Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Patron Papa

Just yesterday a colleague told me how uncomfortable she felt when our boss from the HO called her a 'little girl'. Apparently she called up her colleague who was half a decade older than her. And she consoled her saying she was called a 'little girl' too.

(I am not sure why some women confide their worries in me. I don't bother to sound politically correct or protective) I wondered aloud- Why isn't he calling me a little boy!!!

Today mankind is standing at the fork road of history. In terms of progressiveness we have a chance to take a turn and it is left to us. I am talking this in terms of role of women in society and in the society I am in it is very much manifest in religion. It started from form of divorce in Islam to sexual exploitation by a Christian Bishop and now permitting women to enter a Hindu temple in kerala.
India as a society, for all these years, has cunningly dietified women to confine them in the confines of her home.

One greatest tool for gender discrimination is PATRONIZATION. It works better than physical or sexual abuse. It's a very common and accepted practice in our society. It starts off when you label your daughter as a princess and she'll carry the tag to her grave and die as a princess. All through this journey she's normalized to believe that she's weak, unclean, vulnerable and is destined to protect her beauty and chastity.

Workspaces are the trickiest space for a woman to be in. Ever since the liberalization the protective walls around the woman has gone down. She's in a free space to express herself but so does she have to resist and overcome the challenges of sexism and discrimination which are more pronounced. She has to fight from the same platform with men in an environment heavily favouring against the independent spirit.

The work environment today are largely asexual. The work , it's character and nature can be performed by any gender. In this common space sexuality is an invisible player and need not be explicitly expressed. Sexuality may be conveniently used for one's advantage.
Adopting powerful patrons is one such method to steady your ship in rocking water of the corporate world.

Legalizing patronization is akin to legalizing abuse. In the name of protectionism it is not right to curb the right of expression. The onus falls on the girl to protect her beauty and chastity. Haven't we seen the same argument raised as a counter narrative to grossest of rapes.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Movie review - വരത്തൻ

The first question I try to answer before reviewing a movie is why I chose the movie in the first place and in this case 'why this amongst a deluge of Malayalam releases after the real deluge'

A decade ago it took only 35 bucks to get a balcony ticket in Kerala and I have seen many from neighborhood States come over to watch movies. Probably the chairs wouldn't recline but still it was worth it.
Today you spend 10 times that amount for a movie and the only difference being you can recline back to sleep and forth if the movie gets too boring.

So choosing a lousy movie means waste of time, money and digesting the cheap pop corn. These days the paisa-vasool factor comes in first when I pick something. So in this case I hoped the big names in title-credits wouldn't disappoint. The popular reviews too had given a thumbs up with cliche phrases including- strong woman, survivor, abuse, patriarchial fascism etc. So I decided this was the one I will be burning my money on.

The movie is set in the picturesque, hilly locales of central travancore and based on the lives of a agrarian community. The community is largely portrayed as xenophobic, misogynist and largely machoistic. The movie touches on the issues the post-liberalization , middle class , urban generation of Kerala today can identify with.

There has been a generation shift in the way the movies are told today. When cinema shifted from indoors to the rustic countryside a bunch of story tellers brought up in a rural background told us their stories. As the movies shifted to cities the characters too shifted out, but thanks to the effect of Nehruvian socialism we still couldn't stop glorifying the rural India and all the old school morality and fidelity. We had a dark patch in the timeline of Malayalam cinema during the shift through the liberalization of 90s. Characters were reduced to caricatures and so were the shallow ethics.

The current lot of movie makers are more comfortable with their urban upbringing. The present movie reels off from Dubai, from the concrete jungles to picturesque locales of Kerala. The characters today are more comfortable and flexible in their ethics and doesn't mind fiddling with loose morality. If we do a careful study of the body of work of Amal Neerad, we can't help but notice that most of his subjects are based on issues faced by the upper middle class urban youth- ranging from religious radicalization, trafficking, substance abuse to greed and revenge. Even still, the director doesn't dive deeply on the subject and in the end a hero with grey character shades destroys the whole bunch of bad guys.

If you have a look at the present cinema, which I am trying to analyze, we can't miss the fact that the objects used in the movie to sketch the characters are largely inaccessible to the average middle class and are largely removed from their lives. In a larger context the average guy is reminded that he's still in the slums and has a large corner to turn.
Another observation of many reviewers that the movie is about the 'bold-woman' , is very curious. I found the movie is about a average ordinary-Joe transforming himself in to a super human avenger and that too without much logical reason. The problem I find here is reducing the bold-woman into a caricature who's clothed prettily and doesn't mind flaunting her curves. This is a larger problem in every other new age movie where the characters are reduced to caricatures and we can conclude that malayalam cinema hasn't wholly shaken off the demons yet.

The next problem I find is with the politics of the cinema. The young Malayalam film makers, to a larger extent, proudly don their left liberal cards on the lapel. In the present movie there were so ominous mentions on the popular  right wing, patriarchal figures trying to curb the every day freedom. But unfortunately, again, there's no deep thought that has gone into the issues.
Even when the politics takes a left identity, we don't see much of class struggles in the theme. It's where the mainstream left politics of the country, unable to take a stand on neo liberalization is. They have said permanent good bye to class struggles and is more of socialist Democrats in nature.

We see a agrarian society which has lost its economic independence and hence the identity. They see their land and belief system being encroached by the monster which is fondly termed as global village. The film maker prefers sweeping the garbage under the carpet and then elaborate on the stench.
I sign off with a question if it is fair to sketch a whole community as misogynistic?

The film is said to be 'inspired' from a Hollywood flick. Another Amal Neeradh signature

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

End of something sweet

What does 27/07/2017 mean to you? Date with a fancy numbers? Or any day like the usual ones. For me this day, you threw the guillotine at whatever we had for the past few months.

I know all the beautiful things end fast and the sweet memories just fade away. I wanted it to last as long as it could. Probably I am very immature and unpractical. But it’s good to be stupid than mediocre.

The weekend you stopped talking to me I knew something was going wrong. The moment you told me not to join you for lunch and took the higher moral stand I knew everything was over. Romanticizing the past is good to the point you take refuge in the myths that never were. I remember the people you told me about, the ones you shut out completely from life. I wondered if it was my turn to be next.

You gave me a chance to be ‘normal’/’good’ friends. I never knew the meaning of it. I have had enough of the ‘good’ friends and I didn’t want another one. I would rather fade away with the sweet moments you gifted me rather than pretend nothing happened. I would treasure the first phone call, the car rides, holding hands, rides in elevators, the chocolates. Today those memories are mine and mine alone.

Everyday when you give that look that pierces in through me, it hurts me like nothing else. Soon I will go away and will fade off from your memories. Years later we will meet in a mall or restaurant. I wonder if you will recognize me.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Love and Love alone

He remembered a question some had asked him once', 'Have you ever REALLY loved someone ...ever?'
The question had brought a smirk on his lips back then. But not any longer. For him, back then, love wasn't far from the loins and he didn't cry when they left him.
Still love has been a undefined emotion for him. He was trying to name some deep enchanting emotion he had been feeling for the past few weeks. The college days were over a decade ago. Mid life crises was looming in the horizon. Any 'normal' people would term him crazy, when they giggled incessantly, stole secret glances, smiled broadly, feigned anger or jumped into empty elevator together.
When did he realize he was in love?  He had heard of someone moving into his office from Bangalore. He had hoped for someone stylish and single. What caught his eye was someone tall with broad shoulders glistening in sweat and salwar with back cut low. He had always been a fan of the blouses with open back. He sat there dreaming of the sweat when she turned up to show her buttoned nose and smile that lit up the entire universe. He didn't get much chance to break in and she was married and pregnant. She did catch him more than once staring shamelessly and must have thought what a jerk was he to stare at a pregnant woman.
Soon she moved into another floor. Goodbyes were exchanged. The meeting would, from now on be, random and serendipitous bumping on in crowded canteen. Life went on until he got a call from an unlisted number. He hated picking unknown numbers to say it was the wrong number. He thought for a few seconds and made the decision that changed his outlook for love, forever.
Although it was for a lost wallet, they became thick friends from that evening. Tea was planned, dark secrets and smiles were exchanged. He started wearing his best to office when she said one day that she liked his shirt. She came onto the secluded washroom area, when he said how much he missed her.
But when did he realize he was in love. For him love attained  a strange meaning when he felt himself burning with jealousy. She once told him about a guy who made her so special and the unforgettable night she spent with him. It took a few moments for him to  feel himself burning with passion. He couldn't stand the fact that he was not the unforgettable person in her life. Will he be able to give her a atleast a minute she wouldn't forget. As the passion left him after a sleepless night and tears, just like the fire after consuming a dry forest, he realized he had to be her special man. Someone she would never forget. Someone she would tell her kids, when she grew old.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Why Kashmir

.Why Kashmir? Is a question everyone asked, when I told them of my travel plans. Srinagar was not a safe option, with regular stone pelting, covert operations and unfavorable weather on top of it. There are safe ‘tourist’ spots, where you can get a good time, depending on the size of your wallet.
But then for me, the question to be answered was ‘Why do I travel’ rather than the ‘Where’. I always hated to do the same things rest of the population did. Mediocrity is my most feared enemy. I wanted to do things a little differently. Moreover I wanted to know and talk to the people, treated indifferently by rest of India.

The trip wasn’t very easy to do. Just hours before take-off my friend suddenly remembered that pre-paid mobile connections doesn’t work in Kashmir. That was a gentle warning of things to happen-  One place where the ordinary man is denied rights to access privileges enjoyed by rest of the country. The moment we touched the airport at Amritsar, I heard someone talking about a possible flight cancellation. There was a heavy rainfall in Srinagar accompanied by snow. The pretty girl in the check-in counter seemed to have fallen in white paint and seemed to be happy about it. I was quite worried about having to return home without cutting a name off the bucket list. We waited at the airport. I scanned the motley group and few of them were from the armed forces (judging the physique), some of them were tourists (judging the luggage) and some were traders.
The airport staff were not ready to give any assurance and we waited on for a couple of hours. And suddenly out of nowhere we were rushed into a flight and took off in no time.  After 15 minutes of rumble and tumble we touched down at Srinagar airport. From a temperature of 45 degrees we stepped straight into temperatures touching zero.

Later on I started to realize how the image runs so parallel to the life of a average Kashmiri. The biggest error Indian administration did was proclaiming implicitly a national integration based on religion. And further to it, hugely adorned but shallow ‘religious tolerance’, which is nothing but depravity of choice.

I understood how far removed our concepts about the valley are from the real situation. Sitting in the lush comfort of my office and worrying about how to get back home without getting soaked, will not help me in making fair judgment on a community for whom a heavy downpour can mean flooding and lose of livelihood. If weather is worse, the state administration was even worse. I had never seen such pathetically administered state capital and one main reason being the power tussle between the army and democratically elected civilian administration. This administrative failure is the very root cause for the ills in the valley. The economic gap is so visible and prevalent. This in turn reflects in different forms of life including lower standards of life, lesser economic opportunities and separatism.

The people although friendly, view the mainland Indians as nothing more than walking wallets. Any attempts to befriend them is met with certain suspicion and wariness. The daily struggle to survive cannot be comprehended by the tourist population. I had particularly noticed that the tourist crowd, never stepped out of their comfort zone or strayed out of the ‘tourist’ path to talk or interact with a  Kashmiri. I did also notice the strong inter link between the Kashmiris where they  knit themselves to each other for better possibility for survival.

Here when we talk about survival, we are talking about how a small drizzle can turn itself into a flood or heavy snow, casting the crowds into abject penury. While on a visit to the magnificent Mughal Gardens, I met a famished guy who earned his living doing manual labour. He was telling me how difficult it is to find regular job in the valley. His plight was echoed by many.

The difficult living conditions and the insecurity results in a closer bonding and tight knit structure to facilitate survival. My taxi driver and guide was persuading me for the boat ride through Dal Lake. He said it was a heavenly feeling. I said a firm no, considering the zero degree temperatures. Finally when the sun shown through we got off in a boat. The boat owner had quoted unbelievable rates, claiming he will show us around 8 points.  As soon as we started handful of merchant boats started circling around selling everything from flowers, fruits and hot drinks. To my dismay, I found out that the 8 points were nothing nut 8 local shops. (I strongly dissuade anybody from doing a Dal Lake trip).

As I sat at the airport, brooding over the misfired trip, two little mynahs flew around the waiting lobby hunting for food. They were unmindful of the innumerable security checks or gun wielding military. They flew around nonchalantly. Kashmir looked the same. Nonchalantly and unmindfully struggling against Indian nationalistic obsession.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Sairabanu: The story of a dead Bengali

Unlike the years gone by, movie artists have to sell their image and their work outside the medium more than inside. Manju Warrier is one such artist who understood the nuance and has been very conscious of the image she projects to the public. If you glance through her body of work, after the noisy comeback into the movies, you can see a pattern in the roles she played. Divorced, independent, wronged, fierce, single, mother and all these do reflect in the image she projects about her personal life through various social media platform. Well it wouldn’t be fair if I simply quote her name alone, but today most of the mainstream artistes have professional PR people to sell their work to the unassuming public.

This has been much very obvious in recent times when a rising star of Malayalam movie, suddenly changed track and went on to do a testosterone loaded role with a liberal dose of misogyny. The movie went on to do huge business and made a lot of money for the star.
In a very much result oriented world, professionalism is synonymous to profit a business generates. Hence the risks are to be avoided and maximizing the probability has to be focused upon. Manju has been very sure about her image, role and cinema she does. As a female actor, well past hey youthful days, she knows her opportunities are very limited in a male dominated arena. And it is not a fault to ensure the success of ones work. But in the long run screenplay and script are the two areas which have lost to this instant mix for success.

Malayalam Cinema had enjoyed a huge array of artistes, suited for playing varied roles and characters. This did lent a multi-dimensional hue into our scripts for years. There was  a possibility of many layers and complexity could be woven into a conflict. Today our scripts are very unidimensional. Within minutes of a film opening, we will be hit with a sense of multiple deja-vu and a fair good idea of what’s happening in the next 2 hours.

The real challenge for the script writer is to bolt the viewer to the seat with what is known as ‘twists’.  Now the effect of a twist in a shallow script is like masturbating to a poorly done porn movie. You will be left wondering ‘Why the hell’.

The characters themselves will be wearing a monochromatic hue, resembling a plastic toy, with even the appearances being very boring. They get off by being populist and catering to the perversions of the bourgeoisies . The characters mouth the dialogue an average viewer wants to hear and acts in the way he wants him to. The whole process creates a negative creativity and spins off chauvinism and misogyny. The relationships are defined in a very peripheral perspective and in the end the hero winds up the whole saga with a dose of morality.
Well this sums up the entire ‘Sairabanu’ in a nutshell. Nevertheless, it has been the story of many popular movies released recently. The Malayalam cinema has consolidated itself after a brief stint of anarchic period of what we call- period of new generation. The good part being, we inherited a team of brilliant technicians. The Sairabanu has some very brilliant sequences and the good part of the film ends there.The film caste two heavyweight female actors in the lead and bends down miserably from the sheer weight of projecting them in a feel-good light.

Most of the quality time is dominated by the two heavyweights and in an attempt to satiate the egos, the whole story falls shallow in the end. The hollow script becomes so evident from the beginning as many sequences looks forced. There has been no real groundwork on the characters and as for an example it’s been particularly traumatizing to see students from law college ask very childish questions to an imminent lawyer during a interactive session.
I wouldn’t want to elaborate further on the weaknesses of this particular film, as I’ve been trying to point out the malice evident in this mainstream art as a whole. This is an art form majority of the population relates to. And hence it turns gangeric when there’s an attempt to make it exclusive

Summing it up I felt like the unknown ‘Bengali’ who was conveniently left for the dead.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Encroaching Gods

Years ago many of us thought science, education and development would pose a serious threat to religion. We saw empty churches and priests begging for food, but it was not to be. The religion in turn has proved a serious threat to humanism and civilization.
Today we see an erosion of humanism and rationalism from our thought process. Instead various religious dogmas creep into every space of our lives. We have various religious speakers blaring through in our living rooms, palatial places of worship filled to the brim, huge religious festivals which ensures a few people are sent to heaven in stampede. The satire is not to be lost when we realize that the increased religious fervor has not made the world a better place at all.
An even disturbing trend is seen when the governance and state machinery is encroached by religion. Not so long ago the chief minister of a state made a huge donation to the tune of crores to one of the richest temples in the country. Now here, we didn't see much protests or intellectual discussions. How illogical it is to think of wasting tax payers' money for some non existent mythical beings? And to consider this happening in a part of the country where the marginalized are presented with noose of a rope rather than a few thousands of rupees to repay their debt.
Religion and castes are important agenda for the political parties today. Today we have children growing up in India with a  narrow mindset and view towards different faith and characters. If you don't believe me check the Facebook friends of your kids and make a rough calculation on number of friends who doesn't belong to his 'class'. Or 'belief'.
A few weeks ago, my friend insisted on witnessing a a religious procession. The belief is witnessing the procession grant your wishes. I agreed to witness the spectacle. People were lined up on the sides of the road. Police were deployed for the smooth flow. As the procession approached I was stunned to see throngs of small children accompanying ahead. They were very small and not used to walking long distances. I wondered if the parents would have allowed these children for a peaceful march concerning issues on society.
More recently I have been to a pilgrimage centre, happening to be a small church in Kerala. There a holy image is displayed once a year when throngs of people risk stampede to witness the spectacle. I saw people rummaging wastes to collect containers to carry back holy oil.
Nonetheless , very recently the capital city celebrated its annual festival of Pongala .Even basic amenities were closed as women lined up in the streets under hot sun to offer Pongala. In a city faced with draught, tonnes of litres of water was wasted. Small and tired children were happily dehydrated to earn the pleasure of the Goddess. The state machinery itself spent crores of rupees for the spectacle.
I happen to hear a Panditji speaking the glory of the Goddess. Strangely irrespective of religion the basic  idea of benevolent God is same today. Still, the Pongala Goddess is angered over only one thing- CRITICISM.
I am cutting this boring, stupid post short. I want the few of you, who read this to analyse how much of your thought process and decisions you make are based on religion.

About Me

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Shakespeare,Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin and Lincoln never saw a movie,heard a radio or looked at TV. They had loneliness and knew what to do with it. Thay were not afraid of being lonely because they knew that was when the creative mood in them would work.