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Paraphrasing a quote I read-If you act like a certain person, after some time you become that person.  I have also read many books purporting the value of being true to oneself.  Hence, there is a dichotomy between projecting an image and staying true to oneself.

We live in a world where the image supersedes substance. 

Image creation, image projection, image control, these are new age buzz terms revolving around creating an appearance, an illusion, an impression.

Image creation and control businesses are booming these days.  Stars are being created overnight with little, marginal or negative talent.  Case in point, reality television stars with an international fan following.  Interestingly enough, their only talent being a ceaseless and impressively seamless supply of profane vocabulary.  Or bloggers whose fashion lexicon includes a repetitive use of the words “chic” “stylish” and “to die for” and yet their Twitter and Facebook following has far surpassed the actual designers they are blogging about.  Or for that matter most people in the entertainment industry whose “talent” is an inebriated night out on the (in)famous Sunset Strip or a one night stand with an underage Lolita or putting their fallopian tubes on overdrive by producing kids that would be akin to a bombshell being dropped on the policies of Premier Wen Jiabao.

Projection of an image has become crucial for people in the public eye for example in the entertainment industry, sports, politics or even religious leaders.  Even the Pope is seen wearing Prada loafers!  To give him the benefit of doubt, he lives in Italy, so most likely it is his personal style rather than projection of an image!

To some degree we are all in the public eye at one point of time or the other.  We present a certain image to the various people we deal with during the day.  Most of the times, the image varies from person to person.  It is not an image that is uniformly consistent.  We present an eager, ready to take on the world image to our bosses, a workaholic image to our co-workers, a sexy, coquettish image to our new love interest, and if you are a lawyer, a ball**** image to your clients!

For mortals like us, even though our images may not be meticulously managed by a high-priced agent, we are still projecting an image.

 If we are projecting an image then how much of that image is a projection and how much of it is a true representation of our true selves, or is it an amalgamation of both.  Or could it be that at some point the projected image takes over and the true self merely becomes a caricature.  Could it even be that we actually become the projected image and loose ourselves?

I sometimes take an introspective look at myself.  By profession I am a lawyer and I am mandated to project a certain image.  An image of being aggressive, fearless, combative and for a lack of a better term a bitch!

My true self is contrary to the projected image; I am creative, sensitive and shy.

I have noticed that since I spend a greater part of the day projecting an image, it has tendency to creep into my personal life as well, where the image is not needed.  It makes me wonder, have I allowed my projected image to perform a hostile takeover of myself.  Does my true self exist anymore?  Or have I simply become the projected image?

Since, I am writing this introspective piece there is probably still hope.  Possibly a conjunction of the self and the projected image.  Or on a higher, more spiritual plane letting the Self shine such that the Self is the Image.

Horror vacui means fear of empty spaces or fear of the empty.

The term is usually used in art, for example Victorian or Arab Islamic art.  It is ornate and opulent but abundantly busy and cluttered!

 

The opposite of Horror vacui is minimalism, negative space, silence, emptiness and a vacuum.

The term has a strong psychological connotation for me.  Its origin is “fear.” Fear is usually considered a “negative” emotion, a phobia, a condition that needs remedy.

Is Horror vacui truly a phobia, in need of a remedy?  Let’s analyze and try to reach a deduction.

I interpret the term beyond the parameters of art.  It can be applied to fashion, architecture, interior designs and most interestingly to human behavior.  In fact, it is most intriguing when applied to humans as our emotions are a bundle of complexity worthy of a million interpretations.

We all have met people who speak incessantly. A ceaseless chatter, flitting from one mundane subject to another with nothing concrete to say.  They talk as if their life depended on it.  One has to be on a high-level of vigilance to grab an inhalation break in order to escape.  It is an example of Horror vacui in speech-fear of silence.

Or people who have a compulsive need to be surrounded by other people all the time.  Constant socializing, parties, get-togethers, vacations with friends, dinner with friends, coffee with friends, lunch with friends and the list goes on.  They may describe themselves as being extremely sociable, but doesn’t it reek of Horror vacui-fear of being alone?

An addiction in any form-alcohol, drugs, food, sex is Horror vacui.  An attempt to avoid facing the internal vacuum.

Fashion is a form of art and the principle of Horror vacui is relevantly applicable.  I was recently at a Roberto Cavalli store.  As I entered, I gasped and my jaw dropped.  I felt my visual perception being assaulted by prints, patterns, colors, lines, shades in every shape and form.  The minimalist in me felt suffocated and wanted to escape.  The only visual escape was the white ceiling, except it too was covered with ornate patterns.  An illustration of horror vacui in fashion.

What about women who imbibe the fashion mantra of more is more.  True, we all have our own fashion sensibilities and fashion is a form of expression.  So, who am I to sit in judgment.  But really do we need all that adornment?  Is it truly self-expression or is it confusion that is making a feeble attempt at expression?  The bracelets, the rings, the necklaces, the danglers, the French nails.  Help, I am horrified!  It is Horror vacui, fear of toned down or minimal fashion.

Interior design is a form of art as well.  I was recently told by an acquaintance that she wanted to buy a statue as there was only one corner in her house that was empty and needed to be filled.  We engulf our homes with objects d’art, furniture, tapestries, carpets, rugs, pillows, candles.  After sometime the aesthetic beauty becomes so diluted that it looks more like clutter.  It is Horror vacui, fear of empty spaces.

For centuries, artists have been painting and drawing detailed, ornate and intricate work.  The talent is evident, but an inordinate effort is made to cover every miniscule part of the canvas or the art medium.  Wouldn’t it create a better contrast if the medium had a vacuum or blank space?  Horror vacui again-fear of negative space.

So, to answer the question whether Horror vacui is a phobia in need of a remedy?  My answer is that in most instances yes.  It requires confidence to forego the fear of empty spaces whether related to emotions, fashion or art.  Emptiness is beautiful, courageous and non-conforming!

 

I have always been a big fan of filmmaker Pedro Almodovar.  His films are gritty, complex and thought provoking.  They are modern with elements of pop culture.

I love it when I can think of a movie days after seeing it in order to figure out the nuances, metaphors and similes.

I am not writing this blog to review the movie or provide my thoughts on the plot and screenplay.  There are plenty of reviews floating on the web, some I do not agree with at all.

The movie did appeal to my sensibilities.  As one reviewer said it will definitely hold the interest of the art house crowd as it has enough distortion, torture and kink!  I whole heartedly agree with the reviewer.  So, if your interest is piqued by the provocative, bizarre and wickedly deviant themes or you simply want to be part of the hip, eclectic, bohemian art house crowd, go see the movie!! (Ha,ha)  All I can say is I am still thinking about it!

What I want to share is the artistic element of metaphors and symbolisms in the film.  In that sense, even though the film maybe expletive on the surface, it is laced with delicate subtleties that are symbolic.  This makes it an intelligent film as it titillates and arouses the intellect of the viewer by compelling us to think, interpret and analyze it in a way we deem fit.

For starters, the skin colored suit worn by the main female character of the film symbolizes the skin on the bones.  The suit fits like a beautiful glove on the body and accentuates each curve and asset.  The suit is smooth and has a beautiful tone to it.  But, the skin suit can be taken off and put on at any time.  It is a disposal piece of spandex of no real value.  I interpret it as the skin merely being a cover for the bones; an outer layer that can easily be shed like a chameleon’s and grows back again.  We put a lot of importance on the outer skin, especially these days, but its value is simply of covering our entrails, the blood and the bones, that’s it.  What is important is the inside that cannot be shed or replaced.

In contrast another character places so much importance on the outer layer of skin that when she does not like the sight of herself in a mirror, she kills herself. (I am not giving out the plot as it is pretty much explained in the first frame of the movie.)  Her inside is valueless for her.

The home of the male character played by Antonio Banderas is a beautiful old chalet in Spain with stone walls and wooden floors.  It looks like an ancient structure from outside, but the inside is modern and sterile.  My interpretation is that appearances are often deceptive and not a true reflection of the soul of the person.

Another poignant scene is where Antonio Banderas is carefully binding and clipping a bonsai tree with a metal wire.  It is a critical moment in the film as it sums up the essence of the film of confinement, force and constraint.

Antonio Banderas’s character goes through the movie with a stoic demeanor and his actions have a surgical precision signifying the coldness in his heart.

And last but not the least; the female character is a yogini who practices body twisting yogic postures defying all rules of bodily resistance.  It is symbolic of human resilience.  After a passage of time humans are capable of adapting themselves in any circumstance without resistance, no matter how horrific the circumstance.

If you do watch the movie, don’t watch it skin deep; look for what’s beneath the skin.

Travel is the spice of life; it is crème fraiche on a basic sponge cake; it is the vibrant lipstick on a bare face, it is the statement necklace on a basic black dress, it is the bold stroke on a plain canvas.

We live our daily lives performing various duties, chores and activities.  Some we enjoy some we don’t.  In any event no matter how exciting our daily jobs and lifestyles are after some time, well they become “daily” or “routine.”  The familiarity even though comforting brings with it some vacuous boredom.

Travel jolts us from the quotidian routine and infuses the requisite amount of fervor and excitement to get back into the “routine” upon return.

Upon her return from a world tour, my friend told me that she could not find the food that she is accustomed to in her home country and hence from that aspect it was a little hard for her to travel.

It made me think, what is the point of traveling if you cannot immerse yourself in the culture, the traditions, the food, the style of that country and get a true feel of its soul.  When I travel I have a ritual, I visit the grocery store and the pharmacy of the new place.  It provides me an opportunity to get a true local feel of the country.  I also try to buy at least one small traditional clothing item and incorporate it with my daily wardrobe.  It enables me to take a nostalgic trip down memory lane when my life returns back to being “daily.”

When we travel, we all visit the famous sites recommended by Lonely Planet.  The key to travel is to diverge from the well-traveled “touristy” path at least once and get a true flavor of the country.

Travel is about exploration and getting out of your comfort element, stepping out of self-imposed parameters and crossing boundaries literally and metaphorically.

If you are in Istanbul, you will of course visit Hagia Sophia as you should, but also take the time to sit in the little cafes and drink umpteen cups of cay with shakkar (tea with sugar).  You truly get a feel of the old culture watching the men play board games.

If in China, eat the dumplings from the enormous steamed bamboo baskets.

If going to Italy, do buy at least one sartorial outfit from Via Condotti (no matter how small) to be a part of the most stylish culture in the world.

In Mongolia throw caution to the strong Gobi desert winds, ride a yak and later drink its warm milk!  No need to crinkle your nose, it is delicious!!

So, pause your hectic itinerary for a few minutes, take a long breath, inhale and envelope yourself in the essence of the country you visit.  You will get more out of it than visiting every miniscule “must see” site written in the travel book.

Perfection is not instantaneous, not exigent and not speedy.  It is a laborious, tiresome and toilsome journey.

Perfection can be achieved in any field by giving it enough time, patience, perseverance and that “one more thing” as per Steve Jobs that is always required even when you think you are almost there.

Steve Jobs recent demise made me think of how everything that is perfect or even comes close to perfection takes time or that “one more thing.”  There seem to be no short-cuts to perfection and no quick schemes.  Interestingly, it does not matter what you are trying to perfect.  It can be a small thing such as whipping up a perfectly risen delicate soufflé or a colossal and complex project such as inventing and designing the revolutionary Apple gadgets.  It all takes time and massive effort.  The question is what mettle are we made of?  Strong enough to withstand failures and defeats, with only a steel drive propelling us to move forwards towards perfection.  Or do we want to chuck the whole thing after a few tries as it is “just too hard.”

As a confession, in most instances I probably will take the easier or the latter path, only to be burdened later with a heavy sense of regret for having forsaken the sweet taste of perfection and my goal.  Hopefully, writing this blog will be a cathartic experience and will steer me to strive towards perfection in achieving my goals in life, no matter how big or small they are.

Steve Jobs is an example of perfection.  He was a drop-out from college, co-founded Apple Computer only to be ousted nine years later from the extremely lucrative company he founded.  It was not a deterrent for him, but an opportunity to further hone his craft.  He came back with marvels such as the iPod, iTunes, iPhone and iPad creating a revolution not only in technology, but a cultural revolution that changed the way people listened to music, read books and used computers forever.

His designs are not only highly efficient but an example of style and elegance.  He enabled the world to discard the clunky obsolete gadgets and replace them with minimalistic, highly efficient, utterly cool gadgets.

He can be analogized with pioneers such as Edison or the Wright Brothers.  He was a visionary who with his intelligence, years of toil and hard-work, built a company that consumers cannot get enough bites of.

Hermes is another company that takes extreme pride in perfecting its craft.  It is a rare company in this day and age of mass produced, assembly line, sole focus on “filling-the-quota” kind of products.

Yes, you do pay a premium for Hermes products, but perfection should not come cheap.

Thierry Hermes started the company 74 years ago with a vision.  He brought his vision to fruition by using unsurpassed quality materials, attention to detail and hard work, lots of hard work.  The Hermes bags are a superlative example of quality.  Each Hermes bag is cut by hand, piece by piece with individually inspected materials.  Each artisan works only on three to four bags at a time.  They are made-to-order in the true sense of the word.  Each bag is made by hand, inside and out!

Even the saddle stitch used by the artisans has been in use since the 19th century.  In fact, nothing much has changed in the technique of the design and manufacturing since the inception of the company.

Along with quality, Hermes has been a visionary in marketing and branding.  When celebrity endorsements were unheard of and a rarity, Hermes introduced the Kelly and the Birkin bags, an homage to Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco and the uber stylish Jane Birkin (trivia, she is the mother of Charlotte Gainsbourg.)  The bags have acquired iconic status and cultural eminence.

What about a perfectly scrumptious, delicate, fluffy soufflé?  It is not a dessert that you can order “off a menu” and expect it to be delivered instantaneously.  No, it takes time and patience to make it.  It has to be coddled, delicately whipped and baked for at least a good 45 minutes for it to rise to a cloud of warm, sweet perfection.  You have to order the dessert even before you order the appetizer in order to enjoy it.  It takes time to make a perfect soufflé!

So, to conclude and a note to myself-Keep working towards perfection.  It takes time to perfect perfection, assuming that there is a Utopian point of perfecting perfection.

I am from India.  Hence, befalls upon me the duty to blog at least once about the industry that is the beating heart, deep soul and the throbbing pulse of India-The Indian Film Industry aka BOLLYWOOD.

 

 

Indian film industry is based in Bombay (now known as Mumbai).  It is fondly known as Bollywood, possible name origination from Hollywood.  It is massively influential not only in the home country but has a growing popularity internationally as well.  With India being on the global map, Indian cinema’s popularity has exponentially increased.

Bollywood churns out twice as many movies as Hollywood in a span of one year.  With movies such as Slumdog Millionaire and exports like Freida Pinto, an increasing number of Western audience are becoming familiar with not only the colorful song and dance routine that is so integral to Bollywood movies, but thanks to the portrayal of slums, the debilitating poverty in India as well.

For the purposes of this blog and because I am an insider, I will introduce you to a quintessential theme in Indian cinema that is patently latent for the foreign eye, yet prevalent in most Indian movies.  It is also a little insight into the pre-disposition of the Indian brain, especially the male brain.

It is the Madonna-Whore theme on celluloid.

Women are an integral part of Indian cinema.  In most Indian films women are portrayed in two ways.  Either they are shown as a pious, sacrificing, maternal figure or Madonna.  Or they are depicted as the wanton, sexy, lustful, glamour doll or whore.

The sacrificing maternal figure may as well be called a sacrificial lamb.  The adversities of her life are higher than Mount Everest and insurmountable; not even Edmund Hillary in flesh and blood could peak the heights of such misery.

The hardships start at a young age when she is coerced into marriage against her will to a much older man and from there on the misery chapter of her life starts.  The script usually goes like this-she gets pregnant after marriage; one of her kids is born without a limb and is handicapped; the burden of taking care of this child falls entirely upon her slim shoulders; the husband is an alcoholic loser who drinks, gambles and at the end of the day beats her up; she works like a dog doing menial jobs where again she is abused and exploited by her employer and then the poverty, oh such cruel   poverty that two square meals will be considered to be a banquet.  Despite all these calamities, she is able to educate her handicapped child who in turn becomes a famous doctor and just when one would think that the anguish is about to end, she gets cancer and dies.  Throughout the movie she is dressed in a white sari, the color of grieving.  It is a perpetual saga of despondency, melancholy and wretchedness.

One of the great classic Indian movies of all times named Mother India, is a perfect example of this ideal, sacrificing woman.

The audiences come out of such a movie with tears rolling down their cheeks and a renewed respect and reverence for a woman.

This mother or “ Madonna” figure is the signature illustration of an ideal Indian woman in Bollywood.  She is pious, sacrificing and wallowing in eternal suffering.  The audiences bow to her-she is Madonna.

In the opposite extreme you have the woman depicted as a seductress.  She is an enchantress, a femme fatale, a temptress, a vamp all rolled into one tight package.  She oozes sexuality and lust with flat abs, protruding breasts, luscious lips, cascading ravenous hair, skimpy clothes and a husky voice.  Most of the camera frames are angled to focus on her anatomy, especially the sexually stimulating body parts such as the plump lips, heaving breasts and swinging derriere.

 

The sexuality interpreted through this woman is so over the top that it makes all the Victoria’s Secret models look like nuns.

The audiences come out of her movie panting with lust and sexual tension.  This woman is purely objectified as a sex-object-she is a whore.

You must have noted the dichotomy in Bollywood movies by now.  Women are either put on a pedestal and given the veneration and respect of a Madonna or simply portrayed as an object of lust.

Interestingly, most Indian cinema is hesitant to portray Indian women as both being a mother and also a seductress.  The two concepts appear to be diametrically opposed and do not seem to merge in a Bollywood woman.

In all honesty, the tides are changing in Indian  cinema.  Modern cinema is becoming trendy, issue based, somewhat intelligent and more realistic.  But for the past many decades the true and tried formula of the Madonna/whore theme has been a sure shot success at the box office.

What is your opinion?  Can meaningful cinema depict a woman both as a Madonna and a sex object?