Monthly Archives: August 2010

Memoirs of a Geisha

Rich. Colorful. Smooth flow. That’s what comes to my mind when I think of this excellent novel by Arthur Golden. I had been wanting to see the movie ever since I took this book. I got to see the film lately in Zee Studios and I must say I am floored.

There is a definite distinction between the written word and a visual presented to you. You get to imagine a lot in reading the written word. When you watch the same matter in visual form, you can sometimes connect to both and enjoy. Even more, if it is vice versa with the visual medium first and the words next, it is an enjoyable experience. I got it vice versa-from the movie to the book.

This was the first time I came to know that there exist a form of Japanese entertainers called Geisha who are trained in dance, music, tea ceremony and the delicate art of hosting parties. Golden gives us a clear picture of who a Geisha is and what makes a Geisha different from the others by her unique training in all art forms. The book takes us through the memoirs of one of the most celebrated Geishas in the 20th century, Sayuri-fictitious no doubt in name, but original in all other respects- so brilliant, so delicate that we as a reader are transported to Kyoto’s Gion district.

We admire Sayuri a.k.a Chiyo’s clever mind(the way she names her house as a ‘tipsy’ house to Tanaka) and later as an apprentice Geisha takes on Hatsumomo, when she is separated from her sister Satsu and lives in the Okiya, her troubles and hardships over the period leading to her being taken up by Mameha, her meeting with the Chairman and her fervent wishes that she become a Geisha(the river bridge scene where she meets the Chairman for the first time and takes his words in a positive sense is a brilliant piece), we can only admire at the way Golden puts down the memoirs that we doubt if it is Sayuri or Golden delivering the dialogues.

The movie is even more colorful, never mind the fact that the cast was Chinese in nature. Excellent visuals, fantastic script kept closely to the book makes the film a treat to watch and remember.

This is one book and film which will linger for a long time in your memory.

The elegant hairstyle of a Geisha:

A Geisha entertaining a customer in Kyoto:

For more information about Geishas, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geisha.

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The Prestige

Are you watching/reading closely?

Every magic act has three parts. The Pledge, the Turn and the Prestige.

The Pledge

It is not often that I come across a book or movie which intrigues that eccentric mind of mine and binds me in a mixture of amazement and awe.  The Prestige by Christopher Priest and the movie(2006) by the same name directed by Christopher Nolan captured my attention like nothing else did.

The first fact was that it dealt with stage magic as a subject and the second fact was that it was a Chris Nolan film. You people have balked in awe at Inception just recently, but how many of you were carried over by The Prestige?

The Prestige was written in 1995. It tells the story of two 19th century magicians who were friends at first, contemporaries, but then turned into bitter foes. The rivalry was so bitter that it affected their subsequent generation even after a hundred years.

The Turn

I am not going to delve much into the story except offer you some brief sketches. It would be too much to let you not enjoy the act. The novel tells the story in first person perspective through the eyes of the primary characters-Andrew Westley a.k.a. Andrew Borden, Katherine Angier, Alfred Borden a.k.a. Le Professeur de Magie and Rupert ‘Robbie’ Angier, 14th Earl of  Colderdale, a.k.a. The Great Danton.

The movie is an excellent adaptation of the novel. Sometimes you read a book and want to see the film adaptation. Or it is the vice versa. To me, it was vice versa and my appetite was completely whetted. Splendid performances by Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman and Michael Caine, the movie with its characteristic Nolan style narration will keep you spellbound for its full length.

The novel on the other hand is a reader’s delight and is a must for every collector’s shelf. Such is the narration style as you progress from the present generation of the Borden-Angier children as they meet for the first time, the eerie feeling conveyed subtly from the first page of the novel-remember it is a novel about magicians and magic. As Borden himself says in his diary-I hold out my hands. They are empty. But all is not as it seems. For out of that empty hands I will produce an illusion. Nothing is real as you see it. It applies to every word in the novel.

As we progress from the present generation to the feud between the Professor and the Great Danton,we learn about their rivalry and character-each outwitting the other, finding a fault to his advantage. The important part is when they perform their versions of the Transported Man. The measures each take to perfect the trick and their obsession to find out how the other performed the trick to the very way in which the trick is performed-which leaves you with a feeling you have never experienced.

The movie is even more colorful in illustrating the above said words as you will see for yourselves, especially the Tesla scenes where he develops the apparatus for Angier that performs his trick of the Transported Man.

The Prestige

As the chapters proceed in the book and we delve deeper, it is a feeling of utter awe and fear that envelops us when we actually get to know who Angier and Borden really are. The final chapter in the novel The Prestiges is a fitting name as all the knots surrounding the two greatest magicians of the 19th century are unraveled, not only for them, but for the present generation of their children as well, but leaves a final mark so eerie and captivating that you want to read the book again to understand whether that is what you really read.

The language is pure Victorian and a delight to those who love it. The way Angier, Borden, Katherine and Andrew narrate their version of the story makes you convince yourselves that it is a work of true account and not some fictitious work.

A novel and a film which will remain evergreen in your memory for many days to come.

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The Fourth Estate

Jeffery Archer’s novels always make me sit up with excitement. Anyone who has read his works will agree that he is in a class of his own. His novels offer a racy entertainment just like an action film does. Take Not a penny more;Not a penny less, Honor among thieves, The Prodigal Daughter, Kane & Abel, the excitement is palpable.

The print media is a fascinating world. It is excitement on the move. One can only imagine what goes inside the doors of those papers that one reads. So when we find a novel which is based on the print media, we happily lap it up. When it is Archer who writes the story, it is a double delight.

The Fourth Estate is no less in offering a roller coaster ride in its journey through the print media. I would say The Fourth Estate is Archer’s best. From the start to the finish, Archer makes you sit up without blinking a bit and making you feel as if you are experiencing the story in reality.

The novel traces the life of two most dominant press barons of the twentieth century-Richard ‘Dick’ Armstrong and Keith Townsend. Contrasting in character but similar in ambition and drive. The story traces the rise of these two arch rivals who grow up to dominate the print media and engage on a battle so fierce that ultimately only one will survive. While Armstrong craves for publicity and recognition, Townsend is content in running the show anonymously, for he realizes that real power comes from anonymity.

From Armstrong’s early days as  a Jew to his practical education in the market place to his gift of languages, to his driving force which takes him half the way to England(he regrets this in another part of the novel where he says “Had I been born in America I would have been in the White House”) to his cut throat competitiveness in outrunning any one who wished to cross his line, to changing his entire personality if that helps him in gaining publicity and fame(the name change from Lubji Hoch to Peter England to Private John Player to Richard ‘Dick’ Armstrong is a fitting example), to his exceptional tactics in running his rivals to the ground, Armstrong shines.

Keith Townsend is a rich heir to a wealthy press baron who schools in Oxford and the likes, gets all the privileges a rich lad gets, is groomed from the start to take over the empire his father built and which he nearly loses. He proves he is a press baron and entrepreneur right from his school days when he takes over his school paper as editor and fires off scathing headlines to air his views. His tactics at the race course and the way he uses the school funds to try a few shots, to his entrepreneurial spirit-the locker room shop he runs as an underground substitute is a fine example only makes you wonder at this reckless man and the extend to which he will go to achieve anything.

Armstrong and Townsend don’t come face to face until in the second half when Armstrong overhears a proposal Townsend makes in a restaurant and races ahead to close the deal employing a clever tactics, making Townsend fuming and admitting that he has a worthy adversary in hand. From that moment, it is a battle of wits, power as both employ all the techniques in the rule book and use unconventional ways to outrun each other. From bidding for every tabloid in Britain to bringing the entire press in Australia under the banner to poaching the best talents from both the sides, the war rages like anything.

Nowhere do we get a feeling that we are only reading a story as all the tactics and characters have a strong sense of reality and are even now visible in the real print world. This will surely whet the appetite, as one would say of a hungry Archer fan, let alone one who is interested in a racy, nail biting entertainer.

After you read this, you will love working in the print media and get closer to the world of cut throat competitions, where the real power lies.

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