Trolls and LOLs

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About a month ago, I was invited to be on a panel at Kolkata Lit Meet: “Trolls and LOLs”, on the supposed pernicious menace of trolls. You can watch the video here, but let me summarize the crux of what I said there.

There is undeniably a notion of “bait and switch” when you ask those outraged by trolling to define it. “Oh trolling is the issuance of death and rape threats”, they say. This is obviously a red line, one that every half decent person regardless of political affiliation can agree with, and as incidents in Bangladesh have shown us, not something that can or should be taken lightly. Any threat of physical form, even those said in a supposed “yaar mazaak kar raha tha” way, should be treated with utmost seriousness, and there should be zero tolerance in dealing with such malignant filth.

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The GreatBong MixTape For Your Valentine

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1. Narangi Latke:

Nothing quiet sets the mood for love than a generous serving of fruit. In “Krantikshetra”, a band of terrorists lay siege to one of India’s premier schools. Now some other educational institutes might have, in the same situation, asked for Hindustan’s fragmentation, but this school, having as its student worthies like Harish (who seems to be stuck in school longer than Kanhaiya Kumar is stuck in universities), decide to engage in a song-and-dance number to distract said dastardly terrorists. Eminent faculty Dr. Shakti Kapoor is chosen for the purpose, along with a comely female student, and he regales the evil men with a song about the secret lives of plants.

Malnthara baag mein, nazook nazook daal pe, narangi laatke

From slender branches hang oranges, ripe for…for what’s the word…plucking. [Trivia: In the movie, they changed the words to “Narangi Lage Re” for some strange reason but the soundtrack has the original]

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Kaabil and Raees—A Joint Review

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kaabil-33 raees

The 90s are back.

Not that I have become thin again or that LK Advani once again has a chance to become the Prime Minister. No, the reason that the 90s are back, at least for the greater part of four hours, is because Raees and Kaabil are retreads of well-worn 90s formula, faithfully rehashing as it does ancient tropes, with only a thin patina of 2010s gloss airbrushed over them.

Which in itself is not bad, for  90s junkies like me, except that both fail in bringing something even mildly new to the familiar.

First Kaabil. You know something is off by two decades when in the first five minutes, there is a joke made on Hrithik Roshan and Yami Gautam’s babies being as white as goras. Not that one can fail to not notice Yami Gautam, the patron saint of fairness creams and its favorite brand ambassador, whose whiteness which, like snows on a mountain, can cause tone-blindness if not looked upon with shades, the joke, which would have passed unnoticed in the 90s, does sound a bit, just a tad off-color in this day and age.

And then we go back further. Yami Gautam, like Mithunda’s sister in each of his Ootie movies, is raped. And then, exactly like Mithunda’s sister, she commits suicide, clearly articulating the reason behind the act, namely that she is not the same for her husband after being defiled, and that of all the things she can tolerate, there is no greater torture than to see her husband’s (or in the case of Mithunda, brother and father’s) humiliation. While I am pretty sure I have heard this sentiment expressed in countless Hindi movies of the 90s, this so-called “Gudiya bigaar gayee aur sabka mooh kala ho gya” trope is absolutely atavistic in this day and age, leaving one wondering if it’s 2 am, and you are having trouble falling asleep, and have tuned into Zee Gold, to watch “Mera Pati Sirf Mera Hai” or actually in a multiplex watching a 2017 release.

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Trump: Week One

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noban

One of the intellectually lazy, actually the word should be moronic but I am trying to be kind here, connections often made by our liberal media cognoscenti is between Trump and Modi, between the Republicans and the BJP, between the Right of India and the Right of the US, and if a poke in the eye as to the difference was ever needed, it was delivered by a succession of Trump’s executive orders. To put it in perspective, if Modi had come to power in 2014 and within a week, asked for the construction of a wall on the Bengal border, allocated more resources to search and weed out illegal Bangladeshi refugees already in India, threatened the government of West Bengal of withdrawal of federal aid if they continued to turn their back to influx of Bangladeshi refugees, put in place a number of policies that would essentially make legal Muslim migration an impossibility, and, then just for fun, asked for stringent laws across the country to ban cow slaughter, and asked Parliament for a plan to build the Ram Temple in 180 days, and made sex-determination of fetuses legal, and made Yogi Adityanath his number two man in government, then, yes, perhaps there would be a smidgen of similarity between the two.

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Dhulagarh and the Media Narrative

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In this excellent piece in Newslaundry, titled “Dhulagarh Riots: Why did Bengal media ignore it?”, Deepanjana Pal writes:

For approximately four hours, Dhulagarh burned. Shops were set on fire in the local bazaar and looted. The mob attacked homes, looting them and lobbing bombs – crude contraptions that are far more dangerous cousins of the pataka – at them. Eye witnesses say Hindu households were targeted. “You have to understand, everyone knows everyone in places that are this small,” said one reporter. “Hindus and Muslims live in separate neighbourhoods, but together. So when this happened, some of them recognised those who were attacking them and when they didn’t recognise them, they knew these were outsiders.” One temple was attacked and its idol – of Kali, the goddess best known for her all-destroying rage – was broken. There are reports of Hindu families having fled to neighbouring villages.

All this violence took place in broad daylight. In the videos that have been circulated, no one is seen wearing masks. It’s all out in the open and witnessed by locals who tried to get in touch with journalists. From the videos and photographs that were shared, it almost seems like the locals did the actual on-ground reporting. They were desperate to talk and be heard. Unfortunately, few listened and Dhulagarh was barely mentioned in mainstream Bengali news. (emphasis mine)

“What we were told was that since this is a communal issue, we should approach it cautiously and underplay it so that things don’t flare up,” said one journalist.

So the excuse being offered is that because reporting a communal incident might provoke other communal incidents, mediamen refuse to cover communal flareups.

The only problem with this is simply this.

It is not true.

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Dangal—The Review

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dangal

The genre of sports movies is more trope-laden than most. The come-back-from-behind victory at the end. Adversity. Perseverance.  The overcoming of personal demons. The obtaining of redemption either through one’s victory or through one’s wards. A training montage to robust background music. Dangal, inspired by wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat and his Commonwealth-medal-winning daughters, ticks almost all those boxes, with excellent performances from the ever-reliable Aamir Khan and the actresses who play Geeta Phogat and Babita Phogat as adults, Fatima Sana Seikh and Sanya Malhotra, and those that play them as children, Zaira Wasim and Suhani Bhatnagar, suitably rousing music, some excellently choreographed wrestling sequences, and the cinematic scaffolding needed to hold it all together, taut and flabless, for two and a half hours.

And yet, Dangal, is at its weakest when it is just a sports film.

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The Echo Chambers: Demonetization

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When Modi said that he was going to announce something important to the nation at eight, I thought, it could be only one of two things. That he wanted to do a review of Sultan of Delhi. Or that he was going to enter the Big Boss House. Instead he demonetized 500 and 1000 rupee notes, and it seemed that his election promise of depositing 15 lacs of black money in every bank account was coming true, except that it was not someone else’s black money in your account, which is what people thought, but your own black money in your own account, and this is what happens when you don’t go over the fine print.

Over the next few days, I have sought to write my two five hundred rupee notes about demonetization, but I have been told I should not, because I am a NRI, and what would I know. I was told this by the very same people who in India have strong opinions on Donald Trump and white privilege, and who refuse to accept Donald Trump as their president, perhaps because their president is Pranab Mukherjee. So I have decided to shut up, and also because I am not really an economist, and this, seems something that only specialists can be seriously expected to evaluate.

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