Of Azhar and Sanju and Hagiographies

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I get it. I really get it. Now stop beating me over the head with that.

Azhar never fixed matches. Or rather, as the film Azhar tells us, he pretended to fix matches so that he could catch the real match fixers.

And Sanjay Dutt was never a terrorist.

And that car was self-driven.

I have often wondered why some of our flawed heroes, and let us all agree, Bhakts and Sickulars, that Azhar and Sanjay Dutt are as flawed as they come, have this obsessive need to establish that they are innocent.

Whether they got away lightly or took more than their share of punishment, the truth is that they have done their time. They don’t need to sway public opinion just to get a good verdict.

Sure, Azhar might have a political career and Sanjay Dutt may be contemplating embarking on one, given that his salad days of flexing muscles and Ey Shivani-ing is almost all but over, and that might seem to be reason enough to go all heavy with the PR.

But I don’t think that is the reason “Azhar” exists. Or “Sanju”.

They exist because the enormous egos that have their names in the titles of the films actually, really, deeply want you to believe they are good people.

And only when you do, only then, can they themselves believe they are.

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On the Sadness of Moving

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The first time I moved in my life was when I left Calcutta to come to the US to do my PhD, having spent almost all of my life in the same house in the same city. I know I should have been sad, leaving home and family, but I was not . I was excited, deliriously so, for I was looking forward to staying on my own, of not having to answer to a million watchful eyes, of breaking free of a strait jacketed Bengali middle class upbringing, and at the very least, for not having to hide my Pamela Anderson pictures in the C-prog-files directory renamed as P0001.dat.

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IPL Epic XI 2018

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1. D Arcy Short: Not only won’t he score runs, he will run you out if you try to.
2. Gambhir: Seen better times, now fallen on dark days. Bengal’s jute factories.
3. Maxwell: Used to play well under UPA, now destroyed by intolerance.
4. Yuvraj Singh: Looked grumpy throughout, whether it be on the field or on the bench. There are bad times and then there are worse times and then there are times when Manoj Tiwary takes your place.
5. Stokes: When they called him today’s Flintoff, they weren’t off the mark. Ties with Flintoff and Lord Clive as the Britishers who took the most of Indian resources and gave the least in return.
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Goodbye ABDV

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Sitting in the middle benches where the chemistry teacher does not look, as he drones on like the ancient fan overhead , on the arcane art of balancing equations, and sweat drips down the side of his forehead, you look outside, through the window at the burnt sky, and imagine.

You imagine cricket. You imagine hitting sixes of the kind that only a young boys mind may think of, packed houses calling out your name, you imagine swiveling, dancing out, hooking, pulling, playing the game with the boring parts rubbed out.

ABDV lived that imagination. The kind of batting that should not be and yet was, domination of not only of the full 360 degree of scoring, but also of the full 360 of batting, equally at ease scoring 90 off 45 balls and 45 off 90 overs, equally comfortable at Cuttack and Perth, subtle one moment and the beast the next.

Was he the greatest all game batsman of the modern era? I don’t know but I do know he was the nicest, he was not only the one that you wanted to be, but the one that you should be, who played the game the way it should be played, hard but without rancor, confident yet without arrogance.

Goodnight ABDV. Goodbye old summer dreams.

Avengers Infinity War—the Review

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[Minor spoilers]

So it seems that Amitabh Bachchan took out time from counting his Twitter followers to watch “Avengers: Infinity War” and he came away puzzled, as “tajub hai” as Thanos would have been had he stumbled upon Ajooba.

Of all the things you can blame Big B for, be it a relentless desire for validation through social-media or his obsessive following up on unanswered communication or him endorsing every product under the sun, being bewildered by the latest Avengers film is not one of them. Avengers Infinity Wars is a culmination of eighteen films of universe building, and to be asked to make sense of this off-the-bat is like being dropped, without context, into the final episodes of “Pavitra Rishtaa… Tere Mere Mann Ka”, and trying to make out why mothers look younger than daughters, how many characters are being played by the same actor, who exactly is Archana and what history does she have with Manav.

For Avengers Infinity War is truly epic, and I say it being infinitely aware of how overused this word is, not just in terms of its “”Mera Naam Joker” running time, but in terms of how it plays out, it is sufficiently familiar in that those invested in the world get what they want. and yet surprising enough that the last twenty minutes leave you gasping for breath, and wondrously, and I cannot believe I am saying this for a Marvel franchise product, moved.

This is a stupendous feat. Because with Marvel, you are not just dealing with stories and characters. No, that would be way too prosaic. You are working through lawsuits, rights disputes, contracts,  focus groups, studio executives, merchandizing, branding, comic book continuity, retcons, spinoff TV series, new sub-franchises, reboots, and that something this good comes out from the ceaseless whirring of the Infinity Stones of uber-capitalism is, for the want of a better word, a marvel of product engineering.

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Delete Facebook Not

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A few days ago, I came across a picture courtesy NDTV,  of a PETA protest somewhere in a metropolis of privilege, where we have a tiger carrying a sign that says “eating meat contributes to species extinction”. Before I could wrap my head around the irony of that image, I see, floating on my facebook news feed, #DeleteFacebook, yes on my Facebook feed, people using Facebook asking people to not use Facebook, and suddenly there is too much iron in my life.

Now of course all this talk of boycotting Facebook comes from the whole Cambridge Analytica revelations, CA being a data analytics company that allegedly “illegitimately” used data scraped off from Facebook users to micro-target key demographics in the US elections,

I am sorry, but what part of the recent “scandal” about Cambridge Analytica is the scandal? That Facebook sells your data? I am sorry, but have you not heard of the first commandment of modern business—that if you do not pay for a product, you are the product?

Who do you think pays for Facebook’s valuation, their stock prices, and the salary of that friend you are jealous about because he works in Facebook?

You ! Your data, your preferences. That is where Facebook’s core value proposition is, the ability to provide “hooks” for analytics engines, of course if you cross Facebook’s palms with silver.

Surely, you cannot expect them to provide you a platform for sharing your brain-droppings, totally gratis, now do you?

This is Facebook we are talking about. Not NREGA.

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Darkest Hour at the Oscars

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Whether for good or bad, the Oscars have, over the last few years, become super political. What used to be a few jokes, a few reaction shots, a few fashion flaws, and gush talk about movies that people claim to have seen but really haven’t, has now become almost political theater, with issues of representation, racism, colonialism, police brutality, sexism, harassment, front and center in glittering marquee lights. Some may say that by moving away from being an anodyne apolitical platform, the Oscars have somehow recaptured its relevance, its mind space, that the Oscars are water cooler talk again, even by people who have never seen or will see the Shape of Water, a love story of a human and a fish, one you can see for free at any Bengali lunch.

But I digress.

Given how woke the Academy has become, their decision to recognize, with one of its premiere awards, “Darkest Hour”, a hagiography of British war-time Prime Minister and unapologetic South Asian killer Sir Winston Churchill, is beyond reprehensible. Maybe in the 80s and the 90s, when no one cared, I would not have batted an eyelid, but now, now given the widely tomtommed sensitivity on the part of the Academy to the recognition of marginalized narratives, the fact that the Committee chose to reward a movie that airbrushes Churchill’s role in the genocide of 2 million official (some say it is close to 4 million) in India and Bangladesh, just goes to show that not all marginalized are treated equal,  and that Churchill being the savior of Europe still gives his reputation the immunity from having to answer for his crimes in India.

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