Monday, 23 October 2017

Hindi Movie Villians (Dark yet Funnily Endearing)

One thing that makes Hindi Movies stand out is its amazingly eccentric and ironically loveable bad guys. Dark yet funnily endearing is the best way I can describe them... it is not the perfect description but it is hard to put into words why there are so likeable! From KN Singh in the early 50s to Prakash Raj currently, we have had some phenomenal villains who have developed their own entertaining styles. Hindi movies have had a predominant culture of having entertaining and interesting personalities of bad guys - a culture that has only started to crumble recently. Bad guys in Hollywood too have been eccentric and entertaining (Christopher Walken, Jack Nicholson) but not to the dark yet funnily endearing levels of Hindi movie bad guys. It is because their evilness is usually over-the-top.

I have listed my favourite top 15 villains. With them in the movie, you do not need a comedian for comic relief. Their evilness is quite entertaining because of their over-acting and staying within the energetic eccentricity of their characters.

Here's my list of top 15 bad guys:

15. Rehman the passively entitled and 14. Dalip Tahil the actively entitled

I combined these two as they have a similar theme. Rehman always plays a filthy rich guy and has an entitled aura surrounding him. This is best exemplified by how he (Chinai Seth) kills a man in the movie Waqt (1964) and acts as if it is a crime to accuse a reputable (rich) man like him. Dalip Tahil's filthy rich characters are more explicit in this regard. He usually plays characters that boast about being unscrupulous pricks because *THEY CAN* without any consequences.

13. Ajit the patient

Ajit must be on top of the list for many people as his idiosyncracies have been well-documented and joked about for a long time by many comedians. He always has henchmen and even henchwomen who he orders around while sitting patiently in his armchair. His feathers are never ruffled and he has a calm, patient demeanour indicating that he is untouchable by law enforcement which is really fun to watch.

12. Ashish Vidyarthi the overconfident

Very few actors post 2000 can be categorized as endearing villians. Ashish Vidyarthi is one of them. He mostly plays a bad guy in David Dhawan movies which are funny anyway. His trademark style is being cocky, impulsive, overconfident, and throwing tantrums when things do not go his way.

11. Ranjeet the pervert

The characters he plays makes my skin crawl. The way in which he massages his own chest and exhales loudly when looking at a woman sends a creepy current down my spine! This is precisely why he is so good at what he does.

10. Sharat Saxena the self-righteously frustrated

The most stark scene that is in my memory for Sharat Saxena is from Ghulam (1997) where he expresses frustration at people not liking him just because he extorts money from them! Usually plays the henchman of the main bad guy and always has an impatient, frustrated look on his face which I personally find amusing to watch.

9. Jeevan the creep

This guy was creepy to the point of making my hair stand on end and sending a tingle down my spine whenever he appeared on screen. That is exactly what made him so awesome! Also, he was creepy in a non-sexual or a non-perverse way which is difficult to pull off. The backstabbing, manipulative characters he played really suited his nasal laugh and tiny eyes.

8. K.N. Singh the energy conserver

His uniqueness lay in the way he kept a quite demeanor for a majority of the scene being very soft-spoken and then suddenly exploding in rage! Also like the way he kept a skeptical face while thinking through his evil plots and made funny noises with his mouth and nose while he did the thinking.

7. Sudheer the loud

He never played the main villain but always the sidekick henchman. Loved the loud way in which he talked while slurring the 's' sounding syllables. He was so hot-headed and impulsive that he could have easily been the real life version of Yosemite Sam!

6. Prakash Raj the ego-maniac

Sadly after the 90s, very few bad guys have made a mark in the new millennium. Prakash Raj is one of them. Love the way he plays thin-skinned characters who obsess over every little insult thrown at them and then describe in detail how he is going to screw up the life of the good guy. Very entertaining! Reminds me of Dick Dastardly from Hanna Barbera cartoons.

5. Sadashiv Amrapurkar the smug bully

The most underrated villian! His character always took pleasure in hitting raw nerves of people and embellishing how powerful he is vs. how powerless the good guys are. The entertaining part about his personality was how he oscillated his body from left to right while being a smug bully.

4. Pran the whiner

Similar to Sharat Saxena above, Pran too played perennially frustrated bad guy roles. What I liked was his incessant whining and grumbling of how the good guy get in his way and foils his plots and he did it in the most unique way by tightly nodding his head from side to side. The best part of course what his facial expression which was a unique combination of bitter, skeptical, and complaining.

3. Shakti Kapoor the shameless

This man is the love-child of Ranjeet and Jeevan. He practices shamelessness with utmost ease! As examples, watch him belch throughout the movie (Jungbaaz, 1989), roam around in his underwear (Raja Babu, 1994), or make orgasmic sounds all the time in almost all of his movies. He gives his 100% without any reservations for any role he plays. That is why characters like Crime Master Gogo (Andaz Apna Apna, 1994) easily stick out in memory!

2. Gulshan Grover the bad man

This man plays such unapologetically bad characters that it is funny! In fact, he repeatedly calls himself a "Bad Man" in Ram Lakhan (1989). His over-the-top evilness reminds me of Skeletor. I can easily imagine Gulshan Grover making plans to capture Castle Grayskull.

1. Prem Chopra the transparent 

My absolute favourite! He plays lowdown characters that lie, cheat, smuggle, and do every bad thing possible and cannot hide their evil, childish excitement while doing those things. This excitement comes in the best way through his throaty, gargly dialogues. Also, his cowardly fear for getting caught is very transparent and fun to watch. It is entertaining to see his facial expressions give away his bad intentions throughout the movie and in the end, it is even more entertaining to see him either run away crying when all seems to be lost or hopelessly apologizing to the good guys! 

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Cows that exhale oxygen on a flat Earth

It is really hard to do but sometimes we need to look deep inside right wing nutjobs, bigots, and trolls to understand where they are coming from and how they are able to function in their daily lives when they are full of hate, conspiracy theories, oversimplified views on life, and respect for exploitative authority! Let me perform the tough task of looking at them from an empathetic point of view.

Right wingers come in many different forms with different levels of hate, jingoism, fanaticism, and irrational beliefs. I am going to specifically focus on those who have crazy irrational beliefs. After painfully observing such people online and a few of them offline over a large period of time, I have an idea of where they are coming from.

One can attribute the ostracism of homosexuals, sexism against women, narrow-minded social beliefs, and racism to bigotry. But what has baffled me over the years is the right-winger stubbornness to disbelieve everything liberals say even though it makes perfect sense! "Since a 'libtard' said it and is advocating for it, it HAS to be wrong." That is how their brains are unfortunately wired.

Why do so many Americans deny climate change or believe in a flat earth? Why do so many Indians believe that cows exhale oxygen which enriches our environment and why are left-handed Indian children forced to write and eat with their right hand? A major source of such inane, self-defeating beliefs is an ingrained inferiority complex fueled by the academic industry and the glamour industry.

Academics are in large part believers of science and socially liberal. The famous ones like Neil Degrasse Tyson and Bill Nye promote science as a 'cool' thing. This irks people who are not academically oriented or have a good educational background. Such people are often dogmatically religious as well. It irks them because they have not built the temperament to understand the concept of critical reasoning which could be because or their upbringing or their circumstances. No human wants to feel inferior, so in order to fill that void they start believing in simpler theories that are not cognitively taxing and make more sense. "I look around me and can clearly see that the Earth is flat so it must be flat!" "Cow is our holy animal and it can do no wrong, HENCE it has to be true that it exhales oxygen!" "Oil helps economy. It creates jobs! So how the hell can oil be bad?" "All my neighbor's children are right-handed. So logically, my child also HAS to be right-handed". Such people mistake simplistic thinking for irrefutable logic because their sub-conscious wants them to feel good about themselves by keeping them in a denial mode. The very definition of "conservative" is not wanting to know beyond what one already knows and is comfortable with!

Such an inferiority complex is further fueled by both Hollywood and Bollywood being largely liberal. When glamorous people have opposite views from you, it can get painful as you do not feel to be a part of their in-group. You resent the fact that you neither look nor think like them and therefore will make an extra effort to refute the most obvious things! A holy cow becomes a part of your identity and any fact that shows it in bad light, even if it is exhaling carbon dioxide, has to be wrong!

I often indulge in masochism and look at online posts of flat-Earthers. I have always failed to find a justification from them about why NASA would lie to us. Then I realized that they resent the fact that deep down in their sub-conscious, they know that they are not that smart. This ingrained inferiority complex makes them believe anything that refutes basic scientific knowledge. After all, you can feel really powerful when you make your own shit up! It's a drug that they are now addicted to and cannot give up even in case they'd like to do so.

In a nutshell, what I am essentially saying is that the strength of belief in an obviously false theory is caused by the need to fill an intellectual void which is mediated by a sub-consciously generated inferiority complex. 

I know have not presented any empirical evidence for the above and I have largely spoken like an armchair psychologist. However, my intuitive theory can be worth testing.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Small Government

I find it very fitting when right wing politicians advocate having small governments. With people like them in the government, it is only fair that it has as small an influence as possible. But they do not actually mean a *small* government in every aspect - social and economic. They are hypocrites who want a *big* government when it comes to social issues like religion, culture, freedom of expression, women's health, and even fueling religious prejudices. The people who actually want a small government in the social as well as the economic sense are Libertarians. Therefore, to do justice to the title of my blog post, I will talk about Libertarians for the rest of the post. 

I have never mentioned Libertarians in this blog site before as I did not meet any of them personally before I came to the US. Libertarianism is a significantly big moment in the US compared to India. I personally know two Libertarians now. I may have a smallish sample size, but I think I have got a decent assessment of them based on interacting with them, and the links they share on their Facebook feed.

For a liberal centrist like me, who is disturbed by the hate-mongering of Right Wingers and by the petty whining of Marxists, Libertarians disturb me in a very unique way. While interacting with them, I feel like a single parent having to take care of an adolescent kid. At that age, kids are able to make coherent arguments, but have not yet attained the maturity to realize that they may not always get what they want in life if it comes at the expense of others. For example, if they play really loud music and the neighbor complains, then they think that the neighbor is the bad guy impinging on their freedom to play loud music. This is because when they are hitting puberty, it is hard for them to think about anyone else except themselves. The concept of living in a society where other people's comfort and well-being also matters is alien to them. Eventually most kids outgrow that phase when they hit their early twenties and create an empathetic view of the world around them. Somehow Libertarians never outgrow puberty and that is what disturbs me.

Considering that Libertarians have liberal social values and conservative business values, they have two choices in a country like USA where none of the main two parties are Libertarian. They can join with the 'liberal' Democrats or with the conservative Republicans (I have put quotes for liberal while describing Democrats because I have realized that they are not that *liberal*, but more on that later). However, they always somehow root for the Republicans. Libertarians like Rand Paul and Ron Paul run for President through a Republican ticket. The fact that they rate the liberty of business over social liberties makes me like Libertarians much less. 

Speaking of liking Libertarians, liberal centrists like me ABHOR, DETEST, and HATE Ayn Rand. She extols selfishness as a virtue. That is why right wingers love her even though she opposes them on social issues. The way right wingers work is that they usually hide behind things like religion, tradition, and culture to do bad things because they are somehow morally justified. The reason they love Rand is because she gives them one more direct reason to be jerks! That reason is selfishness. If selfishness becomes your moral virtue, it is really easy to disregard the social well-being of those around you to do what you want! A minimal government idealized by the Libertarians will have no power to protect the underprivileged from the excesses of the selfish privileged. The counter-argument of a big government itself harming the underprivileged while choking the aspirations of the privileged is also valid. We do not have a perfect solution, so we need to balance between the two concepts until we find a perfect solution. Having absolutist views based on theory does not help!

Except Ayn Rand, I have found other Libertarians whom I personally know and have seen on TV/Internet to be really nice people even though I find their views amusing at best, and cruel at worst. I respect their notion of individualism. What they need to respect is the notion of living in a society and sharing limited resources. They also need to come out of their stubborn pubescent thinking that unregulated businesses and small governments will suddenly make the world a better place. The notion of a small government is very exciting at first just like looking at cleavage is heavily exciting for boys in their early teens. But there is more to life than mere excitement and cheap thrills. Libertarians may want to start looking at nuances to the argument favoring minimal government - because that is what you do as you grow older - start picking nuances.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Authenticity and traditional television

A close friend of mine introduced me to something called "YouTube" back in 2007. This was also a time when we had moved from a dialup connection to high speed Internet. Watching video clips I choose, as an when I please, and with the freedom to skip certain sections was a paradigm shift for me. Of course, at that time, streaming with high speed Internet came at a huge price, and I went so excitedly overboard with the new toy I found that my Internet bill for that month came to be around Rs. 4000.

Watching TV over the Internet was a more obvious paradigm shift. However, there was another deeper, more obscure but more powerful paradigm shift that occurred with the advent of streaming TV. It was that of anyone - I mean anyone who can post their videos that have a chance to go viral. In fact, even I posted my own standup comedy video on YouTube back in 2009, and it got hundreds of views. I was not aware of Internet trolling at that time, so after reading some really mean comments I took it down. Anyway, this post is not about that video, it is about authenticity.

So many of these home-made videos went viral at that time. The one that comes to mind is this (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPDYj3IMkRI) which my sister showed me in 2009. Also, YouTube has given so many people the opportunity to have their own online shows which do not require much investment. Comedy groups in India such as AIB and EIC who would have had no chance 15 years back because of packaged and censored mainstream television are great YouTube stars now. Cenk Uygur, a journalist who was fired from mainstream TV channel MSNBC for asking politicians too many honest questions created his own show The Young Turks on YouTube and now has over a million subscribers. And he kicks ass with honest, straightforward news and analysis. There are thousands of other examples of YouTube stars, but I guess you get my drift.

So when everyone has a chance to express their views which can be seen by everyone else, the paradigm of quality videos shifts from professionalism to authenticity. CNN anchors like Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer look very professional and have a great television presence, but after you have watched YouTube news anchors like Cenk Uygur and Kyle Kulinski, the professional look of Cooper and Blitzer means shit! Kulinski, Uygur, Dore, and others bring out a certain authenticity which matters so much more than professional robots. If I want news and an informed opinion, why would I watched packaged CNN and MSNBC shows when YouTube gives me something so much more raw and honest? Also, YouTube shows are not time-bound. So YouTube presenters have the flexibility of time which 24 hour TV channels don't.

I was introduced to YouTube when I was 25. So I had a sufficient exposure to packaged television where everything is pre-planned and scripted. However, think about the millenials who were born post 1990. For them, the Internet and YouTube is all too familiar over traditional television. As soon as they would have got some intellectual maturity, they would have been exposed to more authentic stuff over the Internet than pre-planned, time-bound television shows.

And THAT is why, as they say in Hindi - ज़माना बदल रहा है (things are changing). And things are changing for the better. People younger to me are more receptive to authenticity than pandering rhetoric. That is why they are attuned to Bernie Sanders and not to pre-packaged, scripted Hillary Clinton who seems to know exactly when to talk what and with what tone. Youngsters can totally see through her!

Unfortunately, the population of baby boomers born from the mid 1940s to the mid 1960s is huge! Therefore mainstream television still has an audience and will not die soon. Many baby boomers are still averse to the Internet. They have grown up in an era where presentation mattered more than substance.

The medium of television is not as flexible as the Internet, so we cannot hope to see more authentic stuff in it to change with the times. It will slowly die and wither away as the millenials make their presence felt! Till then, inauthentic, pre-packaged news anchors like Anderson Cooper, and loud, shitty comedians like Kapil Sharma will continue to thrive to entertain the blockheaded baby boomers, and certain idiots even from my generation. 

Friday, 20 February 2015

The character of Jai in Sholay

Sholay (1975) was an absolute classic and deserved every bit of accolades and box office returns that it got. The primary reason for its phenomenal success was its characterization. The writing duo of Salim-Javed etched out each idiosyncratic character to perfection. The most popular being the mercurial villian Gabbar Singh played by Amjad Khan.

Other notable characters that keep being talked about and mimicked endlessly are the verbose Basanti played by Hema Malini, the childish Veeru played by Dharmendra, the vengeful Thakur played by Sanjeev Kumar, the sidekick Sambha played by Macmohan, and so on... I could dedicate one blog post to each of these characters.

However, one character that does not get the mention it deserves is that of Jai played by Amitabh Bachchan. It was a brilliantly etched out character which was quite well-defined and to his credit, Amitabh Bachchan stayed within the limits of that character without trying anything overt. Even if he had been slightly extravagant in playing that character, it would have lost its charm.

Jai was an introvert. He was very brave, intelligent and kind but these qualities got hardly noticed by movie watchers even though he was one of the lead characters in the movie. Speaking from personal experience, introverts tend to get ignored because they are not 'loud' enough in displaying their qualities. Perhaps that is why it bothers me personally that Jai isn't talked about or caricatured as much as the other characters.

Anyway, enough about me, let me now explain why Jai's characterization was as awesome as the others. Firstly, he was kind and conscientious. When he and Veeru were apparently confused about the correct course of action, they used flip a coin. Jai always assigned heads to the decision which was morally correct - like getting the jailer to the hospital when he was wounded and in that process getting jailed himself or sending Veeru home with Basanti towards the end of the movie and doing the dangerous deed of fighting the bad guys alone. The reason why he assigned heads to the tougher but morally correct decision was because he had a special coin where both the sides were heads. Another example of his strong conscience was when he spoke with Mausi about giving Basanti's hand to Veeru in marriage. His tone may have been misleading but he only spoke the truth about the true nature of Veeru, even though Veeru was his best friend. Lastly, when Veeru tried to fool Basanti by apparently speaking in God's voice by standing behind God's idol, it was Jai who pointed the truth out to Basanti. I can think of two more examples of his kindness but I will not bore you...

Secondly, he was a cerebrally gifted man who came up with excellent one-liners like "Tumhara naam kya hai Basanti?" or "James Bond ki aulad hai". He asked Thakur searching questions about his intentions to bring Gabbar alive while Veeru stood next to him like a dud. Also, it seemed like Jai was the guy who planned the jail escape from the prison of 'Angrez ke zamaane ke jailer'.

Lastly, the man had balls. He chose to fight the bad guys alone in the end, and during Holi, he was the lone one who stepped up to Gabbar when all seemed lost, and he could do sharp shooting without flinching an eye.

The bigger point I am trying to make here is the writers, the director and the actor himself brought about great quality to the character of Jai and dealt with this complex person in a very sensitive manner. In my opinion, out of all the characters the great Amitabh Bachchan has played, this was the second best character.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Freedom of Speech - the second tenet

Whenever people talk about freedom of speech, they end up talking about freedom of expression. Freedom of expression is of course, a major tenet of freedom of speech as it entails giving an individual the liberty to say and do what she/he pleases as long as no one is harmed.

The recent attacks on Salman Rushdie, Jay Leno and some years back on M.F. Hussain are targetting their freedom of expression. I've taken these three examples to be religion-neutral. The people who protest against them are simply saying, "they have the right to express themselves as long as they don't offend anyone or hurt anyone's sentiments." Even the mediocre novel writer Chetan Bhagat has joined the above bandwagon!

I can write pages on how stupid the concept of 'hurting someone's sentiments' is, especially in the Indian context but I want to bring to light something else in this blogpost.

That something else is the second tenet of freedom of speech - "Freedom of Thought". If we keep limiting our expressions to what should not offend others, there will be no intellectual growth in this world. The same old worn-out beliefs and customs will go on for centuries if we curtail the right of people to question them.

In the 16th century AD, it was a religiously held belief that the Earth was the centre of the universe and the other celestial bodies revolved around it. The Italian astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus challenged that notion and he met with a lot of criticism. Had he worried about offending religious sentiments, he would have never expressed such views and subsequently, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei wouldn't have been able to carry forward with Copernicus' postulates. If we had curtailed the right of these astronomers to think beyond what is widely accepted, we would have still been under the impression that the sun revolves around the earth.

Religious views are nothing but misconceived beliefs passed on from generation to generation. Everyone should have the freedom to challenge every notion no matter how strongly it is held by a rigid bunch of people.

It may not be practically possible to implement complete freedom of thought in India because law and order becomes a major issue. But it must slowly find its way in the years to come if we are to challenge archaic religious and cultural beliefs in our country which are suppressive in nature, mostly towards women.

And people like Chetan Bhagat should be ignored as don't really have the capacity to think beyond what is accepted and believed. The pathbreaking scientists and freedom fighters across the world have earned recognition purely through challenging the status quo and exercising their freedom of thought.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Mind of the smoking man

Disclaimer: I am not against smoking even though I am a non smoker. I am all for individual freedom. In fact, I have strongly supported the right of people to smoke in the blogpost - Leave the smokers alone. Just like smokers, even I find the patronizing anti-smoking enthusiasts extremely annoying. Still, this does not stop me from critically analyzing the mind of smokers as let's face it - they too are a patronizing bunch! Simply put, I don't like the attitude of smokers but have no problem with their act of smoking.

As a child in school, I was intelligent enough to know that smoking is bad for health and it is addictive. I'm sure most of my friends knew that too. Yet, some of my classmates, as soon as they turned 14 or 15, started lighting up. Even they knew cigarettes were harmful but they were not thinking long term. They were more concerned about looking 'cool' and 'badass' so that they could get some respect among their peers. People like me, who were encouraged to smoke but chose not too were looked at with a patronizing fervor - "Arrey, yeh to baccha hai!"

When you are a teen, about to become an adult, someone calling you a 'kid' can be quite distressing. Some of my classmates gave in to that distress and the number of smokers grew. I personally was not disgusted with smoking (I still am not) but at the same time I still thought, "Why get in to something that is going to harm me a lot in the future?" Also, my self-esteem was not that low that I needed an additional identity that was borne out of smoking cigarettes.

When I got to degree college, the immaturity of my peers remained. I joined the BMS course in Jai Hind college where a bunch of students who smoked started hanging out together and assumed that they were the 'coolest' group in class. The rest of us were supposed to worship them! My resentment towards smokers grew a bit! (Kindly note - the resentment was towards 'smokers' and not 'smoking')

During my engineering too I got a similar feeling. In fact, I also always saw girls magnetically attracted towards smokers. Maybe the girls too suffered from low self-esteem and wanted to be seen around tough, Marlboro-man type guys.

During my third year of engineering when I was 21, I believed that my peers were now adult enough not to start smoking. The ones who were already smoking, started it in their immature years and that is understandable to an extent. I was in for a shock when one of my classmates, in a deep search of identity, started lighting up! He even bragged about it!

And during my MBA, again a bunch of smokers got to together and started calling themselves the C.Com - the Cigarette Community. Since smoking wasn't allowed on campus, these guys used to hold their 'C.Com meetings' behind a stinky toilet and gossip about the rest of the class.

Finally, when I started working, my office colleagues looked at me as some guy who hasn't enjoyed life as he hasn't held a cigarette. I was thinking, that at least now, at an age of 25 or more, people should stop thinking that way! My disgust for them was slowly turning into pity as I started realizing that they had become slaves of the cigarette and were in a denial mode.

That brings me to the mind of a smoking man - simply put, it is screwed!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

The Revolution

I recently attended a consumer meet at Nashik for our company's customers who use Tata Tiscon rebars. It was an informal event where the focus was to build relationships and talk beyond steel and construction. There, I met a civil engineer called Mr. J Datta who said he was a communist when he was in his teens back when he lived in Calcutta. He did not lean towards communism now but related an interesting insight of Karl Marx to us.

Karl Marx was a communist and communism mainly believes that in order to end exploitation of the working class by the rich or the bourgeoisie, there has to be a major revolution - an anarchy which may be violent but extremely needed. Once the bloodshed ends and the bourgeoisie are defeated, whoever assumes power will form the government and ensure an equitable distribution of resources.

Karl Marx derisively used the term petite bourgeoisie to describe the middle class. He said the working class are not strong enough to fight the bourgeoisie but the middle class are! Unfortunately, it is this class of people who believes purely in consumption and learns to adjust with the exploitations and corruption of the rich and powerful. It is only when the petite bourgeoisie have their backs to the wall and are removed from their comfort zone, they will fight back.

That struck a chord with me. This can't be more truer in India! The intellect of the country lies within the middle class. Unfortunately, the middle class adjusts and finds a way out of the obstacles the government places in its path. The middle class does not vote. Children belonging to middle class families want to educate themselves here and then migrate to other countries.

Even politicians do not focus on the middle class as they get their votes from the working class and the money from the bourgeoisie, ie. rich and powerful. Even though it is neglected by leaps and bounds, the middle class selfishly soldiers on and remains the highest consumer by volume for most of the goods and services available in the country.

I am not a communist and neither am I advocating a revolution but the recent support shown to Anna Hazare's anti-corruption and Lokpal campaign does indicate that the middle class back has finally reached the wall.

The youth who haven't seen or do not remember India pre-liberalization are getting impatient. They aren't seeing India progress even half as fast as it has the potential to. There is a clamour for seats at prestigious institutions which is leaving many aspirations unfulfilled. There is an awareness of how the lives of their contemporaries in developed countries are better as far as comfort is concerned.

I'm not a fan of satyagraha. I also know that Anna Hazare's mentality, knowingly or unknowingly, is anarchic. I also have faith that there are certain people in the government, especially the Prime Minister are not delaying the passing of the bill on purpose but want a healthy deliberation which Mr. Hazare is not too keen on. I also cringe at the thought of protesting with banners and holding candlelight vigils. Lastly and importantly, the country is still dealing with issues more dastardly and more rampant than corruption - female foeticide/infanticide, dowry death, caste segregation, honour killings, child marriages, etc. I am not 'caught on' to the movement as much as my contemporaries are!

Even then, the volume of people supporting his cause is heartwarming as it is only this volume that will make the UPA and Congress higher-ups who have been taking the nation for granted, a bit rattled. As one of my friends on facebook put - "Dear govt I hope you realize that people are not WITH anybody but AGAINST you". You don't have to be a Hazare supporter to be against corruption, you just need to be against corruption.

I don't see a revolution happening in India like the one recently happened in Egypt to overthrow Mubarak. India is too large and diverse a country for a sustained revolution. But one thing is for certain - people's backs have touched the wall and the government would be a fool to take the consumer class for granted.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Cyber-BJP maniacs

I'm back after almost 3 months and I found it appropriate to rekindle my passion for BJP bashing in this comeback! Recently, I had this cyber showdown with a Narendra Modi worshipper on facebook and it got a bit ugly. He was a typical cyber-BJP supporter and believe me, the quantity in which cyber-BJP maniacs post their crap on the net, it seems the population of India is lesser than the number of such people!

However, I have observed something recently. There are two distinct types of cyber-BJP maniacs.

Type 1: Trolls: I hope I don't have to explain what a troll is, anyway, check this link: Troll, only read the first 3 definitions. Check the web fora or newspaper sites of any country, the trolls are almost always right-wingers. Same is the case with India. Sometimes I wonder if BJP sponsors these nutcases to spread their foolish propaganda over the net or hardcore fans of the BJP, by their nature are just acting themselves. The impact of such cyber-maniacs can be seen through annoyance of pro-liberals like Vir Sanghvi, Sagarika Ghose, Ranvir Shorey, etc... they are inundated with abusive, illogical rants, especially in their twitter accounts. In fact, Sagarika Ghose coined the term "Internet Hindus" to describe them.

Type 2: Logic Abusers: Sometimes logic can be a tricky thing! It can be used (read abused) to get caught up in semantics and drifting from the main topic in hand. For example, the person I mentioned in the introductory paragraph somehow agreed that Narendra Modi in some way, could be held responsible for the post-Godhra carnage but fingers should not be pointed on the individual but on the system as it was a 'systemic failure'. He also used some more fancy words like 'retributive effect' which I didn't seem to get as I'm not good with semantics beyond a point! Although trolls largely outnumber such logic abusers, such logic abusers do make their presence felt and keep smartly diverting from obvious truths. Arun Jaitley, the biggest logic abuser in the country would be proud of them!

Although, there is one thing common between the two types. They automatically assume anti-BJP people as Congress-supporters or Hindu-haters. Why can't they seem to understand that there are many people like me who are not much in favour of the Congress either and have nothing against the Hindus? In fact I am a Hindu!

I guess abusive rants and diversionary logic are the only recourses to support fascism.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

The only thing good about KBC 3

There are so many things not to like about the gameshow KBC in its third stint. In fact, the first thing to dislike about it is it isn't a 'gameshow' anymore but a reality show which peeks into contestant's personal lives and also has some quiz game going by the side. However, such peeking has its advantages, I'll come to it later.

The other thing to dislike is Amitabh Bachchan, good at times but boring at most other times. Such diplomatic game show hosts put me to sleep. At least it was fun to watch the dynamic Shah Rukh Khan in the second edition.

The worst aspect is the manipulation of the show where people from small towns are given preference to participate as they are the target audience. In fact, in the last episode, there was a clear manipulation of questions too as a South Indian woman was asked a bundle of questions on South India and a Muslim contestant was asked questions on Urdu.

However, there is a bright side to such manipulations. Women who are working are selected in huge measure. Their supportive husbands too are shown. This is a great way to spread the message of equality among genders. Also, if a large section of the Indian masses who throng to watch the show see a husband from a small town openly supporting his wife's career ambitions, it makes a huge difference in the overall psyche of the country.

As I've said before in earlier blogposts, in a metro like Bombay itself, there are rich, well-to-do, educated families who still don't believe in equal opportunities for men and women. Such shows are a slap to their faces. Even women who are undecided to choose between a career and being a housewife can be inspired by the life stories of the female contestants.

Since prime time television is a mass medium watched by millions of people, I hope Siddharth Basu continues doing such manipulations if it helps improve the overall psyche of the country! 

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The 'C' word

I've written so many blogposts on politics and yet, I have hardly (once or twice) used the word 'corruption'. I consider it to be a bit of an achievement because the two words have become synonymous to the point of extreme hackneyedness*. 

Every Tarunesh, Dinesh and Haresh** oversimplifies the problems of this country by saying, "There is so much corruption yaar!". "We need to root out corruption". "Corruption is a social evil." Stupid cliche' mongers!

According to me, corruption is not the cause of the problems of this country, it is simply a by-product! The main cause is us - the voters. We do not take full advantage of democracy bestowed upon us after independence. No matter what skeptics say, we are a good example of a fully functioning democracy in the world. And yet, we botch up our right to vote by taking factors other than governance into consideration. 

We are all so obsessed with the religion we follow or the caste we belong to or the language we speak, that we end up voting for the idiot who panders to our community. Once elected, the idiot knows that his 'corruption' will be overlooked by his votebank since those stupid voters would rather vote for someone who belongs to or favours their community rather than someone who will govern them well and make their lives better.

Now Tarunesh, Dinesh and Haresh will throw one more cliche' at me - " But TINA." TINA = There is No Alternative. I agree, sometimes, while voting, it is between choosing the devil and the deep blue sea. (Damn! this cliche' business is contagious). But keep in mind, the politicians are the most sensitive of public sentiment and if the people are in no mood to listen to empty community pandering, they won't do so! It may take 2-3 elections (10-15 years) for a collective public mood desiring good governance, but it can happen. Take the example of Bihar and Orissa. Bihar, after its infamous days under Lalu Prasad Yadav who was at the helm for 15 years, is now the second fastest growing state in the country under Nitish Kumar. Navin Patnaik is another leader who doesn't pander to any specific community and Orissa, until now a neglected state, too is developing. The right-wingers may also want me to mention one more chief minister*** but I won't since good governance is no excuse for having a basic disregard for the loss of innocent lives.

Also, let us accept the fact the corruption cannot be fully eliminated. However, it can be reduced drastically through informed voters, good governance and an active media.

* - I know, hackneyedness is not actually a word. 

** - Tarunesh, Dinesh and Haresh - Indian version of Tom, Dick and Harry.

*** - Narendra Modi

Sunday, 24 October 2010

The broad-minded taxi driver

Two weeks back I had hired a taxi to take me from Ghatkopar to Sion. At the Suman Nagar signal I saw a well-built, well-fed man going from car to car asking for money. He was quite aggressive and literally resorted to 'strong-arm' tactics by tugging at a man's arm and exhorting him to give money. My taxi driver explained that he was collecting donations for a big Navratri Puja. When the man in the car didn't relent and refused to give him any money, the collector self-righteously whined as though some grave injustice had been carried out against him!

I wondered which God would be happy to be decorated and venerated through such forced 'donations'. I also thought that instead of spending on huge pandals, the money can be also used to feed the hungry. I felt like saying that but kept quiet not knowing what the taxi driver's view may be. I wondered whether the taxi driver may take offence if I say those things. 

However, the taxi driver himself voiced my thoughts. He told me that it is a huge waste of money venerating the Gods in a grand manner. He also criticized the competition between different groups on building the biggest pandal. In fact, he went on to say that people are blinded by faith and do not understand that the only way to worship the God is by being good people ourselves. He said his conscience was clear and that was all that mattered to him.

He in fact, indulged me in a bit of history. He said that doing a puja/aarti was an unknown concept in many parts of India about 200 years ago. The only reason every village had a temple was to resolve disputes between villagers in the presence of God - ie. arbitration of disputes was done by Panchayats in the ground outside the temple. 

He may not have been educated, but he was well-learnt. He used the tool many of us in India forget that we possess - the tool of independent thinking. He also mentioned that he does not express such views everywhere with the fear of being severely reprimanded or being treated as an outcast.

This led me to believe that liberalism, broad-mindedness or enlightened thinking isn't the sole ownership of the educated or the elite. It resides in everyone who is willing to think clearly enough. Anyone who is willing to shed the well entrenched notion that indentity = religion can be included in the category of broad-minded thinkers. And anyone who believes that a clear conscience and not grand venerations is the best way to get closer to God is an intellectual according to me. That dud who was collecting donations at the signal is simply an insecure person wanting to establish his identity through his religion, a victim of fake pride and worst of all, afflicted by a bandwagon effect which makes him believe whatever the mob does is right.

I'd like to conclude by saying that liberalism or modernism has no relation to a person's education or income level. Come to think of it, I know many orthodox well-to-do families who believe in grand religious celebrations and I know many well educated people whose social and cultural beliefs are unpleasantly orthodox. I've heard of a PhD. guide who tells his students to convert to Christianity or they'll go to hell. I also have a post-graduate friend who thinks a woman should stop working once she gets married and take care of her husband's parents. I can give you many more such examples of educated bigots.

In fact, on similar lines, I intend to write one more blog post to say that conservatism vs. liberalism is not necessarily a fight between the old vs. the new.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

IPL: Strong likes and dislikes

There are some aspects of the Indian Premier League (IPL) which are very good for the game of cricket in India and the world. However, there are many other aspects which make me detest the annual tournament.

Why don't I start with what I like about it?

1. Platform for domestic players: How many of us follow the Ranji trophy or any other domestic competition? How many of us would know about players like Pragyan Ojha, Saurabh Tiwari, Vinay Kumar, Yusuf Pathan or Cheteshwar Pujara had it not been for the IPL. All these players came into the limelight even before they played a single international game. How terrific is that for young, upcoming talent?

2. The international mix: I'm sorry for bombarding you with rhetorical questions but here are some more: How many of us would get to see Tendulkar and Jayasuriya opening an innings or Dale Steyn and Pravin Kumar bowling in tandem? There are so many different combos of players in front of us that it adds variety and gets exciting. Even the domestic players get a taste of international thinking and strategy.

Here is Shane Warns blogpost on the IPL expressing similar views: IPL and the Rajasthan Royals.

Now here's what I don't like about it:

1. Glamour: Sometimes I wonder what I'm more allergic to: glamour or religion? Of course, crony capitalism dictates that wherever money can be made, it should be made. So in the pre and post match shows, cricket takes a backseat and movie promotions, celebrity interviews and all sorts of other 'packaging' takes place. Even during the match, the high-profile team owners are repeatedly interviewed, sometimes at the cost of missing a few deliveries. The worst part is, there are parties after each game where loser-type, celebrity hungry people can hang out with cricketers by paying Rs. 40,000/- odd! No wait, the worst part is such parties getting more news coverage than the match itself!

2. Advertisements: IPL 3 - 2010, the first time advertisements between deliveries were introduced. And God forbid, immediately after an over is bowled or after a batsman gets out, if an advertisement is not shown within 2 milliseconds, heavens will fall! 

3. Trading players: I've somehow always considered cricket to be a sacrosanct sport so I'm not too happy with the idea of franchises 'dealing' with the buying, selling and auctioning of players. Although there is a strong counter-argument that if it is not done, IPL wouldn't be what it is, so fair enough!

4. BCCI: The board that has more power and money than the ICC. Quite naturally its rank and file is full of extremely corrupt people who settle scores at the expense of 2 franchisees. I give a rat's ass to the owners of Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals who were kicked out but I feel for their players as they did nothing wrong. If there were irregularities, was the BCCI dumb enough not to see them while the franchises were formed in 2008? This shadiness in conducting the IPL is the most disturbing.

Here's my satirical mockery on IPL - More Sleaze in IPL 4.

I still hope that the tournament continues but the glamour and shadiness fades away!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The problem with liberals

As much as I'd like to believe so, I'm not a liberal. This is because when I see the liberals around me, I get a feeling that - "Hey, wait a minute, I'm not like them!" 

Concepts like "Aman ki Asha"(AKA) enrage me. Why stick out a friendly hand to a neighbour who is so intent on chopping it off? I once had a heated discussion with a pro-AKA enthusiast and the bugger made me feel like a right-winger. Considering my abhorrence for right-wingers, it was a funny feeling! The problem with him was that he was unwilling to accept the reality of the situation. Reality 1: the export of terror from the neighbour, Reality 2: the commercial interests involved in the AKA initiative. 

I've written enough about the death penalty so I won't go much into that. But the liberals are unwilling to shake the prime principal that "the government has no right to take a person's life". That is another problem with them, they do not want to shift from certain basic ideals irrespective of their practicality. They too can get fanatical about their beliefs and ideals just like right wingers.

The third problem with liberals is that they can get quite anti-establishmentarian. They tend to oversimplify complex situations like the Maoist problem and the Kashmir problem. According to them, only the government is at fault while the ordinary people suffer. They choose to ignore the atrocities of the maoists or the forced exodus of the Kashmiri pundits from the valley. They are willing to give Kashmir away if the "ordinary Kashmiri wants it". They do not even want to take into account the fact that an independent Kashmir may not be able to sustain itself for very long. I guess raving and ranting against the government gives them the romantic feeling of free-spirited rebels.

So to summarize, following are my problems with liberals:

1. Idealists unwilling to accept reality.

2. Fanatics about certain 'cherished' beliefs. (Makes me wonder if liberals and right wingers are two sides of the same coin).

3. Pretentious romantics who feel good about themselves as 'crusaders for the common man' and 'rebels with a cause'.

I'm quite convinced now that I am a centrist

Monday, 6 September 2010

Fasting

I've never understood the concept of fasting. Why would anyone be so masochistic so as to subject herself* to hunger when she can very well choose not to! Unless she is training to be a commando where one has to get used to long spells of hunger if such need arises, I don't see why it needs to be done!

I have listed a few arguments that pro-fasters would put forth and I'll try to answer them.

Argument 1: It is to please the God!

Counter-argument: Why would God be pleased if you go hungry? He has to be a sadist if he desires so. Why worship a sadist then?

Argument 2: It is a form of penance. It is to inculcate self-discipline.

Counter-argument: Hogwash! 

Argument 3: You haven't sufficiently countered argument 2.

Counter-argument: All right, all right - if you really want to try a hand at self-discipline, make it a daily habit and don't restrict it to particular religious days. And if you really want to do penance, devote your time to productive humanitarian causes and don't proudly sit at home feeling giddy, doing nothing and having others take care of you because quite obviously, you don't have energy to do it yourself.

Argument 4: It builds character and prepares us for periods when we don't have enough food.

Counter-argument: Read my introductory paragraph.

Argument 5: It makes me look cultured and elevates my status in society.

Counter-argument: Sorry, I don't argue with pretentious people.

*-I have used 'herself' here as writing 'himself/herself' everywhere is cumbersome and writing 'himself' everywhere makes me seem like a sexist which I'm not.

Monday, 26 July 2010

I'm patriotic but not nationalistic

For those who don't know - nationalism means excessive patriotism bordering on chauvinism. A belief that one's country and its ways are sacrosanct and criticizing them is unpatriotic. Of course, I have provided you the liberal's definition. For a politically conservative person, the lines between patriotism and nationalism are blurred as it is one and the same thing for them!

I love my country, but there are lots of things that I feel ashamed about and that does not make me unpatriotic. It just shows that I care enough to be ashamed! Let me list a few of them and it is just the tip of the iceberg.

Female foeticide.
Approximately 50 million female foetuses are destroyed through abortion every year. That is 5 crore! I am not against abortion but definitely against sex selection. Add a million female infants being killed after they are born to that! What worries me is that mothers are very much a part of their decision, either because they have no choice or because they actually believe it is the right thing to do. Not only I am ashamed as an Indian but also as a person belonging to the other sex.

Dowry and the related deaths.
Pardon me as I don't have the stomach to research on the net as to how many such deaths get registered per year as it will leave me upset for a long time. Forget the deaths, the concept of dowry itself is nauseating - the woman is an added burden to the family so she should bring the appropriate compensation with her! This is not only restricted to villages as I see people in the city proudly carrying it out as a part of 'tradition'.

Honour killings.
Killing your own children to preserve your honour because they have dared to love someone against your wishes. Isn't murdering your children the most dishonourable thing to do? What's so precious about one's stupid honour anyway?

Caste based politics.
Voters being stupid enough to vote for someone belonging to the same caste as theirs even though they have been kept hungry and poor for 5 years by that same person! Let's face it there is NO "Unity in Diversity" in India. We are a prejudiced people*.The spinoff to such politics is reservations for the 'oppressed' community thereby killing merit!

Attitudes towards women.
We all know how backward are villages are and heinous crimes are committed against women. Personally, I have not been to any villages so I can tell you what I see in cities and it still is not a good picture. I know families in cities who are prejudiced against a working woman because it is against the 'culture'. I know of my female friends who seem modern but end up calling their husbands as 'aap' or 'tammey' (Gujarati) after marriage and/or give up their shining, promising careers! According to me, the undertone of 80-90% of families in cities too is that women are the weaker sex and should be treated that way.** It goes to show how insecure we Indian men can be not to let the women in our lives be treated the same way as us, lest they outshine us!

Aukaat
The obsession with status! The compulsion to talk rudely to people belonging to a supposedly 'lower' status than you or the compulsion to genuflect to someone with a 'higher' status. It makes my blood boil seeing people self-righteously talking rudely to waiters, drivers, etc. It saddens me to see bus conductors, watchmen and peons looking surprised when I talk nicely to them!

The list is endless!

I haven't added corruption to the list as that happens everywhere and is not unique to India.

Let us not get nationalistic and be proud of our country by only looking at its GDP growth, the number of billionaires, the film industry or the fact that we invented the zero and the decimal system. Let us also be aware of the darker side of our worn out customs, traditions and attitudes! And let us do our bit to eradicate these flaws.

*-see Racist Indians
**-see Bharatiya Naari Kismat ki Maari

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Why "Commonwealth"?

I'm pretty sure we are all going to make a fool of ourselves in the upcoming commonwealth games that we are hosting. We should stop fooling ourselves to believe that we can actually pull it off! What bothers me more is the Rs. 80,000/- odd crore* we are spending on it. We've got to accept that we still are a poor country and money spent on some sporting event which is hardly going to be watched could rather be spent on development of naxal affected districts!

Anyway, that is not what I want to primarily talk about. My main objection is with the word "Commonwealth". Inspite of the British Empire which ruled half the world being reduced to a tiny island, we still want to bow down to their Queen and be called her majesty's "Commonwealth".

Apart from 2 countries, all other countries which were once part of the British commonwealth take part in this event. I ask why give such significance to the British Empire which has been dismantled decades ago? Why still continue with these games when there is literally no "Commonwealth" left. Why should we let a handful of uppity British folk who live in the past feel good about themselves that the countries they once ruled upon still want to be called a part of the "Commonwealth".

I know I am ranting and being repetitive but I strongly believe that these games should be discontinued and the money should be spent somewhere else!

* - Rs. 80K crore may not be the exact figure as I have taken it from another blog.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Two types of classics

This post is about movies that have been immortalized as 'classics'. Movies that people have a positive association with and can be watched over and over again. My insightful brain has done some analysis regarding such movies and has classified such classics into two mutually exclusive categories.

Also, before I present my analysis, let me inform you that restricted myself to Amitabh Bachchan movies so that I can keep it in context and hence it becomes easier to understand.

Category 1: Plot-heavy classics.
This includes movies whose storyline is very strong. The unravelling of the plot scene after scene creates excitement and generates interest. These are generally mentally stimulating movies which tell a good story. I would include movies like Don, Amar Akbar Anthony, Kala Patthar, Mr. Natwarlal, etc. All these movies had a thick plot and superb characterizations. I would go to the extent to say that such movies need to be kept on being remade in order to adapt to contemporary times - only superficial changes need to be made while the plot should remain intact. That is why I applaud the effort to remake Don - it showed the plot in a fresh light.

Category 2: Screenplay-heavy classics.
This includes movies whose scenes are immortalized. The dialogue delivery, the sequence of events and the dramatic timing are spruced up to perfection! Unlike the previous category, which is mentally stimulating, this category includes movies that are emotionally stimulating. I would include movies like Sholay, Deewar, Trishul, Zanjeer, etc. Dialogues like "Kitne aadmi the?" and "Mere paas maa hai!" tingle our senses even now! The plots in all these movies are pretty simple - it is just the handling of the plot from scene to scene that makes such movies stand out. Kindly note that the screenplay writers in all these movies was the duo - Salim-Javed who specialized in such classics. One non Amitabh Bachchan movie that simply needs to be mentioned here is the 1994 classic - Andaz Apna Apna. Thin plot but the scenes stand out. Such movies should never be remade - people will keep comparing them scene by scene with the original one and that can't be good. You cannot recreate a "Teja mai hoon, Mark idhar hai" or a "Tumhara naam kya hai Basanti?".

Now let me take my analysis further and explain why a particular classic cannot fit into both categories. If the plot is heavy and the director wants the audience to follow the story - a highly dramatic scene might derail the viewer's thought process. Do notice how Zeenat Aman's character is shown to quickly get over her brother's death and start training to fight in the movie Don - things need to happen quickly in such movies to keep the viewer engaged.

On the other hand, if the plot too simplistic, the only thing that can save the movie are impact producing dialogues, comic timing and a high confrontational drama content.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Formalities

I've never been a big fan of social formalities. I'm also not a big fan of legal and official formalities as I have paperwork phobia but more on that some other time.

Where was I? Ah, yes - social formalities. Let me attempt to define them.
Social formalities - A set of fake behavioural patterns or mannerisms ordained by society in a social or business gathering, in order to appear respectable and also in order to mask one's true self and one's true intentions.

Welcoming people with open arms, exaggerated handshakes, complimenting someone's hideous attire, giving expensive gifts with the hope that they will not be accepted, not accepting gifts (at first), offering to pay the bill in restaurants, force feeding someone who has come to your house for a meal, etc. Where is the genuineness I ask? The irony is that in order to appear more mannered and civil, we lose out on the most important aspects of a human personality - honesty of thought and action!

I'm all for being well-mannered and civil. But let's not get carried away into the territory of the pretentious! We owe that much to our true selves.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Mocking the helpless and the less fortunate

I was watching the latest LMN advertisement with a friend who found it really funny while I found it absolutely repulsive. LMN is a packaged lemon drink which is positioned as a drink to beat the heat. The commercial shows an extremely thirsty African man in a desert who twists a moist piece of cloth over his forehead so that he can at least have one drop of water. However, as the drop is about to fall in his mouth another man calls him, which makes the thirsty man turn his head. As he turns his head, the drop falls on the ground and evaporates. This enrages the thirsty man who takes the piece of cloth in order to beat his friend. Then the logo of LMN appears, apparently as a substitute for water. Making fun of a person's thirst didn't sit too well with me.

I've never been a big fan of making fun of needy, weak or helpless people. It does not take much ingenuity to poke fun at those less fortunate than yourself. I also don't like waiter/driver jokes - for eg. If someone isn't dressed properly, people don't think twice before saying that he looks like a waiter! Any profession which is a means of livelihood should be respected!

I pointed out to my friend that good quality humour lies in mocking the rich and powerful and not the needy. It requires courage, intelligence and insight. I think he agreed with me.

I also therefore do not like jokes on how geeks/nerds are such losers. That again is convenient comedy. People imitating beggars on the street is another act which repulses me. There are other examples too - like making fun of overweight people, old people, illiterate etc which is convenient to portray and easy to please a section of the masses. Unfortunately, a lot of comedy material in this decade is full of this form of convenient comedy! I do hope people grow out of it.

I'd like to conclude by saying that only the insecure make fun of the helplessness of other people, in order to feel good about themselves. I have high regard for those who mock social evils, outdated traditions or the rich and the powerful!

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Crap on TV

I read an interesting article recently which provided a decent explanation on why the proportion of crap is comparitively higher on TV than in movies. Of course, what I consider crap on TV is considered by millions as... er... not crap. Also, it should be clear by now that by 'crap' I mean a mass-oriented programming for dimwits and not faecal matter.

Coming back to the article, it said that if a movie is made for an intelligent audience, it may not have mass appeal but still make a decent profit. Film makers like Anurag Kashyap, Farhan Akhtar, Vishal Bharadwaj, etc can still dole out hits if not out and out blockbusters. However, in case of television, the audience has too many choices. TV channels and producers have no choice but to go for shows that have a mass appeal. Even if a well-made show starts off well, the interest may wane gradually and rival shows, which appeal more to goatheads start getting more TRPs.

Also, I have one more explanation of my own. Film producers can choose where to release their films. Intelligent film makers might choose only those localities where they find a receptive audience. TV channels don't have that freedom as the same crap gets telecasted everywhere.

Kindly pardon me if I sound smug and condescending as I have assumed myself to be in the 'intelligent' category. Particularly since I still have no explanation on why I like Mithun Chakraborty movies.

Anyway, enough has been said on the kind of crap Ekta Kapoor used to dish out as well as the skullduggery of reality television in India. What I want to draw attention on is the mass-oriented TV programming outside India, in the US.

I can't sit through half a minute of shows like Heroes, Prison break, Lost, Desperate Housewives, etc. These shows are a boon to actors who over-act and also a boon to overly sentimental audiences with tiny brains. It is even more disappointing that people I know who have larger brains are joining the bandwagon and collecting DVDs of Lost and Prison Break. Excluding Desperate Housewives, there is so much macho pigmuck* involved in those shows that the dialogue delivery reminds me of a fake WWF encounter. Of course, shows like Desperate Housewives and Sex and the City have the feminine version of pigmuck involved!

I guess we just have to accept that no matter what country we live in, we will always be outnumbered by dimwits and we will always have crap on TV during prime time!

*-pigmuck - an alternative word I invented in place of bulls*&t which I don't want to use in this blog.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The Minimum Possible

Time for some Congress bashing! People often ask me why I am such an avid supporter of the Indian National Congress. My answer is simple, their ideology appeals to me. A centre-left, secular party with a centrist outlook on social issues is theoretically an ideal party for me. Heck, if I were to form a political party, the ideology would match exactly with that of the Congress.

Yet, Congress is far from what it claims to be. It is an extremely feudal party which believes in doing the minimum possible. It lacks political will to develop this country from the human development perspective. It seems Congress, as well as other pro-poor parties like BSP, SP, RJD, CPI, CPI(M), Trinamool Congress silently want the people to remain poor. This is because it is easier to please a poor man and get his vote. The middle-class voter demands much more and that is a major headache. That is why let us not promote the poor to the level of the middle class.

If I am a poor man who is getting temporary employment from the NREGA, that is good enough for me to vote for the Congress. If I'm getting food security (Food security bill), again a good reason to vote for the Congress. Finally, if my children are being guaranteed education(Right to education bill), what is stopping me from voting for the grand old party?

The above initiatives of the Congress need to be applauded. They wouldn't have been voted to power a second time if such schemes had not worked. However, the Congress effort stops there. They've done the minimum they could do and are now resting on their laurels. A lot more needs to be done for rural development, but if they are getting votes anyway, who cares about bringing in another round of the Green Revolution? Who cares about development of villages and smaller towns so that the youth there get employment locally? Why waste so much effort in rehabilitating farmers and minimizing their suicides when we can impress them by simply writing off their loans?

The worst and the easiest way to get votes is through reservations. Another easy way to impress their votebank. Who would bother to work at the grassroots level to create awareness among people about an equal society where everyone should have equal opportunities? Rather than creating a homogenous society, let us create more divisions by introducing more reservations. Passing a bill through parliament does not take much effort, does it?

I'm sure that the kind of self-destruct mode BJP is in, the Congress might have to work even lesser to get back to power in 2014. With an easily pleasable votebank, who wants to work harder?

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Voyeuristic 'civil' society

We are all voyeurs. The society is overflowing with people who seem decent but have cheesiness ingrained all over themselves. These are the buggers on whom film magazines, tabloid newspapers and news channels thrive on. These are the idiots who have nothing better to do than pry on other people's lives and more importantly, get pleasure out of someone else's problems.

However, they are not the only stakeholders in this setup, there are publicity hungry quasi-celebrities whose claim to fame happens through feeding the voyeuristic minds with their outrageous tales.

It is a whole new industry and it has now welcomed new entrants - Sania Mirza, Shoaib Malik and some Ayesha person from Hyderabad. News channels like Headlines Today and Times Now should thank these three people for giving them a much needed boost in news coverage. In spite of the heinous Dantewada massacre in Chhattissgarh where 75 CRPF commandoes were killed, these channels marshalled on with the love triangle story.

Out of the three stakeholders in the industry (celebrities, media and consumers), I would blame the consumers or the low IQ, wannabe public the most for this farce. If it weren't for them, mediocre sportpersons wouldn't have had to wash their dirty linen in public, nor the media would be bothered in reporting such news.

The most dangerous aspect of our society is that such shameless voyeurs live amongst us. There is very little outward differentiation between a person who prefers to get along with his/her own life to a person who wants to poke his/her nose everywhere. These are the gossip-mongers of society who will spare no effort in making public an issue of even their closest relatives and neighbours if some juicy bit of their lives leaks off.

One more dangerous aspect - such people are large in number - large enough to drive the TRPs of news channels and readership of newspapers. How do we deal with such wannabe Page 3 types?

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Glorified weaknesses

Most of the time, most of the people try to hide most of their weaknesses. It is understandable as one wouldn't want their weakness put on public display. Some more mature human beings with a self-deprecating humour may joke about their shortcomings but their intent is to make people laugh.

However, there are certain people who glorify some of their own shortcomings. Their intent is not to highlight their weakness but it is to slyly highlight their strengths if the listener can read between the lines.

I will give some examples below:

Dialogue: "I am not a morning person yaar."
Interpretation: I'm too happening to sleep early. I have a roaring nightlife. Obviously, I will be a bit dazed in the morning. Waking up early is so uncool anyway for a carefree person like me! I'm also too cool to follow routine.

Dialogue: "You talk to him. My temper is too bad to deal with such people. Once I lose it, I cannot control myself."
Interpretation: Watch out! Don't mess with me!

Dialogue: "Nowadays, I simply can't travel by public transport."
Interpretation: I have made a lot of money and need to get it across to people somehow.

Dialogue: "I find it hard to stay committed to one person."
Interpretation: I've been with more people than you can count on your fingers.

I personally tend to either ignore or mock such people. However, they are so full of themselves that they don't realize that they are being mocked. I'm especially annoyed by those who say they are not morning people - in fact I know people who hate to admit that they tend to wake up early sometimes - insecure jerks!

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Devaluing runs

A very significant aspect of cricket is that the playing conditions are not standardized - the grounds come in various shapes and sizes. The pitches vary from ground to ground, at times 2 pitches on the same ground differ significantly from one another. It is an outdoor sport, so the weather too plays a crucial role. The combination of the nature of the pitch and the weather conditions are crucial factors to decide whether to bat or bowl first if one wins the toss. This variance of conditions is one of the beauties of cricket.

Unfortunately, since the mid 2000s, the line between cricket as a sport and cricket as an entertainment has blurred. The variance of playing conditions has minimized, especially in India. Day after day, flat batting pitches with an easy bounce are doled out. In order to make it an entertainment sport, the board, the broadcasters, the stadium authority as well as the sponsors want maximum runs to be scored on a given day. Batsmen have never had it so easy. In fact, before the 3rd India vs South Africa ODI, the groundsman at Ahmedabad openly admitted to have prepared an 'entertaining' wicket.

Even till the late 1990s, a 300+ score was very rare. Now teams regularly cross 400. A bowler with an economy rate of 5 is considered brilliant. I remember Waqar Younis being criticized 10 years back for having an economy rate as "high" as 4.6.

So what has happened? Have the batsmen suddenly improved or the bowlers suddenly become inferior? No - the runs have become devalued. In economic terms, there has been an inflation as far as runs are concerned. The value of a 250 runs in 50 overs in 1995 is the same as the value of 325 in 2010. This is indeed sad for cricket as a sport if its main currency - the runs, have lost their value a bit.

The money-minded jerks who rule cricket ought to know that this strategy will only provide short-term gains. Over time the 4s and even the 6s will lose their significance! Cricket will fall into a decadence which will be difficult to get out of!

I suggest we introduce more variance in pitches in favour of the bowlers. I've seen low-scoring matches to be nail-biters in the past, I see no reason why they still can't generate as much interest. Even low-scoring T20s will be a thrill to watch. Seeing a batsman surviving and making runs by facing a hostile spell of bowling on a pitch with demons has its own charm.

Let us not create an overkill by having flat batting wickets on small Indian grounds which have an electric fast outfield! Let us give due respect to the cricketing currency of runs.