Thursday, November 6, 2008

Indian Stuff: Devdas + Dev D Trailer + I Write Sometimes

Where to begin? Devdas was a Bengali novel written by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay in 1917. It was first brought to film in 1928 by Naresh Mitra and then several times over by P.C. Barua in the 1930s. Up until 2002, when Sanjay Leela Bhansali remade the film, the 1955 version was the most known. Starring Dilip Kumar and directed by Bimal Roy, it's easily one of the best Indian films ever made. I'm a sucker for gloomy black-and-white melodramatic 1950's films, as exhibited by my obsession with Pyaasa, and this is probably the best known of the genre. As far as the plot, basically: childhood sweetheards, rich man + poor girl, family objects and sends him away to the city, gives up on love, object of affection is married off to skeevy old man for money, he finds out, becomes a raging alcoholic frequenter of brothels, prostitute/dancer falls hopelessly in love with him, doesn't give a shit, dies on the way to his love's doorstep. Incidentally, Dilip Kumar was offered Guru Dutt's role in Pyaasa but turned it down as he was type-casted as the "tragedy king". 1955:

Now, Anurag Kashyap is working on a remake of Devdas set in modern times entitled "Dev D". This will be the most drugged out version of Devdas the world has seen. The trailer just came out:

All of this reminded me of some stuff I wrote a year ago about a self-destructing Indian kid in New York - write about what you know, right? I was reading "Unaccustomed Earth" by Jhumpa Lahiri and after enjoying Interpreter of Maladies and Namesake I guess I got fed up with her classist writing and the lack of any working class Indians, ever. There was also a short story about an alcoholic Indian kid that went to Cornell and he didn't seem nearly alcoholic enough. Upon reading it again I see that I drew upon Dutt's Vijay and Chattopadhyay's Devdas. Here's a photo of Kal Penn who would definitely NOT play the main character Gautham if my shite was ever brought to film but will suffice as a visual prop so you don't see me in your head while you read it. Composite characters, yeah... there are parts of me in this dude, sure, but also parts of everyone I hope.

"Big cokehead," they would say; "Big, big cokehead." What Gautham would say is: "Want a key bump?" With a half-filled pink plastic bag of cocaine in one hand and keys to his apartment in the other you could find Gautham scooping blow into his nose in bathrooms all over New York City. From the Plaza Hotel to dive bars like Vasmay's Lounge on Houston – he was well acquainted with bathroom stalls of all sorts. He was well acquainted with keys of all sorts as well; as when he was particularly drunk, he chose the wide, long key with a plastic black top made to open a heavy door. Typically he would go with a normal-sized key for a normal sized door and a larger-than-normal habit. This door often led to bad decisions, embarrassing confessions, uncontrollable jaw movements, and talking about stupid shit extremely fast. During the early years of Gautham's depravity such confessions would take place in a dark Harlem bedroom, lit only with a small red lamp until the sun would come up and his group of friends sleeping on the floor, couch, countertop - wherever - would slowly begin to sober and become eligible for sleep. Often they were confessions of not necessarily things they had done, but family things. Indian things. The time his dad tried to kill himself. The other few times he tried, never with the end goal in mind as taking 4 or 5 over the counter Zantac pills for heartburn couldn't possibly work. Meanwhile, Gautham was taking 4 or 5 Xanax pills for fun in the next room. And when his mother would do paat puja in one room, he would smoke pot and light an agarbathi stick in the next room. They would talk about their parents' first jobs in this country. The fact that Gautham's mother worked in a sweatshop making belts when she first came to this country. Immigrant things. They were no MIT Indians. They were no IIT Indians. They never made their way into a Jhumpa Lahiri book, as while his parents did drink tea and have dinner parties with Indian friends, they did not have Ph.D.'s or concern themselves with reading as a form of entertainment. For them entertainment was a novella about large Indian families with terrible, dizzying editing. For Gautham, the nights that involved having at-length discussions regarding growing up poor, listening to Tribe Called Quest and Television, and changing one's life for the better were perhaps the most positive of experiences related to use of the drug. He was nostalgic for those days as since then the drug had become as commonplace as a cigarette for him. In those conversations there was a certain hope that only youth could propose. There was a hope that this would be a short-term thing - a part-time job. After all, those were only the early years of depravity. Nights where he could remember what he discussed at all would be considered a win for him now. On one occasion his roommate found him on the floor of their building at 4 AM. This was a cold, hard floor in a cold, Bushwick building set amongst industrial buildings that may not stand the test of time here; buildings that compete with a massive in-flux of Midwesterners eager to be in the center of New York's artistic crowd 5 years too late. Original New Yorkers are scattered about, proudly sporting tell-tale signs of their foundation here in the form of old high school t-shirts and intonations that arise only whilst talking to drug dealers. He woke up in his bed at 2 PM: wallet, check, cell phone, check, keys, nope. Only one UARI; Unidentified Alcohol-Related Injury.

Nights like those would make him talk about swearing off alcohol and drugs and the lot as a whole. Talk about going into hiding to become a better man. Running away to India. Talk about being Buddhist, or maybe just a better Hindu. Talk about working out more. Talk about becoming a Vegan, for his body is his temple. Talk about reading more poetry; Rimbaud, Baraka, Rumi, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, and Kalidasa. Talk about sleeping earlier. Talk about how he'll make his family proud one day – make it up to them. Talk about how he would spend more time around the house he grew up in and fix things when necessary. Talk about how Gautham would find that girl and she would help him change. Talk about how she'd feel safe around him, and comfortable. Talk about being comfortable around her and safe around himself. Talk about painting more - studying Husain, the Mughal Artists of Akbar and Jahangir's ateliers, Duchamp, and Basquiat. Talk about writing more - reading more books and less blogs. Reading 5 Russian authors of his choice. Talk about watching more films - not movies, films. Talk about dinner parties and brunch. Talk about having the ability to have "a few drinks" the way he heard people talk about but couldn't understand. Talk about coming out of hiding when he was done talking about and had started doing. When Friday rolled around and Gautham had a drink or five in him, he'd yearn for something else for this can't possibly be the MOST fun one could have. Was that it? Really? Was there any more fun to be had? Anything? And then someone would talk about "blow" and the trajectory of the evening would change. That "talk about" was the only one that consistently ended up being one of the things people stopped talking about and started doing within the hour.

1 comment:

Long said...

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part-time job

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