Sunday, December 28, 2008

the continent of incontinence

A suggestion no doubt specifically made for those of my friends (M and S you know who you are) who stop frequently to pee by the road

You will have to click on the picture to see what it says on the truck's ass.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

therein lies the rab

I am very concerned - and I say this without facetiousness - about Aditya Chopra's mental health.

I know that a lot of people will think Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi is a crap movie. But frankly, I thought it was quite lovely to start with - uptil the scene where she tells him she'll never be able to love him. And it had a pretty good ending sequence or two. But of course in between it was like - as hapless as Suri's character. In the part where the female protagonist has her completely ridiculous epiphany I started yelling Bachao Bachao quite loudly much to my friend's horror. This sort of tapori-pan is much tolerated in Bombay but in Bangalore there was only a horrified silence. People acted as if they hadn't heard. Or perhaps they had been stupefied by the sheer gone-to-lunch-ness of the script.

But to return to AC's mental health.

Now, I genuinely feel this could have been a beautiful film. The ideas at the heart of it are eternal questions about love and romance: as we project what we think the object of affection likes, as we seek romance, how do we figure out what love is? How do we know if we are loved for ourselves or for the idea we have projected. And in the middle of it all, which is really us?

If the screenplay had handled this frivolously even that would have been something. But it's more like a certain incoherence sets in, an inability to explain what the script means.

Given the kind of relationships it explores (especially the easy homoeroticism of so many male friendships in the North), some of the very fine dialogue in the film (often spare, infrequently verbose), the moments that matter - Suri's deliriousness at getting his first tiffin for instance - you can see there is a genuine understanding, a mesured sensibility that embarked on this film.

What then prevented it from becomign what it wanted to be?

Basically I think, the stubborn-ness of the director-producer's idea of himself, ironic as that is. So insistent has Bollywood been that it is mediocrity that triumphs; that people don't want a thing of beauty and maturity; that they know the commercial formula tune to which the public dances, that it won't let itself go down the path which opens up. So neurotic is this interplay between the felt thought and the imposed commercial rationalisation, that Aditya Chopra stifles his own very bonny baby because he thinks he knows how to make a mannequin.(sorry I am sounding as incoherent, but you know what I mean I hope). It's almost as if this director wants to assert that he has not been wrong with all the movies gone by in the last couple years, even if it means not making the movie his heart tells him to make.

So, strangely enough, the film becomes exactly what the main character is - repressed. But instead of moving towards some sort of release and resolution, it remains impotent and turning its violence onto itself to become a lesser being.

Makes you feel so sad. And worry for Aditya Chopra's mental health.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Bishakha's 10-pointer on 24 hour news reporting

While I (and others) have been flailing with incoherent rage at TV news coverage, my friend Bishakha has put together this excellent, coherent point-form critique below. Fan mail can be sent to

10 problems with the 24-hour TV news reporting of the recent attacks on Mumbai:by Bishakha Datta

1)Speculative, not fact-based. The numbers of gunmen entering Bombay dropped from 20-25 to 10 across three days and from 5-7 at Taj to 4; 7-10 at Oberoi/Trident to 2. This causes needless panic; many of us still think there are gunmen out there. Ditto vis-a-vis boat routes to enter Bombay (one day Badhwar Park, next day Gateway of India). Don't report what is just said can't be verified - or atleast question statements from politicians! Otherwise, it's like reporting rumour: which is what happened Fri aft when channels reported non-existent gunfire at several places.

2)Unquestioning. How many gunmen were there actually? How many people actually died? How many boats came into Mumbai? How did the Wadi Bandar and Vile Parle blasts take place? How could 2 gunmen hold up a 350-plus room twin hotel like the Trident/Oberoi? These are just the first five - most basic - questions off the top of my head. Never heard any of them asked. I'm not even going into the lack of qs around 'Pak' involvement.

3)Class-biased. Where was VT on our TV screens, even though that was attacked at the same time as the two hotels/Chabad House - and which 40 lakh Bombayites use? After the first night, VT station and all the hospitals where the injured were taken - Cama, JJ, St George, Bombay - were taken off our radar (even though they are all in south Bombay, minutes from where the media was gathered in full force).

4)Opinionated, not fact-based. What does 'Pakistani involvement' mean? No distinction between Pakistani elements and the Pakistani state: particularly given the complex political situ in Pakistan; I have yet to hear one anchor or reporter ask the question: what's the proof? (In a hypothetical case, if a cell phone with calls to India were found somewhere else in the world, does it indicate that 'India was involved'?)

5)Simplistic. The coverage became a parable of good vs evil; 'bravehearts vs cowards' 'unsung heroes vs villains', which has now swung to 'Pakistan vs India'.

6)Stupid. What exactly are victims of gunmen supposed to say when asked how they feel? 'Did you feel scared'? (No, I felt elated after spending 10 hours hearing bombs explode around me!!!) Many such stupid questions incl those asked to Ratan Tata on Thu eve.

7)Invasive. The NDTV interview with Sabina Sehgal Saikia's husband when all the facts pointed to her probable death is a case in point.

8)Dangerous. Giving away the locations of those stuck or hidden in rooms/halls at the two hotels. Ditto with jingoism masquerading as patriotism/nationalism in the 'Pakistan' vs 'India' tenor of reporting.

9)Loaded. Constant use of emotionally-loaded terms: 'terrorists' not 'gunmen', 'dastardly', 'heinous', 'cowardly deeds' et al.

10)Theatrical. There was enough drama there; we didn't need faux drama on top of that. Barkha Dutt's coverage of the ground floor of the Taj is a case in point. "Shattered glass!! shattered glass!!" she hyper-ventilated in a broken voice. What did she expect to find? A rare orchid?