Objecting to sapheads

I am famed for my vast ignorance about many things. Cricket and music are well-known lacunae. At an obscure point in my life a cricket writer appeared and disappeared like a mosquito. It was fortuitous that in our brief encounter (sneezes have been longer) that neither party evinced any interest in each other's intellect or perhaps we would have felt even more contemptous of each other. And my cavernous ignorance in matters sporty remained unplumbed. Nikki Giovanni of whom I approve for being a tremendously sensible woman and full of good ideas says get out and show some interest in sports. Hmmm.

Art is another area in which my knowledge is spotty. Being unable to do anything more artistic than put a decent wardrobe together I am sometimes taken aback at my violent and sudden passions for an artist. Here for the sake of my cynical acquaintances I must clarify that I mean artists who make things and paint things and are well-known and my passion is for their work. This must not be confused with my more frequent and short-lived fancies for boys who broodingly stroke their beards while not doing a stroke of work. Or the others who strain my ability to keep a straight face by talking about Foucauldian light-bulbs.

The first one who came out and bit me in the lower lip (metaphorically) was Atul Dodiya. His series of water-colours of Gandhi. They are disturbing, witty and moving. More recently a bronze exhibition made me slightly dizzy. Today, when I finished a murder mystery set in an art gallery I decided to look up Caravaggio. A Caravaggio painting was at the centre of all the action in the book. I open the web-page humming and the tune stopped in the middle of a false note. I cannot tell you anything more than that I am still buzzing in the hind-brain.

When I was first enamoured by Dodiya I could not stop talking about the paintings. Foolishly I even tried to write a paper about it. Foolish because I don't have the equipment to write about art. I imagine it as a knowledge you slowly acquire and turn into a funky, reflective object like an amber bead. Or it could be even wild and flexible like a slinky.

So my question is why the hell are complete ninnys without an ounce of imagination or the faintest resemblance of knowledge allowed to write about specialist areas such as film, theatre and art?

If you live in Delhi and buy The Hindu like I do (stop laughing now) then you are stuck with movie reviewer Ziya Ul Salam whose idea of a review is a collection of windy, incoherent passages sprinkled with the most floral of adjectives. Perish the hope of insight or perspective there is rarely any indication that the man has ever seen a movie before. In the last two months I have been told by several people that their MO is to go for movies that Ziya hates and carefully avoid the movies he makes cooing noises at. (Also. Ziya has the most serious case of hots for Aishwarya Rai that I have ever seen so that poses a seperate set of dangers.) But my problem is that I like nicely written reviews in themselves. I am not asking for Pauline Kael. Brilliant and evil woman that she was, she hated "saphead objectivity" and acknowledged that being a brilliant reviewer was not easy. "My dear anonymous letter writers," she is supposed to have said during one broadcast, "if you think it so easy to be a critic, so difficult to be a poet or a painter, may I suggest you try both? You may discover why there are so few critics, and so many poets")

I am not asking for

   who dazzles. I am not even asking for Bent or    who are my sources of cinematic knowledge and are too kind to blind me with knowledge. A little style, a little intelligence, some wit...is that too much to ask?

And where the hell are the editors who allow Ziya Ul Salam's lurid purple prose to see daylight? Have they all died it?


Newer Post Older Post Home