The Song of Chhatradhar


[Announcement: Anyone in the DC/VA/MD area up for a weekend meet-up at Union Station?]

One of the many instruments used by politician extraordinaire Jyoti Basu to cement his total hold over Bengal was the cultivation of the so-called Bengali intellectual. A brain cadre for the party was incubated in every educational institution of the state, from junior school right up to the universities, where every appointment was vetted by the party and one got in only if one’s CV was typed on red paper supplied by Alimuddin Street (the party HQ). Anyone who did not toe the party line was deemed not academically sound and shoved out. The “private” intellectuals i.e the ones who were not on government payroll—-painters, poets, novelists, theatre-workers, singers, film people– were mollycoddled through the organization of party and government soirees (Sports Minister the late Subhash Chakraborty was the point-man for this), handing out of committee chairmanships and in general through devices that made them feel important and wanted.

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The Legend of Goopy And Bagha


Waking up and reading about the demise of Tapen Chattopadhyay, the Bengali actor famous for playing the role of Goopy Gyne in Satyajit Ray’s Goopy-Bagha trilogy for children (the last was directed by Sandip Ray based on a story written by Satyajit Ray), the first thing I thought, like countless of Bengali people of my generation, was: “Goopy will sing no more”.

Rabi Ghosh, the freakishly gifted actor who played Goopy’s partner Bagha Byne, died ten years ago. But since he played many other memorable comic characters in Bengali movies, the conceptual connection between him and Bagha was not so ‘one-to-one’  as that between Tapen and Goopy Gyne.

Today with Tapen Chattapadhyay’s death however, one also remembers Rabi Ghosh and the partnership they forged as Goopy-Bagha, the endearing musical superheroes who would always save the day, no matter the odds. The sadness we feel today is not only for the passing of a true artist but also that of  a magical age when movies were works of art, stories were true and simple,  soul ruled over special effects, and characters stayed in our hearts long after the end credits had rolled.

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Kites—the Review


The best moment of “Kites” is when..


There are no best moments in “Kites”.

The only few times it came close to being entertaining is when Kabir Bedi as the grossly over-the-top, Las Vegas’s most badass casino owner Sponge”Bob” Squarepants, chews scenery like a gopher nibbling at nuts and his son, played by some Australian guy called Nick Brown, channels the Bob Christo accent with chiller uber-evil lines like “Sab se pahele kya dekha? Tewoo hawt legs..road to heaven” .

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The Invisible War Continues


I salute the people of Dantewada who have stood up against such a mighty state.

Arundhati Roy after the massacre of CRPF personnel by Maoists

Despite the deadliest Naxal attack ever in nearby Dantewada now, the resolve of these men and women to join the police force remains unaffected — to some extent driven by the few options available to them in the vastly forested tribal district, but to a large part motivated by anger against Naxalites, their empty promises and the reign of terror they have come to symbolise. They are even willing to risk the wrath of the Maoists that may follow. [From the Indian Express]

The “people of Dantewada” (as defined by Ms. Roy and not necessarily by reality as evidenced by the extract from the Indian Express) have stood up once again killing fifty people including Special Police Officers (SPO)s and civilians, an act surely worthy of yet another salute from the bravest intellectual of our times, one who commands a zombie vahini of frothing liberals that would be the envy of Saruman. Now in most other countries, gratuitous massacre of police forces would be met with the full force of the law, for instance in the US there is a special edge in the way “cop killers” are pursued. However in India, such an act is met with an appeal from our Home Minister for a cease-fire an offer that has rightfully been rejected by the victor, Maoist leader Kishenji. When policemen and civilians can be butchered ad nauseam and when media organizations and a section of the intelligentsia applaud that massacre, who in their right mind would let go the initiative?

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The Political Consciousness of Tagore


A prominent Indian intellectual, whose name I desist from mentioning since his identity is not germane to what this post is about , had come to Stonybrook for an invited lecture many years ago. In the course of his talk, he contended that in the nineteenth/twentieth century there were far greater intellectual figures than Rabindranath Tagore (he took one name) but none of them gained world acclaim since they did not possess the marketing savvy of Tagore and were not as willing as him to kowtow to the British.

Aghast at this accusation aimed at Tagore’s patriotism,coming from someone who should definitely know better, I was about to raise that point when the floor was thrown open for audience questions. But then I stepped back, reminded of one of my father’s maxims “You can only argue with someone who is half-right. If someone is fully wrong, it’s simply not worth your time.”

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Ravindra Jayanti


It takes a special kind of talent to single-handedly lose one World Cup. It takes talent of a different kind of God-ness to lose two World Cups (India still has a mathematical chance of making it to the semis but let us agree they do not deserve to) through one’s  individual brilliance. Ravindra Jadeja is one such legend. If he decimated India’s chances in England with his Mohammed Kaifian batting, this time in West Indies he did it with his bowling and fielding. To be fair, he was not allowed to display his batting prowess, having been sent in at the fag end, even after Harbhajan Singh, else I am sure he would not have left any stone unturned even there.

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Hum Hain Raja Raj Karen


Continuing my series [Baba Deewana, Dheere Dheere Haulle Haulle ]on people who inspired me (a spin-off on the chapter in my book “May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss” on inspirational movies of the 90s) , I present to you another of my gurus.

A day in the nineties. The sun had set and evening was descending. I was waiting for a friend, sitting on the stairs of a building, not wanting to go upstairs to his place. The building’s guards and their friends were sitting in a circle listening to a song on the battery-operated cassette player. There was darkness all around because of a load-shedding (i.e. no power) and mosquitoes, the size of Shilpa Shirodhkar, were feasting on my neck.

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