Angkor wat

Angkor wat

Saturday, September 20, 2008

'I don't like it, so I throw stones'

‘I disagree with what you say, but will defend till the death your right to say it’, said Voltaire over a century ago. Poor Voltaire is burnt, buried and stamped upon in today’s India. For over 50 years, school texts have announced that poverty, illiteracy and unemployment are the chief evils our country has to deal with. They need revision. Make way for the most dangerous of them all- Intolerance.

WE think churches are responsible for mass conversions. So we attack the nearest church in sight. Why? Oh, we just don’t like it. Also, it gets rather boring sitting around in our political common room. This way we’re doing something. Two..umm..churches with one stone- Personal satisfaction plus you show ‘those people’ where they get off. Illegal? Not if you have the backing of the party in power. Horrifying? Well..It won’t draw any more attention than bomb blasts..after all the country is now acclimatized to violence..

A rural family thinks their daughter shouldn’t mingle with some male classmate (No, she doesn’t have the right to free speech and action, stupid question..). Do they talk, resign themselves, worst case, even disown her?? No. They pick up an axe and bludgeon both. Simple solution. It’s a matter of ‘honour’. Welcome to medeival justice in the age of free media, computers and nuclear tests.

From family to person. Traffic woes are apparently too much to take for us modern ‘stressed out’ individuals. Busdriver jumps out in a traffic jam and nearly strangles the autodriver in front. Couldn’t he hear the horn?? We would’ve thought hearing the horn was itself enough punishment..

But we really know we’ve touched rock bottom when art has to conform to some norm. A norm that varies from person to person, organization to organization. If M.F Hussain is constrained in his expressions of art, then one can imagine how bullied artists of lesser renown are likely to be. Worse, we’ll breed a whole generation of ‘artists’ (what a joke), whether painters,writers or moviemakers, all forced to function within some set of rules lest they ‘offend’ someone important. And yes. We take offence mighty quickly. Infact Jaya Bachchan’s casual statement, possibly just about deserving half a raised eyebrow, is enough to rouse a mob. There seem to be no dearth of people looking for an outlet for a great deal of latent physical energy, preferably a violent one. A variant of a 5 year old’s tantrum; except the lego blocks are rather larger and more expensive here..

What is it? Too much money and no work? Why are tempers so frayed and opinions pre-slotted? Is the aim to murder all free thought and expression? Is there ANY difference left between the misguided and singleminded young men who fanatically give up their precious lives, and the well fed but bored young men who throw stones for lack of anything better to do? Where is our sense of perspective? For instance, does a statue being set up deserve any, let alone much, attention, when there are homeless people waiting for that easily announced ‘compensation’??

Who are we to guide anyone’s imagination? In fact,who are we at all? Too may people seem to suffer from the delusion that they’re terribly important, and hence everything better function the way they want it to. Disillusion them, please. A couple of Indian Institutes of Perspectives may well be the need of the hour..

So the next time you want to paint the walls of your house, check with the neighbours first. They may not like yellow. Also check with the zillion religious and cultural organizations around, yellow may symbolize something someone doesn’t like. Oh and the glare at night may make it an easy target for bombing, the government needs to be consulted. What? YOU like yellow and its YOUR house? So? Don’t bring up irrelevant objections..

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Last Lear- a movie review

Too often, movie reviews end up describing the movie itself. They tend to overwhelm with information rather than influence any inclination to watch it. Here is one instance where it wouldn't matter! Dissect the plot, describe the situations, why, even disclose the climax. Nothing can take away from the effect of the right silences, the incredibly powerful Shakespeare-spouting (could easily have led to large scale hamming, but didn't!:)and the brief moments of 'That could be me'! Welcome to the world of pure cinema.

Undiluted by song and dance,the romance is barely tangible,nobody could accuse any of the actors of being conventionally 'hot':)And yet they all are. Each actor has a niche role and works superbly within it. The ancient conflict between theatre and the world of movies surfaces in a very modern setting. Whether it is a passionate director bonding with the brilliant but eccentric actor, or the more earthy 'boyfriend trouble' discussions between the women, every relationship develops beautifully, and is eminently believable.

If you're looking for an evening of complete relaxation, a 'masala' flick, or some light entertainment, this is not the movie for you. But try again after a week. Because its worth it. Even if you get very bored in the first half hour (Kab tak ye Shakespeare -Wakespeare sunna padega?),it'll pass,and you'll almost definitely carry something back. If not Shefali Chaya's expressive movements, maybe Preity Zinta's shout to the mountains. Or maybe bits of Arjun Rampal's perfectionism. Or, if nothing else, the experience of having sat through a work of art..Go see it!!

Friday, September 12, 2008

If its Tuesday, this must be Belgium :) the title of an old classic movie. Not too off, I thought, from the kinds of correlations our media seems to enjoy these days- 'Studies show that men taller than 5 "11 prefer women with long hair'. Well, at least this one people are unlikely to take as a scientific truth. Or so one hopes!!As they well might, with 'Scientists say eat more tomatoes to avoid cancer'. Sure, anti-oxidants are good for a million things. But a random survey of a 100 people (Do you eat tomatoes? good. Do you have cancer? No? great. Scribble scribble..rush to make the morning edition) is hardly evidence for it! One degree better than Deepika Padukone asking us whether we know the secret for her youthful skin. Age? Heredity? Makeup?? All wrong. Its because some soap doesn't 'wash off' her skin proteins..and we kind of thought the proteins make the skin. Silly mistake. And it comes with extra vitamins. Never mind which. Extra anything seems to be a good advertising tactic, whether or no it enhances the product.Quite apart from whether or not true. Thats hardly an issue. What matters is what sells.

Opinion polls are even better. Statistics was clearly never a mandatory subject for the pollers..'75% of Indians think Abhinav Bindra should be given the Bharat Ratna' (for example). How many did you ask? if you're lucky, 200. 'INDIANS think'??

But then spurious correlations and hyperbolic statements are the order of the day. Like someone said, if you have a 24 hour news channel, you must have something to put in it. I suppose we do get entertainment, if not information :> But where are the days when every paper had an agricultural correspondent, and investigative journalism was not uncommon? We are grateful now when reporters allow the reported to complete their sentences. No doubt the media DOES highlight otherwise buried matters (albeit selectively) but could we have it with a tad more discrimination, please?

Oh well. 95% of those who read this post shall now write a letter to the editor.. :)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Homely thoughts

Steaming tea or scattered shoes,
Anxious mums or homework blues,
Thoughts they hasten while YOU roam
To the place that you call home..

Oasis-next for the Bedouin,
Home means water, colour,and din
School van last drop for the student,
Home means FOOD, and of instructions a torrent:)

A rich imagination for the poet,
Home means ideas yet un-met..
Bored tolerance for the rebel,
A place in which he'd rather not dwell

Sounds and smells for the refugee
Home means with friends and relatives to be
And for the many dreamy eyed,
Home means love, and thoughts untied..

To all the world a familiar place,
And one with a curious way,
Of etching an impression clear and deep..
Of an image that is there to stay..