven’t seen any word about it since. Maybe it was just a rumor… I will have to look into that.

    Anyway, certainly, there is no protocol against posting that link or making any suggestions, etc. (Certainly not!)

    I always say I am going to post my e-mail in a place where all people can get to it. Maybe I will. :) Meanwhile, I get your e-mail address when you comment, so if it’s OK with you, I’ll send you an e-mail for more discussion about this soon.

  11. @ ann & richard: this is like listening to two strangers converse! It is entertaining and mysterious. I am stranger to NY and thus can’t get lots of things you are discussing, but at the same time it has such an universal appeal. i believe this must be how when people stranger to bollywood feel when they watch it for the first time. Thanks for letting me ‘eavesdrop’!

    @richard: what protest? There are so many things going wrong right now. i would love to be on the streets protesting, but somehow I feel totally impotent right now! Grin for all you can, but that is how I feel!

  12. Harvey, I am glad that you have enjoyed “eavesdropping.” :)

    In New York City, a group recently started an occupation of a park in the Wall Street area, from which they have been basing an extended protest against the evils, crimes, etc., of the financial elite. (It’s been going on for a week now, organized over the past couple of months. The hope has been that it could go on much longer, though it might not.) The concept of protesting by “camping’ in a public space is somewhat inspired by the methods through which protests began in Egypt and Spain. (Actually, I have heard that one of the groups organizing protests in Spain has a lot of connections to ATTAC – didn’t you work for them once?) The group also has a strong nonviolence ethos – they like Gandhi, though I wonder sometimes who has developed strong ideals in this area who just thinks it’s the relatively safest way. :)

    Unfortunately, the NYC group is very limited in many ways, and there are things about it, especially in terms of the process and the demographics, that remind me of some older groups right here in New York City, rather than anything I’ve read about in Europe or North Africa. (Actually, I recognize some of the same old characters, too. But the vast majority of these people are very young – perhaps too young. :) )

    I don’t want to “bad-mouth” this protest, but suffice to say, it’s best to see it as a start, and hope that more/different groups pick up from there. Meanwhile, the police have started to get kind of nasty with them, and the effort might be crushed soon enough. (I don’t know…but it was already starting to dwindle.)

    There is another such “occupation” planned for October 6 in Washington, DC.

    I know it often seems as though nothing we can do can change the problems and injustices of the world, but I feel better when I at least see people trying to “fight back” in a collective way and trying to change things. The U.S. is so incredibly passive in this sense compared to Western Europe, even though its inequality, general social insecurity, and other social problems are actually greater here by many measures and standards. And, of course, in many “southern” countries (India included), there are also strong traditions of collective action, strong popular socialist traditions, etc., which I see as good things. :) (And then there is everyone’s inspiration, the Arab Spring. Who knows how that will all turn out in the end – probably not as well as everyone had hoped. But just the fact that these things happened should remain an inspiration to the world.)

    It is remarkable how much of this stuff is going on all over the world, even in the U.S., compared to a few years ago. Maybe some of my old Marxist friends are right about economic crisis creating some kind of class struggle (going both ways) and not just right-wing backlashes. :)

    It heartens me to see this (rather than seeing everybody trying to keep their heads in the sand or wallowing in in misery), whether or not I think a whole lot will be changed if I really think about it – and I don’t ever assume that I really know anyway, because…well, you never know :) .

  13. thanks for that Richard!
    Yesterday, I discussed the situation with some of my friends over dinner and somehow we all feel the same.
    Few years back, I had the feeling there are only few of these problems, but meanwhile I just don’t know where to start. It is as if your room is a big mess and you have certain limited time and you don’t know which corner to clean up first, so that one can face the others with equal fervour!
    As for ATTAC, yeah, I do have some connections, but rather passive one. i wanted to go and visit the summer academy, which they organise and this year it was in my home city, but had to leave for India suddenly.

    “I feel better when I at least see people trying to “fight back” in a collective way and trying to change things.”
    How true!
    Have to go out and start doing things and not work 12 hrs a day, like I am doing right now!

  14. hi Richard,
    i will email anthology film archives today sometime and also send an inquiry to moma about the raj kapoor festival (just got to see anari this weekend). emailing me is fine. all best, ann

  15. ps. ok. have writtent to anthology film archives and made inquiries about the museum of modern art and re moma – here is a precedent

    http://www.moma.org/docs/press_archives/6243/releases/MOMA_1985_0097_96.pdf?2010

    also have made inquiries here in dc re national gallery. will let you know when/if i hear anything back.

    re: justice. have just started reading rawls’ theory of justice. interesting thought experiment.
    re: dc please tell me about what is planned for 6 october here. would like to check it out .

  16. Ann, many thanks for doing all this!

    BTW, I also saw that schedule from the ’80s when I searched for info on Raj Kapoor and MOMA a few weeks back. :)

    The other film you recommended looks interesting; I’ll look at this a little more a little later.

    Re. October 6, I don’t know much yet about anything going on here. I thought the Occupy Wall St. group was going to make plans for that, but they’ve been spending all their time on their squatted space in Zuccotti Park, the periodic local demos, and now their battles with the police. Well, that’s understandable…

  17. I love reading Ann’s story here about her path into Indian cinema. I love these tales of the non Indians (like me!) becoming infatuated and then hooked by the genre. I’m a lefty Jew born into a Catholic gori. I dream of marrying Larry David (now that he’s divorced), and moving to India and assisting him in making a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” series there! OK, I digress, but wanted you to know that each time I read/hear/watch news about Occupy Wall Street movement (let’s call it a movement, since it’s gone beyond the realm of protest), I smile and think of you, Richard. It’s a protest I support, and I think it’s not ending anytime soon. In fact, “Occupy Minnesota” is happening tomorrow. Jai Occupy Wall Street Hai!

    All the best,
    Sita-ji

  18. occupydc is happening also. could definitely benefit from some ghandian discipline – and familiarity with demonstrations via their bollywood depictions.

  19. Sitaji, thanks for the good wishes, and I’m glad that you think of me whenever you hear of Occupy Wall Street – though there are many people much more involved in this protest on a day-to-day basis than I am. :) (I do get some personal satisfaction, though, from knowing that I was involved in the very beginning, when there were only about 50 people at the meetings. It’s kind of like the feeling I get knowing that I was there when only 50 people showed up for this or that semi-legendary punk rock band back in the late ’70s. Oh, but wait, these are hippies, not punks. The punks are the older ones now.)

    Regarding the securing of permits, though, I am actually proud that this group ignored permit rules. I have been on some of the unpermitted marches, and I am glad that I managed to get away even when almost everybody else got arrested. (Perhaps the gray hair helped.) So, I am not out to deliberately get arrested, and I don’t think everyone else should be into getting arrested, either. But this protest never would have gotten as far as it did had people dutifully waited for permits to occupy a park or had they always waited for permits to march, staying within the narrow pens set up by the police. Yes, I am all for civil disobedience on the part of those who are willing to do it. But that discussion is more for other places and another, semi-secret blog ;) …

    Regarding Gandhi, some people in the New York group have actually been pushing the Gandhi line a bit too much. One woman on the e-mail list who happened to have an Indian name started lecturing about how we should read up on Gandhi and nonviolent civil disobedience. I think there was a misunderstanding and she didn’t know where I was “coming from.” So I wrote to her saying, “Hey, I know all about Gandhi, and I like Gandhi, but I also like Bhagat Singh!” She wrote back. “Oh, yeah, Bhagat Singh. LOL” I don’t know why she laughed – maybe she assumed that I had seen too many Bollywood films.

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