Whenever it rains in Bombay, I always think about that line from “Taxi Driver”: “Some day a real rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets.” Of course, for the utterly flawed Travis Bickle, the “whores, skunk pussies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, and junkies” are the scum. But Bickle knows he’s part of that “scum” too. He says, “All the animals come out at night.” Bickle is an animal too, out in his yellow taxi, driving around in the black of the night, dealing with other animals. I think about that “real rain”. I think about it a lot. If you ask me, we are all scum, frothing around the edges of our lives.
It is raining incessantly in Bombay these days. Hardly any surprise this time of the year. Usually, rain in Bombay brings joy, a certain je ne sais quoi that people tweet about romantically and buy umbrellas for. People sell stocks, shares and dreams in Bombay all year; except in monsoons they sell umbrellas. The rains haven’t brought any joy, at least to me, this time. Now the sky is just as gray as our lives, that is all. I feel like venturing out, go to my favourite dive bar and order some liver damage, stumble out after a couple of hours, sit by the sea and get drenched. I could do this everyday. But I just can’t seem to leave my flat these days. I lounge about from space to space, sit in the balcony and watch the world, quit daily on my ‘quit smoking’ endeavour, read a few pages from a few books and watch a shitload of films. In the past couple of days, I’ve seen 12 films: “Gone Girl”, “Gone Baby Gone”, “There Will Be Blood”, “Das Boot”, “Bruno”, “Enemy”, “The Hunt”, “Amour”, “Leviathan”, “The Thing”, “Frances Ha” and “A Most Wanted Man”. I’d already seen the first four, just felt like re-watching them. I loved “Amour” and “Leviathan”. I’ve only recently pursued Michael Haneke’s work, despite it being on my watchlist for long. And apart from “Amour”, I’ve now seen “The White Ribbon” and “The Piano Teacher”. Haneke’s work is incredibly human. And his films are shot beautifully. I intend to watch everything he has made in the coming days. I’d read mighty praise for Andrey Zvyagintsev’s “Leviathan” when it came out in 2014 and finally saw it yesterday. I’ve realised I like films with sad endings. In a way they subvert the idea of “movies” itself, where everything works out in the end. Your lover will come back to you, you will have your revenge, your dream will come true, good will prevail over evil. All false promises. I don’t want to spoil “Leviathan” for those of you who haven’t seen it, but, above all, the film is about harsh realities of an unfair life. It’s a drunken, mesmerising tale. And it is shot gloriously. You could freeze every frame and hang it on your wall. Also, I have never seen more vodka consumed on-screen or in real life than in “Leviathan”. I now have Zvyagintsev’s other works in my sights. I’ve heard “The Return” and “Elena” are really good. He even has a new film out, “Loveless”, which was screened at Cannes this year. I’ve heard good things about it as well. The watchlist grows. One life is not enough to watch all the good films that are just waiting out there to be discovered.
“Frances Ha” was recommended to me by a girl with whom I went on date once, about a month ago. At least I got a good film out of the date. So I shouldn’t call it a failure, I guess. “Frances Ha” is shot in black and white (instant brownie points) and is about a not-yet-old-but-not-young-anymore girl who is juggling friends, flats, relationships and work in New York. It is funny and sad and quirky and meandering and I related to the girl so much, even though I have a penis. New York is a character in the film, not just a setting or a canvas in the background. Bombay is exactly like that, I feel. You don’t live in Bombay, you live with it. That’s why it’s hard to leave this city, I guess. It is like breaking up with someone after you’ve come to know them and love them and hate them for years. And I am now facing that inevitable separation. But, that’s a story for another time.
Of all the films I have watched in the last two days, “The Hunt” has stayed with me longer. It’s a 2012 Danish film by Thomas Vinterberg about a mass hysteria that follows in a close-knit community after the protagonist, a kindergarten teacher, is falsely accused of paedophelia. Mads Mikkelsen (who is all kinds of amazing, by the way) delivers a performance of a lifetime. It is one of the finest works of acting I’ve seen in this decade. Mikkelsen is sympathetic, heart-breaking and restrained in every frame. Many fine actors would’ve have overdone this particular character, and with justifiable reason too. It would’ve been good, no doubt. But not as good as Mikkelsen’s sangfroid portrayal. “The Hunt” is a film a cinéaste must not miss.
My marathon will continue, and I’m trying not to rewatch films and instead watch ones I have not yet seen. It is hard though, as I love to revisit films. I already feel like rewatching “Taxi Driver” now. Some films call out to you on a particular day. How many laid-back Sundays have there been where you just have to watch the entire “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy? I don’t even remember the number of times I got high with friends and watched “Dazed and Confused”. And don’t even get me started about “Shaun of the Dead”. That too is a story for another time.
It continues to drizzle, meanwhile. The sky resembles the fur of a gray wolf and the sun is on a sojourn somewhere far from here. The pigeons have taken shelter under the eaves on the balconies. All I can hear is silence and an odd coo or two. Even the rain isn’t making any noise. Stealthy fucker. I am reminded of another line from “Taxi Driver”: “Loneliness has followed me my whole life, everywhere. In bars, in cars, sidewalks, stores, everywhere. There’s no escape. I’m God’s lonely man.” There’s a Travis Bickle in all of us. We are all god’s lonely men and women. If you’re smart, you already know that. I feel like it’s a good day to buy an umbrella and head out. Perhaps I’ll go to my favorite dive bar and order a liver damage.