Road, Movie: Wanders Aimlessly

Split Wide Open (SWO) is one of my all time favourites. It is one of the best thematically diverse scripts that came out of India. Looking back, that’s probably the only way you can go about a movie set in Bombay -- where Bombay is not merely where-things-happen, but a forceful shade that colours all the characters in its canvas. It's the only movie of Dev Benegal’s I had seen until I watched Road, Movie. I followed Dev’s blog for quite some time to see if he’s up to something. But mostly to know if the DVDs of English, August and SWO are available (something, I’m sure, Dev is tired of answering). I’ll probably write about the latter in greater detail after watching it again.

Here’s a typical road movie: characters start at some point – geographically and metaphorically – with a particular set of characteristics that defines each character. As they travel, they chance upon few/several experiences that range from mildly funny to outright bizarre. At the end of the journey, all the characters would have had some kind of revelation and their life paths are altered forever. Road movies usually don’t have enough time to develop characters systematically. They are unraveled alongside what they experience on the road. So it’s mostly FYI. It’s silly to ask “what motivates this character to do that?”

For the most part Road, Movie stays true to the tradition. But even for a road movie, Road, Movie doesn’t seem to have the patience to construct a meaningful launch pad; for the events that set things in motion. The director seems to have been keener on getting some chuckles than to make sense of the protagonist’s characterization – his social class, education etc. Vishnu's (Abhay Deol) father is some kind of small business owner who makes hair oil whose smell isn’t all that flattering. He incessantly lectures about the virtues of his hair oil, point by point to his son – including its ability to make men virile – so that he becomes a good salesman (it happens once at the dinner table with all the family members present).

Vishnu plans a brief escape from this apparent torment by offering to help his uncle to deliver a 1940s Chevy truck to a distant town. Set entirely in Rajasthan, the truck and the narrative make pit stops at various plot points that are haphazardly developed. Like any road movie, Road, Movie keeps introducing characters as it progresses. Some are less fleeting than the others. The wisecracking boy from the tea shop (they are all wisecracking, aren’t they?), the older and wiser truck mechanic, and the wandering gypsy woman.

Many of the film’s initial scenes are quite sketchy and structured like an ordinary joke – “two priests and a stripper walk into a bar…” We don’t ask why the priests are with a stripper, we just wait for the punch line to be delivered. The director takes the same liberty throughout the movie. It tries to maintain a satirical tone while dealing with some edgy issues such as police brutality, water shortage and water mafias (a recurring theme from SWO) and the hostile landscape in general. It’s an effort that, perhaps, partly succeeds. Dev Benegal may have strong political views, but it comes across as contrived sermons in this movie (unlike SWO). The role of the moving cinema in all of this is mostly invisible until the end. It serves for a decent montage by then.

Leaving aside its politics and thematic depth, the biggest problem I had with this film was that it was slow. I kept staring at my watch. Maybe it was the damn truck. The jokes and some ‘interesting moments’ work best when viewed with a good theatre audience. In spite some amazing visuals and complementing background score, it failed to keep me engaged – it’s no Lawrence of Arabia. The scenery is simply too tiring for the movie’s pace. And as for acting and dialogues, it’s hit-and-miss. I also got the feeling that Abhay Deol’s ability as an actor is not too broad. He chooses relatively different scripts, but his characters exude the same demeanour – indifferent, uptight and fretful. Well, at least he seems to have a likeable personality.

Addendum: I went for the movie premiere at the TIFF. I’ve often felt that the term ‘creator’s indulgence’ is used loosely. But I think Dev Benegal was a bit self-indulgent with Road, Movie. His answers and body language, post screening during Q&A, suggested that, too. Maybe it’s the stupid ‘desis’ questions that elicited it. They pissed me so much that I’m thinking of doing a short podcast on it. I was eventually able to ask him about the recurring theme I’d mentioned earlier. I’ll try to post the video soon (it’s in really bad quality). Dev has said that he’ll post it too. I feel like saying a lot more about the evening, but I’ll stop here. I’ll say more under comments, perhaps.

English, Tamil: Ideology vs. Reality (3 of 3)

Bernstein states that the way 'a society selects, classifies, distributes, transmits and evaluates the educational knowledge it considers to be public, reflects both the distribution of power and the principles of social control.’ Habermas and Bernstein, among others, provide some crucial rubrics to understand the complex political processes that underpin the medium of instruction issue in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka -- and similar Indian states -- which carry strong political and ideological overtones. Habermas regards ideology as ‘systematically distorted communication’ and the ‘suppression of generalizable interests,’ where structural features in communities (including language communities) and societies operate to the advantage of the dominant and the disadvantage of subordinate groups. Ideology here is taken to be the values of dominant groups in society that permeate the social structure, with or without the consensus of all. Power, through ideology, is omnipresent in language. And language is a principal means for the operation of power. Going by Gramsci’s notion of hegemony – domination by consent of all parties, including the dominated – language is intimately involved in the manufacture of ideological consent and in turn where power resides.

Tamil Nadu provides for a very insightful case study in this regard. The MOI issue in Tamil Nadu is bound by issues of power, domination, legitimacy and social stratification. Historically, the Tamil region has had an uncomfortable relationship with the Indian union and it was one of the only states that problematized the notion of having a national language – to be used for all official communication and to be used as the MOI in all public schools – and was successful in undermining the idea altogether. But it also gave birth to a political discourse that was obsessed with a rigid Tamil identity. The Dravidian governments have insisted, since then, on the necessity to preserve 'Tamil heritage' and its purported uniqueness. They have expressed concerns over Tamil losing its stature among its own populace.

Even if one does not problematize essentialist notions such as 'Tamil heritage', it is untenable to assume that maintaining Tamil as the primary medium of instruction in public schools would achieve that goal. The government has not done any studies to establish if public schools have produced more ‘authentic Tamils’ than private schools. Both in terms of feasibility and ideological apprehension that Tamil will lose its foothold among its people, the governments’ concerns seem unfounded. The Dravidian parties (DMK and ADMK) have, over the decades, used Tamil to exploit a populist sentiment that is not necessarily reflected on people’s economic aspirations and the means to achieving them. However, this populist sentiment is not peculiar to Tamil politics alone. The mainstream media, especially films, exhibit a dichotomous behavior in which people who speak ‘pure’ Tamil considered to be true to their identity while indirectly maintaining that those who speak ‘good’ English are sophisticated. (This observation is all the more relevant for a state like Tamil Nadu.)

‘Symbolic violence’, Bourdieu says, is when structures of domination in a society are reproduced by imposing cultural values claimed to be universal. English, in this context, maybe argued as an elitist cultural value thrust on the poor and socially backward by creating an illusion of empowerment while simultaneously delegitimizing Tamil’s role in achieving the same. But it is in direct contradiction with macro, external realities such as the difficulties faced by Tamil medium students when they enter the university level and the labour market. The underlying problem is not whether or not English is desired by all sections of the society but whether the State should maintain its exclusivity.


English linguistic capital continues to be linked to cultural and economic capital and to reproduce the existing stratification of society and schooling. This practice has only become stronger over the years; the recent economic growth driven by the IT industry has re-invented the elite status that English language has long held in India. Students’ performance in private, English medium schools has also legitimized the power exerted by English, further increasing its desirability. Therefore, it is unrealistic to hope that students from Tamil medium schools will be able to compete on a level playing field in the future.

The MOI issue in Tamil Nadu, may also be interpreted through Gidden's structuration theory: where agency (parental aspiration) combines with structure (parents’ cultural background and the school system) to produce and reify social structures and behavior. The successive governments lead by the Dravidian parties, by the way of restricting the MOI to Tamil in most of the public schools, has repressed the agency of those who need it the most – the poor and the backward classes. The political elites of Tamil Nadu – primarily from the Dravidian parties – have created a landscape that has normalized several false dichotomies.

The purported significance of a Tamil identity, it can be argued, is no more than a hegemonic thrust of a moralistic ideology that marginalized the fundamental aspirations of a people who were already politically and economically disenfranchised, especially the SC/ST. The DMK’s vision of empowering the masses by reclaiming the Tamil identity has been farcical at best. It laid a heuristic obstacle by creating dead ends to students who were indirectly forced to go through Tamil-medium schools. Tamil’s virtual absence in universities and colleges stand testament to this claim. The language policy is underpinned by the oversimplification of Tamil ethnic identity to medium of instruction in schools. A point that needs to be contrasted with the fact the much of the modern exposure of Tamil, as a language and a cultural entity, has been fuelled by social and technological development rooted in English.

A State that envisions an egalitarian society – that makes policy reforms to accommodate lower castes by quotas and other such reservation systems – should also take into account the interests of the wider public in other critical issues. Regardless of what percentage of people choose English-medium schools – if given the choice – the state government’s role in forcing them one way or the other is questionable. In a state with such visible stratification based on caste structures, the State needs to democratize the educational system in a way that reflects the current priorities of the people.

English, Tamil: The 'modernization' agenda (2 of 3)

A significant problem in using languages such as Tamil as the medium of instruction is the acute paucity of academic reading material. In 1981 the Government of Tamil Nadu established the Tamil University in Thanjavur. One of the important objectives of this University was to produce ‘reliable’ reference works and textbooks in Tamil for such courses as medicine and engineering. But as the University website proudly proclaims only a “half-a-dozen Engineering books and a few medical books have been wirtten in Tamil and published by the Tamil University” since its inception (typo theirs). Neither the government bodies nor the academic institutions have been able to constitute scholarly, peer reviewed journals in Tamil. So translations and original works, especially on science and technology, tend to be non-standardized.

Even these translated volumes, invariably, rely on terminologies that are merely phonetically reproduced with little depth in their concepts vis-à-vis the ‘regional language’ (Tamil in this case). Consequently, the students undergoing instruction in the regional languages at the university level have to rely on textbooks of dubious quality. Besides the technical problems of translation, translations on a large scale can neither keep pace with the growth of knowledge nor are they financially viable.

The Report of the Education Commission (1964-66) discusses the MOI issue in great detail. It is well worth our time to go over a few parts of the report to appreciate how poorly the government(s) and the educational institutions have fallen behind from their recommendations:
11.58 The Medium of Education. The problem of teaching and evaluation in higher education is inextricably linked with the medium of education and examination. It was pointed out earlier *136 that, as a part of the development of education in our country, we have to move energetically in the direction of adopting the regional languages as media of education at the university stage, that careful preparation should be made for the purpose, that both the manner and the time of transition would have to be left for decision to the university system. We shall now deal with some other aspects of the problem from the point of view of practical implementation:

(1) We would like to emphasize that the medium of classroom communication and examination should generally be the same. The present arrangement under which a large proportion of students, at the first degree stage and even later, use the regional language for purposes of examinations although the classroom instruction is given through the medium of English, is educationally unsatisfactory. If the student can be expected to express himself in the regional language in his examination, it should not normally be difficult for a teacher to do the same in the classroom. In fact, the student's understanding of the fundamental problems and issues would be better and his performance in the examination would improve if, in all cases where the universities have taken a decision to adopt the regional languages as media of examinations, they also decide to adopt them as normal media of classroom communication. However, it must be remembered that the hold of English as a medium in the universities is linked with the use of the regional languages as the languages of administration in the States. So long as the prize posts in administration go to students who have good command over English, it will not be surprising if a substantial proportion of students continue to prefer education given through it.

(2) While the goal is to adopt the regional languages as media of education, we should like to stress again that this does not involve elimination of English. In fact, English, as an important 'library language' would play a vital role in higher education. No student should be considered as qualified for a degree, in particular, a Master's degree, unless he has acquired a reasonable proficiency in English (or in some other library language). The implications of this are twofold: all teachers in higher education should be essentially bilingual in the sense that they would be able to teach in the regional language and in English, and all students (and, particularly postgraduate students) should be able to follow lectures and use reading materials in the regional language, as well as in English.

(3) Great care has to be taken to ensure that the progress of the student entering the university is hampered as little as possible by complexities relating to the media of education. In a student's life, the change from school to college is a crucial stage. On entering college, he finds that there is a greater demand on his powers of understanding and concentration than at school. When to this is added the difficulty inherent in a sudden change in the medium of education, it is not to be wondered at that many students feel bewildered and lost and lose zest in their studies. At the earlier stage of the undergraduate course, it will be an advantage if the bulk of the classwork is done through the regional language. As one goes higher up the educational ladder and as the student's command over English and his familiarity with its use as a medium of education increases, more and more of the class-work could be in English. At the postgraduate stage, at least for some time to come, the bulk of the class-work will have to be in English. (Emphasis mine.) page quoted from
It has been over 40 years since the report was published and the governments, state and central, have clearly failed to create a system in which non-English languages could retain their significance in higher education. This failure is pronounced in states like Tamil Nadu because one would expect to see a considerable amount of development of a language that underpins the mainstream political discourse in the state. But on the contrary, Tamil Nadu was one of the first states to virtually erase Tamil from the 'professional' courses. Even though the disproportionate rise of 'self-financing' colleges may appear to be the reason, it should be noted that government run engineering and medical colleges don't fare any better. Either way, it's squarely the governments' failing -- to adequately regulate private institutions and to develop the language proactively.

The status quo, given all the ironies and disconnects, is rather complex and one has to wonder if the current state of affairs is simply a result of historical trajectories, poor governance and post-colonial apathy. A closer look at mainstream, electoral politics may help us understand the case better.

(continued in next post)

English, Tamil: Linguistic Capital (1 of 3)

The notion of ‘linguistic capital’ is related to Bourdieu’s view of ‘cultural capital.’ In terms of education and schooling, the cultural capital thesis argues that some students possess the social class, family, cultural background and dispositions that enable them to utilize the school environment and its facilities more efficiently than those who do not. They are better acclimatized to the curricula and other benefits that branch from it. Those who are disadvantaged in this regard, on the other hand, tend to have a weaker grasp of the same knowledge as it is culturally alien to them, thereby affecting their learning and, in turn, their growth prospects. Thus social stratification and patterns of domination and subordination are reproduced, despite the school system’s apparent intention to provide equal opportunity to all.

The same holds true for linguistic capital: it can be defined as one’s fluency, expertise and comfort with a language which is used by groups that possess economic, social, cultural and political power and status in local and global society. The linguistic capital thesis, then, states that students who possess, or develop linguistic capital, thereby have access to better life chances. Schools that teach (in) a language associated with a higher socio-economic status, in effect, provide better opportunities for those who can take up that language. Even if it is offered democratically, there exist a number of barriers that promote selective inclusion. Schools, through their medium of instruction (MOI), are implicated in the production and reproduction of certain advantages in the society; linguistic capital is both the medium and outcome of the pursuit of enhanced life chances.

It is important, however, that we understand the dynamic nature of linguistic capital. It is something that can be acquired even by those who do not have ancestral precedents. So it is not impossible for a Tamil boy with Tamil speaking parents to acquire linguistic capital that is grounded in English or Hindi. It will be inaccurate to suggest otherwise, given how so many of us who went to English medium schools never once conversed in English with our parents.

English, in contemporary India, is essential for white-collar employment and is a key component of the ‘cultural capital’ of middle class Indians. As a significant cultural resource, English language proficiency is an imperative goal for the poor and middle class people to achieve social mobility beyond a point. Many of the jobs available in government and government-aided service sector stipulate knowledge of English as essential. The private sector, even before the economic liberalization since 1991, adopted a similar approach keeping in mind India’s multilingual markets. The outsourcing era has further substantiated proficiency of English as a necessary skill set in the urban employment sector. And the jobs that do not require the knowledge of English, both in organized and unorganized sectors are significantly low paying.

The language divide between those proficient in English and those who are not is also a mirror image of broader class and spatial divisions in India. Simply put, the elite and urban professional classes are well acquainted with English; the urban and rural poor, the farmers, and the local traders and merchants are not. In India, the ability to speak in English is not simply about jobs or economic growth, it's a significant marker of social status. As with many indicators of social mobility in India -- such as property ownership, annual income, employment rate etc. -- the upper castes also tend to be most proficient in English too; as they attend private, English medium schools the most. So a lower caste parent has multiple reasons to want his/her children to be educated in English. As many Dalit scholars have argued, it is a real means of empowerment.

This is a relatively unique situation in India in comparison to countries like France, Germany, or Japan. Although it needs to be mentioned that such 'admiration' for English is common in several other countries, especially in Southeast Asia. It is disingenuous to suggest that there’s a possible parallel between aforementioned countries and India. India is also different in its market structure and the technical modernization (or the lack thereof) that the ‘regional languages’ have gone through.

(continued in next post)

Medium of Instruction

My point exactly:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday frowned upon the imposition of mother-tongue as a compulsory medium of instruction in educational institutions and warned it could go against the interests of students struggling in the competitive world dominated by English language.
It's a point that has been argued several times over by many scholars before. I refrained from writing or talking about it in detail because it was my master's research paper and had plans of expanding it further for my Ph D. But since I've become disillusioned with the idea (of doing Ph D) I'll try to write shortened version of it here or do a podcast on it.

'Talented' Ms. Haasan

If you're not someone who follows all the 'special columns' in mainstream (Indian) newspapers and tabloid sites religiously, it's not that hard to be oblivious of Shruti Haasan's existence. But some of my friends aren't as fortunate. It’s aggravated further if they happen to be in the same 'batch' and went to a similar school as she -- one of those upscale vidhyalaya types located in that part of the city where it's easy to find a coffee shop than parking space.

While talking to one of them, she expressed disbelief and frustration over the kind of attention she's been getting from "all directions." She said how bad she was (at singing) at school and how nobody cared -- suggesting that she's not any better now but somehow the reception has reversed. I wasn't sure if that is the case. I checked couple of her 'performances' in YouTube and my friend was right: Shruti Haasan cannot sing. The good news, however, is that at least half of the people who commented didn't sound all that impressed.

If she sucks so bad why do the mainstream observers, especially men, seem to be entranced by her 'talent'? Well, because "she's hot." Let's suspend our subjectivities on both counts -- her musical prowess and her sex appeal -- and see exactly what that means and how those two things come together.

Sexual objectification and its consumption usually leans on some kind of perversion after a point. Here, perversion is not a debatable entity. No matter where one's moral compass stands, sexual fantasies are often predicated on some kind of perversion from that point. Where some kind of transgression takes place.

Even though there is plenty of free porn available in the internet -- with a lot of 'beautiful', 'hot' women -- why do people seem to be obsessed with "nipple slips" and cleavages of some celebrity? Because, they have already been mentally undressed by a part of their consumers. They're just curious whether their fantasy matches the reality. It's particularly misogynistic when the consumer is a man and the consumed is a woman. Because, a talented woman is superior to the man in question by virtue of their emplacement in the equation. So he brings her stature down by objectifying her sexually -- a common, uncomplicated tactic. The society has already sanctioned a prejudiced morality and status for sex for the genders. It's the reason why almost all curse words, transcending language barriers, invariably invoke a woman's sexual discipline. So when they say "she's hot" they ascribe other not so desirable characteristics too (that of a slut etc.).

Ms. Haasan's case is also a tad bit different. Someone who may very well be just another light-skinned, lanky lass has been credited with talent and aptitude barely discernible by most of us.Again, why?

Consumption is invariably hinged on the symbolic sign associated with what's consumed. Any object that is beyond the most basic human needs (such as hunger) is bound to become a sign in order to be consumed. Without these signs it's impossible to establish the difference between objects; to get/form a sense of uniqueness about anything (Baudrillard).

So Ms. Haasan may be light skinned and lean -- a conforming sign that fits a common sexual ideal -- but how is she unique? Besides, does she have to be unique? That's dependent on how particular you are about your sexual fantasies. For those who do, she has to be unique and 'different' from the rest of the pack. For this, her eyes, nose, hair, and, of course, cleavage may not suffice. Our dear male may have difficulty in putting them together as a unique sign. That's where 'talent' comes to the rescue. It's a safe refuge to preserve their sense of taste and nuance. They're not the shallow men whose penile reservoirs swell at the mere sight of cleavage, it takes serious talent to turn them on. It's only a coincidence that she's 'hot'.

For Indian television that is preoccupied by movies and movie personalities, Ms.Haasan makes for a nutritious fodder. Her relationship with the tabloids and their existence is almost as basic as food and hunger. And given how much our own lives are tabloidized, this bland soup will be 'hot' for a while.

Boyfriend Latte

It is one of the funniest short films I've seen in recent times. It has some mildly choppy moments but overall it keeps its satire relatable and has a profound metaphorical touch (not sure if that's intentional).

Watch it here.

Tamil Humour

One of the first times I heard an incest joke on television was in an episode of Friends -- about Monica and Ross. I must have been 18 then and fairly new to sitcoms. I didn't even get many of the 'normal' jokes then. So this one took me aback. I was shocked that they would make such jokes on television. Shock that was accentuated by the fact that I was watching it in my living room in India. But gradually I got to watching more sitcoms, and jokes likes that weren't uncommon. If it wasn't incest it was something else -- something that broke a taboo.

What is a joke? How/why a joke works? The psycho-cerebral mechanisms behind laughter etc., are vast topics themselves. But suffice it to say that humour is often constructed around the boundaries of absurdity and breaking the subconscious censors in our mind -- visual, semantic or otherwise. Humour becomes a socially potent force when it is transgressive and subversive. This is the point where capitalism and media consumption come together.

 Modern capitalism  -- perhaps, capitalism in general -- is predicated on creating 'new' things. New products, new markets, 'new improvements' and so forth. Something that is capable of invading existing structures and colonizing parts of it, if not all. It exploits a weakness (if you can call it that) in most humans: we get bored of the same thing over a period. (Familiarity breeds contempt -- how succinct?)

In my observation, humour in television and movies (American and British) have consistently broken boundaries than other genres. Because, jokes risk being not funny if they played by old rules -- it's an inherent necessity. While, a great percentage of sitcoms still derive humour out of reinforcing established and normative rules, series like South Park and Family Guy have thrived in subversive humour.  They may not be quite political, but their contribution to the public discourse is significant (good or bad). They enable the fluidity of the rules of engagement by slaying holy cows whenever they acquire an imposing stature. This is one of the biggest failures of the Indian visual mediums.

Let's take the Tamil case:  as Thamizhavan argued elsehwere, the Tamil obsession with morality has greatly stifled the subversive potential of humour in television and films. Being preachy has been a feature in a lot of Tamil humour for decades. It's even a benchmark  for assessing the comedic worth of something -- "sirikka veikkanum, sindhikkavum veikanum" (it should make you laugh and think too). Of course, not everyone who says this truly believes in it. It's just one of the many things that mark the hypocrisy that is all too common for the Tamil society (and the subcontinent itself, perhaps). Their refusal to be transgressive has only preserved the rigid cultural mould and with it the hypocrisy as well.

For all the self-aggrandizing opinions about Tamil humour, it's a largely underdeveloped genre in visual mediums. In over 15 years of cable television's existence in Tamil Nadu, there hasn't been one decent sitcom. It took years for something like Lollu Sabha, which barely whips the holy cows of Tamil cinema, to come to the fore. (They had to apologize even for that.) It might be decades before there's a South Park or a Family Guy. But given how far we've 'progressed' in the last five decades, even that is doubtful.

 Even the capitalistic drive to 'expand horizons' doesn't seem to apply in the Tamil case. Tamil television has gotten every bit as imitative as any except the part where it requires some creativity.  That's why hybrid talk shows and reality TV -- hybridized simply by throwing cinema into the mix -- have made a smooth migration while others haven't. Tamil society doesn't even seem to have the desire to consume something different -- better or not. The fact that these television channels exist, and have been making profit just dishing out garbage, is testament to that.

Tamil humour, unlike its western counterparts, exploits something else: the hypocrisy in Tamils' cultural norms and two tongued nature of their language. In doing so it has the unique ability to generate humour -- or what is perceived as humour -- without pushing any boundaries or being subversive.

 These are the moments I find myself in support of people like Larry Flynt. It seems that you need one kind of regressiveness to disrupt and dismantle the other -- at least as long as profit making is involved.

Ambai's Talk in Toronto

Ambai (C S Lakshmi) was here in Toronto for about a week. I met her for the first time in the Tamil Studies Conference (I'll write/talk about it later). Apart from her presentation in the conference she had a couple of other talks later. I was able to attend only one of them -- 'Tiger's Lair and Other Stories: Tamil Language, Culture and Women' -- and I had it recorded. I hope she wouldn't mind my publishing her lecture here. (Event link.)

Having read a lot of her academic work, this lecture didn't have anything particularly new but it was still interesting.


Download mp3

Indian Media

It has been quite a while since I stopped to talk about the English news channels in India. It's simply too vexing, and at times, depressing. I mostly try to avoid reading or watching the stupid things they put out. But sometimes, somethings catch your attention. This is when you wonder if they are even trying to hide their supposedly hidden agendas. Phrases like, "I'm sorry to interrupt you, but we have to take a break at this point, we'll be back soon" have betrayed where their loyalties lie -- to the sponsors and the shareholders, and simply, to profit. Soon they'll be saying, "I'm sure you have something important to say, but we need to sell it midway and make our millions, so hold your thoughts."

Anyway, today I ran into this blogpost written by an NDTV reporter. The post and the comments (which I believe were heavily 'moderated') just lend more credence to the disillusionment one has with the idea of India:
If ever there was a ripe case for a well-planned and executed military operation, here it was in Sri Lanka. President Mahinda Rajapakse and his team went about prosecuting what, by all accounts, was a legitimate war. (emphasis mine)
PS. I watch BBC for about 3 hours everyday. I have for the last 6 years. The only time pressure they have come under is with regard to their scheduled programming.

Indian Censor Board

After a few failed attempts to land on actual CBFC's website I got to this page. I don't know how accurate the clauses/criteria that have been listed are. On face value they do seem fairly consistent with what I've read about the censor board elsewhere.

What surprised me, however, is not so much they have such ridiculous regulations but the number of movies that have slipped under them. I can't think of more than a dozen movies that won't fit this clause alone: "anti social activities such as violence are not glorified or justified."

Either revise the regulations and amend them to reflect a more mature society -- or simply the social reality vis-à-vis the movies that have already come out with a CBFC certification -- or enforce every one of what already exists. It's not new for Indian burearacy to have something in paper and to practice the exact opposite. But the Censor Board of India seems to have reached new heights in this area.

Obsessed With Morality

We have discussed and deconstructed how rigid notions of morality obstructs critical thinking. Thamizhavan extends the thesis to state that it also underpins the savagery of Tamil society at large:
தமிழ்ச்சமூகம் நீதிபோதனையால் இறுகிப்போன சமூகம். அதனால்தான் வன்முறையான சமூகமாகவும் இருக்கிறது. ’பிறப்பொக்கும் எல்லா உயிர்க்கும்’ என்ற நீதிபோதனையால்தான் பிராமணர்களின் பூணூலையும் குடுமியையும் அறுக்கலாம் என்ற கருத்து அங்கீகரிக்கப்பட்டது. எதிலும் தமிழ்ச்சமூகத்துக்குச் சந்தேகங்கள் இல்லை. கற்பு பிறழ்ந்த மகளின், மனைவியின் தலையை வெட்டிக்கொண்டு போலீஸிடம் சரண்புகும் சமூகம் இது. சினிமாவில் நியாயத்துக்காகப் போராடுபவன் உண்மையிலும் நியாயத்துக்காகப் போராடுவான் என்ற கருத்து எப்படி வருகிறது? நீதி, நியாயம் என்ற நீதிகள் சமூகத்தின் பிடிவாதம். அல்லது நீதி என்று கருதப்படுவதன்மீதான பிடிவாதம். விட்டுக்கொடுத்தல், அதுவும் சரி இதுவும் சரி என்ற நெளிவுசுளிவு போன்றன வேறு ஒரு சமூகக்குழுவின் குணம், நாம் ’வெட்டு ஒன்று, துண்டு ரெண்டு’ என்று பேசும் சாதி, பேசும் மாவட்டத்தவர் என்று பெருமை அடித்துக் கொள்வதுகூட நீதிசார் மனோநிலையின் விளைவுதான்.

Arundhati Roy's Awakening

Arundhati Roy is one of the most popular "leftist intellectuals" in India; known for her take on several issues including globalization, imperialism, and media.  Given this image, many Tamil activists hoped that she would join their cause in protesting against the GOSL and India. They probably didn't wish for a dramatic demonstration that she staged in the Narmada Dam site, but a 200 word op-ed  or a flashy statement at the end of her lucrative book readings. To get some attention from the English press in India, and possibly English television. But her indifference and silence about the Sri Lankan Tamil issue may have raised doubts about her intellectual depth and integrity even among her fans.

Some Tamil intellectuals -- who were left leaning themselves -- were not surprised, though. Some even likened her to 'Hindu' Ram. Thamizhavan, wrote a very insightful article about a month ago. He identifies the likes of Roy as elite, "half baked, cosmopolitan intellectuals" who pick up issues that "matter" in order to be recognized as progressive thinkers. He says, "talking extensively about Palestine while not blurting a word about Eelam is an important characteristic of this band." Thamizhavan expressed his views in regards to Chomsky's interview to Sri Lanka Guardian (SLG). He argues that politically regressive media houses like The Hindu, SLG, and top "cadres" of the communist parties in India try to "monoplize Chomsky and his ideas" to lend credibility to their politics.

My impression of Roy has always been that of a lazy thinker who picks up pointers from Noam Chomsky and other serious intellectuals. She frames templates based on Chomsky's writings and moulds her views on several issues with them; quite successfully, I must add.

The SL conflict, if she ever thought about it, must have put her in a tight spot, though. In the SLG  interview, Chomsky confesses that he is not well-informed on the ethnic conflict. (Why? We don't know.) So Roy probably didn't know what to say with nobody to plagiarize ideas from. She must have wondered if there is any scope to personalize this issue; something that would also appeal to the smug crowd that quotes her writings and gathers for her speeches. Or she felt that her histrionics can never match the self-immolations Tamil Nadu has seen -- and India hasn't -- the last few months.

With everything pretty much done and dusted with, Roy has stepped into the arena with her article in The Guardian. This article may not do any good to Sri Lankan Tamils, but at least now she cannot be accused of saying nothing about the genocide. The most infuriating aspect about it is that she insults our intelligence right in the first line and maintains that intent throughout:
The horror that is unfolding in Sri Lanka becomes possible because of the silence that surrounds it. There is almost no reporting in the mainstream Indian media - or indeed in the international press - about what is happening there. Why this should be so is a matter of serious concern.
You wonder whether she's talking to herself? Not so. For she absolves herself from the sinful crowd with this indisputable explanation:
Several of us - including myself - who should have spoken out much earlier have not done so, simply because of a lack of information about the war.
She has so much conviction in her defence that she presents the case like a reporter on field would; "breaking the news to the world." The article is also written with a matter-of-fact tone. Quite unlike her flowery expositions about 9/11 or Kashmir. "The few eyewitness reports that have come out are descriptions of a nightmare from hell," (emphasis mine) seems to be the best she could cook. Maybe she didn't realize there's no hurry to turn the article in. After all, she had the patience and intellectual commitment to gathering information for 30 years before she "broke her silence." Hope nobody breaks her jaw for the puerile recital of old facts.

'Uncorrupt' Clowns

In an interview with Gnani, S.Ve. Shekher told that he believed in spirits and that he communicates with his dad's spirit regularly. Later when Shekar spoke about this political ambitions and how he would run things, Gnani quipped, "how are you going to do things differently? By taking advice from your guides in the spirit world?" It didn't even seem funny because of the things Shekher had said until then. That was then, now this:

Why should they not get reservation? In Tamil Nadu, 69 per cent of the people get reservation and ninety five per cent of people enjoy some kind of reservation except the forward community. Where is social justice? There are over 40 lakh Brahmins in Tamil Nadu. It is the government's duty to give equal opportunities to everyone. Brahmins have been eliminated, insulted and sidelined in so many ways. You cannot punish people for what happened over 50-60 years ago.

Eugenics, Karma and 'Naan Kadavul'

அதிர்ச்சியான செய்திகளை காட்சிப்படுத்துவதன் மூலமே தங்களை வித்தியாசமான படைப்பாளிகளாகக் காட்டிக்கொண்டு வரும் இலக்கியவாதி ஜெயமோகனையும், இயக்குனர் பாலாவையும் பார்த்து நெஞ்சில் ஈரமுள்ளவர் யாரும் ‘அடப் பாவிகளா’ என கத்தாமல் இருக்க முடியாது.

அறுபது லட்சம் யூதர்களைக் கொன்று குவித்த ஜெர்மன் நாஜிகள், அத்துடன் நிற்காமல் ஒரு லட்சம் உடல் ஊனமுற்றவர்களையும், மனநோயாளிகளையும் - அவர்கள் ஜெர்மானியராகவே இருந்த போதும் விஷ வாயுவைச் செலுத்திச் சாகடித்தார்கள் இரண்டாம் உலகப் போரில்!

‘இனத்தூய்மை’ இதற்கு காரணமாகச் சொல்லப்பட்டாலும், வேண்டாத சுமை ஒன்று இறக்கி வைக்கப்பட்டது என்றே அவர்கள் நிம்மதி அடைந்தார்கள்.

‘வலுத்தவன் மட்டுமே வாழ வேண்டும்’ என்ற இந்த ஆரிய வக்கிரத்தைத்தான் ‘நான் கடவுள்’ வழியாக நம்மிடம் இப்போது சுற்றுக்கு விட்டிருக்கிறார்கள.
மேலும் படிக்க

On exclusion, elitism etc.

Since I've decided to delete comments (not moderate) regularly, I might as well make an explanatory post on it instead of stretching the discussion elsewhere. Since the exchange is pretty long, I'll just post them as comments -- as they appeared in the previous post.

A Wednesday: A Terrible Idea

The movie's premise, leaving aside what seems obvious, hinges on the subtextual notion that Muslims in India don't say/do enough to show that they are angered by the terrorist attacks that happen in India. So the director has decided to prove their 'Indianness' through his protagonist -- the 'common man.' But he doesn't want to make it obvious. It's subtle (ok, not so). The 'common man' speaks with a vocabulary quite peculiar to a certain community (mulk being the 'give away' word). So you know that the man behind this holy mission is a Muslim. Oh how unctuous?

The 'common man' who decides to take his anger out in the form of a threat -- another series of bomb blasts -- sends a message to the ruling bureaucracy that he is 'sick and tired.' What exactly is he sick and tired of? The answer to this question and the questions that surround the answer is what makes this movie so problematic.

First, the answer: The 'common man' delivers a sermon in which he describes the afflictions of a middle class man who commutes to work every day. He's troubled by the distant probability of him getting killed by a terrorist attack. Even more so because his fellow commuter -- a youngster with his 'entire life ahead' -- is killed by one that happened 'recently.'

There are about 20 million people living in and around Mumbai. Based on the terrorist attacks that have hit the city in the last decade, the average number of people killed every year would be less than 50. The probability that our 'common man' would be one of that 50 out of the 20 million is quite negligible. Actually, it's like the same guy winning the lottery twice (given that the 'common man' just survived an attack). He's more likely to be one of the 3,500 people who get killed every year on Mumbai's suburban railway lines alone.

Of course, one might say, "terrorism kills some and terrorizes the rest." True. I'll grudgingly admit that the 'common man's anxiety -- that he cannot go to work, and make that day's wage (or more) -- is justified on more practical (and probable) grounds than the improbable death itself. But where does his paranoia and outrage fit?

In a city that is brought to a grinding halt for days, sometimes weeks, every year by the monsoon? In a city where half its population lives in slums? In a city where raging mobs have killed more people than the blasts themselves? In a city where people are mowed down in greater numbers?

No. It fits in his middle class cocoon of a mind, preserved by ignorance and hypocrisy. The same thing that informs the movie's myopic perspective. It's no coincidence that the 'common man' picks four terrorists (three Muslim) to "purify" the country from. (It's quite ironic that he lists Malegaon among the other terrorist attacks.) While he questions why these men weren't convicted (or kept alive?) yet, he doesn't mention why no one is even indicted in many cases involving Hindu mobs.

I wonder if Naseeruddin Shah realized that he has risked becoming the Muslim poster-boy who viciously condemns 'Islamic terrorism.' One that is supposed to love India. Just like Sharukh Khan did in Chak De India. It's quite messed up when you think about it. I have probably been through a lot less than an Indian Muslim has, but even I don't 'love' India. But dare not he/she say that. At least not while in India. As if Naseeruddin Shah wasn't enough, the movie also has a cardboard cutout, Muslim police officer who's ready to get shot in the arm, and perhaps sacrifice his life, for the country. He's one of the many heroes in the infallible body that works day and night to protect the people: the Mumbai police. Need I say more about them?

The truth is, there is no 'common man.' There are those who are not Dalit, not poor, not illiterate, not political, and not silenced. By virtue of not being any of them he's already immune to their social malaise. Their misery doesn't seem to trouble him. The middle class 'common man' has little in common with majority of his fellow humans. 'Common man' is the last thing he should call himself.

Note: If you have not seen the movie yet, this post may not make sense. (This is not a review.)


"Smoking kills: Airhostess dies after fight over fag." Really? That's the best you could come up with?

We should probably be happy that they didn't say, "fag-hag dies!"

Slave Labourers

Several documentaries, including those made by the State and Central governments, have 'captured' the lives of those who toil in sweat shops at a young age. It's no secret that child labour and bondage are rampant in India. So you would think that it's not hard for someone from there to believe that forced labour is very common. But Vishnu, who's supposed to be from Kanchipuram, was angry that I said there are slave labourers in Kancipuram, in my last podcast. He wanted me to "stop making stuff up just to increase (my) hits." He also had more to say about my "rants" against Hinduism. I cannot paste his entire mail here, but you can visit any rediff message board and find a close match. I haven't spoken to Vishnu before, but I'm sure he is a you-know-who.

I shouldn't be surprised, though. The district collector himself did not know that it was happening in his town; either that or it's the usual denial we are so used to hearing from our babus. ("150 cases in all of India," adi seruppala.) I was glad to find the BBC report I had mentioned in the podcast -- I had recorded it a long time ago. It's different from the rest in that we almost feel sorry for the government officials. You are touched by how they are cornered, and feel helpless in the face of what they see as futile. You might even want to cry: "Leave them alone, didn't you hear it? The boy cannot study. Stop wasting their valuable their time already. They will definitely take action."
Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


"Two Dalits hacked to death in Tamil Nadu." Even though incidents like these are not uncommon in Tamil Nadu (or other parts of India for that matter), this is probably the first reported incident of this kind since the Law college 'beating'. I'm not sure if as many from the bourgeoisie will react to this as they did for the former. But I reckon this will be talked over for days in Tamil TV channels and written about in all major news papers in length. Editors of these media houses would do that much to save their faces.

Well, who am I kidding?


"Sri Lankan players attacked, tour called off." Come on now! You can't let the terrorists win!

Feeling Good

One of the benefits of online communication with friends is that you get introduced to brilliant material once in a while:
Slumdog Millionaire is the type of film that depicts the horror of slum residents washing and drying their clothes right next to speeding trains as a kaleidoscopic, ethnic, patchwork mosaic; the scenes leading up to Jamal's mother's murder are an idyllic tableau of women doing their wash, exoticized and idealized. Boyle's visual style is all bombast and ego, zooming racks and aerial shots that minimize an audience's need to confront the realities of life in a third world ghetto. When all else fails, here comes more of the slo-mo, retard tingle attached to a long look at beautiful inamorata Latika (Frieda Pinto). Paired unhappily with dogme95 Anthony Dod Mantle's trademark ugly cinematography, the result is this jigsaw monster of a movie that seems to recognize the hideousness of its subject before forcing itself to plaster on a jester's smirk--the visual equivalent of a nice pat on the head. No doubt someone's already formulated the argument that it's just a harmless allegory of one illiterate urchin's predestined rise (Boyle reprises his own repugnant Millions in that sense), but a closing credits sequence that hijacks Bollywood's musical extravaganza with the entire cast of extras suggests otherwise. The cruellest irony of Slumdog Millionaire is that, like (wait for it) the also- impossibly-popular and instantly-dated Juno, it's an archconservative message that causes liberals to feel inordinately pleased with themselves.
PS. Congrats to AR Rahman. I am happy for him.

Zoned Out: Maths

After a tiring argument, "say what you want, but an eye for eye would leave the whole world blind!" concluded Dhimma
"Wait. I take your eye, and you take one of mine in return. Doesn't the story end with both of us with one eye?" asked Murun
-"Well...I guess. But what if I took one back from you after I lost my first eye because I forgot that I started it?"
"Then I'll be left with no eyes and I can't pluck your last eye even if I wanted to. Your conclusion doesn't add up even then. Do you want to rephrase?"
-"Ok. In a world in which people don't know their math or with selective amnesia, an eye for an eye would leave everyone blind!"
"No, it still doesn't make sense."
-"The geezer didn't know what the hell he was talking about, did he?"

Obsolete "Truth"

“Spirituality” and “mysticism” are some of the ideas that are given to mixed understanding by people and scholars of different backgrounds. As an atheist with an empiricist worldview, I tend to deconstruct all ideas of spirituality and mysticism, and ultimately reduce it to an actor’s experience within a structure. It is unlike Freudian psychoanalytic reductionism, though. I do not really try to or find it purposeful to “demystify” the “experience” a certain way. Just like all the inexplicably surreal dreams many of us have regularly. I simply dismiss them. They are irrelevant to life in a materialist, physically grounded world that follows rules that are decipherable by our basic, shared senses – either directly or through instruments. Its validity and accuracy aside, psychoanalysis may be necessary insofar as philosophical and epistemic reasoning – of the simplest kind, such as deconstruction – do not enlighten the visions of “enlightenment.”

Spirituality in of itself risks extinction if it is not communicated through a materialistic form. All mystical experiences – of “pure consciousness” or otherwise – have to be mediated semiotically even for self-explanation. Verbalizing it makes it even more distorted (or manipulated) with interplay of specific cultural signifiers and semantics. Even that, assuming the person has not consciously fabricated the said experience itself. So Ramakrishna may have been honest about all his “visions” but they were still a product of his environment. I do not care if it was his suppressed homoeroticism that subconsciously transfigured into his mystical experiences, they were all constructed nevertheless. How or why is immaterial. My interest and respect for him (whatever I have) comes only from his politics.

On the same token, God’s relevance is more important than God’s existence – it’s a point of ontological divergence. Advaita Vedanta’s notions of “absolute truth”, Brahman, “essence” etc., need to be treated as such. “Who are you?” is not that tricky a question. The answer “I am who you are asking it to” would rubbish all its non-dualistic connotations. All objects are perceived relationally and an object’s state devoid of its relation to the subject – in its “essence” – is of little value in the physical world. Actually, I disagree with the idea itself; that there is an inherent, singular “nature” or “spirit” for every object, outside of human observation. It's a notion akin to the "ultimate purpose" of human life.

Spiritualists seem to rely solely on analogical simplification when their obscurantist claims are deconstructed. The problem in doing so is that analogies are inherently meant to simplify and are hence circular. The way a straight train is made to climb around mountains by exploiting minor flexibilities in its path. (Yes, it’s meant to be ironic.) The only thing about spirituality that I find worthwhile is the philosophical analyses of phenomena in the material world within its terms. Such occurrences, however, are rare in most cases. Most of them have an uncanny, theologically motivated obsession with fatalism.

I do not see this as “Western philosophies’ inability to understand/accommodate the Orient.” It is rather unfortunate that our people were colonized when the West was busy philosophizing matter. Because, a land mass with languages as complex as any European language would have churned out its share of philosophers who would have propounded the same ideas – it’s an undeniable statistical probability. It is disingenuous and escapist to exploit temporal precedence to forward irrational ideas. Of course, rationality itself is a useless Western idea, isn’t it? Indians could have never come up with that on their own. It’s better not to talk about positivist, neuroscientific studies etc.

Experience tells us that for all the God’s supposed communication with its most ardent disciples – gurus and spiritual leaders – people end up doing what their political space allows them to do. A country such as India stands testament to this assertion. The ratio of god-men and inequities among the people is perhaps the worst in this part of the world. Most spiritual gurus here are supposed to have had some kind of “authentic spiritual experience” at some point of their lives. They meditate, fast, chant and do everything to achieve “nirvana” – a mental state that, among other things, keeps out the travails of the “real” world. Why seek political emancipation when “spiritual emancipation” puts you at a better place in the society? If only the poor and the oppressed learnt to fill their stomachs with spiritual food.

From Ramakrisha who convulsed at the sight of money to Jayendra Saraswathi who is bathed in gold coins, spirituality in India has sure come a long way. Most of the spiritualists, I would argue, are not really waiting for their Gods or gurus to say what to do. In spite of all their Sanskrit mumbo-jumbo, they exist and operate in the materialistic domain. It's just another weapon in their wide arsenal to achieve/preserve their elite status and social elevation. If nothing, some kind of respect for their "aura." They are the neo-hippies. “What about the unassuming ascetics by the banks of Ganges?” you may ask. All I can say is, “keep their weed supplies uninterrupted.”

True Postmodernist

"I wish my first word as a child had been 'quote,' so right before I die, I could say 'unquote.'"
- Zach Galifianakis

Podcast: Violence, Disenfranchisement and Statehood

Download mp3; download mp3 (Odeo Link)

1'-5': Protests in distant lands -- far from where it may actually have an "effect".
5'-12': An individual's interaction with the state; role of violence in maintaining a statehood.
12'-14': Nationalist arrogance
14'-19': Why should the systemically marginalized and the oppressed live by a state's laws?
19'-23': Periyar and Tagore on "India" the nation.
23'-28': Constructing nationalist loyalties; erosion of leftist perspective in mainstream media. (pothu putthi - common/mainstream sensibility.)
28'-35': Muthukumar's self-immolation; Tamil Nadu's indifference to protests and the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils.

Related blog entries: நாகார்ஜுனன்; ஜமாலன்; முத்துக்குமாரின் கடிதம்.


அடுத்து அவன் நூறு டியூப்பற்பசைகளோடு மட்டும் நின்று விட முடியாது. ஏனெனில் சோப் தயாரிக்கும் மற்றுமொரு பெரிய முதலாளி தனது சாம்ராஜ்ஜியத்தை விரிப்பதற்கு பற்பசை தயாரிப்புக்குள் வரலாம். எனவே பற்பசையில் வெற்றி நாட்டிய முதலாளி இப்போது சோப் தயாரிக்கும் போட்டியிலும் இறங்க வேண்டும். இப்படித்தான் முதலாளிகள் சக முதலாளிகளை அழித்து ஏகபோக முதலாளிகளாக மாறி ஒரு நாட்டையே கைப்பற்றி பின்பு பல நாடுகளை வெல்லும் ஏகாதிபத்தியமாக மாறி இன்று மேல்நிலை வல்லராசாகவும் தலையெடுத்து நிற்பதற்கு அடிப்படையாக இருக்கிறார்கள். எனவே மோசடியும், ஊழலும், திருட்டுத்தனமும், முதலாளித்துவத்தை நீடித்திருக்கச் செய்யும் அடிப்படை விதிகள். இப்படித்தான் முதலாளித்துவம் இயங்க முடியும். முதலாளிகள் எல்லாரும் உழைத்து கஷ்டப்பட்டு முன்னேறியதாக கிழக்கு பதிப்பகத்தின் அசடுகள் வேண்டுமானால் கழுதை விட்டைகளாக புத்தகங்களை வெளியிடலாம்.

Australian Open 2009

Federer hit a winner at the end of a very interesting rally against Korolev. Before Federer could serve again, the chair umpire interrupted and said, "[w]ait please, we are still amazed."

Zoned Out: Authenticity

Gautam, there's been a lot of buzz about your trip to Hollywood. Please tell us about your experience there.

I went there to promote Varanam Aayiram for the Oscars. I think we have a good chance in at least five categories, including The Best Director. That's where I met with Mel Gibson and as usual, we sat down for a drink. You know, we share the same pro-American, pro-capitalist, pro-nationalist, pro-police, pro-military, pro-war, pro-elite, anti-feminist, anti-Islamic, ant...

Yes, yes, and?

What I mean is, we both go a long way. He said, "hey kiddo! (that's how he calls me) I've been asking you for years now, when are you going to make a film for me?" I narrated a story I had prepared for Warner Bros. He liked my story a lot but he wanted some changes in the script. He sent a few DVDs of his films so that I can incorporate some elements from it. I said it's impossible to add two more rape-murder scenes and walked away. The story is now a part of the movie I'm working on.

There are many who criticize that your characters speak too much Tamil and that it's a tactic to force sophistication in your movies, what's your opinion on that?

I never understood where this is coming from. I try to set my characters in real life scenarios in their absolute, raw authenticity. I cannot force my characters to not to be what they are. For example, in my next movie Vilikalil Amilam (விழிகளில் அமிலம்), the hero blurts, "ni periya mayirandiya?" whenever his authority is questioned. Now, please tell me if English could have done justice for this emotion?

I suppose not. The title sounds very interesting, what is the movie about?

The title has a profound meaning. You'll understand if you watch the movie. The movie is about this auto driver whose only ambition in life is to make love. He had sex, he got laid, he fucked, he humped, he fornicated, he: fed the kitty, varnished the cane, peeled the banana, shanked the shaft, pushed the button, creamed the kaboose, drove the stick, jumped the gun, climbed the mountain, washed the fruit, watered the plant, boinked the bandy, dipped the chip, glazed the donut, drilled the desert, boned the cone, stormed the trenches...

Ok! I think we get the point.

Yeah, so he does everything but make love. The story tries to paint a realistic picture of the protagonist's struggles in finding that decent, good girl who says, "I want to make love to you!" and makes his life worthwhile.

I'm sure the audience cannot wait to watch the movie. Thanks for a candid interview.

Anytime, mah nigga! I's jus keepin it real, fo' shizzle my nizzle.

(Did you just say that?) Never mind.

Also read: Gautam Menon's other "candid" interview

White men

Calling for groups to be treated as separate entities with differing motivations, he wrote that it was not a "simple binary struggle between moderates and extremists, or good and evil" and treating them as such was a mistake.
This is why the British are way better than Americans.

Zoned Out (new series): Blue eyes

"Is that your mother in the photo?" said C2
-"yeah, she is."
C2 walked closer to photo hanging in the wall. "Oh my God, she looks so beautiful!"
"Thanks," said Mundi. C2's observation seemed to gratify him.
C2 called me and pointed to the photo.
I said, "Is that Mundi's mom? Cool"
-"isn't she pretty? I mean, look at those beautiful blue eyes!"
"meh…" and rolled my eyes as if to say "whatever!"
C2 was somewhat upset over my reaction, but she didn't say anything. I don't know if Mundi noticed either of us.
C2 and I are good friends and roommates. Mundi drove us to our building. C2 remained quite as we took the elevator and walked to our apartment; something's coming up for discussion.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” asked C2.
"What happened?"
-"didn't you think your reaction was completely uncalled for? Why did you have to be such an asshole to Mundi?"
"What the fuck are you talking about? It was your comment that was completely uncalled for!"
-"what was so wrong about saying Mundi's mother was beautiful?"
"Ok, let me break it down for you. You made a completely gratuitous aesthetic judgment and you expressed it out in the open too. She is Mundi's dead mother, how the hell does it matter to anyone that she was supposedly beautiful?"
-"not even to Mundi?" interrupted C2 quite angrily
"No wait, please let me finish. This is what you seem to assume: it's perfectly alright to say that someone is beautiful, especially if it's a dead person. You assume that those who are related to the said person will be pleased"
-"oh, you're such a genius for figuring that out. So much for 'deconstruction'"
"Wait, wait, I'm not done yet. While you may be right in your assumption, what you said is still problematic. First, let me get the cliché out of the way. She looked beautiful to you, why should others or I agree? Second: you are talking about Mundi's mother. Why should he be pleased that his mother was beautiful? Is he going to get any more closer to his dead mother because a member of his society thinks she is beautiful? I mean, if you really wanted to make him happy, you should have said his d…"
-"that is so sexist!"
"Well, you are his girl friend. He wouldn't mind that kind of appreciation. Being a 'manly man' as he is, he would have loved it for you to go public about his penis. If you think that ..."
-"will you cut down on the rambling and make your point?"
"What do you mean? I think I've made my point abundantly clear. You just lapped up the bullshit practice of saying that people are beautiful when it doesn't and shouldn't matter the least bit and I refused to participate in that charade. And what's with these ‘blue eyes’, long hair crap? Anyone can get a pair of cheap contacts and make their eyes look blue, purple or whatever"
-"but they are not natural!"
"Yeah, racially natural and naturally racist! When did we start caring about 'natural' shit anyway? Give me a see this cow? That's what natural means in 2009. Which era's 'natural' are you talking about?"

Disclaimer: All conversations and characters (including mine) in the Zoned Out series are and probably will be fictional. Characters may appear too self-righteous, intelligent, vevaram, one-dimensional etc., and their conversations exaggerated.

Montage: Dasvidaniya

This video is a montage to one of the best movies I saw in the year 2008, Dasvidaniya.

It was pretty hard to find a song that would present a complementing mood to a montage for this movie. Finding a song for such projects is the toughest, most time consuming part. But I'm more than happy with what I ended up with. It could not have been better, I think. People who have seen the movie may understand why.

Editing the video took over 6 hours for me. Others could have done it faster perhaps. Structuring a narrative within a montage is a tricky thing. You have to decide whether you want to go fully linear or fully random or quasi-linear? This video is quasi-linear. So all the time I spent thinking what a clip would mean at a certain point might not make any sense to others. What I have tried to make sure, though, is to go with the mood of the song as much as possible. After all, it is a montage.

I'm glad that I finished this project unlike my four or five others that are half or less done and kept in limbo for over a year. There are some minor editing errors that I have left out simply because I was tired of rendering 20 versions of the same song just to make little changes.

©2009 english-tamil