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Martyrdom

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The best thing that could have happened to Gandhi was to get assassinated at the time when he did. Read this from a non-religious, apolitical, unbiased point of view. Don’t colour your opinion with whether you condone the killing or condemn it. Read on, and see if it makes sense.

His role was pretty much done once India got independence. Non-violence had pained the Brits out of India because it was more sensible (sensibler?) than their most sensible sensibilities. The compromises Gandhi (and the country, as a consequence) had to make in terms of partition and other demarcations were starting to have their fallouts, most of them quite ugly. Gandhi’s methods faced a real risk of becoming redundant if not obsolete. Non-violence/ civil disobedience/ non-co-operation works if you’re the underdog or the oppressed. But once you’re unshackled, what are you going to do? Protest silently until people are guilted into avoiding crime? Go on a hunger strike when prices rise? Voluntarily, that is, and not because you have to because food becomes unaffordable. Not really. He was on the verge of becoming a liability for his party. And then he was shot dead.

During the US elections in 2008, I kept feeling that it was the worst time for a person of messiahic potential like Obama to come to power because things were just too big to manage for anyone. The wheels had been set into motion before he took over and there wasn’t a lot he was going to be able to do. The Republicans and their patriotic/nationalistic jingoism would have been the appropriate (albeit a bit misguided) shot in the arm that a disillusioned, distraught and debt-ridden populace needed. But Obama showed them the real picture, gave them bare facts. They were not pretty. The situation was grim and bleak. He told them what was true but what they shouldn’t have been told so pointedly. Sarah Palin would have been such a nice distraction – her delusions and unshakeable beliefs would have been ‘just what the doctor ordered’. But she didn’t get a chance to do that, and now people hate Obama for failing to deliver. His failure – the main one – isn’t that he didn’t give people change they could believe in. It is that he didn’t manage expectations well. ‘Yes we can’ should have been more like ‘Yes we can … Eventually. Hopefully. Painfully.’

Of all the smart things the Congress Party of India has done – and that list isn’t particularly long – the smartest has been to have Dr. Singh and P. Chidambaram as the heads of the government – the titular heads, at least. Their credentials as economists or visionaries are so immaculate that they compensate for their shortcomings as political leaders. They’ve been seen as the good guys and thus have always emerged with a clean chit from most messy situations. But they have to understand that it all comes with a shelf life. Eventually, people will get tired of waiting, of hoping that they will do something. It will take something quite trivial for the public’s patience to snap. Eventually, they will too descend (in the public eye, if not in reality) to the level of the muck they currently are so entrenched in.

“You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain”, said Harvey Dent. So true, sadly. Martyrdom ain’t easy, but living through battles takes real cajones.

Update: It might seem like I have an anti-Gandhi undercurrent here. That is neither true nor false – it is irrelevant. His death, like the other examples, are meant to indicate different stages in the ‘die a hero’ to ‘live long enough to become a villain’. He was killed in the ‘hero’ stage which perversely ensured his immortality. This post was in fact motivated by Dr Singh’s diminishing credibility due cabinet reshuffles and other oversights, and my diminishing sympathy for his plight.

Update2: Here’s a beautiful (albeit somewhat cynical) thought I came across here

The limit to martyrdom is the cruelty of the human imagination. There is a saint for every torture the pious mind can conceive.

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Written by sujaybedekar

January 20, 2011 at 9:34 pm

Jai Ho!

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The Oscars last year were, apparently, the worst Oscars ever (Here are John Oliver and Stephen Colbert making fun of the host Jon Stewart for hosting the biggest show that nobody watched). Look at who the nominees were for the best picture last year – Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton and There Will Be Blood. All are movies which would neither set your pulse (hearts?) racing,  nor would they make you sigh in fond nostalgia. The winner ended up being No Country For Old Men which, as I have confessed before, I didn’t quite understand. Yawn!

The nominations this year had all the makings of a proper snorefest. There is the Benjamin Button movie whose concept is as interesting as a new toy is to a toddler; then there’s Frost/Nixon, which is a fairly irrelevant movie about old crooked American politicians who no one really cares about; Milk, which is your customary gay Oscar nomination; and The Reader, which is your customary art movie which no one but the nominators have seen.

Just to tie up loose ends, the Academy left out The Dark Knight from the Best Picture and Best Director noms. But then, probably because there is a God up there who has a soft corner for the Academy, they had the brilliant idea of picking Slumdog Millionaire.

Now let me be clear – I do not wish to imply that SDM is a bad movie; au contraire, it is a fairly well-made, well-edited and well-directed movie with enough stereotypes to appeal to a foreign audience while also containing enough controversy to engage the Indian public (Previous thoughts here). I am very tempted to give the Academy the benefit of doubt on this one – maybe they actually did like the movie. But the fact remains that SDM is not really an obvious Oscar choice. It involves the triumph of hope and destiny over all circumstances, a theme one gets to see in every third Hollywood movie. (Ed: maybe SDM is the ‘Pursuit of Happyness’ of  this year – another movie which I’ve never been sufficiently motivated to watch). I also doubt how much of a clout the film’s Brit-producers had while lobbying for the movie. Also, I do not believe that SDM is a better movie than The Dark Knight, leave aside Kung Fu Panda or The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

Anyhoo, by giving SDM nominations by the dozen (ten, to be precise), the Oscar-folks have ensured that viewership is not going to be a moot point whatsoever. People will wake up at 6 in the morning if they have to to watch ‘their movie’ win. They will cheer wholeheartedly when Rehman and Gulzar get the nude statues (never quite understood why they are nude, btw) and will be elated because of the belated redemption we will have finally received – it will be ‘the recognition we always deserved but never got’. Lagaan was nominated for Best Foreign Film, and look at the hype it generated. This will happen because –

1. We watch anything on TV as long as there is a possibility of bringing in national pride and honour into the picture. (Actually, we watch anything on TV. If you add ‘India’ and ‘winning against all odds’ to the mix, then we will watch it in droves. Also,

2. We are unapologetically (is that a word?) partial to anything or anyone Indian.

When a billion people think alike, the impact can be quite staggering. It can ensure that the 2003 Cricket World Cup becomes the largest money-spinner for the ICC when the Indian team reached the final against all odds. It is also why a first-round exit for India made the 2007 Cricket World Cup a complete flop – I personally know people who had planned a Caribbean cruise which was to coincide with some of the matches but which they canceled once India crashed out. It ensures why the Miss World/ Miss Universe/ Mrs. World pageants are so successful in India – it almost excuses giving away the crown to someone who doesn’t know that ‘people who live on in my heart’ do not count as people alive, or to someone who goes and marries an arbit prince just to satisfy a childhood fantasy (ok that is probably a wee bit mean). It is the reason why we nostalgically remember Bhanu Athaiya winning the Oscar ages ago for ‘Gandhi’, although less than a handful of us really know what he (she?) has done otherwise in life.

Anyway, remind me to wake up at 6.30 am (IST) on 23-Feb. That’s all I wanted to say, really.

Written by sujaybedekar

February 5, 2009 at 1:28 pm

Filmy Opinions

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There have been quite a few movies which I watched in the past few (quite a few) weeks, and here are my 2 pennies/ pence/ cents (but not reviews).

(Again somewhat long post)

Kung Fu Panda – Possibly the best movie of the year so far, which is a pretty strong statement to make given some of the releases so far ((notably – The Dark Knight). Sarcastic, witty, beautiful, detailed and oh-so-god-help-me funny. It shows why Jack Black is such a wonderful talent and how animation can sometimes actually take a movie to great levels. I heart Po totally.

A Wednesday Pretty laid back and mundane in spite of the tight storyline, but still worth watching.  One can wait for the video release provided no one tells him/ her the plot. Acting by Naseeruddin Shah and Anupam Kher is brilliant – true stalwarts of Indian cinema, these guys. I still couldn’t get myself to fully accept the makers claim that a thug pees in his pants just because a snarling Jimmy Shergill is in the vicinity. Sorry, but just not gonna happen.

Phoonk – I wish I could say out loud, without any apprehensions, that –

a) The movie is insane, arbitrarily disjointed and oh-so-NOT scary. The same goes for its creator. b) The voyeuristic crow is the best actor in the movie which speaks volumes about the ‘actors’. c) A movie makes money when Revenues – Expenses > 0. Clearly, each cast member was paid no more than half grand. => Expenses ->0. => A Hit. Even K-Jo agrees with this hypothesis and calls it a sleeper hit (whatever that means).

Ideally I shouldn’t be afraid to say all these things, but I am petrified of Ramuji. Terrified that that he’ll hex me, phoonk me up or worse – sit me down and explain to me in mind-numbing detail how godmax Daud and Nisha/Priyanka Kothari are. That’s one major reason why most reviewers gave it a thumbs up, in my opinion – RGV had them sh** scared too. You might say I’m just being scared/ superstitious, but then you know what they say – It’s superstition until it happens to you. Brrrr …

Rock On – A nice rock movie with pop-style music, well-shot concert videos and songs which are refreshingly different (although not that awesome – you can’t play the audio alone in an infinite loop without a video playing simultaneously). I say pop, because every rock band should always have a bass guitarist, while the keyboard player is not a necessity. The story can be summarized in 6 words – band-disband-grow-reband-pathos-joy. Arjun Rampal takes up the Atul Agnihotri mantle of deadpan dialogue delivery no matter what the occasion and succeeds in being woodier than the entire Amazon forest. Farhan Akhtar sings better than he acts. Watching him being a successful, Jai-Sri-Krisna going I-Banker with a nice swanky house and a cute wife gives me considerable heartburn, but it’s ok  …

Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na – The movie worked because it was different, which was quite ironic – the story is pretty old and predictable (two good friends who don’t realize that they are in fact made for each other). The acting is strictly ok. The gags are like old wine in a new bottle (or the other way round- don’t quite remember). There are a lot of glaring errors (lots of time warps to cover ~20 km in like 2 minutes) and random references which can please smart-asses but which otherwise must have passed unnoticed. Still, the movie succeeds because of its novelty, hype, freshness vis-a-vis the actors and a fairly peppy soundtrack (Only one complaint: the overdose of singers with heavy South Indian accents seemed a bit out of place at times). Overall it was good, but definitely not a masterpiece as some made it out to be. Its success can be more attributed to a paucity of decent Hindi films (the other movie which released on the same day was Love Story 2050. LOL!)

The Dark Knight – Brilliant movie, simply brilliant. First time in a long, long time was I actually on the edge of my seat. Heath Ledger’s death gave it a surreal effect, like someone was addressing you from the grave, and his acting was mind-blowing. The stunts were crazy and the movie could had gone on for like ever without anyone complaining. Not the #1 movie of all time, though.

Bachna Ae Haseeno – Ranbir Kapoor has a good screen presence, even when he wears purple lipstick to complement with his deep purple (coloured, not the band ka) t-shirt and pink khakis. His character’s inability to commit is not as cringe inducing as some thought, but the entire second half is full of predictable reconciliatory attempts which are … well, quite boring. Bipasha looks like an aging has-been hottie who ‘swallowed’ one-too-many times, thereby acquiring a positively scary voice. Minissha Laambaa looks like a cute frost-bitten bunny and displays a unique ability to deliver all her dialogues with her teeth firmly clamped shut. Deepika Padukone has a distinctly Marathi accent which seems a bit out of place in Sydney. But still, it is an ok movie – very colourful and hummable, but nothing more.

De Taali – Watching this movie was the closest I’ve ever felt to experiencing a Dementor’s Kiss (from the Harry Potter series) which sucks out all joy from your life (the kiss, not the series). I felt miserable for days after that, and would had given up watching movies altogether had I not been so jobless most of the time. It was not just not funny – it was anti-funny. The very opposite of funny. It was what Laughter is prescribed for when people call it The Best Medicine. There was just ONE joke in the entire frikkin’ movie, and that too I missed because I was out of the theatre recuperating. Worst waste of my time ever.

The 40 year old virgin – Nice, awkward movie which has its moments. I liked it more because I’m a big fan of Steve Carrell from The Office. Overall an okay watch.

Over and out.

Written by sujaybedekar

September 17, 2008 at 3:16 pm