Friday, January 23, 2009


After a long time, I watched a fantastic movie about India by a Britisher. It's strange how we only appreciate things written, made about us by foreigners. "Gandhi" too was made by a Britisher and we liked it more than any of the films that we did on any of our founding fathers. That's how it is. We like foreigners talking about us.

Let's come back to Slumdog Millionaire. It exposed the darker side of India, India's underbelly. We always wish to show our glittery side, the tech parks, New Delhi, nowadays Bombay's Taj. Danny Boyle exposed the other side and he didn't seem to have even a hint of hesitancy while he did that. If you watch this movie with a foreigner and if you had painted a very rosy picture about India in his mind, you would stand exposed. I bet you can't see him eye to eye. Because he will know you lied or you did not tell him about India's underbelly, deliberately.

The film shows people stand in queue to shit, the place a makeshift wooden platform with a hole. It shows orphans lured with false promises, and gruesomely blinded by crudely scooping their eyeballs with a spoon. It shows small girls dragged into prostitution.   It shows communal violence. But I, personally, did not feel bad about any of these things that the film showed, because I cannot deny any of these. All these things happen in India.  I cannot do anything but feel sorry at what is happening, to say the least. One side of India is rotting. But we successfully hide it from the world like the other side of the moon that we never get to see.

Nothing that reflects truth can offend a reasonable thinking mind. All the above instances are true, so if you get offended, you are unreasonable. You are a pseudo-reasonable. You are cheating yourselves.

However, I did not like one particular thing in the movie. It made me reconsider my decision to watch the movie. I felt like walking out of the hall. I hated the director. For I thought it was the age old British thinking molded by their observation of the behavior of their Indian coterie, their chelas. World, real India is not bad as Danny Boyle portrayed it, atleast not bad at its heart like shown in the movie.  Wondering what I'm talking about?  It's that part of the movie, the often repeated ridiculing of the "Chaiwallah".  If it was shown as someone's personal comment, I would ignore it. But the way was shown - the host of the show ridiculing Jamal because he was a "chaiwallah" and the whole audience expressing its consent by a killing giggle, is something that I couldn't accept.  On screen, it translates as something reflecting the sentiment of the public, in the movie. Well, if Boyle intended that, he's not exposing but lying. This is not India and you shouldn't amuse the world by ridiculing a nation.  When the audience and the show host laughed at the "Chaiwallah", I coudl hear the whole world laughing at India.

Apart from this, as I told you earlier, I liked everything.  The casting was apt. Dev Patel was a refreshing face.  Freida Pinto's suddenly a star.  Irrfan Khan is now the official Indian face for Hollywood.   Rahman's "Jai ho" can make the whole world dance. 

I saw a white man sitting across the aisle watching this song not even blinking his eyelids even once and with an unintended, involuntary smile on his face.  The world likes India.  Irony is, if you show the glittery side of India, its malls, metros, expressways, tech parks, the world isn't interested. It has seen better such things in the West. The world, unfortunately, seems to like to see India's underbelly, our darker side. Let's see how things change.


Sunday, January 04, 2009


Imagine a guy sitting next to you in this situation - he's just pricking you with pin, nothing major, just a pin.  You're not seriously injured nor too bruised.  It just left you with a microscopic scar.  Imagine the guy continues doing it.  Keeps on doing it.  What do you do?  You take a pin and go on pricking the guy so that he understands the agony you were undergoing?  Or do you slap him hard so that he'd never dare to prick you again?  Wouldn't the majority agree that the second is the right thing to do?  But what if you are accused of using force against him that's disproportionate to what he did to you?

This, I think, is precisely what Israel is being accused of.  Well, ok, Hamas fires crude rockets blindly across the border towards Israel, most of the times they land in empty spaces, but every now and then, they strike the homes of unwary settlers and a few of them get killed.  Well only a few, may be 4-5 a month but isn't killing 400 in a week disproportionate to having 4-5 casualities each month?  What should Israel do?

For people calling for a ceasefire and people accusing Israel of atrocities, tell me, who is to blame for what's happening?  Israel or Hamas?

Isn't it prudent to expect collateral damage if a modern army with its advanced choppers tries to attack one of the most densely populated areas in the world?  A town like Gaza?  Should Israel keep quiet fearing collateral damage?  Should Hamas consider this or try desperately to maintain its macho image?  For Hamas, backtracking would mean demeaning itself in the eyes of its supporters.  Where's the end then?  Why are Hamas and its supporters under an impression that they can defeat the mighty Israel by burning a few -little more than-crackers here and there?

Hmm... well, I do not have an answer.  I spent my weekend thinking about this and watching CNN and BBC have a busy weekend covering the story for us.  For a change, I turned to our "news channels".  Yes, they deserve to be put under quotes, I hate all of them.  They were carrying out stories on the Pashupathinath temple row (an important story, really, I'll write about it later), India crying like a baby and accusing Pak for everything, seemingly threatening posture taken by our spineless government, etc, etc, the same old boring stuff.  Indian channels do not show us international news.  The only thing that I liked in what the Indian channels were showing was the repeatedly aired ad of L'oreal hair colour featuring Penelope Cruz.  Well, it made worth my visiting these channels once in a while.  She's so cute.

Back to BBC and CNN, the "carnage" continues, UNSC fails to reach a consensus, Libya criticizes, France criticizes and aah !! guess what, even India criticizes, a point which only our channels told us, BBC or CNN wouldn't bother to even know what India's stand on the issue would be.  India is too immature and self-centered when it comes to world affairs.  We're not heard.

Hope sense prevails and Hamas's voice is subdued by the more moderate and reasonable Arab voices and an end is put to this provoked violence.

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