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Geek by profession, thinker/writer/artist by passion. Part-time blogger,social media enthusiast and a tramp by nature :) A Man Of Mud

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Now, Goons Come Out In Support Of NCW Probe Team

Posted by: danish Ahmed 12:29 AM

A very peculiar situation is unfolding in the aftermath of the Manglore pub attack as the Shri Ram Sene comes out in support of the member of the National Commission for Women, Ms.Nirmala Venkatesh, who was heading the probe into the highly publicised Manglore pub attack, and whose report has already been rejected by the head of the Commission, Ms.Girija Vyas. The probe team had in its report held the pub authority responsible for the incident. After a public outcry NCW has rejected the report and the ministry has in fact issued a show-cause notice to Ms. Venkatesh. Both the NCW chief and Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Choudhury are justified in taking steps but it needs to be borne in mind the swung into action only after the media had exposed the sham that was being conducted in the name of investigation.

It is really strange why Ms.Venkatesh did not think it proper to meet the victims! Instead, she chose to meet the perpetrators in jail and actually claims to understand them. One of the first things she did was investigate if the pub had license to serve alcohol and the last thing she did is recommend NCW to cancel the license. It is really strange that it never occurred to her that she was neither an excise officer nor a law enforcement officer to question the legality of the pub.

But that's not all. Going by her statements it seems that Ms.Venkatesh may in fact, have more than a wee bit of sympathy for the perpetrators. After all, she does say that she understood the attackers and that their motive was not to beat up women. This fact and her inquiry into the legality of the pub clearly indicates that Ms.Venkatesh had no clue as to what her duties and responsibilities entailed. As a member of the NCW she should be the last person to "understand" the culprits and as member of an advisory body she should refrain from treading into territories which belong to the executive.

However, Ms.Venkatesh is not alone, not long back Orissa's State Commission for Women chief had displayed similar apathy and lack of understanding of her job profile when she carried out raids on parks in Bhubaneswar haunted by young, unmarried couples. Moral policing is usually aimed at protecting/subjugating women, so when functionaries of bodies set up to fight for women's rights themselves become the moral police, the civil society needs to introspect seriously. One of the reasons that the situation has reached this stage is the practice of using the offices of these constitutional and/or statutory bodies as rewards to party loyalists. This trend can be seen in almost every government founded body from those dealing with sports to wakf and national and state commissions. An undesirable consequence of this practice is that being politicians these functionaries are found unwilling to risk annoying their constituents. Shouldn't the process of appointing office-bearers of these bodies be more transparent and competitive to ensure that the posts go to people who deserve it and are ideologically inclined towards the cause they are supposed to further.

The slothful pace at which the campaign for female emancipation and gender equality is being carried out in India and the opposition it faces from different quarters, including the self-appointed guardians of Indian culture, offices in the National and State Women Commissions should not be doled out as political rewards and should instead be entrusted with notable feminists who have shown grit and determination to take on established misogynistic traditions and dogmas.

While Medha Patkar, Kiran Bedi, Sarojini Sahoo and even Shabana Azmi may fit the bill, to me, someone like Rakhi Sawant would be more acceptable as a member of the NCW rather than a more respectable lady politician who ends up sympathizing with male chauvinists and herself assumes the role of moral brigade.

Posted By danish Ahmed 12:29 AM

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire : Joning The Debate

Posted by: danish Ahmed 6:54 PM

In my last post,i have appreciated the movie Slumdog Millionaire quite unabashedly but that does not mean that i agree with everything that is being said about this movie.

Slumdog Millionaire comes across as a great work of art, an insightful journey through the life of a slum dweller as he passes through different worlds which transition in the background seamlessly. In many ways it is more like Herman Hesse's "Siddhartha" and Paulo Coelho's "the Alchemist" rather than a realistic "bandit queen". I think what has appealed to the audiences world-wide is the protagonist's upbeat spirit rather than realism. In fact, the so-called "ugly India" serves only as the backdrop which constantly transforms providing only fleeting glimpses.

Boyle doesn't even scratch the surface and rightly so, the script revolves around the protagonist, not the background. It is therefore intriguing that the movie is being seen as a portrayal of the real India. The criticism started well before the movie was officially released in India making me wonder if the critics had actually seen the movie or were just being apprehensive because of past experiences.

The allegation that film-makers exploit India's poverty is not without a basis. Film-makers of Indian origin such as Mira Nair and Deepa Mehta are especially adept at seeking out tales of exploitation, brutalization and misery from the nooks and corners of India and take them to the Western audience as work of art. I do not blame the Western audience either, India to them has always been synonymous with two clich├ęs-poverty and spiritualism. Films portraying poverty and deprivation in India are thus more acceptable to Western audience.

However, these movies do not get good reception in India. Why? Is the Indian audience unwilling to look at its ugly face even when it is shown to them? A lot of non-Indians seem to harbour a feeling that all Bollywood movies are unrealistic and fantasy-based and that the Indian audience's perception of reality is influenced majorly by these movies. To them movies portraying the poverty-sticken and brutal face of India are ignored by Indian audiences because they don't want to see them. That may be true in some cases but not in all and certainly not in my case.
Why i never liked such movies is because i myself never found them authentic enough. They depict India from an outsider's eyes, not India as it is. Poverty, injustice, exploitation are far more painful than these movies portray. Something like Slumdog Millionaire never happens with India's slum dwellers, and neither are the teenaged chai-wallahs of Mumbai as polished and sophisticated as Dev Patel. The actor deserves the applause for the performance but the fact remains that he does not look a Mumbai slum-dweller in any way.

There are many other instances where reality and its portrayal in the movie don't see eye to eye.
The theme of the movie mocks at the most tragic aspect of the India's poor and underprivileged. The aspiration to escape dreadful living conditions by winning a fortune in a game show is not something that India's under-privileged can dream. Their aspirations always seem to be for better condition within the boundaries of their immediate realties. The day these deprived classes begin to dream of getting to the top,social injustice in India would start losing ground.

Contrary to popular perception, realism has always been there in Indian Cinema, its just that these movies never got the visibility that they deserved. Just a couple of years back, Madhur Bhandarkar's Traffic Signal based on the lives of Mumbai's underbelly did a better job portraying the reality. Realism has always been a part of Indian cinema, be it Satyajit Ray's social commentary or Hrishikesh Mukherjee's light hearted comedies. The 80's in particular,spawned a generation of serious actors whose talent has been recognized world over. Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Smita Patil, Shabana Azmi, Shekhar Kapoor are some of the names that have been synonymous with serious cinema.

However, it does not mean that popular Bollywood movies and stars did not contribute to serious cinema. Lets not forget that even Amitabh Bachchan has acted in movies like Aalaap, Abhimaan and Saudagar and SRK started his film career with movies like Maya Memsaab and Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naan. For a long time the difference between parallel and popular cinema remained stark but lately it is disappearing. Madhur Bhandarkar is just another member of the pack of film-makers whose movies have been successful because of realistic representation.

Looking back, some of my recent favourite movies like Parzania, Black Friday, Omkara, Page 3 and even Black seem more realistic the Slumdog Millionaire. So if Slumdog Millionaire has been nominated for realism then Parzania and Traffic Signal should have already won Academy awards. Unless, of course the Bollywood movies are considered eligible only if the film-makers do not belong to it.

Posted By danish Ahmed 6:54 PM