Amathematics professor dresses up in drag with bra, fishnet stockings, skirt etc to replicate a sizzling Bollywood 'cabaret' number by yesteryear actress Helen for a New York book festival. The academic's account of the event forms part of myriad experiences compiled in a new book of essays that takes the reader through various genres of cinema.
The anthology "The Popcorn Essayists" edited by Jai Arjun Singh and published by Tranquebar is an account of what films have done to 13 contemporary writers.
When asked to do a reading for the Brooklyn Book Festival which invited participants with the rider of "taking a risk and performing something on public stage they have never done before" Manil Suri decides to pay homage to Helen by dancing like her.
"For the final verse, dressed in just my bra and skirt, I feel as liberated as Helen," says Suri who danced to the 1971 film "Caravan."
Pakistani writer Kamila Shamsie in her essay "Two languages, in conversation" describes how she had after writing four novels "emptied out" her mind of previous writing and in the period of several months, devoured movies. The films were not Hollywood blockbusters by those by Kitano, Almadovar, Bergman arrested by the language of the film.
Shamsie compares Wim Wenders' "Wings of Desire" and Michael Ondaatje's novels, and wonders how the languages of film and prose are radically different and yet are in conversation with each other.
Jai Arjun Singh introduces the book saying the point is not that most movie-watchers should be expected to engage with cinema at a deep cerebral level, but that there's a lack of reading options for the few who might occasionally wish to do so.
Author and poet Anjum Hasan explores her fascination for the films by Finland's Kaurismaki brothers. Hasan visits the country for the first time searching for characters from the films and thus understands the country and the life its people lead better.
Sidin Vadukut who has spent his childhood in the Gulf recounts watching his first movie in a theatre. Charlie Sheen's "Terminal Velocity" for him was the greatest movie ever made.
Writer and publisher Namita Gokhale who dropped out of college writes about her stint as a 20-year-old as a editor of "Super" a popular film magazine in the days when B-word had not yet been coined and where Bollywood was still waiting to conquer the world.
Manjula Padmanabhan, writer and artist in her essay curiously titled "Jellyfish" talks about how she learned to distinguish how a big budget movie producers manage to "squeeze emotion" out of movie going public. She recounts the process by which her understandinf of how to see a film has undergone an alteration over the years aided by friends.
Amitava Kumar, Madhulika Liddle, Sumana Roy, Musharraf Ali Farooqi Rajoshri Chakraborti and Jaishree Misra are among the other authors in the anthology that is priced at Rs 395.