Saturday, January 7, 2012

Top Influences

I've never been an active blogger, writing posts here and linking it in comment threads. I do occasionally use this as a scrapbook to pen down my thoughts but I find very few to be interesting enough to put up on blog.
I am a much more active blog reader. Here is a list of the key posts or points from other bloggers that have stayed with me through the years. They undoubtedly changed or at the very least, significantly influenced the way I thought about these issues at the time.

The points are from memory, of posts I read long ago and may not be accurate. They do not purport to be exact quotes.I will try to provide links to the actual posts if I can still find them.

1. Dilip D'Souza presented two sides of a question.
Until I read this post, I had different compartments in my thinking for terror attacks and riots.

2. Nitin Pai reframed a problem.
I have to admit I would have gone with the original flow of the problem statement, especially at the time I read it:
Agriculture which is the livelihood for 65% of the population needs to be a focus for the government.
So the way Nitin recast this was very effective:
65% of the population, who depend on agriculture for their livelihood, need to be the focus for the government.

3. Annie Zaidi watched something she knew she disliked.

Like with just about everybody else on this list, I disagree with some of her writing too. But when I read about Annie standing up and asking for a play to be continued, that she was about to walk out on (she found it deeply offensive) to counter others in the audience who were trying to shut it down, at one stroke, I "got" the Freedom of Expression thing. She and a few others then sat through the entire performance.
In supporting the expression of ideas that were personally very revolting to her, to the extent of sitting through this performance to keep it going, opposing people who she had common ground with (they found it just as offensive) for the principle of it, she has become my hero on FoS.

4. Polite Indian recalibrated fatwas for me.

I havent been able to find this quote again and the blog appears to have changed as well. It was a throwaway remark by PI on his comment threads, IIRC. He was talking about Hindu godmen and their various declamations and decrees.
"I consider them fatwas", he said.
This simple statement reset my thinking about both the godmen's proclamations and fatwas. I realized there were probably hundreds of fatwas churned out every day by various figures in the Muslim community that probably most people would not even know about and those few that did hear about these would ignore them. Also I realized that a godman with a serious enough following could create real problems with his irresponsible statements.

5. on nationalism and secessionism

I have previously searched for and been unable to find again this post that highlighted how the same mindset that masquerades as nationalism in majority communities will lead to secessionism in minority communities. There was also a powerful passage that described the diversity of both Shivaji's and Aurangzeb's army commands and sets their struggle in a completely different light than Hindutva forces would like :-) Not being able to locate these again, I can no longer remember whether these were part of the same post or two different posts.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Coke vs. Pepsi

Is Coke, at least in India, contractually obliged to do worse advertising than Pepsi? I refer to the weird "Burrrrrrr...." ad that's doing the rounds now. It has successfully dethroned Pepsi's "topless gladiators" ad and gives the rival drink a breather by drawing fire onto itself.

Well done Coca-Cola. That's what you set out to do.... right?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

CWGames in preview

* The games are inaugurated with a bang, quite literally, only nobody quite knows whether it was a guard of honour or a passing terrorist. An enquiry has been ordered.

* Strategic reorganization of the events has resulted in steeplechase events being held using the impediments on track. Next day its hurdles. Flat out running races are only scheduled after the tracks are completely cleared on day 4.

* Swimming records are being broken furiously. Its not clear whether this is out of all the training or extra motivation of the swimmers wanting to spend as little time in the water as possible.

* Security has looked up since the shooting teams have been assigned to this job. It has been unreliably learnt that the IM and other outfits dont fancy their chances against such sharpshooters.

* Sportspersons from a Certain Neighboring Nation are pleased as punch. They are being feted royally and invited to all events. A happy athlete praised the mehmaan-nawaazi of the organizers in keeping his contingent present at all contests in their discipline even though they crashed out in the second round of competition. He predicted great things for the future of Indo-CNN sporting ties.

* However it is rumored that good security is also due, in part to the wide visible presence of CNN athletes and officials at all events. This story has been denied by all officials concerned from the host nation -sometimes in advance of it reaching them.

* It has not been possible to ascertain whether the lamp got extinguished at the closing ceremony as abruptly as it did, because of a glitch or somebody's well-planned maneouvre to cut short the droning speeches.

* And in conclusion: the medals tally for India being the highest ever at a CWG, the Organizing Committee has been commended for the way they handled this event. Mr.Kalmadi, it is learnt, is being recommended for a Padma award. It is proposed to make CWG Delhi 2010 a template for all international sports competitions hosted in India in future.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Re-posting quote

Update2: Oct 10 2010. I reread this post and have decided to put it back up now

Update: I feel really weird about this post now, after learning from Ketan about IHM's loss. It is true that IHM's is one of the more recent places I had seen this. But it is also true that I wasnt aware of the tragedy or even thinking about anything other than how I approach this saying myself while posting it. but it feels more than awkward right now, almost disrespectful. Maybe I should delete it...

Unto the least

I've come across a few sites that repeat, sincerely I believe, the saying:

" I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it"

I've found this an admirable sentiment and often wanted to put it up on my blog, sidebar or elsewhere. Trouble is, I need it to be literally true. On reflection, this is what I could come up with:

"I may disagree with what you say but I will defend to the point of mild physical discomfort (eg. a shove) or medium-strength psychological discomfort (eg. sustained barracking) your right to say it"

and this doesnt quite come out looking so good. I'd appreciate tips on whether I should leave this up on my blog or take it down.

Oh, and how about if I agree with what you say?

Please continue to refer to my stand above, it still holds :-)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A bridge too far?

between the points

Trust but Verify


Trust but Verify

Sunday, July 4, 2010


*Spoilers galore* *lonng post*

Going in, much gray shade and blurring of the Ram-Ravan lines was expected. But there was precious little ambiguity, or duality I could discern here between the main characters nor does it appear to have been the intent. The title song "I am both Ram and Raavan" pretty much gives the game away. The movie makes its sympathies clear from the get-go and maintains it to the end . (Ram's entry sends a chill up your spine, as he silently apparates from behind the heroish Hanuman. Ravan is first seen in Zorro silhouette, heroic grimace intact and being gazed at in wonder not fear by an apparently mentally impaired Ragini as her boat is reduced to driftwood. He is given the most heroic of exits: standard Indi-movie declamations, a 100-1 ratio and the lady's affections firmly in place).

Is Ragini then the humanising influence? separation from which causes the Ram to go Ravanish and the Ravan becomes humane. But there is only a glimmer of this if at all. Ram starts out pretty bad and ends up worse, even after Ragini is back with him. Ravan's nobler aspects predate the entry of Ragini into his world. Sita if there is one, is perhaps the trust and love of the public and has always been with Veera/Ravan and if at all this film set out to do anything, it might be the Sitaization of Ragini.

If there is any interlude designed to present Ram positively, its the domestic-bliss flashback but with the intro and any foreknowledge of the events to come, the usual "he-man hero receiving the twirling ladies attention" sets up a disturbing picture. There is hardly a redeeming frame in the movie (IMO) that shows Ram as deserving of such affection. Played to perfection (assuming that was the intent) by Prithviraj, the cold, driven and almost nutty obsession of this Ram permeates the movie.

And it fails to be believable. There are huge, gaping plot holes, amazingly sent up by the Vigil Idiot here ; but more significantly, the movie fails to achieve what it sets out to. None of the characters is internally consistent or undergoes believable transition; Ram for instance is the guy that deviously sends Sita/Ragini back to trap Ravan but until then is incapable of assessing basic risk or safety at camp even after initiating provocative (and cowardly) action.

Ragini does better but not by much. Her feminist-approved feisty fierceness is here a device to prevent the audience from turning against Ravan- contrast with Surpanakha, prostrate on the floor in her horrific humiliation, begging her brutalizers to stop; unsure if this is enough, Mani tosses her into a well to seal the revenge theme solid. It could be Aishwarya's limitations as an actor, but her change of heart as the Ravan gang breaks into a weird, implausibly timed shuffle appears as much driven by a fervent desire to correct their dance steps as anything else.

Ravan, the apple of Mani's eye, has it easier. A slim slice of villainy is served up, dressed largely in the "buk buk chik chik" and we are, apparently, invited to think of this as clowning more than dangerous(*1) - the audience guffawing and holding their sides seemed to agree. And yet the consistency fails. A guy who could lop off his would-be brother-in-law's hand for running off from the wedding (for reasons as trifling as an armed police raid, and bullets flying around his head) spares the primary baddie 'Thoothukkudi', his sister's abductor and violator for, it would seem, Ragini's influence. Trouble is, this huge turnaround is never made credible.

And why the late turnaround at all? Ravan is master of this domain, absolutely in charge of the proceedings; deciding when to observe cops from under artful mudpacks, and when to render them immobile; when to raid them for weapons and hostages, and when to move in for the kill. 'Thoothukudi' hangs around in this universe, brainlessly awaiting his comeuppance. Avenging his sister should have been a finger-flick for Ravan.

Dev/Ram's failure is equally and utterly complete. Charging around mindlessly, in supreme and unbelievable unconcern for the safety of Ragini or his men, Dev is the absolute embodiment of what a field officer should not be. The identification of Dev with Ravan could not be more complete, and yet it is overdone. Ravan in the myth had moments of doubt and regret at what he was putting the people of Lanka through. Dev needs to be painted in even darker hue, to assuage this film's insecurities(*2), ultimately needing to be given his own life by the all-conquering Ravan.

For a counter-intuitive film, there are too many formulas and they looked too pat. But to me, the film fails at its grandest endeavor- the love of Sita public for Veera/ Ravan (the real Ram) is read into the evidence with no energy spent in justifying it. Half a village places itself at deadly risk, converting at a blink from settled life to nomadic hideaway outlaws in a wet waterworld, with mirth and song for no believable reason- the director's command is good enough.

In summary, it is still worth a watch for those who are interested in observing themselves and the movie. Significantly less nuanced than what I hoped for, it does engage you sufficiently to observe the characters and what they do to you. Not rooting for anybody brings about a nice sense of detachment and that is ideal to handle this movie.

If you made it this far :-) thank you for reading this ultra-long review.

(*1) Or so it felt, until the end when Ragini goes buk-buk and you realize that is the local expression for endearments and sweet nothings.

(* 2) Well there is one feature that Dev is better at; for all his jungle toughness, Veera needs his thick Zorro cloak while Dev saunters around in undervest and Ray-bans.

(* 3) Vikram has earned kudos for his dual roles in Tamil/ Hindi but I am not sure if it is entirely deserved. I saw the Tam version where he plays Raavan almost essentially positive; from trusted reviewers of the Hindi version, he plays Dev with dignity, and affection in that domestic routine- he appears to earn some sympathy for Ram in the Hindi version. If so he is essentially playing up the positives of whatever role he is given and not really what the director wanted him to do. But this is such a confused caper, we dont know what the director intended, and from the looks of it, the stars neither.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Angadi Theru

Its been a while since I saw movies that are not mindless entertainment- I happened to see this movie almost by accident. We'd planned to see some comedy flick but run late so we went to the closest theater to take in whichever movie we could get tickets for. Well one of our group did have an idea that it was a good movie, but we were seriously debating whether to watch Clash of The Titans instead.

There is a net effect from these presets but this was a socko film. It just blew me away. This post does not purport to be a serious review; just a reaction. Just one instance to show the impact it had on me: late into the movie, the heroine is desperately trying to meet her younger sister, a household servant who is being taken to Assam with their master's family. Tension mounts as she futilely searches for her among the packed crowd at the Chennai Central platform. She bursts out crying her sister's name, and the sister appears from right behind her.

Now ordinarily I would be going "huh; how likely is that?" But so completely have I identified with the characters here, that I am almost jumping with joy instead. By this point, every tiny speck of happiness that can be guided their way, I am willing it to happen to them.

So: a little manipulative, maybe. Too tragic? Perhaps again, but only as tragic as far too many real-life stories. You can find laundry lists of sundry flaws at various other sites I am sure. But do watch this movie.