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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The Five Stages of Grief Once Again

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There were times during NDTV’s vote-counting coverage that I wanted to reach inside my TV and give the panelists a hug. While Prannoy Roy sat throughout with the expression of Casey Affleck in the police-station scene of “Manchester By the Sea”,  Srinivasan Jain and others went through a range of emotions from Suniel Shetty’s “Naaaaiinnn” from Dhadkan to Nargis’s tear-drenched lip-trembling when she sings Raja ki Aayegi Baraat in “Aah”. Not that there was something particularly novel about this, we had seen similar during the 2014 general elections, but then watching grown men and women, on the verge of an emotional breakdown on live TV,  is somewhat sad.

Ok all right. Who am I kidding?

It was actually fun.

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Unbelievably Believer

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Reza Aslan, sir, you do not know me, nor should you ever, but I have been following your work for a while. You come often on television, and whenever you do, I envy your well-accented English and how beautifully you handle questions, and always, and I mean always, I maintain a running count of how many times you declare “I am an expert on world religions”. Your shtick is that no religion should not be treated as a monolith, that we should consider nuance and the overlaying of culture and national identity on the practice of a religion before criticizing it, and that Islam, the subject you are most asked to comment on, is misinterpreted by evil men for their own ends, it is not a fault of the religion or of the concept of religion itself that global Islamic terrorism and ISIS and Al Qaeda exist, and most importantly, anyone who suggests anything else, is an Islamophobe, a bigot, and a Bill Maher.

I am writing to tell you, sir, that there is someone who has stolen your face and even your name, and doing a show on CNN called Believer, that “believer” with a “v” not a “b”. In the first episode, in case you have not seen the show, this impostor goes to India to understand the Aghori sect within Hinduism. Unlike you, though, you being a scholar of religion for twenty years, this man seems to have even his basic facts wrong, which, as any PhD knows (I am a PhD myself), is a no-no for our clan.

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Logan—The Review

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logan

In the year 2000, Bryan Singer made XMen. It still holds up well after all these years, specially the set-piece at Grand Central though perhaps not Storm vs Toad, but the significance of the original XMen goes well beyond as a well-done off. It launched the age of the modern superhero franchise, multiple interconnected movies, A-list actors, A-list directors, revenues in the billions, and guaranteed summer blockbusterdom. And the worldwide phenomenon of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. Over the years, the XMen franchise has spawned multiple movies, some good, most bad, and Hugh Jackman has been through most of it all, and before you know it a whole seventeen years have passed, and a generation has grown up, watching this one actor play this one character. And so when Hugh Jackman announced his decision to hang up his claws, it was like a favorite player announcing his retirement, you wanted him to have a great send-off, a film worthy of a career.

Logan is that. And more. It ties with The Dark Knight as the greatest superhero movie ever. There are no God-like beings having universes for lunch, gigantic drills changing the earth’s polarity, hundred story buildings being split apart by a laser beam, no endless armies of superheros, each having two minutes of dialogues and three scenes, no greenscreen assault of CGI jiggerypokery, and most importantly, no feeling of having paid good money to watch a trailer for forthcoming attractions, all of which would then, in turn, be trailers for the next set. In Logan, the violence is scaled down,  the action set pieces scaled back, and the focus is on the effects of the violence, the wounds and the hurt, and this makes it all so much more real and effective. In that it is a cowboy movie with mutants, using the trope of the washed out gunslinger and the brash evil sheriff and the final redemption of the flawed hero, and with locales in cowboy country and sun-washed frames, so reminiscent of the world of Eastwood, Fonda and Leone.

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A Brief Analysis Of Some of 2017’s Oscar Best Picture Nominees

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[Has SPOILERS]

manchester

Of the movies that are nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars, I have seen four: La-La Land, Moonlight, Arrival and Manchester By the Sea. They are all obviously very accomplished films, and while of course like pretty much everyone else I liked a few of these more than the others, as a writer I found it fascinating how similar structurally each of these films were, as in each raises a question, and then leaves you without a convenient or conventional resolution.

For Arrival, it is “What if you knew the future? Would you do the present?”. Arrival takes this basic premise, wraps it around a somewhat fantastic story of aliens with a language that allows you to visualize time as a cycle, and layers deep personal tragedy over it. A linguist played by Amy Adams, who by virtue of learning the language of the aliens, is able to see the future in which her marriage dissolves and her daughter dies, but still she takes the decision to have that future. The tragedy here, once you think about it and this is where the ending is unconventional, is not so much the death of her daughter and her failed marriage, but the fact that she chooses that knowingly, chooses heartbreak, because she also sees the happiness in the other moments that also lies on that path.

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