Saturday, March 5, 2016

House of Cards, Season 4: Notes

House of Cards is not a TV show. It’s a deeply emotional and personal annual event during which I don’t engage myself in any other relevant activities. So in three sittings, I completed these 13 episodes  (thanks to work, or I would have completed it in one go) and this is what I think: 

Lighting: I’ve said this before and I’m saying it again, one of the most striking things about House of Cards is classily ambient light in which the whole series is shot. All the indoor shots are shot in sombre, modest and mellow light that it has a mystifying feel. Hands down, the best lighting arrangement I’ve seen in a TV show. 

Dialogues: Sentence formation is the greatest of all arts known to mankind. I get high on perfect sentences. HoC S4 delivers knockout punches in every episode. I am itching to share a few, but last year, I was admonished for spoiling it for a few friends. But like Frank Underwood, I don’t give a damn. So, here it is, in a scene, Claire’s mother says to Frank Underwood, ‘Not even being president could give you any class’. I have never seen a more savage insult in my life. And that, coming from a mother-in-law, is possibly must be the lowest point of Frank Underwood’s life. This was just one such instance. For dialogue-addicts, this season is cloud no 9. 

Boldness: House of Cards is the poster boy of boldness on TV. Some scenes are so bold that it takes a heart to digest them. Using sex and violence to get classified as bold is one thing, but sending a terrifying shock down your spine without any bloodshed or show of skin is an art HoC has mastered over the last four years and it takes it to the next level in this season.  A scene in which, he speaks to (read threatens) the Secretary of State, Cathy, is so brilliant and so bold that you wouldn’t want anyone like Frank Underwood within a hundred miles of your house. And then there are many such. 
But, the last one minute where Frank Underwood, looks at the camera and utters two sentences, the very last two sentences that will make you shudder. I am yet to recover from that jolt. 
Imagination: There are a few scenes where Frank Underwood is hallucinating. The kind of imagination that has gone into writing these scenes, I wonder what these writers are on, for, pardon by naivety, I cannot fathom how their brains work. These David Lynch-esque sequences that will blow your mind... God, what I wouldn’t do, to be in the writers room while they conceived those scenes. 

Acting: The acting, without exception, was top notch. I am not qualified to enunciate on the greatness of Kevin Spacey’s acting as Frank Underwood. The others: Robin Wright was strong gritty and evil as usual. It was enchanting to see the human side of Michael Kelley for a bit, but I think the new entrant, Jeol Kinnaman, the Swedish actor is the find of the season. And his wife is coma-induing-pulchritudinous-British-bombshell ;-)

Now all this, is great. But every show, has a moment. A moment where your jaws drop, your eyes are wide open and your heart pumps blood twice as fast. You won’t know what hit you. You feel your nerves pulsate and there’s a rush of blood in your head and the vessels throb so hard that you feel you’ll explode. You’re immersed in the sheer brilliance of the creator. That moment where use of civil language is so undermining of the brilliance, yes, that moment, comes at the end of episode 6. The final scene. I’ve seen it over twenty times and I am sure I will, many times over again, because, that’s what you do when you encounter brilliance, you surrender.

- Deepak Karamungikar

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Momentary lapses of reason.

I was fifteen and we were eleven people living in a seven hundred something sq. ft. house. My grandfather, grandmother, me and my brother slept in the front room where we kept our black and white TV. We didn't have cable TV. But thanks to the KGB-esque technology, our Uptron TV, with just a simple aluminium antenna, caught signals of our neighbor's cable TV and we enjoyed Zee TV and MTV and such other channels sometimes, depending on the wind direction and the direction in which our antenna was pointing. At one point, me and my brother were almost living magnetic compasses giving medieval Portuguese explorers a run for their money as we could tell which direction meant which channel clear on TV. We also had a three-person black-ops team in place which included my sister who would tell if the image was clear or not, based on the direction I used to turn the antenna on our terrace and my brother played the middleman coordinating between me and my sister. After one such strenuous field operation on a holiday, we managed to get the best signal for MTV. I remember spending the whole day watching English music videos which I had only heard about, or heard at some friends' place. I slept late that night and remember my late grandfather turning off the TV after I slept - I remember because when you switched our Uptron KGB TV off, it went off with a thud from its speaker. 

The next morning, as I woke up to the commotion around me, the first thing I did was to switch on the TV. I heard weird haunting bell sounds. I was half-awake until my eyes witnessed one of the greatest and the most creative footage I had ever seen. The next five minutes were so mesmerizing I didn't even blink. Capes behind men that flew all the way up into the sky, large balloons bouncing off into endless emptiness, men walking mysteriously on stilts, a man with a bicycle wheel the size of a ferris wheel, larger than life statues, endless corridors, meadows, men carrying bells on their backs and other such mesmerizing visuals. I remember each moment as I saw it that day. That was my introduction to Pink Floyd. The video obviously, was 'High Hopes' from The Division Bell. 

That was my introduction to the phenomenon called rock music. Years progressed as rock music began to grow on me, A while later, me and my brother were both deeply involved in rock music. I limited myself to the mysterious philosophies of rockstars and their lifestyles and the lyrics. My brother took a step ahead and learned guitar, which he has mastered now. I tried to play drums for a while, but couldn't get past a point - guess I was never made for it. Or I didn't try hard enough. I will, however, make another attempt at it, as soon as the time is right. By this time, I had begun to explore other bands as well, while Pink Floyd always remained my favorite. I still feel, it is impossible to perform a song better than Echoes - that's what this blog is named after. Nirvana became a big favorite. Metallica too. But what I understood very late, was that Led Zeppelin is a genre in itself. While I remain biased toward Pink Floyd, I must admit that Led Zeppelin is the definition of mind blowing. They were the first to make you want to headbang. And then, I got addicted to The Doors. The Doors is why I decided to write this post. 

During the aforementioned years, I was so deeply involved with rock music that I had black t-shirts of all the bands I mentioned above. Anyone who has known me for a while knows that I only wore those black rockband t-shirts. I had one particular favorite with Kurt Cobain's face on it - which I wore as a lucky t-shirt, to eleven of the quizzes I won in Hyderabad while in college. But that's not what this is about. I have no shame in admitting that I had numerous arguments with people who denied that Pink Floyd is not the greatest band. I went to the extent of almost breaking my relationship with a very special friend who was on the Led Zeppelin side of things, a side, to which, my eyes opened much later. Yo, if your're reading this, I concede. You were right in some way, but I will forever remain a Floydian. 

The whole point of telling you this story was to tell you that it was my first ever argument over something I loved dearly. Before this, only thing I came close to defending was Sourav Ganguly, but I never really confronted a worthy opponent. Why do we love people we never met so dearly? Do we love them or their work? I have only seen Roger Waters once, from over fifty meters away - but even today I see him playing bass guitar shirtless in the remnants of that Colosseum at  Pompeii, I get goosebumps. David Gilmour, Pink Floyd's lead guitarist was so dear to me that I chose to name the URL of this blog over him. What is it that draws us to them? 

It is futile to talk about rock bands without using the world 'influence'. Influence is a very strong word in the rock music culture. Every band has influences. Each rock fan has influences. A friend who I don't speak to anymore, once played a stupid fucking song on high volume and expected me to head bang. I said the band is a bunch of assholes just like him and he had no taste. He avenged that comment by trying to ruin my reputation and left my life - why did he had to get so worked up over a band that's so stupid, is what I thought then. 

But now older, and presumably wiser, I think that's not the right question. The right question to ask is, does it give me a right to take him down? The answer is no. But it's too late now. If you look back at your life, you will too, find moments where you should have just kept your mouth shut and let people have their way. Jim Morrison, was a fantastic poet, brilliant singer but a giant asshole who had no control over his life. The fanatics will argue that he never wanted to have control over his life  and that's what made him special. But in my book, overdosing doesn't count as losing control - it's plain stupid. Same with Kurt Cobain. Brilliant singers, brilliant performers, but couldn't extend their careers. Or may be their careers didn't matter to them. All genius comes with inexplicable eccentricities, but eccentricities that are a threat to the very life that gives you the opportunity to be that genius are as pointless as Linkin Park.  

Now, there was a time when eccentricities like these, served as a subject of supreme excitement. Not that ever thought of doing drugs, but I liked the adventurous thoughts of having the life of a rockstar, being with several women, becoming world famous, etc. As time progressed, or as we, the middle-class call it maturing, I realized that most of the things I liked about rock bands in 2001, I do not today. I do not have the urge to argue and prove that Pink Floyd is the greatest band. It is the greatest, but I don't want to convince you. Or anyone. There comes a time in everybody's life - where the only thing that matters is what actually matters. Shoving opinions down others' throats doesn't make any sense. You'll come to a point where you'll strongly believe in yours though, but you will not counter others. That point of being mentally stoic and unreactive nobility is a severely crucial threshold we all must reach. 

I have no shame in confessing that I have lost three friends till date because of my inability to keep my mouth shut. In those momentary lapses of reason, my urge to prove my point superseded the necessity to weigh in the consequences of your absence from my life. Fanaticism breeds aggression. Aggression leads to incompatibility. Incompatibility leads to a decision point where someone will remain in your life only if they love you way too much or they need you in some way or the other. Or it's a combination of both in varying proportions. I have experienced all the three types. A heartfelt thanks to those who haven't left my side. 

Sorry to make this post so long, but it was necessary to establish the premise before I could get to the point. Every night when you go back to sleep, you invariably remember that moment when you should have stayed calm and not spoken. And it hurts. Strategic silence is a rare skill - one must strive to gain it. 

In the legendary words of Ari Gold, "Silence, is fucking golden". 

- Deepak Karamungikar
 Twitter: @poetrification