Saturday, May 30, 2009

A movie that I wish was never made...

Thevar Magan (1992)
Starring: Sivagi Ganesan, Kamal Hassan, Nassar, Gauthami, Revathi
Story: Kamal Hassan
Direction: Bharatan

I had the misfortune of watching this rather ‘old’ movie, which couldn’t have come from a more ‘original’ pen like Kamal Hassan’s!

For those of you who have forgotten this movie, here’s a short refresher. The story is set in a pristine village in the interiors of Tamil Nadu, where the local, ‘kind-hearted’ landlord lords over the lesser mortals, the dalits and landless laborers. The landlord is from a community called the thevars, (Today, these people top the list of castes that thrive on committing atrocities against the dalit people in Tamil Nadu). The movies centers around the rivalry between this kind-hearted thevar and a nasty thevar, who’s actually his cousin! The seething rivalry’s fuse is blown with a younger thevar breaking the lock of a temple to enjoy some private time with his scantily clothed muse. Then, several things happen, and finally peace is restored by this younger thevar chopping the head of the nasty thevar and going off to prison! Now, I don’t know what kind of great minds would have selected this movie to represent the country at the academy awards! In any case, my faith in the academy awards remains intact, thanks to the way they sent this movie packing.

What is problematic about this movie?

Firstly, the movie is casteistic, eulogizing caste-based, ad hoc monarchies that run in the villages, which are nothing but cauldrons of dalit atrocities. This only shows the crying need for land reforms! How the hell can one family (damn it!) own an entire village? No wonder, the differences are stark; Kamal (the son of the kind-hearted thevar) and Gauthami (his muse) all the time speak in flawless, accented English and smooch around when the sons of the dalits become nothing but landless laborers and foot soldiers who get their hands cut off, defending the thevar honor! The movie was outrageously anti-dalit; Vadivelu (the side kick and also the humble, devoted slave with zero esteem) is named after a dalit god!

Secondly, the movie is sexist, showing women as either clingy, cry babies (Gauthami) or silly yappers (Revathi), singing to their husbands! Which Indian woman (even the ones educated abroad) would strut around half naked in the presence country brutes who ogle at any inch of visible skin? Does the average Indian woman lack even that basic sense? And, the same old story; two women quibbling over one silly man, who couldn’t even stand up to his own father!

Finally, the entire movie lacked any fine imagination and acting! Yes! Acting! Kamal Hassan and Shivagi, both were terrible. Yet another patriarchal bullshit, served to us by a bunch of upper caste, patriarchal men!

Am sure in the West, this movie would have invited at least 10 law suits from several groups! But, no, not here. Yes, it’s with dejection that I sign off this post, but with hope that someday we will have sensitive mainstream movies that portray reality, question discrimination, and reinstate hope for a better tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Destination Mumbai!

A discussion between feminists on caste and gender was something I have been waiting for ages, and when it was happening in Mumbai, I couldn’t stop myself from impulsively booking my flight tickets to attend it. Although, the discussion was the highlight of my visit, several other things happened during the weekend, which definitely qualify to be recorded on blogsphere. Let me do justice to the interesting events of the weekend by categorizing them into: places, people, weather, and food.


I left my office at Okhla, which is a dry, dusty, hot industrial area, filled with nothing but office goers and dull, brooding dabbas (small-time eating places). An auto dropped me at the airport, which was so different from what I remembered of it! A monstrously huge building stood, ready to swallow one into its cold, comfy confines. I stepped in rather gingerly wondering if I’d be hauled up for looking lost. Anyway, suppressing my urge to look disgusted, I walked in, got my boarding pass and decided to take a tour of the airport.

It was clearly modeled on the Singapore airport with lots of space to move around and, very importantly, for shops! Different types of shops littered the airport; from books to bags to clothes! I wonder what brands like Satya Paul and Fab India are doing in the airport. As if this wasn’t enough, the monster’s belly contained a full-blown food court that had glass walls overlooking the runway.

It was a lifestyle-building place, it seemed. I couldn’t help, but sneer and smirk. But, don’t ask me why! But, no, I am obliged to state why I felt disgusted at all this. I felt disgusted because the people who built this monster will never be able to enjoy it, leave alone see it as their creation; they will be given just enough money for a square meal so that the next day they are available to give their labor. The ones who enjoy the fruits of such labor will have no clue of what went into moving a single brick, and also how it’s become easy for them to fly and ‘enjoy’ these at the expense of the laboring class. The ruling classes will never realize that they got blood on their hands.


Now, coming to the people of Mumbai. I must say, as a woman, I was absolutely comfortable with Mumbai, thanks to its people. There was also a sense of purpose on each face, which was unmistakable, which perhaps made it impossible for people to stare or tease women. And, yes, they are fast, man! You could see that in the way people would rush into and out of the electric train like a lightning bolt. And, yes, the trains were full of women even at 12! Now, isn’t that one reason to live in Mumbai?


Now, this is a bit shaky, depending on the type of weather you are used to. And, yes, your habits too. If you hate bathing, please keep out of Mumbai! You may have to bathe at least twice a day to keep yourself from going insane! The worst time is usually between 10 and 5 when you could sweat profusely and maybe even lose some weight! By 6 of course, the sea breeze starts and it’s awesome; you must be there to believe it. Swarms and swarms of people are out to enjoy it! Now, that’s another thing about Mumbai; the number of people and the anonymity you will enjoy in their presence.


Yes, if you are a foodie, Mumbai is the place to be. Especially if you like fish! I always thought Bengali fish is the best, but it’s all changed now after tasting the divinity called Malvani fish curry! And, yes Bombay duck, which is actually a fish. And, the prices are unbelievably cheap! For something like 50 bucks you can be satiated with great fish curry and fish fry and rice! And, if you like ice creams, definitely try natural ice cream, which is a brand or type of ice cream in which you will taste fruits like water melon, tender coconut, chikku, and even jack fruit! And, of course, what to say about the delightful chats, dahi puri, pani puri, bhel puri, pav bhaji, etc. Overall, it’s the place to be if you want to take a short, happy, fulfilling break!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Seams of the Times

Collusion of minds and ideas
Within a sea of desire
Threatening the subsuming of identities
Of politics, of strange bed mates, and unrequited love

Mails and web pages between network servers
Firewalls and messengers
Outsmarting blocking software
Break out romances, friendships, liaisons

Rum and lemon do mix to a heady concoction
Scalding the throat, healing the soul
Wanting a neat shot on the rocks
To shock the rice grains off your hair

Headphones and ipods define the notes
The moods, to smile, to gloss, to perish
To steal a glance, to hide a tear
Of suspension between abandon and detachment

Blogs speak a million words, unmonitored
Out bursting of irresponsible history on the fly
Quoted in intellectuals circles
Facing banishment and righteous crucifixion

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Musings in the Morning

The day dawned rather early today, or did it? Me waking up earlier than usual is perhaps closer to reality, but one has every right to live in a fantasy of one’s own making, as long as it doesn’t affect the reality or fantsay of one’s neighbor…ok, I came up with that myself! Don’t google to check if I plagiarized.

Since the day dawned early, after much deliberation, I dragged myself out of the bed and decided to go for a walk. Actually, the park isn’t as far as the distance between one’s decision and the actual implementaion of the decision! Now you know the perils of me waking up early; I turn into a philosopher, theorizing the most inane and silly things!

Cut. Next scene at the park.

It’s a fairly green, quiet park, where I do have some friends among the security guards and drivers, especially because all of them speak my mother tongue. So, after some pleasantries, I started my sprint in the park. This is one time when I try to indulge in walking mediation; basically, try and concentrate on your footsteps, breath, thoughts, and everything else, except daydreaming! But, not today, there were better things happening at the park. There was this group of middle-aged and slightly old men sitting in a circle and trying these impossible postures and groaning and moaning in the process. On close examination, from a distance of course, I realized that they were performing a kind of yoga that it is accompanied by some chants! Chiding myself about the irreverential and mischievous thoughts, I walked on, stifling a guffaw.

The second time round, these men jolted me out of my reverie! Everyone started squealing and laughing loudly that would even put our Amjad Khan (in Sholay) to shame! I actually looked around to see if something’s really funny, but no; it was another yoga practice to bust stress! Now, this was too much, I just held my stomach and ran to safety under a tree to deal with my laughter pangs! Who comes up with these ridiculous ways of stress busting? Regaining my composure, I restarted my walking and tried to have as serious a face as possible. Now, again, they went into some impossible postures and started burping loudly! This was getting serious! The burping sounds were accompanied by a rhythmic thumping of the chest. I decided that I am enrolling my dad in one of these male-bonding sessions so that pop looses some of his extra flab and we could have a good, legitimate laugh in the bargain, but no, my decision was to be reevaluated in my next round!

The next time round, a box full of sweets dripping in ghee was doing the rounds! Now that explained the number of tyres all these men had and the long burps! I just put my head down, smiled to myself, resolved to take three more rounds before ending this rather amusing walk in the park!

Cut. Next scene at the tea shop.

This is Lakshmi’s (my help at home) tea shop, which she runs with the help of a cousin, who has some disabilities. She’s told a lot of stories about this cousin who helps her so much, but nothing caught my fancy as much as his sudden disappearance during the elections! What is it about me that I always wind up with these ‘political’ people! Anyway, I stop at the tea shop to chat up about the outcome of the elections in Tamil Nadu, especially because he was campaigning for amma’s party, which faced a bad, bad defeat, despite incumbency and thereby creating history! He’s was quite an amma fan and went on and on about how the ballot machines were rigged! But, it was good talking to someone who really laughed and smiled and got angry, unlike the men in the park!

When I returned home, it was only then time for the day to have dawned! It just seemed like somebody gave me a bonus of about 2 hours today! It was an enriching, beautiful morning, and am already in office, doing the usual things: jotting down things to do, checking mail, planning training sessions, chatting with friends, making plans for coffee, etc. Only that I feel like I have won a lottery of 2 extra hours! Now, isn’t that a happy thought?

Ps: This was written to gladden the heart of a friend, who’s been accusing me of writing only sad stuff! So, JSP, are you happy now?

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Holy War of Redemption

Will I hear the children again?
Oh mother land
You broke my home
My life, my name, my identity

Will I see the sea beyond the smoking corpses?
Oh neighbour
You drank my blood
My garden, my labour, my ethnicity, my liberty

Will I hear the birds sing beyond the hills?
Oh lover
You killed me in my sleep
My passion, my pain, my pleasure, my sweat

Will I see the rain again from my home?
Oh friend
You drew your dagger through my heart
My love, my friendship, my land, my roof

Will I taste the sweet springs in the jungles?
Oh soldier
You tasted my blood on your sword
My soul, my heart, my mind, my body

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Strange Strangulations

Meandering deep within jungles runs many a rivulet
Knocking down rocks and debris left by the birthing of new life
A life breathing new, strange fragrance
Untouched by the world beyond, explaining the deepest jungle

Eking out an existence within a class lives many a life
Questioning control and hegemony left by the long gone property
A womb creating fresh, strange life
Unquestioned choice to produce and reproduce to the familial urge

Burning out the flesh of a high born lives many a low born
Attaining repugnance and decay left by texts authored by so-called gods
A strange beating of the sitting up, high-born corpse
Beaten to a pulp to accept subjection and unquestion humiliation

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Sy(E)mpathy for a Stranger

Bejeweled, painted hands and feet
Reddened parting, not with powder
Your blood, it is sister
Right foot in, to be counted in with pickle bottles

A university degree, or a school-leaving certificate
Written off as unnecessary, with sandalwood paste
Your hands, will only chop and cook
According to the rule book

Rice and lap don’t mingle, just as evening and tea don’t
The unpolluted gods may be angry
Not at the community suckling of an old widow
But, at the love for thy neighbor

A hundred sons for you, O blessed one
An inside-out curse, I say
Keep your eyes closed, head turned sideways
Tears shed only at hurt pride, not at a bleeding neighbor

May you live a thousand years to see
With my eyes
May you walk away one day
With my feet

Destination Sikkim - Till we meet again

On the third day, we went to the Sikkim Himalayan Zoo. It was day of little rain and much mist. The walk into the zoo was surreal because o...