Ghost World

It’s funny how serendipity works. I remember watching a Hindi movie song and going “Whoa! How come I’ve never heard of this before!” It’s a pretty catchy number with, surprisingly, no big actors in it. There was just this one name that caught my attention: “Ted Lyons and his cubs” emblazoned on the big drum set. A few google searches showed that they routinely performed in some dance songs in the 60s, and they were a reasonably regular fixture in some movies of that decade as the band actually playing in the movie. Somewhat like this:

The song in question was this catchy number, with a weirdly catchy dance. The singer is Mohammed Rafi, who does a pretty superb job with his vocals. (But when has he not, until the 80s that is)

One more search on this song, took me to the movie: Ghost World (2001). This song featured on the OST, and the movie opens to this song. I wonder how they stumbled upon this song in the pre-Youtube era. But it’s a pretty cool start to the movie.

The movie itself is based on a graphic novel by Daniel Clowes of the same name and from the same year. Like Watchmen this is also a collection of comics that came out serially over a period of time, and then someone decided to put them all together and make a graphic novel of it.

The movie was supposedly a failure, barely recovering its budget, but has gone on to become a cult classic over time. The themes are pretty dark, about growing up in a typical soulless American Suburb with its featureless strip malls, being a teenager, pissed off with the world and how “phony” everything looks and feels. Yes, it does bring to mind “The Catcher in the Rye” a lot. While the latter dealt with a gifted “prodigy” growing up, and being able to see ahead of his times, this is more about a couple of normal teenage girls at the age of 18, struggling to fit in and figure out their plans for life, while trying to steer clear of what everyone seems to be doing easily on autopilot.

For a movie dealing with somewhat serious, and at most times dark, issues, it is a laugh riot at quite a few places. The acting is top-notch. Thora Birch as Enid and Scarlett Johansson as Rebecca are just pitch-perfect(this is a few years before Scarlett became the big star she is now). And then there is Steve Buscemi, as a lonely record collector whom Enid befriends. The part I did not get is to do with Enid’s dressing sense. It’s supposed to be about mocking different music genres like ‘punk rock’ but went OTH for me.

Of course, after all this, I had to pick up the book and it was promptly ordered on Amazon, after checking Blossom’s and finding that they were out of stock.


The movie stays more or less close to the book with some variations. But it feels organic as Daniel Clowes did the writing for both. While the movie dealt a lot more with Enid, almost cutting down Rebecca to a supporting role, and pushed in Seymour (Buscemi’s character), the book stays with Enid and Rebecca, and their friendship. Their being out of High School and having to find their way out, their insecurities, jealousies and support, all at the same time. Enid is the more intelligent and gifted one, and a geek, while Rebecca is the prettier one, but trying hard to get out of Enid’s shadow, while Enid feels the other way around about Rebecca’s looks. The sheer pressure of being poised between adolescence and adulthood, between growing up and being grown ups, clinging on to safety nets while wanting to fly out at the same time. To be oneself, but still feeling jealous of peers, detesting and wanting what they have. So much of it is relatable!

The book is where you get a stronger “Catcher in the Rye” vibe and it isn’t meant to be as funny as the movie. There is a greenish tinge to the artwork, and not even a pleasant green, more of a putrid greenish-yellow one. Maybe the idea was to bring out the decay? But I guess it would need more readings to get to know better. Most graphic novels reveal themselves over multiple readings usually.

Either way, it was a good combo of book and movie for a week, and all discovered through one Hindi song from 1965. Well, whaddaya know!


2 thoughts on “Ghost World

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