Posts tagged culture
More on Shadows

In his essay In Praise of Shadows Japanese novelist Tanizaki writes about the conflict between western and eastern aesthetics in the modern world. He says that Japanese 'find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates.' He emphasizes beauty in subtlety and that which cannot be seen too clearly, leaving some of the experience to our imagination. Pallasmaa talks of something similar when he emphasizes the importance and intimacy of darkness:

The eye is the organ of distance and separation, whereas touch is the sense of nearness, intimacy and affection. The eye surveys, controls and investigates, whereas touch approaches and caresses. During overpowering emotional experiences, we tend to close off the distancing sense of vision; we close our eyes when dreaming, listening to music, or caressing our beloved ones. Deep shadows and darkness are essential, because they dim the sharpness of vision, make depth and distance ambiguous, and invite unconscious peripheral vision and tactile fantasy. (Pallasmaa, 1996, p.46).

Pallasmaa continues to say that bright lights kill our imagination whereas twilight, dimly lit spaces and foggy scenes spark our sense of mystery, the mystical and mythological. Tanizaki also mentions this sense of tranquility and calm in shadows, that which separates the inside from the outside:

Whenever I see the alcove of a tastefully built Japanese room, I marvel at our comprehension of the secrets of shadows, our sensitive use of shadow and light. For the beauty of the alcove is not the work of some clever device. An empty space is marked off with plain wood and plain walls, so that the light drawn into its forms dim shadows within emptiness. There is nothing more. And yet, when we gaze into the darkness that gathers behind the crossbeam, around the flower vase, beneath the shelves, though we know perfectly well it is mere shadow, we are overcome with the feeling that in this small corner of the atmosphere there reigns complete and utter silence; that here in the darkness immutable tranquility holds sway. (Tanizaki, 1977).

In my work there is a combination of bright light that hurts the eye and multiple shadows. Parts of the space are brighter and dimmer than others. The views of the city begin with twilight, continue to sunset and then cycle back to twilight in an endless loop. Various kind of shadows are present in the work, those that are glaring and sharp and others that are subtle and noticeable only after an amount of time spent in the space. Due to a feedback loop dim mirror versions of yourself are also visible in the walls, each a mere second after the next. The overall effect is an experience which is disconcerting as you see several shadows of yourself, the other in the walls on either side. Despite bright lights the audience cannot see the entire work because the city is fragmented with shadows. The gaps and shadows leave the final interpretation up to the audience themselves. It is an experience which aims to express the inner conflict of the city, which I call Mumbai.

Reference: Pallasmaa, J. (1996). Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses. John Wiley & Sons: UK. Sowin, J. (2006). In Praise of Shadows: A Meditation. [online]. Available from: [Accessed 17th August 2011]. Tanizaki, J. (1977). In Praise of Shadows. Leete's Island Books: USA
Tamil and French Fusion Architecture

I lived all alone in this old Tamil house for about two weeks while I was looking out for an apartment. Everyone told me it was haunted and all that, but I didn't have any scary experiences (what a surprise ^_^). The house itself was old, old and beautiful. The current owner told me an interesting story about the house.  Less than a hundred years ago it was owned by a hi-flying Tamil bureaucrat when Pondicherry was still a French Colony. According to an old cook who has worked in the house for more than sixty years, the name of the previous owner was Ramaswami Chettiyar, his daughters name was Rani and his wife's name was Maragadham. He built the ground floor in traditional Tamil style, with a courtyard and everything, while the first floor is built in French style, with chandeliers, high ceilings and a huge ballroom to entertain French guests. I lived on the first floor, but most of the rooms were closed off. Large parts of the house have been broken down over time to give space for roads and neighbours, only the smaller parts of it remain, and even those are badly maintained. That's probably why some people find it scary.

Main Room


My favourite part of the place; The bathroom door is completely stained glass:

Stained Glass Bathroom Door

mirror-detail Detail of the giant mirrors on both sides of the drawing room.

The stained glass windows really add to the overall effect, and conflict nicely with the traditional, and brightly painted carved wood and absence of glass on the ground floor:

courtyard tamil house

Only some of painted details remain, but these wooden columns were completely painted before falling into disrepair. Unfortunately, this part of the house has also not been maintained.

Here you can see an area where the bright colours are still visible and not completely faded:

Detail Tamil House

Related Posts:

> More about Pondicherry

> Architecture in Pondicherry

Quick Gun Murugan - Movie Review

Director: Shashanka Ghosh | Writer: Rajesh Devraj *

Okay, I've already heard many people say that the movie is not worth watching, and I completely disagree. That's what pushed me to write the review. Apparently, the movie has got a couple of bad reviews in the newspapers, I have no idea why, most of the time lots of terribly bad movies get good reviews, especially in TOI.

Quick Gun Murugan is Classic Slapstick Humour. It's well done, not too sexist, it has low brow and high brow cross-references and original, entertaining cultural references. Frankly, what more do you need in a light movie? A spoof of Tamil cinema, the movie reminds me of one of my all-time favourites, Kung Fu Hustle.

You're guaranteed to leave the theatre in a good mood, smiling: It's not too long either.

The theatre I went to in Chennai was not packed because it was a Sunday morning show, but almost everyone in the audience was in splits the entire time.

A warning note: It doesn't make sense to expect too much (its not THAT great), since its still rough at the edges, and not as polished as it could have been. And the reason I'm raving about it is the dearth of such movies in Indian cinema. As a film buff I still expect better.

Quick Gun Murugan Movie Poster

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The villain - Rice Plate Reddy:

rice plate reddy

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The vamp/heroin Rambha:


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So you've seen some of the excellent and colourful cast, although I couldnt find a picture of one of my favourite villain characters - Rowdy MBA Rascal - I loved the insane amounts of case-taking of MBA's!!

Finally a found a pic of Rowdy MBA The Side Kick Villain:

Rowdy MBA

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The wiki tells us of the origin of the main character Quick Gun, who started off as a television promo on Channel [V] making phrases such as  "Mind it" and "We are like this only" part of an iconic cultural identity. Quick Gun has come a long way from there.

Interestingly, the movie is in English, but it breaks into Tamil or Hindi whenever translation is not possible. In this way, even if it's in English, you never lose the Indian flavour at all. For example,


during a love song, he is singing in English and it sounds really ridiculous and funny, and then he switched to Tamil naturally, which is even funnier due to the subtitles that then appear, translating everything literally! This part was tricky, but well executed. Even the trilingual scenes in Mumbai, with English, Tamil and Hindi, switching from one language to another is handled naturally.

So indulge your light hearted side and watch this movie, and remember -