Thursday, May 26, 2005

Dutt Saab 1929-2005. But must we?

Shocked Bollywood mourns death of Sunil Dutt. I am an admirer of Dutt and his commitment-driven politics, loyalty (some may call his loyalty to a family misplaced but loyalty is a virtue nevertheless) and magnificent persona.

But as happens with all people who pass away, the obituaries exaggerate. Some now say he was a brilliant actor. Now that's certainly overstating things, in typical Bollywood style. He was a great human being and an honest politician, but when it came to acting, he was just about good. Pick his best films and see for yourself.

He had a great voice and very intense eyes, two essentials for anyone aspiring to be an actor. He also used them the best, but not enough to warrant allegations of being brilliant. Nope. Truth doesn't hurt.

Running with the left, hunting with the right

A Times of India report says One of Nepal's top Maoist leaders, Baburam Bhattarai, is being quietly chaperoned around here by Indian intelligence agencies, which recently organised a meeting between him and CPM general secretary Prakash Karat. Karat first confirmed, then understandably denied the meeting.

Is this the true face of the United Progressive Alliance? Home ministry officers host a Nepali Maoist leader, Prime Minister's Office and the External Affairs Ministry dealing with King, supplying him arms to counter the Maoists. Have we become the proverbial pimps in this case? Pimps try to ride both sides.

This is worrying because the Marxists supporting the government have done enough damage. The red corridor is flaming. They declared a ceasefire in Andhra against the Maoists, much to Bihar and Jharkhand's damage. A Red river now runs from China to near Tamil Nadu.

Does the home ministry realise that the parallel administration run by Maoists in Jharkhand will soon hold panchayat elections? It's being formalised. Nepal bleeds and Bihar burns. Jharkhand is brimming; Orissa, Chhattisgarh and even parts of Maharashtra face these lawless brigades day in and day out. Large parts of rural Andhra Pradesh are in their grip.

What message does the Bhattarai episode send to the masses in these trouble-torn parts?

A note for Paswan

Paswan's dilemma: Who to tie-up with from Expressindia.

The LJP leader claimed that his sacrifice for the sake of a Muslim Chief Minister would stand him in good stead in the polls "where RJD will bite the dust as it has always treated the minority community as bonded labour".

Paswan, who is preparing a document on why no government could be formed in Bihar and why the house had to be dissolved, quoted a famous line from Robert Browning "I have always been a fighter; let there be one more fight".

Miracles do happen. Mr Paswan, you may become a kingmaker or God willing king again. But please get some decent Muslim candidates since you are more minority-loving leader than Laloo. It's quite stupid to insist on a Muslim chief minister when you do not have a Muslim MLA. Of all the parties, the "communal" BJP has a Muslim MLA, you should be ashamed of such lurid lip service to Muslims.

But frankly speaking, Muslims do not want a Muslim chief minister, Muslims want education, equality, protection from minority-bashing, and above all prosperity. You have not shown Bihar your agenda for the desperately-needed progress. You, Laloo, Nitish and others still do not talk about end of criminal raj. You did not have MLAs with only criminal past but also criminal present. Many of them ditched you.

People like this blogger, who do not live in Bihar, have to often face this question: What's wrong with your Bihar? We do not have an answer. What we do know is that we have some really bad breed of politicians, as clueless as you.

Paswan said he could have easily bargained for the post of deputy Chief Minister for his brother Pashupati Paras, but he sacrificed it to press for a Muslim Chief Minister. "If I am to blame for my rigid stand, I stick to it," he said.

Your rigid stand cost Bihar an election. You could go to Nitish Kumar or you could go to Laloo Prasad for all we care. But you didn't need to let the state suffer another round of election, waste of money and blood. You are ready to share the bed with Laloo in Delhi, but in Bihar you play the upright, tight principled man. Have some principle, please.

Movies watched this week

Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. Being a Star Wars fan, had a Darth good time. At PVR Gurgaon.
Malena. This one had been lying neglected in my collection for over a year. Was pleasantly surprised. It's pretty good.
The Motorcycle Diaries. The second time. Great stores are told like this.
Eurotrip. Guilty pleasure. Gives an entirely new perspective to the drama surrounding Pope John Paul's recent death.
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge. Had to watch it for I had to review it for DISC-ussion. Had watched in theatre twice in 1995.
The Incredibles. Nice. But wouldn't have watched if not needed for my column purposes.

Six in a week. Not bad. Not bad. Pat pat. I am getting back to the good old days.
My movie watching week starts on Thursday.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Farce of the Weak

Jo Bole So Nihaal is such a bad film it wouldn’t have run in many theatres beyond this week. It could manage to draw marginal crowds for a couple of weeks only because of the controversies surrounding it. Now the film has been withdrawn from most cinemas across the country. The reason: a bomb blast in once cinema hall in Delhi showing this film. The other blast occurred in a multiplex, playing at least four different films at that time, Jo Bole… was just one of them.

Even the police do not blame the explosions on this film. Some Sikh religious bodies, angry at some scenes in the film, did protest against it. Some suggested cuts, which were agreed to. But no one with a semblance of sanity would believe that the explosions were a result of that. It’s a lunatic fringe that does such things. They are in every religion.

Though Rahul Rawail’s Jo Bole… is no work of art. I am all for his right to tell his story on screen and off it. Loonies don’t like freedom of expression. Bajrang Dal attacks M.F. Husain for one painting. Vishwa Hindu Parishad makes sure Meera Nair can’t film her Water. Some Muslims insist that a certain Salman Rushdie book is banned. And what do we do? We give in every time. That makes them stronger. They start believing they can suppress what they don’t approve of.

There is another lousy horror film getting off the projector because of lack of audience. It’s called Naina. An organisation of eye specialists in the country petitioned in a court that the film be stopped because it didn’t show the reality about vision. And now suppose, there is a blast in cinema hall showing Naina. Shall we blame the doctors? Should the film be withdrawn?

“Jaao aur jaakar Gabbar se keh dena, Ramgarh waalon ne kutton ke saamne roti rakhna band kar diya hai,” Thakur tells Gabbar’s henchmen Kaaliya and gang in Sholay. That was Thakur’s way of saying: “Enough is enough. We will not give in to this extortion.”

It's time we gathered some mass in our spine and said: EFF O, you lousy lunatics.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Who's on the monkey's side? We are!

A story. A monkey has landed in a village and some people are chasing the simian for bringing havoc to their tiled roofs. The monkey gets on a tree. People surround the tree and start pelting stones. And then the quintessential Indian arrives at the scene and says, "What's the problem?" A villager says, "This monkey has ruined my house." And the rest say, "And we want to teach him a lesson so that he never comes this side." The Quintessential Indian: "Who's on the monkey's side?" His question is greeted with a silence. "No one? Then I am." says the lone ranger.

We have it in us. We always side with the victim, the one we perceive to be the victim at any given time. I remember a large number of Indian being on Saddam Hussein's side because he looked like a victim. Many of us hate the United States because it's military power seldom allows it to look like a victim. Even after 9/11.

And that trait influences our voting too. M.J. Akbar argues it beautifully in his Byline this week. Click here to read the Byline titled Victimorious.

It's Monday and It's Happening

RamVilas doesn't Pass-wan
Utter failure of dogs. This phrase is a literal translation of Hindi’s Kutte fail ho gaye, which is what happens when your cloak lies in shatters and your vulnerabilities are exposed. Mr Ramvilas Paswan is faced with a situation where his dogs have failed. Bihar has finally gone to where it was months ago. His party is breaking into pieces. The kingmaker stands on the verge of becoming a political pauper.

Abort, Retry, Fail, Re-Buta
Just before it was becoming clear that Bihar might see a government, the Assembly has been dissolved. Sonia Gandhi is comfortably getting into her illustrious mother-in-law’s shoes, but it’s not a complemint in this case. She got a minority government installed in Jharkhand, which was given ridiculous period of time to prove majority. It couldn’t. She let the NDA come to power, reluctantly.
Another governor in Goa removed a BJP government and installed Congress’ own. They however couldn’t prove a majority. That state too is going for an election.

La la loo la la la
Laloo Yadav is a happy man. Ramvilas Paswan lies bruised and battle-weary. NDA couldn’t form a government in Bihar. He’s in power at the Centre and Bihar is going for another election. His unprecedented attack on the Election Commission has made it clear that he can go to any extent and that the commission better keep him in good humour. It’s unlikely that he can influence the commission, but he certainly is in a position to influence the administration in the state.

Jo dikhaye so behaal
Priya Village Roadshow's Ajjay Bijli says the security in Delhi cinemas is strict to the point of being irritating. At his cinemas, all of us have to go for a body search before we are allowed entry. It's the same with most cinemas across the city. You are frisked like you are entering a high-security zone. But we don't mind because it makes us feel safe. I recently went to Satyam and the experience was no different.

I am sure those who went in yesterday night were feeling a sense of security after they were subjected to frisking. People surrender cigarette packs, water bottles, cameras, et al. But someone smuggled a bomb in. And it rocked the cinema, minutes after another cinema hall saw a powerful explosion. That sense of security has suffered a collateral damage. After years, I would have to look under my seat for "bombs". The person sitting next to me may be a terrorist. That's what terrorists do. They don't kill as much as they terrorise. They want us to live in fear of the bomb. Shall we be afraid? I say no.

So not Sanghvi. So Natwar.
On Sundays, one of the first things I read is Vir Sanghvi's Counterpoint in the Hindustan Times . He has got style and facility, his reasoning is hard to beat and he calls a spade a spade. So the Sunday before last, I wondered what made him sing paeans for Kunwar Natwar Singh, our minister for external affairs. He did give reasons but none of them were strong enough, not a patch on the ones Sanghvi offers when he makes a point.

Besides, Vir Sanghvi doesn't need to suck up to some one, least of all the old geezer from Bharatpur. I wonder why Sanghvi would do that. The India Today magazine conducted a survey recently and rated the ministers. Mr Singh came tenth with less than 50 per cent approval rating. Mr Sanghvi’s own Hindustan Times and C-Fore did a survey that rated ministers, Mr Singh didn’t figure in the first four. But Sanghvi’s Counterpoint made him look like he’s the best Manmohan Singh’s got in his Cabinet. How can Vir Sanghvi get it wrong?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Are these Muftis serious or just muft ka public ko bewaqoof bana rahe?

Suicide attacks are un-Islamic, unless it's in Israel or India. Waah. A PTI report from Islamabad:

Islamabad, May 17: Muslim clerics in Pakistan today issued a decree declaring as "un-Islamic" suicide attacks in public places in an Islamic country but kept Kashmir out of its purview.

The clerics, who gathered in Lahore, said those who believe that suicide attacks are meant to earn blessings would be considered out of Islam.

However, 58 clerics from different schools of thought, said the decree does not apply to Palestinian and Kashmiri Muslims.

The decree was issued at a press conference by Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman, who heads an officials moon sighting body and the government-run federal Press Information Department.

He said murder of a non-Muslim is also prohibited if he comes to a Muslim state with permission as "Islam calls for protection of non-Muslims".

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Are we really that sick?

Another sensational rape, and a series of stories and scathing attack on the police, who this time could have caught the criminals, but didn't really wake up to it. Residents of Delhi have accepted the fact that this city is not safe for women, especially after the sun goes down. OK.

What angers me most is the reaction from a large part of the population that wants girls to behave. This sickens me. They do this in good faith not knowing that they inadvertently transfer the blame on the victim.

Sample some of the reactions. Why did they step out of home at 2 am? These days, girls wear shorts and short skirts and move out. They openly hug and kiss boys.

Basically women invite rape, huh?

One friend, who's otherwise a very sane, secular and accommodative man, went on to say that many girls from Northeast have been found soliciting in that area and that this too may be borne out of confusion (Read: the rapists thought the girls were out to have fun). How sad! I felt like hitting him but just told him to shut his trap.

Because I know he's not saying it with any malice. It's the prejudice he's been fed for ages and his totally isolated experiences compounded by maybe limited knowledge.

Are we getting weirder? Or just Shiv Sena has an increasing vote bank in Delhi.

Recently, a policeman raped a student in Mumbai, and some politicians went on record saying girls must not wear “provocative” clothes.

Rapists don’t choose their targets based on what she is wearing. So morons, shut your traps.

Laloo hits at the heart

Adamant Laloo meets Manmohan, demands resignation of ECs. I am reacting late to this. I was waiting for it to unfold. I wanted to see how the UPA leaders like Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh reacted. Because it is they who have to assess the consequences of letting Laloo have a free run in Delhi. And the danger is clear and present.

Laloo Prasad has brought his brand of blunt and blatantly ugly politics, which nearly demolished a state's polity and institutions, to Delhi. The ruffian ruckus-is-better-than-rules politics has shifted to the heart of India from the Bhojpuri heartland.

In that kind of politics, institutions get little respect, muscle gets all. That brand of politics abhors institutions and seeks to systematically destroy them because they cannot stay together.
Now that he is a central minister, the monster is right in the heart of India. We all know the merits of the L.V. Saptharishi episode. And how he abused the Election Commission in a letter meant for the law minister and handed it over to the railway minister.

I really do not know how the two Election Commissioners behaved or what they said to Saptharishi to warrant these wild allegations, but the Laloo Brand of Politics does threaten to sully the institution, admired not just here but across the world for organising the world's biggest election in a democracy that has politicians like Laloo Prasad Yadav. Also read. Laloo on Rampage.