Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Cocktail - The real story Part 1

Cocktail is the undercover sequel to the undercover flop, Agent Winnowed. W is recalled after his last assignment, a colossal failure where he failed to recover his single-billed-hero career. He enters the Big Office, and M, the elder Mangeshkar didi, is ready to sing to him: “Ai-gent Vinod yeh sunlo, zaraa g***d mein bharlo daali”, at which a portrait of Chacha N is shown weeping in the background. In short, she gives him the shaft.
W begs for another chance and by begging I mean he begs. He tears his shirt, and vocal cords, smears his face with paint, dons a Viking helmet, rolls his eyes and sings “Chheechha leather” on local-trains where M, now disguised as a big O, finally impressed by his penitence, slips in a CD in the elastic of his panty as she brushes past him, deboarding the last local-train. W takes the CD to his laptop and it reveals a hologram where M, now disguised as an SS officer, Satish Shah in uniform, reveals the next assignment. 

-          Welcome, Agent W. Stop shaking your lap, I cannot concentrate when my breasts jiggle. Listen carefully now. Apparently, when the earth was still young, and Hangal only in his middle-age, a giant meteorite fell from space
-          Why space? - W asks.
-          So where would you rather it came from? A latrine? (Continues) Fell from space and landed in a spot.  (Silence.)
-          What spot? - W dared after some time.
-          Well, a rather tricky spot.
-          Trick is my second hyphenated middle name.
-          What’s the first?
-          One.
-          Well, as I said, it’s a rather tricky place. Rather tickly, if you have the fingers for it. Ticky, if you don’t particularly care for hygiene. And of course tinkly, sometimes a dozen times a day, especially on cold rainy days like this.
-          Is it safe?
-          I see your skills remain undiminished. The spot is indeed a safe. A safe in Barclays, London. The collapse of the bank has revealed to us at last its location. We want you to go and retrieve the meteorite.
-          What’s in the meteorite?
-          A tail.
-          Tell it to me.
-          A tail, not a tale. Millions of years ago, we were all reptiles, lizards. (Looks at W) Some of us still even look like them. A few years ago, in a top-secret NASHA operation we captured a hundred intoxicated Neanderthal men captured loitering around Delhi pubs, manning police stations and crying themselves hoarse at Anna’s rallies. You see these men are the proto-men, their brains never evolved beyond that of the reptile. We befuddled their brains with coke -
-          Brown sugar?
-          No, just Coke. Diet Coke. Of course, we put the Mentos in their mouths first. We brainwashed these men that there was this lizard which was the biggest lay and wore real-lly short minis, and let their SUVs loose at the spot we believe lay the fossilized remain of our first reptilian ancestor. The men dug it out in minutes and threw it at the side of the road after raping it for a few days. We had RFID-tagged their SUVs of course, and found the battered remains of our ancestor… but we never found its tail.
-          You think they took it away?
-          No, we believe that the tail was embalmed thousands of years ago and sent in space where it crystallized inside this meteorite. You see this was no ordinary tail. Over successive evolutions, it gradually moved from the posterior to the anterior portion of the body, and became what we now refer to as the most sinful portion of our constitution.
-          King Mojo?
-          Uh-no. The tongue.
-          Oh. Okay, so it became a tongue. What of it? Tomorrow, my nipple might evolve and become a hand…
-          Why a hand?
-           That’s just an example…
-          But why would you want hands there?
-          Well, forget that…
-          Of course, I will! It’s a preposterous idea!
-          No, it isn’t!
-          It is! Tell me one good use of hands on nipples!
-          Well, I believe, they can be put to many uses! When you wake up to the milkman in the morning, you can hold a pan, and still yawn… you can scratch yourself in the nads, and still go balldancing in a tuxedo… while love-making, you can grab at the titties and the bums at one go…
-          Okay, okay! I got it.
-          So the point is, why do we need the first nipple that became the hand?
-          We don’t. We need the first tail that became the tongue.
-          Okay, why do you need that tongue? Besides being curious about it.
-          I am never curious, W. (SS looks as coldly to W as Shah can manage)I know everything.
-          Then why do we need the tail?
-          Because it contains, at its tip, the beginning.
-          And what was there in the beginning?
-          God’s own name.
-          I knew you would get my Muslimness in this!
-          In the beginning, as John Abraham keeps telling us, was the word and that word was lost in the many evil intents we have given to this noble appendage since. The word was God. And God as we know is that single perfect equation that would explain everything.
-          Everything?
-          Everything.
-          Even Shahid Kapoor?
-          I wouldn’t stretch my expectations that far.
-           What’s in it for me then?
-          Well, I would say a rather generous chance to you to prove your mettle again, to stand on your own bloody feet without my paying through the nose for a crowd-puller Khan.
-          I don’t know, I am starting to enjoy these lace panties. How come you never thought of giving me the cover of a transvestite hooker?
-          Because then it wouldn't be a cover, just you. What do you want then, Agent W?
-          Something more.
-          Okay, with the discovery of the lost word, you will have Knowledge.
-          And why would I desire that?
-          ‘Coz knowledge is power.
-          Big deal! My mother owns the censor board. Remember Hum Tum? I already have all the power I need.
-          Faith then.
-          Impossible. I have been in this industry too long now.
-          Okay, okay, I’ll throw in your favourite agent again…
-          Pussy galore!
-          Ay’, lor’. In fact, I'll give you two for the price of half!
-          Gee, I  don’t know. I’m getting typecast with the yuppie stud surrounded by girls. Don’t you have a role more suited for my age?
-          We do actually. Boman’s. Just your age.
-          All right, all right. I’ll do it. What are we going to call this operation then?
-          Well, it all started with some coke (Satish Shah pronounces it as cock, and Saif embarrassedly corrects him) and it would end in our getting the tail. So I was think of calling it, (camera zooms on SS’s pudgy face as he raises a little finger to the side of his mouth) Operation Cocktail.
-          Okay, okay. what happens next?
-          As usual, your next pitstop would be at Q, of course, who would tell you the rest. You will find him at his usual hole.
-          You mean hall.
-          No hole. We had to surrender much of it to the new Metro line and there is only a hole now.
-          I will see him then.
-          Good. This CD would self-destruct itself now.

     Unfortunately, instead of the CD, the laptop, an Intel Atom netbook overheated with this protracted conversation, bursts into flames, badly burning W’s lap.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Itna sannata kyun hai bhai - The real implications

The allure of this article was its promise to reveal to us, at last, the implications of the iconic dialogue that has haunted us for years. Why was it iconic when neither the actor nor the character ever was? The answer must lie in the words themselves.
Disappointingly, the article is another bogey, another Rahul-Vatsiyan mediocrity trying to catch our eyeballs, like the lifting of a eunuch’s skirt with nothing to show underneath. The implication turned out to be, hold your breath, it was “a great example of understanding the value of silence.” 
Ergo, If Hangal stepped out asking “Itnee garmee kyun hai?”, he would have understood the value of heat. Brilliant insight.

And then it informs us in phrases seemingly cut and pasted from an IITian’s tale, that “The drama in the scene was heightened to such a level that the spectators found it easy to cry than to see Rahim's about to happen condition.
First of all, I have never, never, seen anyone cry for Rahim chacha. In the 70s, moviegoers used to clap when Sachin died.
Secondly, the thing about “about to happen condition” needs to be explained to me again. “Than” what? If you have to murder the language, just murder it please. But don’t hack at the tenuous threads of semantics which bridge this chaotic world to our comprehension.  

Undeterred, I continued in my quest, and examined the implications from all possible dimensions. Here are my thoughts on why Hangal chacha’s iconic phrases were really a statement on his times, 1975.

Itna sannata kyun hai bhai? Wherefore this silence?

Politically -­ The gagging of the press during the emergency

Economically -­ The stagnant licence-raj economy

Sociological ­- The society obdurately ossified in its caste and class divisions, after the collapse of Nehruvian optimism

Technological ­ - The echoing silences in our labs with all the brain-drain

Biological - The departed stirrings under his lungi

Philosophical - If I break this silence with this question and no one speaks yet, did I break the silence?  

Metaphysical ­ - Our essential existential alienation despite the multitudes

Literal ­ - Which bad joke did I just missed?

Psychological -­ Am I going deaf too?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Back to quota raj - followup

As if on cue, the Chinese media sees lessons in the government's handling of the NE exodus affair. 
Note how it justifies the state's intervention in their citizen's private lives : "it's a poor country and its citizens are not emotionally equipped to face rumours spread on the internet."
As the previous post mentioned, this very condescending, and rather self-serving, thinking was at work in our licence raj. The state as the disciplining parent to its teeny-weeny citizens.

There is a serious threat of going the China way if the government has its way. As i said, I believe they are using this affair only to test how far they can take our freedom from us again.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Back to the quota raj

I believe that the real motive of the government’s regular bullying of social media and its repeated threats of cyber-policing, stems from the desire  to wrest again that domineering control over supply of everything, a power it wielded till the 80s.The mai-baaps controlled the taps of everything that went in our paltry civil lives then ­- amount of foreign exchange in our pockets, number of telephones and scooters in the market, communication. After many years of dormancy, this intermediation has come back again in the quota of SMSes we can exchange in a day, the big brother back in control and even large-heartedlyallowing a bigger trickle from 5 to 20 now, after elbowing rudely, without consultation, into this personal space a few days back.
Only a little more than a decade ago, the fastest mode of communication was the telegram which could only be sent via the agency of government. The only telecom provider, maintaining an artificial scarcity for years so that you were just grateful to get a phone in only a couple of years, was run by the government. Private couriers were almost absent, only the government-run postal office. Hence, communication, like production, was always in the fist of the government; it could squeeze it any time, any place it wanted. It believed itself to be magnanimous to grant us the annual rations, like a master would to grant its slaves a petty raise. We were a poor nation, we were told, and the rich, and not the ones in the government, were fleecing the poor, and the only way to contain this was to let the government cite everything as a luxury good it could only release a trickle at a time.
Things changed. We can text and speak directly now, in real time, about anything, with no controlling agent in between. A government like ours doesn’t like that. It likes to be in a position of knowing every twitter, every morsel, that passes under it. It gives it power and control, and an ear in our plotting lives. Remember, our socialism, our ministries like IB whose actual role is to censor and not broadcast, were derived from Stalin’s Russia in the early 50s.  

Capping the number of SMSes following the flight of north-easterns from the big cities was a knee-jerk reaction from a clueless corruption-ridden regime. The reason why people were fleeing was that they do not trust the police to protect them. But improving law enforcement is a long-term thing and, if it ever happens, the process would never begin from the top, for obvious reasons.
Imagine the immeasurable loss to the people by this cap: the commerce which has come to rely heavily on SMSes, the unsent Eid greetings… we cannot even begin to enumerate; we are an SMS-nation now and these malicious SMSes would have made an insignificant % of all the SMSes we exchange.
Two days after the ban, I received an SMS exhorting my patriotism to cooperate and mentioned a threat to national security. Really? There is a civil war engulfing almost the whole eastern part of tuthohe nation and you think the nation was secure all along? In a country of our size and spread, this was a local crisis. Did the action of a few hundred (at best) malevolent rumour-mongers really merit such a large spanner in the affairs of 1.2 BN people? Nobody was texting in concerted riots before, like the ones in ’84. Hell, no one was even punished after them. People panic because they know when they are at the short end of the stick, there is a jungle raj and their attackers will butcher them with the police looking on and then get away.
The world has always been in a ferment and there have been always been violence. It has been contained by containing the perpetrators and not the channels of communication which are open to anyone, criminal or innocent civilian. That would be like banning sex to contain rape. Or like limiting the traffic on highways to contain highwaymen. I am always concerned when a government raises the flag of national security: many a times, the message is that it means to move into my drawing room with all its surveillance gadgetry.

After taking upon itself the authority to determine the threshold of SMSes which do not constitute a threat, what stops this government to now extend it to determine the quotas on the number of kilometers we can drive every day, number of people we can speak to, number of broadband KBs we consume? Isn’t this the same mechanism at work which determined the number of scooters we could have in a year, rather than just letting anyone wanting to own a scooter buy one? The key word is “allow”. We do not have the right to SMS any more: it is a privilege now allowed to us, and of course it needs to be capped to drive home the point.
Hence, I believe this particular crisis has been used by the government to test what it can do to wedge again into our untrammeled freedom to speak, to hear, to exchange words. The blocked twitter accounts of dissenting journalists in the bogey of this security threat, is a taste of things to come, if we surrender our rights so obediently. The first push is usually a test of how far it can get away.

Loaded questions

Besides the fatuity of turning every passing newsbite to a referendum, see how the very question contains, or rather, nudges towards the answer. The elbow being the "really".

Are these evangelo-journalists "really" as righteous as they project themselves to be?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A 100 storytellers

Just out of a screenwriting workshop. Cost me some time in getting to the place and the five days spent there.
One of the anomalies was that there were a 100 people in the audience, all aspiring writers (90 with some guests). I call this an anomaly because writing is an intensely human journey, and yet the crowd made it impossible for people to connect to each other at a person level. It remained a broadly indistinguishable crowd for me. The very number led to people stick to the cohorts they already knew, which would be the local film schools, or where they naturally belonged (for example, all local women beyond a certain age were seen sitting more or less together from Day 2).
Had it been 10-15 people, in five days we would have ended discovering a lot about each other. But, understandably, these workshops have to break even. And so, I guess it remained a solo journey for most of the people, journeys which were never shared. A girl tried once speaking, or rather spilling, about a man who called her randomly after his wife died and ended up becoming a chat-friend till he died, and immediately no one knew how to handle it, other than move forward to the other question.
Other than that, though the speaker was really knowledgeable and articulate, for me it was more or less a validation for what I already knew and a direction I already see for myself, to go deeper into the study of mythologies.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Gangs of Wasseypur 2 Review: An underwhelming resolution

There is a moment in GOW2 where Faizal Khan huddles his family in a room as gunmen tear at the doors and he then disappears in the darkness of some stairs leading to the roof. From the cacophonous hailing of ten thousand bullets, the protagonist ascends to a silence where he immerses briefly in its deep watery pit as he dips his hands in a pool of water and splashes his face. He then makes his way through narrow corridors, terraces, peeping over the parapets calmly, jumping from one terrace to the other, limping, and landing in another jump with a pain that takes all his strength to stifle to a silence. It is a long scene of perfect silence and just when it was on the brink of becoming one of the most brilliant scenes I have seen in Hindi cinema, Anurag Kashyap inserts another of his gratuitous raucous songs and kills the moment.

I have appreciated Anurag Kashyap over the years for his courage and undeniable talent and even felt that he came close to greatness sometimes (especially Satya and Black Friday). But I believe he drags his iconoclastic loudness too far too many times. He creates deliciously implausible characters and sets the ground for the sizzling chemistry between them to burn the screen, but it seems that his intent is only an all-consuming conflagration and nothing else. Moments of quiet nuances, tinged with our human fumbling hankering to love and be loved, are rarely or too feebly realized. As a filmmaker, I believe, he sometimes displays too little an empathy for the audience. 
That is why I believe his DevD was a patch on the original, a poignancy reduced to attitude-struck posturings. The protagonist's connection with Paro was never allowed to grow on us but forced down the throats of the audience right from the very first scene with tu-tadaak language. Let it build. If it is there, the audience would see it. If it is not, not a thousand protestations, not the most intimate dialogues in ma-behen language would bring it together.
It’s the same reason why I rejected my once hero, Salman Rushdie: because I felt SR regularly fails to create, even within the constraints of magic fiction, believable relationships between his main characters (and the fact that he could never get his pen around his female characters.)
I believe this is so, I refer to AK specifically but a little to SR too, because
1.) either the auteur is too cynical or too afraid to confront the depth of his humaneness, and
2.) he definitely ultimately underestimates his audience.

When GOW came out, I read almost all the reviews published in respected national dailies. I felt that the majority of the critiques were not able to break the boundaries of convention the movie had; many times, the critic just did not have the intellectual heft to take on the movie, and sometimes, perhaps constrained by a limited exposure to the actual cowbelt heartland and the theth Hindi spoken in the movie, they did not get vital bits of the movie to be able to appraise it. Even Raja Sen made the unpardonable mistake of attributing the story of the son of a minor character killed by the nemesis and teeka-ed with his father’s blood to that of the protagonist, Sardar Khan. [Tigmanshu Dhulia's portly and effortlessly sinister Ramadhir Singh kills a fearsome foe and anoints his bereaved son with a drop of his dead father's blood. The son, vowing to keep his head shaved till he finishes Singh off, grows up to be Sardar Khan, played by Manoj Bajpai.]
While the reviews were disappointing, the comments were a revelation. I realized that there exists a vast intelligent audience, better equipped than the critics in understanding their cinema, momentarily formed into a collective against the thoughtless jaded reviews of a brilliant movie which had offered them a glimpse of what Hindi cinema can be beyond Bollywood.
How this very collective would feel cheated now by this conclusion. It is so because AK was talking over his audience and not to them. He was not perhaps even looking in their eyes.
Cinema or performing arts can be described in many ways, but I would still venture to say that any brilliant art invites the audience to complete the picture. It is not passive viewing. Hence, the auteur needs the audience to realize his work, besides the usual commercial reasons.
However, AK never seems interested in playing the game with the audience. Instead, he would rather keep surprising you (like RGV did so disastrously in Aag) but he does not. Instead, he makes you feel foolish ­ for making you hope that after years and years of inanities, a truly honest brave and intelligent movie has been made, for people like you, and you have been invited to come and realize it with the auteur. Instead, you are left standing with your pieces while the auteur works on his own jigsaw puzzle, ignoring you.
Let me state a fundamental. There is a reason why Veeru had to cry over Jai’s death before he goes after Gabbar. Losses have to be acknowledged, with overflowing sentiments perhaps, or a numb delayed reaction, any way, but the acknowledgment has to be honest. ­ Trust me, the audience will always pick out the fake from the genuine. Similarly, love can be silent and does not need to be underscored by Piyush Misra's lyrics all the time. The fundamental is that what makes us human has to be respected. Rocks and stones do not make their cinemas. We do, the humans. Cinema has to be human. If we anticipate a closure, it has to be given, unless the unresolved stub is deliberate and the questions it raises are important enough to deny the audience that catharsis. If they are not, it becomes an empty laugh not at the audience’s expense, but the auteur’s own creation.

GOW is not a spaghetti Western where men fire more bullets in a day than texts on their new mobile-phones and people die like leaves falling from a tree, and exciting as much concern, and life goes on without any human acknowledgment of the tragedy. It cannot be. The West of this genre, vastly imagined, was a brief anomalous transitory point in history as the Western front was pushed faster than the law and society could keep pace with it. GOW purports to be a story of a people who have lived over many, many generations and survived despite the lawlessness. Coppola realized this: that an organization which has silently survived over the centuries cannot be because the men like swinging their dicks around all the time. Killing indiscriminately does not make survival sense. No, something deeper, more human, more deeply embedded in our instincts is at play ­ our families. We kill in lawless societies to ensure the survival of our families.
Sardar Khan was an orphan, without a sibling, and was a careless father till his son was shot. He could afford the lighthearted thoughtless flamboyance with which he strutted over his enemies. However, Faizal Khan was a man betrayed by his friend, his father and brother murdered by enemies. You have to change the game. Because it has changed, despite yourself, and the audience knows it. Listen to this audience, see the direction it is looking at, anticipating; ­ no, you insist on keeping the same comical, raucous mood even as a dynasty these folks have seen build over generations, children grow into the men, fall now like a pack of cards; ­ brothers, sons, mother, wives murdered; the clan ultimately reduced to the same frugal fugitive trio where the tale of vendetta began.  Just shut the damn songs for a moment, they are all beginning to sound the same anyway, linger more on the pain, and let us mourn.
Perhaps AK’s greatest sin in GOW2, as a director he has failed Niwazuddin Siddiqui greatly. Niwaz's silent burning eyes communicate the pain more than anything else. But AK fails too many times to lift his cinema to his performance. Worse, his film-making gets in the way of this bravura performance. Faizal cannot be as joyously menacing as Sardar, his father. His childhood is too burdened with an unspoken secret. His menace is silent, brooding and fixated on his mother, the victim of his father and his own private sinner. He is an arrow, the string of whose bow has silently, silently been drawn so far back over the years that everyone had started to believe that the string had broken. The audience is waiting for that string to be released in silent respectful deference and finally the thumb and the forefinger holding back the nock release (There were whoops in the audience when Faizal swears revenge to his mother). 
You cannot clamor his moments with the same recycled Womaniyas as Sardar. The game has changed. You cannot take away his scenes of silent brooding and keep only the rushes from the trailer. You cannot give him a flickering moment of on screen-time as he closes the bazaar where his mother was gunned while giving minutes to fatuous exchanges as Ramadhir gives a litany of all the stars over the years for a minute when all he had to say was, ‘I do not watch cinema. Hence, my head is not on the clouds.’
I believe Godfather 2 was even better than the prequel precisely because it allowed us to see Michael and the younger Vito brood and weigh the consequences of his actions against the greater good of the family. Perhaps the only moment that Faizal gets for this, where he, like Michael, realises that he was sucked into this game of violence despite his will, is crowded out again by the irritatingly-facile and no-longer-original theme that defines his “deep” relationship with his wife (another tu-tadaak approach to compensate for a valid build-up.)  
Perhaps, it was a deliberate decision to not take the inspiration from the bellwether of organized-crime cinema, to avoid comparisons. But cinema is not an exercise of ego and about not getting caught looking over someone else’s notes. It is not about being original just for the sake of being original. The original idea has to have some meaning. Otherwise, it becomes a gimmick.
There is a reason why people could empathize with both Michael and Fredo because the story, actually ageless, still holds meaning for us and spoke to us directly and honestly. I sometimes got the feeling that AK was hell-bent on taking GOW to the direction of showing the meaninglessness and even comicality of violence, while it really acquired a meaning beyond the violence.
Niwaz does not have the imposing presence of his grandfather (Ahluwalia in the tallest, most explosively still presence on screen since Bachchan). He is a small, frail man who nevertheless brings an intensity, a smoldering stillness, not seen since the younger pock-marked days of Pankaj Kapoor. No actor could have done more justice to the immense complicatedness of Faizal Khan. But the auteur fails many times to give him the dignity and seriousness of an almost noble hero. Despite being almost the antithesis of his father, he has to port his consumptive rage to the same flippant score. Even as he rejects the pleas of a pregnant wife and walks out to brace his denouement, the tiresomely clever song that is disastrously made his signature tune blares in the background. His moments with himself, his relationships with his mother, siblings, are all snipped away as AK opens too many stubs that, unlike Salman Rushdie earlier bracketed with him, he cannot resolve. Let us take the case of Perpendicular, a brief interesting cameo in the form of Faizal’s 14 year old brother murdered by his rival. What purpose do this character and his death serve when there is hardly one intimate moment between Faizal or his mother with this brother/ son? Just one other villain raping Mithun’ sister. For that matter, what purpose did that pseudo-ideological reference to exploitation of workers by unions in the first installment mean? Why even broach something so, so heavy when you did not know where to take it from there?
If these various subplots are there to stick as close to the real story as possible, this is not the function of cinema. Documentaries do that. I will not say that cinema is only an illusion, but it still needs to have meaning in its structure. Unless the purpose is to convey the meaningless. If that was so, your actors were too intense, their humaneness too meaningful. You cannot ride two boats at one time.
Lastly, GOW becomes what I feared it might after watching the first installment. It discredits its characters with another kind of Bollywoodness that imagines (like in Udaan) that people in the cow-belt only think in terms of Amitabh, Salman, and Sanjay Dutt. Where was Mithun, where was Bhojpuri cinema, where was the bloody Muslimness of the characters, where was the straight from the Bihari-heartland songs stuff that was such a revelation to the broader audience? Why did you reduce so many dimensions to a single clichéd track? Why does every goddamn 90's blockbuster need to be trussed in the dialogues? Why do you shortchange not only your audience, but even your characters?  GOW sometimes seems to be on a raid, foraging Bihar for its lawlessness to showcase a different kind of macho-hood rather than making any meaningful statement about it.
Not that it does not try to, this is one of the bravest movie ever made in Hindi cinema, but it seems too busy with other distractions. GOW is flawed because it attempts too much, it is not a straight-as-an-arrow tale of a man without a past as Satya was, but a confused medley of too many brilliant isolated moments, too many brilliant isolated performances and too many interesting, potentially brilliant, but in the end unresolved subplots. Its message of the meaningless of revenge is almost lost against the Bombay skyline as the audience does not even see the eyes of the survivors.
If you only had listened to us, Anurag. Or just to the story. Sometimes you just have to play the game the way it shapes, even if it’s not quite what you anticipated. Cinema is about communicating to the audience, looking in their eyes. It is not self-indulgence.
You have denied us one of the greatest movies of Hindi cinema of all times. I will have to see it again and again and sigh at the lost possibilities.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Sikhs mistaken for Muslims

It is really regrettable that the Sikh community overseas is time and again targeted by low-IQ far-right terrorists. However, one plaintive argument  I listen to again and again after every such incident is to "educate" the white community at large and these potential killers in specific about who the Sikhs are and why they are NOT Muslims.
It doesn't matter.
Yes, these white bigoted retards and the larger community they spring from, sitting at the top of the advantages culled from a history of exploitation but conveniently ignorant of the larger earth and communities which produced them, need to be told that the world extends beyond their block. But not when they go and murder some innocent(s), be it Sikh or Muslim.
Then they need to be told that murdering innocents for alleged crimes by other members of their community is like any remaining Red Indian walking to a white man and shooting him in the head for the crimes of his ancestors. It is just not fair and is, by their own definition, terrorism. It does not matter if the identity of the innocent victim was wrongly interpreted by the killer or the bigot who stares at him in the bus. The crime of hatred would not have receded an inch if the victim really had been a Muslim.

Such pleas belittle the plight of the community and  reminds me of the scene in Mr. and Mrs. Iyer where the rioters board the bus looking for Muslims and the rest of the passengers instead of confronting them push the old Muslim couple towards them.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Why literary fiction matters: Excerpt from "Notes on a Scandal"

Thank god for literary fiction and its power to enunciate what cannot be enunciated.
The passage below is from the amazing Notes from a Scandal. I saw the movie last year and rarely have I seen two such brilliant actresses work together. Talented actresses, crowded out by dumb bimbos, are underserved by the film medium almost everywhere. But if the movie was stunningly good, the book is devastatingly so. Reminds me of “Remains of the day” where great character studies by stellar actors immensely complemented the book.
The plot is this: Sheba, a rather-artless happy-go-lucky upper-class lady in her mid 30s moves into Barbara’s school (where she’s been teaching History for decades) as a teacher for pottery. A little pixilated, she breezes in with rosy fantasies of transforming young lives with art but, unfortunately for her, the school is bristly proletarian and the kids, with no delusions about the futures awaiting them as the waiters and plumbers of the world, jeer at her naïve fumbling attempts. The only ray of hope seems to be Connelly, a fifteen year old, who affects to show an interest in her art after school and she ends up having an affair with him.
Both are the seducer and the seduced, but perhaps Sheba deserves more sympathy. The clammed frustration of a long happy but eventless marriage, lonely and out on a limb after her collapsed ambition, everything slowly balls up behind her as she teeters at the precipice of her only (seemingly) genuine relation in the school with Connelly, and there is a hint that Connelly with a canny, perhaps even unconscious, instinct plays on her vulnerabilities perfectly to seduce her.  
However, such complexities are unaddressable, unmentionable, in the public space. We demand one single certain truism (“In an ‘unnatural’ relationship between a major and a minor, the major is the transgressor and the minor the victim”) and not a tangled mess that threatens to upset this truism. Society, and the media which articulates its beliefs, function within boundaries that define their absolutes and no matter how stretched their absolutes, they are there. To question them a society essentially questions itself and the earth should shake below its feet before it would do so (like the revision of history in post-war Germany). And hence, these narratives and commonsensical ideas become so wholly pervasive that there exists no mainstream counterargument to them, even for argument’s sake.
This is where literary fiction quietly steps in to offer us a glimpse of an alternative perspective of people who live at the fringe of these morally absolute societies.  
Read the passage below and imagine it hissed by a Barbara played by Judi Dench.