A Handful of Stories

Reportage on health, science and politics. And some meditations on film

Books and Arts

Virus: A Superb Ode to Shailaja ‘Teacher’, and Public Health and India’s Federalism

This film on the real-life Nipah outbreak in Kerala in 2018 is the opposite of a didactic film like Toilet: Ek Prem Katha. It’s moving, humane and intelligent The thing that I loved most about the Malayalam film Virus is the haughty “Delhi team” that arrives to take stock of the Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala in 2018 and peremptorily…

Clouds of Sils Maria: Therapy with Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart

In a sense, this is a deluxe lockdown film. An iconic actress Maria Enders, played by real-life French superstar Juliette Binoche, heads to the exquisite, unspoilt village of Sils Maria in the Swiss Alps to hole up in a cabin to prepare for a landmark project. With her is her young assistant Valentine, played by Kristen Stewart, who serves as…

The Cakemaker: Kneading Grief, Love and Politics

The Israeli-German film touches on the politics of food, kosher rules specifically. It’s also a meditation on love and its losses I don’t enjoy movies where men make beautiful food,  and the Israeli-German production The Cakemaker drew me in especially because its protagonist Thomas is most often rolling a shapeless lump of dough. The glistening cinematic confectionery of the Germanic world…

Are Independence and Partition Male Experiences?

In Hindi film, the woman is rarely the protagonist of a Partition or Independence narratives. But Bengali film always centers the experience of women in such narratives. An introspection The 2018 Bengali film Ek Je Chhilo Raja, while largely mediocre, has an interesting question towards its tail. The film centres on a real-life legal battle for property in India, known…

The Class of Kaira, Shyra and Shanaya in Bollywood

Kaira, Shyra, Akira, Kia, Tia, Sia. Shanaya. These are Bollywood’s cool new names, broadly classified into the “ya” or “ra” nomenclature. The Poojas, Nishas, Anjalis and Nehas of the 1990s are déclassé. These new names carry an unmistakable aspiration to be global.They are unrooted to place, community or any kind of identity except class. They are almost never longer than three syllables and easy to pronounce. They float on coolness and lightness. An ex-colleague memorably christened them “First-World Yoga Names—FWYN”.

The New Viranagana and the Memories of Nadia

A figure leaps headlong onto the screen, fully armoured, face hooded by a helmet. Spears are sent clattering, sentries hurtle across the room, Bajirao and his lieutenant watch in surprise. We don’t know whether this is a man or a woman, friend or foe. Could this be Mastani? The anticipation was nicely set up by the trailer for Bajirao Mastani,…