Tower of Silence by James Killough

‘Just Don’t Die in India’

During my early years in India, back in the late 80s, when I was writing the first feature film of mine that would go into production, I was invited to dinner at the home of a charming socialite in the Juhu area of what was then called Bombay. Some people say Juhu is the Malibu of Mumbai, but that isn’t being fair to either California or India. The only things that make the comparison viable are the location on the beach, the presence of film folk, and the insane real-estate prices. To be honest, the strongest shared quality is that the two names rhyme.

Irving Penn Scream

The Essential Art of Not Taking Offense

A recent controversy surrounding the stand-up comedy group All-India Bakchod (‘fuck senseless’) caused them to take down an inflammatory video of a roast they did from YouTube. My Hindi is intermediate, not good enough to follow Indian stand-up comedy, which is a huge pity: it is a cultural phenomenon that is rising like a fire-breathing dragon in the New India, a welcome appropriation from what I am henceforth calling the American Raj, our unstoppable cultural hegemony that digs deeper,

RuPaul

Hate Is a Drug

I live in an area of West Hollywood that is on the hill well above the three blocks of back-to-back gay bars known as the ‘Fruit Loop’, a block below the super-straight Sunset Strip — infamous rocker lounge The Viper Room abuts my corner store. The residents make an eclectic demographic. On the corner of my street and Palm Avenue is an ugly mid-century apartment building, elderly housing for Russians. The cheap fabrics and sad bric-a-brac in the windows give it the appearance of those dwellings beloved by photojournalists who snap willfully dreary reportages of the faces of Chernobyl twenty years after the nuclear meltdown. Across from that indifferent edifice is a wee compound

Satya Bhabha in Midnight's Children

REVIEW: ‘Midnight’s Children’ Haunts the Land of My Past

One of my stock phrases when I’m asked which writers I admire is, “Salman Rushdie taught me how to write.” Not that I attended some master class he gave—I’m an autodidact, so this was a correspondence course by reading his entire oeuvre. Oddly, I’ve never met him directly, although we have a few friends in common and it would be reasonable to expect that an ‘old India hand’ like me, especially one with such deep ties to Kashmir through marriage and personal history (Rushdie is of Kashmiri descent), would have had some contact with him, however brief. Nope.

A less dramatic statement would be that Midnight’s Children is the text that transformed my writing the most. Rushdie introduced me to how plasticine the English language can be,

Life of Pi Tiger

REVIEW: ‘Life of Pi’ Capsizes but Floats, Barely.

I’ll admit it: more often than not, I’m a sucker for extremely popular novels, and I loved Yann Martel’s Man Booker Prize-winning Life of Pi.  I was passionate Cloud Atlas in an almost unseemly way, too, and I sobbed like a melancholic Victorian housewife at the end of The Kite Runner.  But all three books have struggled to be translated successfully to the screen despite being handled by some of Hollywood’s most adept directors.  That might be due to higher-than-usual expectations because of how I felt for the books, but I doubt it.  I have wanted nothing more than these films to put the awesome back in awesomeness, and have forgiven them more than they deserved as a result.

I was particularly impressed with Life of Pi the book because it was written by a gora and I, James Killough, host of the 1993 Miss India Pageant, am one of those goras who feels he owns India, or at least huge swaths of it, and we are a jealous, proprietary lot.  “You know more about my country than I do!” is a common phrase I’ll hear from an Indian I’ve just met.  Two desi writers, Salam Rushdie and Shashi Tharoor (The Great Indian Novel), have been unwitting mentors for my own work.  When I bust out truly whimsical lyrical Americanized Hobson-Jobson mala garlands of neologized sentences, that is purely their influence.  So Martel didn’t have my permission to write his book, and I fought him tigerly for encroaching on my territory at first, but by the time I put it down, he had won his right to his India fair and square.

I also think Ang Lee ranks in the top ten directors working today.   Relatively speaking, he gets to do what he wants in an industry where you seldom get to do what you want, or not what you set out to do, at least.  Therefore, you would think that the equation of worthy book plus strong director would equal amazing film, but like Cloud Atlas and The Kite Runner before it, Life of Pi disappoints far more than it impresses.

The Elusive Eunuch—Part One

At some point during Shoot Your Heroes Week here at PFC, I had an exchange with Eric Baker in our incestuous comments section that led me to remember the time I crossed the Rann of Kutch in a rickety van in search of the secret temple sacred to the hijras, the notorious eunuchs of India.

Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton became the one and only hero I’d ever had around page one hundred of Edward Rice’s superlative best-selling biography of him, which I read when it first came out in the early 90s.  This is the kind of man I would have tried to become had I been a Victorian with the sort of linguistic and scholarly brilliance with which he was blessed.  Burton was a character far more extraordinary than his contemporary Rudyard Kipling in many respects; he didn’t just dream of the Indian subcontinent and the British Raj in poems and novels, he lived it, playing the Great Game to the very edge of brinksmanship with a level of chutzpah I aspire to.

Karma Cola

THE KILLOUGH CHRONICLES

by James Killough

I was sent an article the other day by Rain Li’s boyfriend, Forest Liu.  I think Forest is fantastic, and hope that, if or when Rain is done with him, she’ll pass him along to me.  There aren’t many leftover dumplings I would eat from Rain Li’s dim sum brunch, but Forest is definitely one of them.

The New York Times article is about its author going to Cheyenne, Wyoming to meet his friend and former colleague, reformed gay activist Michael Glatze, now an ex-Ghey evangelical.  It’s a long piece, so I’ll let you read it here at your leisure.

Michael Glatze in more miserable times (left) with his boyfriend, and now happy as a clam with a new companion, the Bible. You'll be back, baby. You'll be back.

In a nut’s shell, because such things are completely nutty, Glatze has abandoned cock worship for Bible worship, which says everything about religion right there, in a nutshell. 

Why I’m Voting For Sarah Palin

THE KILLOUGH CHRONICLES

by James Killough

I’m kidding.  Sheesh.  Relax.  I don’t vote, for two reasons: 1) the American political process bores me because it’s usually much the same of the same old shit, although the Obama/Hillary run-off did get my attention; 2) as long as the Electoral College is in place and disasters like the 2000 election can happen as a result, I don’t believe we live in a true democracy.

She's not just the ringmaster, not just the clown show, not just the big cat act. She's the whole frickin' circus.

“But what about your civic duty, James?” you ask, wrapping your toga tightly around you in a snit.  To which I reply, “My civic duty is my non-vote of protest.”  And I feel I have more effect writing these words than ruining a perfectly crisp morning in November by standing in line for hours waiting to cast my drop in the bucket.  As long as I live, I will never let America rest on its self-satisfied, jingoistic laurels, never let it get away with unjustified warmongering, or large-scale financial corruption.  To do so would be un-American.