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Archive for the ‘India’ Category

Goodbye, Mr. Chips

Posted by chakrabarti on December 29, 2017

Anonymous Facebook page administrator, your acerbic posts will be missed.

Especially compared to the gutless wonders that comprise a lot of contemporary Indian journalism.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Communalism, India, Journalism, Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Saturday Afternoon Uplifting Thought

Posted by chakrabarti on September 28, 2013

Following politics back home can often get depressing. Luckily, I live and work in a country where the opposition party would rather shut down the government than let a program providing healthcare to the uninsured take effect. Fabulous!

Posted in India, Politics, United States | Leave a Comment »

Dev. D – ***

Posted by chakrabarti on April 13, 2010

Alert!! Spoilers included in thoughts below:

Boredom on Saturday led to Netflix browsing. Spent the afternoon watching Dev. D. The instant streaming version has really taken off, especially with respect to Bollywood, er, I mean, Hindi flicks. For the lazy ones among us, it saves us a trip to the local Indian store to get it on DVD (of course, the more ingenious ones among us still download it for free using some BitTorrent black magic).

Back to the movie, Dev D is an updated take on Sarat Chandra’s classic novel Devdas, recounted a half dozen times on the silver screen by now, portrayed over the years by actors as varied as P.C. Barua in the 1930s, Dilip Kumar in the mid-50s and most famously, Shah Rukh in the 2002-vintage caper/magnum opus. Devdas, shortened here to “Dev”, is played by Abhay Deol, who has been making a name for himself in the Hindi/English crossover genre in recent years. “Paro” is played by the gorgeous Mahie Gill, while “Chandramukhi” in this case happens to be the rather exotic Kalki Koechlin.  The backdrop to the story is not colonial Calcutta, but present-day Punjab and Delhi.

First, the good news: Dev D is miles, if not light years, ahead of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s clunker of a film, which basically had a bunch of hummable songs, extreme SRK-style hamming, and the pretty faces of Aishwarya and Madhuri somehow strung together in a plot. The editing and transitioning between scenes here is crisp, with the background score doing an excellent job at conveying the mood to the audience at any given moment. But the flaws are also pretty evident, with the whole background story on the prostitute Chandramukhi distracting from the main plot. Though well-intentioned, the whole MMS-scandal angle does not help advance the story. Would have been better served had it been shown in a movie about how women get into the call-girl business.

Abhay Deol does a pretty decent job as Dev, the spoiled brat who missed out on love and thus embarks on a path of self-destruction filled with alcohol, narcotics and rage. Deol succeeds in making us empathize with his plight through the duration of the movie, although his petulant behavior is something  that we haven’t seen portrayed in earlier versions of Devdas. Think the director here misses out on showing the melancholy side to the character that has been such an essential feature in the novel as well as previous versions onscreen. Mahie Gill fills the screen with her radiance, and justifies the director’s casting decision. She holds her own in several exchanges with Dev. Kalki Koechlin as “Leni” and later “Chanda/Chandramukhi” is a surprise package. Though the entire background of how she got initiated in the flesh trade seems to me to be a distraction, it does help demonstrate her acting chops. However, it’s not exactly clear why she falls for Dev, apart from the fact that the story dictates such an outcome. One suspects there shall be more good performances from her in times to come, especially in this genre, given her Western appearance and demeanor.

Overall, Dev D is eminently watchable, though falls short of the “Classics” category. Director Anurag Kashyap manages to take Sarat Chandra’s novel and creates a convincing narrative tailored to contemporary times,  though he gets sidetracked at times by things like the MMS-pornography shenanigans associated with Leni, and the hit-and-run incident at the end (similar to ones that have been reported over the years). Special note for the music and background score, especially Emotional Atyachaar that has pretty much caught on fire ever since the movie first released about a year ago.

Posted in Entertainment, Film, India | 6 Comments »

Global War on Terrorism: Cricket Edition

Posted by chakrabarti on January 25, 2010

I haven’t really cared for the carnival that is 20/20 ever since its inception (it became popular among South Asians pretty much by accident, following the 2007 edition of the World Twenty20), and haven’t really followed the shutout of Pakistani players from the next edition of IPL in any great detail. A friend posted his thoughts about the whole situation/debacle. A brief response in in order, I believe:

  • Obviously, merely facilitating cricket series between India and Pakistan is not going to untangle political disputes between the 2 countries, any more than organizing Israeli-Palestinian peace camps is going to hasten a latter-day Camp David. This is not to say that people-to-people contacts have no positive benefits at all, merely that these are long-term efforts  that have to be sustained over generations so as to reduce mistrust among both the societies, and get us to see the other as complex human beings, not just second-hand caricatures.
  • It’s pretty outlandish to scapegoat people who merely play cricket for a living, as casualties of the latest round of conflict between the two neighbors. Not the first time it’s happened, surely, but pretty silly nonetheless. Does anyone seriously believe denying Shahid Afridi and Younis Khan the ability to play in India, we are going to make radical Islamic groups and their many benefactors realize their folly and stop promoting violence against civilians across the border?
  • If the standard were banning players because of all the damage inflicted by a particular nation or government, then I don’t think the Men In Blue should ever set foot on the Premadasa Stadium, considering what the island nation to the south of India has been through for about the last 30 years, events which were in large part facilitated by successive governments of ours back in the ’80s. Nor should we even invite or ever play with English teams, given all the havoc wreaked on the entire subcontinent with colonization, de-industrialization and an assorted mix  of disastrous policies. Of course, it would be silly to hold Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen responsible for all that, so why this picking on Pakistanis? [Awkward silence]…
  • I think there is some justification in not drafting any Pakistanis because of issues related to security and profitability. Sport franchises are corporations looking to turn a quick buck and not offend anyone’s sensibilities in particular, so one can’t really blame them that much for the state of affairs, a view echoed by some. However, we would all be better off if no one pretended this to be the result of a principled decision to “not engage the enemy”. It is instead of not engaging grandstanding Shiv Sena thugs, combined with a center-left government eager to demonstrate it’s “anti-terrorism credentials” and unwilling to acknowledge the reality that inducting Pakistani players into a cricket tournament has little or no bearing on relations between the two South Asian neighbors.

Posted in India, Pakistan, Politics | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

A note of dissent on IBN..

Posted by chakrabarti on October 27, 2009

Transcript of IBN interview with Arundhati Roy (conducted by Karan Thapar). As expected, Roy gets badgered as “crazy” and “nuts” by a lot of people I know. Nothing new about that, since epithets are thrown around every time it’s hard to argue on substantive grounds (similar to how creating a milquetoast public health insurance option in the US gets you labeled simultaneously “socialist” and “Nazi”).

Notice the lame questions the interview directs at her anyway (E.g. “Sixty years after Indian democracy came into being, do you believe that India’s poor and dispossessed have benefited?”) Most of them fall back on the unquestioned premise of India being  the largest democracy in the world, a tiresome phrase that has lost much of its luster with its invocations ad nauseam. The point that she and dissenters like her are trying to get across, namely that there is a lot wrong with our curious mix of democratic politics and partially “free-market” economy systems and we should be willing to admit the failures, is pretty much lost on Thapar. His fallback on Sonia Gandhi & Manmohan Singh apologizing for the Sikh riots was pretty pathetic, I thought.

Posted in Civil Liberties, India, Politics | Leave a Comment »

A useful reminder..

Posted by chakrabarti on August 16, 2008

We have the distinction of being placed 128 on the UNDP Human Development Report (proudly sandwiched between Equatorial Guinea and Solomon Islands).

These are some of our neighbors’ rankings:
Sri Lanka – 99

Maldives – 100

Pakistan – 136

Bangladesh -140

Bhutan – 133

Burma – 132

Posted in Independence, India | Leave a Comment »

Big brother comes to India

Posted by chakrabarti on January 5, 2008

If the story in the Times of India is to be believed, then the average citizen of Delhi is in for some harrowing times. Soon, each and every Delhiite would be required to carry some form of identification, be it a driver’s license, a ration card, a voter’s ID card or something else. The authorities have been generous enough to allow school, college and office IDs in the list.

The reason for creating such a requirement, reminiscent of totalitarian dictatorships? Why, terrorism, stupid! This is the excuse being offered by the Delhi police chief, who added “the ripples [of terrorism]… are always felt in Delhi”. So never mind improving intelligence gathering capabilities, coordination with law enforcement authorities in other states or providing better security in vulnerable areas. The most important step towards reducing terrorist violence is forcing every single Delhiite to carry their papers with them.

Mercifully, there have been some murmurs of protest after the measure was announced by the lieutenant governor. Some have even gone so far as to call such a step “dangerous, draconian and autocratic”. Others have pointed out the real purpose of such edicts, which has nothing to do with stopping terrorist violence, and everything to do with creating new ways by which the state can harass and intimidate individuals, especially those who have little or no voice in society.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Delhi, India, Politics | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A superb article…

Posted by chakrabarti on December 27, 2007

This is in the New Republic, Samanth Subramanian commenting on all the clichéd phrases used by Western media when reporting on India (land of contradictions, emerging superpower, IT powerhouse, land of elephants and tigers, so on and so forth). The author picks on Shashi Tharoor’s writings as a specimen to highlight what’s wrong with the writing of even people (like Tharoor himself) who should know better.

This section sums it up best:

Tharoor has been using, in various forms, a particularly smug witticism about India for years now: “Whatever you say about India, the opposite is also true.” The phrase smacks of a strange form of Indian exceptionalism, but it also confers a simplistic bipolarity to the affairs of that country. The truth, of course, is that in India, and in every other large nation in the world, there can be found many shades of gray between the black of one statement and the white of its exact opposite.

Bull’s eye!

Posted in India, Journalism, Writing | Leave a Comment »

Thank God for Partition!

Posted by chakrabarti on September 29, 2007

That’s the gist of what this guy is trying to say

If I were him, I would also say Thank God for the following events:

  • Thank God for the accompanying mass migration and slaughter that accompanied this decision
  • Thank the Almighty for perpetual war (at least a state of fragile, very cold peace) between 2 nations, now both of whom possess nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles
  • Thank heavens for the ethnic cleansing in East Pakistan/Bangladesh in ’70-’71.
  • Thank Jehovah for the disastrous forward policy of supporting Afghan (and plenty of non-Afghans) mujahedins against the Soviets in the ’80s, a policy enabled by an overeager Pakistani General (and oh, what a splendid sequel that conflict has spawned in the world today!!!)
  • Thank the Creator for the support/benign neglect of the US which has been providing armaments to our enemies and turned a blind eye to the Pakistani nuclear program.

The author says he is devoid of north Indian sentimentality when it comes to the subject of dealing with Pakistan, given that he is from the “deep south” as he terms it. I didn’t being a “deep Southerner” meant you didn’t have the capacity to think thru what you are saying as well!

Posted in Foreign Policy, India, Pakistan, Partition, Politics | Tagged: | 3 Comments »