The last week or so has me indulging in these three. Darjeeling, the queen of the hill stations, I returned to after 20 years, but that's another blog. This blog is about Anjan Dutt's film, Chowrasta – Crossroads of Love, based in Darjeeling but... Dylan I listen to often and then I saw the film I'm Not There last evening. William Dalrymple's first book, In Xanadu, is what I'm reading now.
All three are stories of travels. Travels through life. Observation, imagination, fascination.
By saying that, I'm being kind to Anjan Dutt's film Chowrasta. First of all, the story, or the small stories which he recounts in his movie, could have been based anywhere else but Darjeeling. It has nothing specific to do with the place other than lending itself as a picturesque location. The town's centre point, the Mall or Chowrasta, is used as a metaphor for the interconnection of the small stories. A very forced metaphor, adolescent and immature in its approach. Quite putrid in fact. The film being dedicated to the people of Darjeeling then makes two of the main characters who are presumably Nepali and hence Darjeeling wallahs, into bumbling villains. The Bengalis in the film are the good guys of course: one who is supposed to be an eccentric tea planter but is really quite insane; the other who's a Bengali language teacher in a prestigious English medium school; the third who is a fading actress; and the last two who you keep forgetting about until they reappear or are interjected many frames later ever so randomly.
My only question here is: Why is this man – Anjan Dutt - being allowed to make film after film?
Then I saw I'm Not There. Directed by Todd Haynes, it is a film inspired by the life and words of Bob Dylan whose name is never mentioned and does not feature at all in the film except as a recognisable face in the end, and the occasional and original voice of the songs that are used to link the stories. The film is about five of the many personas Dylan showed himself to be, and the way his music reflected the changes in each personality. A wonderful film overall, it also unnecessarily mythologizes the man, Bob Dylan. And it really helps if you're a Dylan fan and have followed his music from the 60s till now. For someone who didn't know much about the man (like my daughter who watched the film with me) it didn't make too much sense. Her only comment was that Cate Blanchett did a good job!
In Xanadu by William Dalrymple is an account of an attempt to retrace the route that Marco Polo took to get to China, specifically Shangdu, (aka Xanadu by Samuel Taylor Coleridge), from Jerusalem. An amusing travelogue, it is full of neat observations and historical references to satisfy any armchair traveller.
We're all searching for our Xanadu. I try to find it in the mountains and the things I prefer to do. The idyllic, beautiful place remains ever out of our grasp. Perhaps that is how it should be. This vision of Xanadu that we have in our heads is probably what inspires us, motivates us to go on living and making the best of our lives. Trying to make sense of the insensible.