Dunkirk—the Review

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The Bangla colloquial for a movie is “boi” or book. It is not hard to figure out why, the appreciation of a film, for most, is predicated upon the story. Unless you are the film-school type, you are not really watching for shot composition, camera angle, scene transitions, lighting, and even though you often say “The film should have been better edited” to look wise on social media, without really understanding what film-editing is, what you actually mean is that the story didn’t catch you.

Christopher Nolan’s reputation as a superstar director is built upon his consistent mastery over the narrative. Whether it be putting the elements out-of-sequence (Memento), or nesting elements (Inception), or playing with time (Interstellar), or working on audience assumptions (Prestige), Nolan understands the power of the twist, the pace, the lines, and the character. You remember the beginning (or is it the end) of Memento, you wonder what happens to the totem in Inception, you shake your head at the resolution of the Prestige, and you definitely want to be the Joker.

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Mob Violence–India at 70

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[Want to do a series of posts on India@70. This is the first]

The problem in our country is mob violence.

It has been a problem since we became a country.

While the individual is powerless in front of the law, unless you have privilege like Mallya or Meira Kumar, the group isn’t. That’s why Indians intrinsically know that they can do pretty much anything as long as they attach themselves to the right group.

Growing up a student in Jadavpur University, I knew this too. Bunk class alone, and you lose attendance. Bunk class en masse, and the professor walks back. Not prepared for an exam, and you are in deep shit. No one prepared for an exam, why you can call a strike.

The victim in this country is always the individual who cannot form a group fast enough.  If you are a pickpocket working alone and you get caught, be prepared to have the daylights thrashed out of you by the crowd. However if you are a pickpocket working in a group, and a man catches you just when you are reaching into a pocket, your fellow pickpockets will accuse the victim of being a pickpocket and thrash him up.

Driving a car through a crowded road. A man on a bike, without a helmet, comes crazily from the side and hits you. He assembles a mob and you are forced to pay him money. Or your car gets vandalized.

Get into a scuffle over seats, and before you know it, you have been knifed.

Protest against public molestation, and the group throws you from the running train.

Unfortunately rather than calling out this problem universally, our liberal media and their consumers like to close their eyes to mob justice when it happens counter to their narrative. So if a Muslim man is lynched by a crowd which is Hindu, it is a national emergency. If a Muslim man is lynched by a crowd which is Muslim, next please.

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When Did We Lose The Game?

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When did we lose the game to Pakistan?

No not when Ravindra Jadeja ran Hardik Pandya out. Not when Kohli got a leading edge to gully. Not when Dhoni tamely hoiked the ball down square leg’s throat. Not when Bumrah, who has made it a habit to dismiss people off no-balls, got Fakhar Zaman out for three.

We lost to Pakistan when we decided to mimic our neighbors in smashing TV sets.  We lost to Pakistan when we forwarded the message on Whatsapp that the match was fixed, or some other outrageous conspiracy yarn, or blamed IPL for making the players not care, or when we, not this has happened yet but has occurred before, decided to burn effigies of players or garland them with shoes or, worst of all, tried to vandalize their property.

We lose when we let the world know that we care enough to bother to break even an old TV set. Care enough to turn on the TV set in order to see someone else breaking a TV set. Care enough to elevate a single defeat to the level of a national loss of face.

Confident nations don’t do this. Because they know, or should, that their pride as a people is not defined or determined by the outcome of a game.

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Sachin Tendulkar A Billion Dreams—the Review

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Sachin Tendulkar, it is conjectured frequently, is God. Like God, he is seldom heard, on issues of importance, or seen, at least in Rajya Sabha, and like God, when we really really  need him, he is busy answering someone else’s prayers, or at least so say those who claim that he could never perform in the really critical games of his career. It is thus to no one’s surprise that the documentary based on his life, Sachin a Billion Dreams, goes beyond being an uncritical eulogy, beyond being a hagiography, to become a religious film, a “Jai Santoshi Ma” of the times, with acted out sections featuring a cherubic boy doing naughty things, lot of Anjali, and even a Putna, played by The Chappell who feeds the Indian team poisoned milk from his sinister teats by demoting Sachin from his opening spot.  At the same time, what’s missing is the Ferrari, the ball tampering, the Monkey Gate, and the many valid arguments for his retiring a few years before he did.  Match-fixing is touched upon, but it comes and goes before you can say Aillaaa.

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Praktan—the Review

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I had avoided watching Praktan,  Nandita-Shibprasad’s 2016 hit, because I had heard it was  quaint to the point of being regressive, moralizing mashima-bait in the way that Bangla TV serials are, and having wasted a few hours of my life watching the supposedly sensual Khwato that turned out to be as erotic as a speech by Rajnath Singh, I was understandably hesitant to wade into yet another Bumba-da  film about relationships, arguably not my favorite genre, unless Paoli Dam was showing off her back and shoulders or Mimi Chakraborty was doing some nyakamo.

Praktan had neither, except a recommendation from Baba and Ma, and so I finally got around watching it, almost after a year it was released.

For those who haven’t seen Praktan, it has multiple sub-plots, all united by the theme of broken relationships, all developed in the closed physical space of a train compartment.

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Sonu Spanking Once Again

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In 2007, Sonu Nigam, in a massive missive to the Times of India, introduced a new phrase or what linguists call a neologism to India’s cultural lexicon.

Sonu Spanking.

From here.

By presenting my case in front of you. I leave in your worthy hands the task of presenting my case in front of the world who is witnessing Sonu-spanking for last 3 months.

And then, over the years, more important things happened: Arijit Singh sung the same song a hundred times, Neil N Nikki was remade as Befuckre, the dark lord Modi and his army of Hindu savarna gaurakshak patriarchs descended from Mordor, intolerance swept the land, Rohit Sharma and Rahul Gandhi came to represent the latent talent of the country, and Kangana Ranaut took on Karan Johar and Hrithik Roshan.

Then one day, at five in the morning, Sonu Nigam woke up to some loud sound from outside, a loud persistent sound and like most people woken up at five he got mad and tweeted about it.

The sound that he heard was from a jagrata ceremony. Cranky and sleepy, he tweeted about the disturbance caused by loud singing of hymns during Hindu festivals. Then when he finally woke up in the morning, he found that he had been invited to back to back panels on NDTV and, then for good measure, to Troll Hunter and the Bane of NRI Sanghis Sardesai’s baithaak, topic of discussion being the repressiveness of Hindu festivals, environmentally unsustainable and sexist and classist, covering everything from Jallikattu to Diwali and Holi,  and by the morrow being feted by the Under Wires and the Karavans of the world, only to take his place among the pantheon of media heroes like Twinkle and Diya Mirza and Shruti Seth and Kanhaiya Kumar and D J Khaleed, brave cultural voices against the cultural Hindukritz of the current government.

Actually that was not what happened.

It was not music from a jagrata, or the sound of crackers on Diwali that had disturbed the Sonu.

It was Azaan.

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YYY: The Arrival of Yogi Adityanath

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One of the tropes of limited over cricket commentary is that a good partnership is one where one batsman “milks the bowling” and “rotates the strike” while the other batsman throws “the kitchen sink”(phrases copyrighted Ravi Shastri). Then once the attacking batsman gets out, the one who was playing sheet anchor (this phrase copyrighted Sunil Gavaskar) would start attacking. If however the more moderate batsman gets dismissed, the attacking batsman would then sink in to the low-risk role, letting the new arrival score aggressively. This is done to minimize the risk that both set batsmen get out very close to each other, leaving two totally new batsmen at the crease which, we are told, is not good.

For decades, the BJP has followed this principle of good partnership building.  Vajpayee and Advani started it off. Vajpayee was the moderate presence, with his long pauses and deft flick of the wrist poetry, stroking the ball into the gap and passing the strike to the more aggressive Advani. Now LK Advani, that gentleman was all about clearing his front foot, and unleashing powerful “ek dhakka aur do”s while taking quick raths over a volatile pitch. Then once Vajpayee went back to the pavilion, Advani retreated into a defensive shell, becoming the polite opposition to the Congress, content to attend events in Lutyens Delhi, and express his love for Jinnah, in the way even Beliebers may find to be mildly off-putting. The mantle of the aggressor was then taken over by one Narendra Damodar Modi. So ferocious his strokes and such unerring ability to get the ball to the stands, that the bowlers began to pine for the gentle days of Vajpayee and Advani. With Modi going full-blast though, Advani found himself starved of the strike, and even though he tried to run Modi out a few times, he just could not, till he was made to retire hurt, leaving Modi alone at the crease.

And then Modi slowed down. If anything, since 2014, the BJP government at the center has been, on the core issues of the Hindu right, strategically silent. One wouldn’t know that from the English language media, who kept up their narrative of genocide enabling and intolerance, even though, on the ground, nothing could be further from the truth, demonetization, GST, foreign policy dominating the government agenda over gau-raksha and mandir-nirmaan.

With Modi now firmly in sheet-anchor centrist mode, someone though needed to hit the ropes with regularity, and keep the base cheering in the stands.

Enter Yogi Adityanath. With switch hits, ramp shots, and good old fashioned heaves to mid-wicket, Yogi Adityanath kept the required run rate up in the most important state of Uttar Pradesh, and galvanized the hard-core Right on social media and in living rooms, till finally, come UP election time, he unleashed an Yuvi on Broad, which made it impossible for the BJP central leadership to ignore his claim to become Chief Minister.

In order to deconstruct the phenomenon of Yogi Adityanath, one needs to split the analysis into three parts—1) What he means for Modi 2) What he means for BJP’s near future prospects and 3) What he means for the “idea of India”, that favorite arrow of the liberal quiver.

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