Saturday, 25 December 2010

Altered Natives

It was another city

Another man:
One who looked like a fake film star
In plastic jeans.

Seduction was not his forte.

It was another street
Another house:
One which had smelt of blood for years
Pig blood. Human, too.

Weddings do not look good in crematoriums.

It was another woman
Another night:
One which turned from magic to middle-class
In the blip of an SMS.

You should not have unclasped your belt for her.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

The Psychopathic Boatman

A sketch made at the Houten Comics Fair.

Medium: ink and wash

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Fragment Of A Dream - I

I walked noiselessly down the dark hallway. To my left was a wall made entirely out of panes of frosted glass that were letting in the evening gloom. To my front and right were doors, all open, all leading into darkened rooms – all save one. The room directly up ahead had a little glow coming out of it. As I reached the door, I saw that the source of the glow was a small fluorescent reading lamp resting on a table. I poked my head through the doorway and looked around. A second lamp was burning on a similar table at the far end of the room. Either the occupants had left in a hurry, or someone was here just now. I turned around, retraced my steps down the hallway and stopped at the first door (now to my left). It was open. I could hear breathing in the pitch-black room, and then something like a smothered whimper. Realising that I must be silhouetted clearly against the milky frosted glass and would have been shot by now if the occupant of the room had wanted it, I raised my left hand and said, “Can you see me? Please step forward very slowly – and don’t try anything rash, I’m armed.” Almost instantaneously my wrist was clutched by two soft hands and the woman stumbled forward, not bothering to stifle her sobs anymore. She was about 25, with chestnut hair cut short, and wearing a dark business suit. She clung to the lapels of my raincoat, shaking and crying.

“What happened?” I asked softly.

“I-I don’t know. They were he-here, just ten minutes b-before closing time. I don’t know why, but I hi-hid behind the table with th-the big printer. They shot ev-everyone, and dragged them o-out. I wouldn’t dare m-move…”

I looked down at the gleaming white floor. It was spotless.

“How many did they shoot?”

“About eight in th-this room. There were t-twenty in all, this being a S-Saturday.”

I hadn’t seen any bodies in the front office or in the hallway, nor could I discern any bloodstains on the floor.

“How did they carry them out? In body bags?”

“No, just d-dragged them away by th-the legs. I must have fainted, I d-didn’t hear them leave. Oh g-god, I’m scared…”

I helped her walk to the reception area, made her sit down on the visitors’ couch and poured her a cup of water from the cooler in the adjoining room. As she sipped from it, her breathing became more normal. Presently, she spoke again.

“I think I should go home now.”

This was good news for me. She was not of much use as a witness, and I could now search the rooms without having to babysit her.

“You do that, Miss… er…?”

“Kyle. Lisane Kyle.”

“Miss Kyle. I’m sure you’ll be alright.”

As she exited from the office apartment and walked towards the elevators, I watched her pensively from the front door. Something in her walk was not right; as if she was dying to break into a run, but couldn’t for the fear of arousing suspicion. As the elevator doors thudded shut, I turned my back and went inside.

I walked towards the streetwise side of the apartment and looked down. In about three minutes, she came out onto the snow-smeared sidewalk, and looked up. Her gaze was not visible from eight stories up, but something in the hunch of her shoulders was not right, just like her walk a while back. I decided to follow her.

As I stood in the elevator, I checked my pockets for a weapon. All I could find was a penknife. The street was deserted when I came out and I could see her in the distance, walking fast, dark against the snowy backdrop. I followed her at a normal walking pace along the left sidewalk. After about 200 metres, the streets split. To our front, there was a big avenue running at right angles to the street we were on, and to our right, a small lane jutting out at an angle of about 20 degrees (to the near side) and ending in a cul-de-sac. She was running by now, and it was this lane she took at top speed, crossing the street in a blind panic, her long Manara legs kicking up dirty snow. Fortunately for her, there was no traffic. As I crossed the street and reached the first house on the lane and looked around the corner, I saw her standing unsteadily at the cul-de-sac. Presently she turned back and started running again. I crossed the street and came back to my old position, ready to intercept her. She came into view at full tilt, her crop of hair obscuring her face yet letting the stark panic there show through. As I ran towards her, I was surprised to see she didn’t even care to look around. She hit the big avenue, spattering dead snow at every footfall. I let her have a 5-second lead, and then turned the corner. And skidded to a halt. She was not running anymore.

I pulled myself back into an arched doorway and watched her. She was standing under a battered ‘Bus Stop’ sign, shivering. Just at that moment, a black car pulled up alongside her. So she was running not for the fear of being followed, but that of being late for her appointment. And the aimless detour at the cul-de-sac must have been a ruse to shake off any pursuer (and instructed by the people she was meeting, indubitably).

The back window on the passenger side rolled down, and I could see a gloved hand resting on top of the pane. She was talking to the occupant of that hand, talking fast, and pointing wildly in the general direction of the apartment where I was supposed to be right now. The window rolled up, the car took a U-turn and drove off towards the building we were in not ten minutes ago. She stood there. I walked up noiselessly and grabbed her by the arm.

“Alright,” I said, “I want some answers. Who are they and why are they going to the apartment right now?”

She looked at me with dark, frightened eyes. She was trembling again. “I-I’m cold.”

“Let’s go for coffee. I know a good place one block west from here. There you can sit and tell me all about it.”

[An actual dream I had on the afternoon of 8th September 2010, with a little embellishment for dramatic purpose]

Thursday, 26 August 2010


Displayed two prints from my 'Alternate History' poster series in the Oosterpoort foyer, as part of the Noorderzon festival.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Thursday, 24 June 2010

M F A ! ! !

I became an MFA in IME from the FMI today.

Monday, 24 May 2010

GR'NN flyer design samples for Stripdagen Haarlem 2010

I am going to attend the Stripdagen (comics festival) at Haarlem on 4 - 6 June with the GR'NN comics magazine group from Groningen. And I have made some sample designs for the flyers that are to be printed for the event. Since the mascot of GR'NN is a goat, I have used that as the central motif in all the 3 designs, which are as follow:

From left to right, the themes are:

  • Art nouveau (for the foreground Marilyn/faun figure) and stained glass (for the background)
  • Film noir and similarly-inspired artwork (of illustrators like Jim Steranko and Eduardo Risso)
  • Traditional Bengali pata-chitra which was exquisitely reinvented for the modern audience by the famous painter Jamini Roy

Which do you think is the best design, then?

Update: This was the final selected design.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

'Subliminal Autopsy: Our Industrial Parents'

These are the five different "layers" of my installation created for the
Technological Singularity#2 exhibition at PlanetArt, Amsterdam.

layer 1: Skin

layer 2: Flesh

layer 3: Blood

layer 4: Bone

layer 5: Soul

And this is the video that shows how it works. There is an SRF05 ultrasound sensor taped to the bottom of the screen, which is connected to an Arduino board. The slides are running from a Max/MSP patch in the computer, and as the viewer approaches the screen, the external layers will peel off one after the other to show a final digital emptiness inside the "perfect" human beings.

Monday, 19 April 2010

My new comics

My 2-page short comics 'A Groningen Ghost Story' has been published in the March 2010 issue of the comics magazine GR'NN. Interested people can procure a copy for themselves for only €3.50.

Cover of the March 2010 issue of GR'NN

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Ishq, yeah!

I want to start this review by paying my tribute to the new brat pack of Hindi cinema. Yes, I’m talking about the filmmakers Vishal Bhardwaj, Anurag Kashyap, Abhishek Chaubey, Dibakar Banerjee, Dev Benegal, Madhur Bhandarkar, and all the others of their ilk. Take a bow, guys! Thank you for starting the slow but hopeful resuscitation of moribund Hindi cinema from the chiffon-Switzerland-and-sati-savitri nexus of the Chopras, Barjatyas and Johars. And I, for one, sincerely believe that you shall succeed where the Kundan Shahs, Sai Paranjpyes, Ketan Mehtas and Saeed Akhtar Mirzas fizzled out after a dazzling display of (short-lived) virtuosity and Ram Gopal Verma became a self-parody, a cinematic cannibal with dual weights of hubris and obsession for leading ladies dragging him down to the ‘Aag’ of hell. Call me an optimist, because I am.

Now then… ‘Ishqiya’. I confess that I’m not certain if the titular word is a noun (romance) or an adjective (romantic), but that’s really not important. This film is a love letter from its makers to anybody who understands the language. The film starts with a logo of VB Studio, and I hope it shall be as long-lived and popular as its Microsoft namesake. Whereas most of the current urban filmmakers in Bollywood seem to be from the Tarantino school of smart, snappy, verbose, fast-paced and overlapping narratives married to dynamic camerawork and neon-streaked lighting, this film takes the other road and becomes a Coen Brothers movie: gently paced, tersely written, and with beautiful outdoor cinematography. For a film that uses noir as one of its basic elements, it spends a lot of time in broad daylight - which is a very successful move, as it makes the night shots stand out in their warm firefly glow. The story, as I perceived it, is self-conscious but in a subtle way. While Vishal’s ‘Kaminey’ (2009) was decidedly Tarantinoesque in its urban surreality, ‘Ishqiya’ remains diligently low-key, just turning reality up a notch or two as and when needed. Instead of the slick, rain-and-blood-washed streets of the Mumbai underworld, we have the dust-choked dirt roads of Gorakhpur in rural Uttar Pradesh, where caste wars and honour killings are just another part of life. I may be putting my neck on the block here, but I really felt that ‘Ishqiya’ uses the skeleton of ‘Sholay’ (with Naseeruddin Shah playing the taciturn Iftikaar as Jai, Arshad Warsi flamboyantly channeling Veeru into Babban, and Vidya Balan’s Krishna alternating effortlessly between Vasanti and Radha) and builds on it with tongue firmly in cheek. It’s entirely a personal and subconscious realisation, so let it not colour your perception of the movie.

As the film started with a voluptuous woman in bed, languidly humming a song while the moondust of afterglow hangs in the scented air, the first thing I admired was the lighting. Noted cinematographer Soumendu Roy (a longtime collaborator of the late Satyajit Ray) had once said in an interview about 90s’ Bollywood films: “They light every scene more than necessary” – which is totally true, with characters occasionally throwing multiple shadows (or none) on the wall for no discernible reason. It’s nice to see that trend changing, and darkness seeping back into the frame. And out of this darkness emerges Krishna Verma – just another rural North Indian housewife who, after a little fun-filled post-coital bantering with her husband, diligently cooks him dinner. Right? Wrong. For she is what we fans of noir call a femme fatale – a woman with a cloud of intrigue, deception, lust and violence following her everywhere. While in some cases they turn out to be passive pawns of the cruder sex, this lady is of a different stock. She knows perfectly well the whos, whats and whys of the big bad world, and is always one step ahead of our protagonists. Which brings us to the lead pair of the film: Iftikaar and Babban, an uncle-nephew duo of small-time crooks, who make up with bravado what they lack in skills. We get introduced to them in a positively offbeat manner: drunk and dancing in their underwear on a sun-drenched riverbank as a rag-tag band belts out ‘Ajeeb Daastaan Hai Yeh’ (a clever foreshadowing of the future). But things get steadily downhill for our heroes from there. Minutes later, they are literally standing neck-deep in their open graves, as villainous Mushtaq Bhai (Salman Shahid) – the film’s only nod to Tarantino – cackles at them with rage-tinged glee. The actor was looking strangely familiar to me (despite never having seen him before) and now I know why: he looks like Tinnu Anand’s long-lost twin brother who grew up in a borstal dreaming of being Jean Reno. Anyway, the khalu-bhanja pair gives him the slip, and runs off with 20 lakh (2 million) Rupees belonging to him. Their plan? To go to Gorakhpur, and cross the border into Nepal – with a little help from their former cellmate Vidyadhar Verma (Adil Hussain), the husband of our heroine. But, unbeknownst to them, he’s dead – the result of a gas cylinder explosion in the beginning of the movie – and his widow, although hospitable and courteous, cannot really help them in their cause. The story unfolds from there with its own twists and turns (some predictable, some not) and without giving too much away, I can tell you that it concerns the pair getting dragged into an abduction plot involving a local steel plant owner Kamalkant Kakkad a.k.a. KK (played woodenly by the wooden Rajesh Sharma) that results in a literally explosive ending.

A film like this, which involves meticulous writing and puts a lot of stress on set-pieces and body language, needs rock-solid casting, and this is where ‘Ishqiya’ scores 11 out of 10. The three lead actors have wonderful chemistry together, with Arshad Warsi as the lusty, earthy Babban and Vidya Balan as the cool-as-ice Krishna inadvertently showing the aged Iftikaar what KLPD feels like. And I must mention Naseer here to some length. I personally think of him as the Al Pacino of India, and to see the fresh-faced young man of ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron’ and ‘Ijaazat’ as the weather-beaten, gaunt-cheeked yet tough-as-nails petty thief was a treat all by itself. His intense brown eyes still sparkle, his contemplative half-smile still dazzles, and his gravelly voice still enthralls. As Indiana Jones put it so aptly to Marion Ravenwood: “It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage.” And Naseer still has a lot of mileage left in him. I, for one, would love to see him run in the years to come. As for the supporting cast, they are serviceable at best, with Alok Kumar as the village teen Nandu being the most memorable.

Another aspect of this movie that I want to touch upon before I wrap up is the music. While not as great as the Gulzar-RD duo, Gulzar-Vishal is a treat for sore ears. The movie kicks off with a road song – ‘Ibn-E-Batuta’ – that has become my current trip (after ‘Kaminey’-s ‘Dhan Te Nan’ from the same team). Who would have known that the name of a fourteenth century Moroccan traveller could become the catchphrase for a rollicking song like this (voiced by a roaring Sukhwinder Singh and a growling Mika)? Counterpointing it nicely is Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s smooth-as-silk ‘Dil Toh Bachcha Hai Ji’, a song that reminds us – gently – that the past-his-prime Khalujaan is building rose-tinted castles in the air, which will come crashing down any time now. The conversations about classic Bollywood songs (not to mention their use in the soundtrack, like ‘Dhanno Ki Aankhon Mein’ - from Gulzar’s own film ‘Kitaab’ - playing in a brothel) were little gems for us connoisseurs of the same, and my personal favourite was the squabble that Krishna and Iftikaar have over the composer of the Lata number ‘Kuchh Dil Ne Kahaa’ (from ‘Anupama’) while waiting for their quarry.

On the downside (and there are quite a few), the narrative lacked clarity, and while the dialogues crackled and snapped, the interpersonal dynamics of the characters, as well some of their motivations, were occasionally confusing, not to mention the very pedestrian ending that redeemed itself somewhat in the last shot. And Vidya Balan sometimes looked a little too urbane and glossy for her character. But the ensemble cast really made me forget the weaknesses and the end of the movie found me with a goofy grin on my face. Abhishek, Vishal & co. had sent me a love letter, and this is my reply (which will never reach them). Despite all its flaws, ‘Ishqiya’ is indubitably a fascinating movie. Surely I’ll outgrow it sooner or later, but for now… “aisi uljhi nazar unse hathti nahin.”

Friday, 16 April 2010

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


Just flexing my artistic muscles with this portrait of Toshiro Mifune.

Just an idea...

Is his how the final presentation might look at a glance?

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Subliminal Autopsy: Our Industrial Parents

Sample poster 1 for an upcoming cyberpunk-themed exhibition in Amsterdam

Sample poster 2 for an upcoming cyberpunk-themed exhibition in Amsterdam

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Monday, 5 April 2010

Klaus For Sale




Thursday, 1 April 2010

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Retro Hero

Fighting evil, rescuing damsels and saving non-whites all over the world.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Who Killed Norma Jean?

Lyrics: Norman Rosten

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Tuesday, 2 February 2010


সমুদ্র ডাকে।
এখানে, এই শীতের নির্বাসনেও
আতপ্ত বিষুবস্রোত ডাক দিয়ে যায়।
হীরের টুকরো ভাবি, তারা কাঁপে
ভেলভেট আকাশের খাঁজে;
সকালে গোলাপী সূর্য
মনোযোগ দিয়ে ভাবে উঠবে কি উঠবে না ঠান্ডা হৃদয়ে।
তাকেও সমুদ্র ডাকে,
ডুব দিতে বলে সেই সুদূরের মায়াগর্ভজলে।
আবার দিনের আলো লাল হয়ে আসে,
প্রতি রাতে
ভাঙা বিছানায়
আমার মা যন্ত্রণায় কাঁদে।
মাকেও সমুদ্র ডাকে,
সব রোগ সারাবার আশ্বাস ঢেউয়ের খামে
রেখে দিয়ে যায়।
(কবে জানি না)
আমি আর মা সমুদ্রে ডুব দেবো
পিছুপিছু আলো নিয়ে অনুগত সূর্যও যাবে।

Tuesday, 5 January 2010


A jigsaw puzzle. Yes, why not? Any book can be turned into a puzzle, a riddle, a maze. Or any puzzle / riddle / maze can be made into a book. Remember Borges's 'The Garden Of Forking Paths'? Do something like it.

Film Still 2

A still from the film 'Aadim Ripu' (Original Sin, 1972), showing the detective Byomkesh Bakshi in a contemplative mood.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Film Still 1

A still from the film 'Absence Of Haemoglobin' (1964), showing the scene where the protagonist realises that his blood has been replaced with that of a pig.