Showing posts from 2012


Indiagate, that's right, just like America had Watergate. The reason I chose this title is because it points out to a larger malaise: the failure to protect girls in India. This happens to a girl who believed that she was "safe" in modern India while returning from a 6 pm show. Can we even justify the premise for a brutal gang rape such as this? It's a tough question which would again receive subjective answers. Maybe, somewhere, we are innately evil and it's just the societal laws and rules that keep governing us and our evilness gets repressed. As a quote from Lord of The Flies by William Golding says: "Maybe there is a beast...maybe it's only us." 

It is indeed that her life was abbreviated due to the insensitivity of a few men. Worse still, the nation woke up to the heartbreaking news of her death on a Saturday morning. We didn't know her name nor were we shown her face and despite the immense anonymity surrounding her identity, she became a …

A Christmas(y) Tale

So, it's finally Christmas! To begin with, it takes me with great wonder on how I used to buy this idea of Santa Claus as a child. Sure, our popular fiction and childhood stories surrounding near the tale of Christmas always fed us with the idea of having a fat man with a snow white beard who lived in somewhere in the Arctic Circle. Yes, it is Christmas time and I once again find myself writing about Santa. 

This year, I followed Santa's journey from the Arctic Circle to respective homes of children using Google Maps. I still love visiting departmental stores and shopping malls around this time just to feel the Yuletide spirit. I have always wondered and still wonder on how each Santa looks different from the previous one I saw before. Despite my rants about his existence, here is a wishlist that Santa would gift me in the new year:

* A Longer Attention Span: This is one of the most common topics that all journalists and writers keep talking about how the Internet can pose as a …

Polls: Ours and Theirs

As the enigma surrounding the Presidential elections of the United States fades, I believe it is the right time to introspect and reflect about the way elections are conducted in India and there. To begin with, our Indian elections are very colourful since there are so many layers to the general elections including propaganda. Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, the Presidential candidates are pitted against each other to debate in public viewing facing television cameras. 

Most of our Indian politicians often shy away from visiting TV studios. Similarly, the grace with which a debate in the US is conducted is layered with dignity and finesse and is based on mutual respect. While, in India, if we were to have a debate such as theirs, I fear it would be reduced to a mud-slinging match. 

Secondly, the speech delivered by the newly elected President Barack Obama talks about the great American dream. The President's inspiring speech reminded us that about the fractured mandate t…

To The Welsh Critic Who Doesn't Find Me Identifiably Indian

Arundhathi Subramaniam

This poem "To The Welsh Critic Who Doesn't Find Me Identifiably Indian" takes on the West's demands for ethnic authenticity with a rhetoric that's just about as rustic as a mouth-freshened global village. To begin with, the poem itself is a surprising display of wit and ire. Drawing on her experiences, Arundhathi describes her poem in the following words: "This is a poem addressed ostensibly to a Welsh critic but he's just a peg to talk about. A pet peeve. This is really a poem to all those voices telling us how to belong. How to be post-colonial, how to be South Asian, how to be modern, how to be contemporary, how to be Hindu, how to be woman." 

To The Welsh Critic Who Doesn't Find Me Identifiably Indian:

You believe you know me,
wide-eyed Eng Lit type
from a sun-scalded colony,
reading my Keats--or is it yours--
while my country detonates 
on your television screen.

You imagine you've cracked
my deepest fantasy--
oh, to be in a…

Movie Review: Uttarayan

There are films that try to tell emotionally complex stories and succeed in making an impact. The 2005 Marathi movie "Uttarayan" does just that. Adapted from the Marathi play "Durgi" by Jaywant Dalvi, the film remains true to the theme and concept for the most part. The film explores the concept of love and companionship in old age. 

The story is told through Raghuvir Rajadhyaksha (Shivaji Satam). He is a widower for the past 14 years and has been staying alone in Nagpur. He visits Mumbai for the wedding of his 30 year old son. He meets his teenage playmate Kusumavati (Neena Kulkarni), who works as a librarian. Kusumavati is now known as Durgi as her husband's family in Pune rechristened her name post marriage. She has been through a traumatic marriage because her husband, despite being a barrister, was an alcoholic and a womanizer. Durgi is back in Mumbai and is taking care of her aging mother (Uttara Baokar) and the film talks about how they rediscover their l…

Movie Review: It's All Gone Pete Tong

The 2005 Canadian film "It's All Gone Pete Tong" is an English film made by filmmaker Michael Dowse. The story of the film follows the life of a DJ Frankie Wilde (Paul Kaye). He is a pretty successful DJ playing music at the nightclubs of Ibiza, Spain. The film begins with the fact that he is bearing incompatible noise and one day goes completely berserk one night and is carried out from the club on shoulders. The initial part of the film focusses on his denial in accepting the fact that he is becoming deaf. It is later established that he went deaf due to high volume of music blaring through his headphones. The film follows his downward arc which is harrowing especially the way he loses his hearing ability. The inability to accept his deafness results in a lot of overacting. 

Frankie is a chemically imbalanced wreck and his wife leaves him once the money begins to run out. He then meets Penelope (Beatriz Batarda), a hard-shelled woman who can stand up to the wild side of…

A Memorable Rush!

I have always been an adrenaline junkie and since I had done anything worthwhile to pump up the adrenaline in me, I read the notification about a blogger meet organized by IndiBlogger in collaboration with Vodafone and the deal was the Vodafone Speed Fest with Lewis Hamilton on 16th September. (Please pardon the delay!). I narrowly missed the Indian Grand Prix in Noida last year and was determined that I would not miss the Vodafone Speed Fest at any cost. I had watched Formula One races on TV and this was my first real chance to witness the event live. The thought of seeing Lewis Hamilton gave me a head rush and I had to get my heart to pump harder. 

Incidentally, it was only after the Vodafone Speed Fest that I actually found my appetite for F1 racing increasing. I had seen F1 races on TV before but I didn't know how fast these cars were meant to be. So, a 500 metre road was cordoned off for the Speed Fest and Lewis Hamilton literally burnt rubber on the roads with his car at 220 …

Movie Review: Pather Panchali

The 1955 Bengali film "Pather Panchali" by filmmaker Satyajit Ray is a deeply moving tale about human emotions with a timeless simplicity. It is an authentic portrayal of day to day village life in rural Bengal narrating the tale through the eyes of a boy and his sister. Pather Panchali captures the life of four members of a family with a stunning eye for details. Horihor (Kanu Banerjee) is an intelligent but impractical man who aims to be a writer, his wife Shorbhojaya (Karuna Banerjee) has her hands full trying to make ends meet by keeping the family together with limited needs, the daughter Durga (Uma Dasgupta) and the son Apu (Subir Banerjee).  

The film depicts abject poverty and yet the children derive joy from the simple pleasures that the rustic life offers: trees, fruits, dusty paths, rains, lush green grasses, songs of birds and flowers. The story of the film is narrated through Apu's point-of-view that begins from an infant to a young boy discovering the world …

Vodafone Speed Fest

The Indiblogger team recently asked bloggers whether if they were the fastest bloggers. To begin with, I had my apprehensions but I took up the challenge to ask why not? 

To begin with, this was meant for a few lucky bloggers who could not only meet Vodafone McLaren winner Lewis Hamilton but also go for a drive with him. Since he will be the one doing what he does best, I hope to play along with him. I was always fascinated with the idea of motion (read: speed) since childhood and my earliest association with speed was trains. It was just last year that the first F1 race took place in Delhi at the Buddh International Circuit and could not attend that due to non-availability of tickets. So, when the radio stations in Mumbai announced about Lewis Hamilton making it to India, I just jumped at the opportunity.

A colleague who managed the sports desk in the paper where I worked for a few months told me that the F1 cars are capable of being driven at 370 km per hour and  all I could guess was…

Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal

* Isn't that a sort of utilitarian argument as it relates to our eventual survival? So if there is an inevitable crash, we'll all be turtles wallowing upside down in the mud. But what if there is not a crash? What if these technologies simply open up more time for things like reading to children, or good conversation?

Zerzan: Well, there may not be a crash. I'm not a so-called collapsist where I'm just banking on this all failing. I think there's a good chance that as our systems get more independent and vulnerable that some small thing could unravel, a lot of it, but I'm certainly not counting on that. It's up to us to make choices, not just sit around wait for the whole thing to fall apart. But yeah, there are tradeoffs. That's why people buy these things; they do have use value and you can find the attractive part of the exchange. Like you just said, you can pay attention to your family, you can do something valuable, or maybe you'll just look at …

Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal

* Taking your premise that technology is a bad thing or at least a bad thing for human communities, do you regard technological innovators like Steve Jobs as especially bad actors relative to the rest of us who merely use technology?

Zerzan: I do. I'll give you an extreme case. During the whole Unabomber ordeal in the late 90s, the media would occasionally interview me and try to get me say that "it was great that somebody would send bombs in the mail to these people" which I never said and which I don't believe. I respond that while I did not believe in sending bombs to people in the mail that did not mean that these people, the targets, were innocent. People like Jobs who devise this "Brave New World" type stuff are choosing and there's a moral dimension to those choices. I remember Steward Brand of the Whole Earth Catalog saying at one time that "in the sixties some of us realized the question was 'technology, yes or no?' and we basically…

Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal

Ross Anderson
The Atlantic Online

One has had to work hard to find an ill-written word about Steve Jobs, the technologist. While some have attacked Steve as a personality or as a ruthless businessman, even his harshest critics have agreed that his dazzling inventions have been a force for good in the world. 

Hence, you might think of John Zerzan as anti-Steve Jobs. Zerzan is an intellectual leader of the anarcho-primitivist movement, an ideology that regards technology as a destroyer of human communities. His first brush with national prominence came after a 1995 interview with The New York Times in which he expressed some sympathy with the ideas, if not the methods of Ted Kaczynski. Yesterday, I spoke to Zerzan by phone in order to gather his thoughts on what Jobs meant to the world of technology and to our culture at large.

* As someone openly opposed to technological progress, have you been frustrated by all of the public mourning and tributes that has been attended Steve Jobs' pas…

Movie Review: Mathulikal

The 1989 Malayalam film "Mathulikal" is based on the 75 page Malayalam novel of the same name by Vaikom Mohammed Basheer. Mathulikal is one of the most cherished and well-known love stories in Malayalam. The story of the novel is semi-autobiographical. 

The movie begins with Basheer (Mamootty) being jailed for writing against the British. He is confined to a narrow space of a prison cell. The cells are separated by the presence of tall walls (Mathulikal). To combat his solitary confinement, he tries talking to a fellow inmate present in the other side of the wall which happens to be the women's cell. The lady from the women's cell who responds back to Basheer is Narayani and they start talking to each other. It is interesting to know that this film never reveals who she is or how Narayani looks like. Hence, he is also not aware of her age despite this, they fall in love with each other. Throughout the film, it is just her voice which is heard. It is these little conve…

Wikileaks and Free Speech

Michael Moore and Oliver Stone
The New York Times
We have spent our careers as filmmakers making the case that the news media in the United States often fail to inform Americans about the uglier actions of our own government. We therefore have been deeply grateful for the accomplishments of WikiLeaks, and applaud Ecuador's decision to grant diplomatic asylum to its founder, Julian Assange, who is now living in the Ecuadorean embassy in London. 

Ecuador has acted in accordance with important principles of international human rights. Indeed, nothing could demonstrate the appropriateness of Ecuador's action more than the British government's threat to violate a sacrosanct principle of diplomatic relations and invade the embassy to arrest Assange.

Since WikiLeaks' founding, it has revealed the "Collateral Murder" footage that shows the seemingly indiscriminate killing of Baghdad civilians by a US Apache attack helicopter; further fine-grained detail about the true fa…

Movie Review: The Artist

The 2012 French romantic drama film "The Artist" is a silent film shot entirely in black-and-white. The events are narrated through occasional lines of dialogues printed on inter title cards. The period and setting makes it obvious that the story is set in the early 1930s at the cusp when talkie films became the norm and silent movies were gradually fading out. 

The Artist begins with a premiere of silent movie superstar George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) who is screening his latest film to a rapturous audience. He is in every frame like an actual silent movie actor. Following the premiere, he is clicked with Peppy Miller, who wins  a small role in his next film. George is proud of his fame and tries to get the maximum attention when on stage, leaving behind his co-stars. He helps Peppy Miller (Benerice Bejo), a young lady to enter stardom and on the run, scripts his own downfall with her rise. Sound comes to Hollywood and the industry is transformed and Peppy Miller becomes an …

A Flawed Freedom

We inch closer to another 15th August and I think this is the right time for us to introspect on the very idea of "freedom". Theoretically, we are taught to believe that we are free but think of it on a deeper level, are we really free? Hence, it becomes important for us to reflect and debate who is technically free a man/woman and who isn't? Freedom holds different meanings for different people. For me personally, real freedom would when we overcome obstacles such as censorship, manual scavenging, repressive laws and moral policing and to live without being mocked at. 

Our Government loves censoring content. In Iran, we have a talented filmmaker like Jafar Panahi who has been banned from making films till 2030. Closer home, the Government here often talks about censoring online content and filtering "obscene" content floating online. A film like "Paanch" is termed being radical in approach and is accused of having a communal colour hence it is not all…

Movie Review: Balgandharva

The 2011 Marathi film "Balgandharva" by filmmaker Ravi Jadhav is a biographical film on Narayan Sripad Rajhans popularly known as Balgandharva. The name was bestowed to Narayan by Lokmanya Tilak after listening to his public performance in Pune while he was very young. The film has been produced and designed effectively by art director Nitin Desai. 

The film is set in a period before the advent of cinema. Hence, the most popular medium for entertainment was sangeet nataks (drama based music). Balgandharva won many hearts in his roles he played as a woman because women did not perform roles on stage then. The film is set in between the real plays performed by the actor-singer. On the opening day of his play "Sangeet Manapmaan", his infant daughter dies. The determination to continue despite his daughter's death is one of the most poignant scenes in cinema I've come across lately. He enthralls the audience with his performance as Bhamini and fully devoting him…

Sion Fort

History, for some reason, has always been associated with north India. In fact, a constant grouse voiced by those who come to visit Mumbai as tourists from that part of the country is that "there isn't much to see here." True, we are nowhere close to competing with the legends of the North Indian plains and their long list of rulers and heritage sites or with the artistic temples of the South. But spread across the city are lesser known and some completely unheard of forts which are sure to keep the history buff in you satiated. 

The Sion Fort is one such fort which is located within the immediate suburbs of Mumbai. The original name of Sion in Marathi is "Shinva" (शिनवा), which is also known as "Sheev" (शीव ), which means a boundary or an entrance to a city or a village. Sion is one of the seven islands of Bombay and formed the boundary between Bombay and Salsette Islands. Due to its strategic location at the absolute end of the Bombay islands, the ar…

Movie Review: Water

The 2005 Canadian film "Water" directed by Indo-Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta is set in the temple town of Varanasi known as Benares in 1938. Child marriages were a common occurrence then. The film depicts the hardships faced by Hindu widows of that time. Much of the story is told through the innocent eyes of eight year old Chuyia (Sarala). 

The Indian text "Manusmriti" defines the life of a woman as someone who is perceived as a natural extension of her husband. It says if her husband dies, a woman has three choices: a) she is considered as half dead and therefore has the right to jump into the funeral pyre, b) she can marry his brother or c) live in complete isolation. If she decides to live her life in isolation, the ascetic part, she enters an ashram for the widows, tonsures her head and adopts white clothes as the colour of mourning.

The eight year old Chuyia is recently widowed and her parents bring her to this ashram where widows across all age groups stay to…

Movie Review: Do Aankhen Barah Haath

The 1957 Hindi film "Do Aankhen Barah Haath" is constructed on the basis of the saying by Mahatma Gandhi: "An eye for an eye will make the world" and is based on Gandhian philosophy. The film is a fine example of middle cinema. It begins with 12 blood-stained hands being pasted on the prison walls. The film follows the tale of 12 prisoners and one jail superintendent Adinath (V. Shantaram). The jail superintendent Adinath is in the process of reforming the 12 criminals. These criminals are charged with brutal crimes and this film focusses on the human aspect of the criminals who feel they are nothing less than born jailors.

The twelve jailors are taken to a dilapidated country farm where they are assigned the task of converting barren land into a piece of cultivable land in order to rehabilitate themselves through hardwork and kindly guidance. He is faced with lot of opposition from senior employees but it is his faith in the human spirit that encourages him to reha…

Farewell, WDS4 locos!

The Central Railway recently condemned 20 WDS4 class of locomotives thereby sounding the death knell for them. The Chittaranjan Locomotive Works completed its first diesel shunting engine in December 1967: a WDS4 locomotive with 650 HP with 48% indigenous content and was commissioned into the Indian Railways network by Mr. C.M. Poonacha, the then Railway Minister on 5th January 1968. 

The demand for separate shunting locomotives was felt to improve haulage in longer trains. At present, there are four classes of WDS4 locomotives namely: WDS4, WDS4A, WDS4B and WDS4D. The WDS4C classes of engines are rebuilt from the previous WDS3 locomotives. In Mumbai, they were initially homed by Western Railway at the Bandra Marshalling Yard in 1979 in Bandra. The most common locomotives of this class are WDS4B and WDS4D which are frequently spotted in and around Bandra. 

Despite many employees from Central Railway requesting not to condemn the WDS4 locomotives, the Central Railway condemned them becau…

Inflationary Heights

It is summer holidays and kids living in a posh building-- "Inflationary Heights" are having great fun. Their parents have filled their pockets with money and the kids now have buying power. There is an ice cream parlour down the street. The parlour sells ice cream to all the children of the area. The man in charge of the parlour is glad for making all the children happy with his different ice cream flavours. There is a steady balance between the joy of selling and buying ice cream. 

This summer, something happened which disturbed this balance. The kids from Inflationary Heights full of notes in their pockets start consuming double the volume of ice cream that they normally do. The parlour man realizes soon enough that the children from Inflationary Heights have a lot of money with them and even if he were to increase prices, they would continue to buy them. He then increases the prices and the demand continues unabated. While the parlour man gets richer by the day, the other…

Movie Review: Page 3

The 2005 Hindi movie "Page 3" by realistic filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar refers to the popular "Page 3" culture which is exploited by tabloids and newspapers alike. For the uninitiated, the Page 3 culture is the name given to the tabloid culture where India's partying upper-class from certain specific Indian cities get featured on the third page of a newspaper, even if it means doing nothing more than attending parties and shows. Through the film, Madhur Bhandarkar tracks the rich and glamorous parties and later moving on to the dark recesses of the glitterati.

The story is narrated through entertainment journalist Madhavi (Konkona Sen Sharma), who is a Page 3 correspondent for "The Nation Today", a leading daily. In parallel leads, we meet Pearl (Sandhya Mridul), an airhostess who has a fiery tongue and Gayatri (Tara Sharma), an upcoming actress. Being a journalist in the party beat, Madhavi is a Page 3 regular and most of the socialites know her by nam…