Darkest Hour at the Oscars


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.

Continue Reading »


My Own Private Bigotry


There was a time, in the pre-Internet days of the early 90s and late 80s, when I would sit at the library of the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (my father was a professor there) and read, with a schoolboy’s sense of wonderment, issues of “Time” and “Newsweek”, marveling at everything from the quality of pictures to that of the reporting and of course the writing. The operative phrase here is  There was a time because these magazines have changed markedly since then, teetering close to financial ruin [Newsweek magazine is on sale after multi-year massive losses and Time magazine by the end of 2009 had lost 35% of its readership from the previous year while Newsweek lost 41% (link)]. And nothing perhaps symbolizes the rot more than Time USA’s bigoted attempt at humor, Joel Stein’s [picture to left] “My Own Private India“, a piece that twenty years ago would surely not have made the final published cut.

Continue Reading »

The Wrath of Khan


“Aise waison ko diya hai kaise kaison ko diya hai”

I am sure all of us, at some time or the other, have sat contemplating why so-and-so, possessing such moderate talent have achieved so much in life. While we , infinitely superior in all respects have been able to achieve little in comparison. After much envious sadness and introspection, we have come to the conclusion that when opportunity came knocking so-and-so went for the ball in a fashion we felt was shameless–blowing their horn, elbowing the rest—something which even we could have done if we were as desperate. Not that occupying the dubious moral high ground has caused us any satisfaction over the years. Far from it.

However what whiners call shamelessness, winners call aggressiveness. It is a trait possessed by few. To make the most of opportunities. No matter if that makes them look opportunistic. After all, they are too busy being successful  to notice the hushed whispers and the roll of eyes.

Continue Reading »

Race Saanson Ki


I just do not understand all this finger-pointing, all the “there is a strong undertone of racial ill-feeling towards Indians in Australia” canard that is getting play in the popular Indian press.

Give me a break mite.

I mean if there is one society that is sensitive to racism it has to be the Australian. Remember all that outrage in the Aussie Press when Harbhajan (whose cousin’s death in Australia was passed off as “suicide” apparently without a post-mortem) supposedly called Symonds a “monkey” and sections of the crowd made simian gestures at that same man. At that point of time, I remember the Australian press telling us how sensitive the country is about issues of race, sensitive in a way that us Indians, with a history and continuing tradition of caste, cannot even comprehend.

Continue Reading »

The Heartland Strikes Back


Yada Yada Hi Dharmasya
Glanirva Bhavathi Bharatha,
Abhyuthanam Adharmaysya
Tadatmanam Srijami Aham.

Indeed. These are “yada yada” times. With terrorist, corrupt politicians and chauvinists everywhere trying to tear the country into “tukda tukda”, the nation, especially those appearing for railway exams out-of-state, look for a messiah, an avatar of mythic proportions.

The good news is that he has arrived. His name is Kamal R Khan (KRK). Director and hero of “Desdrohi” releasing this week in a theater close to you.

Continue Reading »

Thanking For Coming Again


Manish Vij of Ultrabrown has been covering, in detail, the controversy over the upcoming Simpsons movie where one of the Simpsons characters , Apu, is being used in the movie promotion in a manner that is being considered by some to be racist and stereotypical.

For those who are unaware of the Simpsons world, Apu is an illegal Indian immigrant, a graduate from Caltech (Calcutta Institute of Technology) who despite holding a PhD from Caltech (Calcutta Institute of Technology) runs a 24-hours convenience store, Kwik-E-Mart where he speaks in a sing-song “Indian” accent, cheats his customers in various devious ways and is the last word in subservience/boot-licking saying “Thank you come again” even to people who rob his store. He also has eight kids, had an arranged marriage, worships “weird-looking” Gods—you get the picture.

Continue Reading »



The “Rang De Basanti” effect on the collective consciousness of the nation was evident once again today as Gen X gadget-activists came out in full force SMS-ing, emailing and online-petitioning in support of Shilpa Shetty, the subject of vile racial abuse on UK’s Big Brother.

Neha Hingorani represents this new-age awakened citizen. A far cry from the khadi-clad Gandhi topiwala from yesteryears, we find her sitting in the lounge of a multiplex, working furiously on her Motorola Razr sending SMS-s to all her friends and to public polls on all the TV channels.

Continue Reading »