I have to face it: Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” is his most entertaining piece of moviemaking since “Pulp Fiction.” Some of it, particularly in the first half, is excruciatingly funny, and all of it has been brought off in a spirit of burlesque merriment—violent absurdity pushed to the level of flagrancy and beyond. That’s the place where Tarantino is happiest: out at the edge, playing with genre conventions, turning expectations inside out, ginning up the violence to exploitation-movie levels. The film is in two parts: the first half is a mock Western; the second is a mock-revenge melodrama about slavery, set in the deep South and ending in fountains of redemptive spurting blood. “Django” is a crap masterpiece, garrulous and repetitive, rich with jokes and cruelties, including some Old South cruelties that Tarantino invented for himself. It’s a very strange movie, luridly sadistic and morally ambitious at the same time, and the audience is definitely alive to it, revelling in its incongruities, enjoying what’s lusciously and profanely over the top.
What’s even stranger than the movie, however, is how seriously some of our high-minded critics have taken it as a portrait of slavery. Didn’t they notice that Tarantino throws in an “S.N.L.”-type skit about the Ku Klux Klan, who gather on their horses for a raid only to complain petulantly that they can’t see well out of their slitted white hoods? Or that Samuel L. Jackson does a roaring, bug-eyed parody of an Uncle Tom house slave in the second half? Or that the heroine of the movie, a female slave, is called Broomhilda von Shaft? Could Mel Brooks have done any better? (“Lili von Shtupp,” I suppose, is slightly better.) Yes, we are told that Broomhilda’s German mistress gave her the name and taught her German, but Tarantino is never more improbable than when he supplies explanations for his most bizarre fancies. Some of his characters spring from old genre movies, some spring full-blown from the master’s head. None have much basis in life, or in any social reality to speak of. (Remember the Jews who killed Nazis with baseball bats?) Yes, of course, there were killers in the Old West and cruel slave masters in the South—central characters in the movie—but Tarantino juices everything into gaudy pop fantasy. I enjoyed parts of “Django Unchained” very much, but I’m surprised that anyone can take it as anything more than an enormous put-on.
The Frommers travel guide considers the Golden Gate Bridge “possibly the most beautiful, certainly the most photographed, bridge in the world”. It opened in 1937 and had until 1964 the longest suspension bridge main span in the world, at 4,200 feet (1,280 m).
Unlike their counterparts in Kerala, the houseboats in Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir are usually stationary. They are usually moored at the edges of the Dal Lake and Nageen lakes. Some of the houseboats there were built in the early 1900s, and are still being rented out to tourists. These houseboats are made of wood, and usually have intricately carved wood paneling. The houseboats are of different sizes, some having up to three bedrooms apart from a living room and kitchen.
Many tourists are attracted to Srinagar by the charm of staying on a houseboat, which provides the unique experience of living on the water in a cedar-paneled elegant bedroom, with all the conveniences of a luxury hotel. Srinagar’s thousand or so houseboats are moored along sections of the Dal and Nagin Lakes and theJhelum River, each decorated fancifully and named romantically and even whimsically. Like hotels, houseboats vary in degree of luxury and have been accordingly graded by the Department of Tourism. A luxury houseboat, like a luxury hotel has fine furniture, good carpets and modern bathroom fittings, while the ‘D category’ (the lowest category) of houseboats, like low-budget hotels, is spartanly furnished. Like hotels too, houseboats vary widely in their locations. Some overlook the main road, others look out onto lotus gardens and yet others face tiny local markets and villages, which are also floating on the lake. All houseboats, regardless of category, have highly personalized service. Not only is there always a “houseboy” for every boat, but the owner and his family are often close by. The cost per day of hiring a houseboat includes all meals and free rides from the houseboat to the nearest jetty and back, as no houseboat on the lakes is directly accessible from the banks.
Every standard houseboat provides a balcony in the front, a lounge, dining room, pantry and 3 or more bedrooms with attached bathrooms. All houseboats not moored to the bank of the river or lakes provide a shikara as a free service from the houseboat to the nearest Ghat (jetty). Virtually every houseboat in Srinagar has been provided with a municipal water connection.