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Police in Tamil Cinema

Note: Publishing the draft of a post that I started writing in 2013. I think I stepped in a few times in 2014 but was discouraged by the sheer work required to make concrete assertions as opposed to sloppy bullshit. Sometimes I wish I could give up some intelligence to gain disposition for hard work/discipline (especially in academic endeavours). 5 years later, I have not made any progress on the research side of this topic. It's sad that I have a note within the draft. Fuck.

From the 2013-2014 draft:

Note: I would like to be forthright about some things before you continue on to the post. I wanted to write a some what researched essay on Mysskin's movies vis-a-vis his portrayal of the police and other civil servants in his films. I wanted to discuss it within at least two contexts: a. the perceived reality of the role of police in law enforcement, crime and corruption by the people [1] and b. the evolving, constructed, fragmented reality of the above on screen. Ideally, I would like to have (re)watched at least parts of a dozen films each from the last 4 decades, read a book or two and several journal articles. But I couldn't quite get around all of it so what follows is an attempt to present some of my views as coherently as possible purely based on my recollection of things. Think of this as an open draft that begs several revisions. Time and interest permitting, I'd like to open it up to include other films such as Kuruthi Punal and Kadamai Kanniyam Kattuppaadu.

Corruption among civil servants in India has been known and often accounted for by anyone who had to deal with them -- and people, in general, do not want to -- since the early years of the colonial era. As it has been argued convincingly elsewhere, colonization is a corrupting force in itself. It is one of the unshakeable residues that most post-colonial societies, especially in Asia and Africa, are reeling from[1]. But the police is unique in that colonization is not a necessary component to explain its corruptive nature. Any group ordained with the responsibility of enforcing the law, be it the police or the military in  'graver' circumstances, is in essence given the subjective power to judge events and execute actions.

Now, let's focus on the police. It's hard for me to say if the films of the first three decades post-independence were ever explicitly critical of them even though they have always had bad name. Barring a few exceptions, the police in Tamil films of the 50s and 60s mostly enforced law in its strictest sense. After all, the mock phrase "police'nale kadaseela dhane varuveenga!" (after all, the police shows up only in the end) was inspired by numerous Tamil films that end with the 'hero' beating up the villain to pulp only to be arrested by the police with a note of gratitude. Police roles played by MGR and Sivaji Ganesan, like any other, were centered around being unimpassioned (while being compassionate, of course), dutiful and working for the greater good. It was probably in the latter half of the 70s that we see the police taking more antagonistic roles. When the likes of SA Chandrasekhar came on the scene, in the 80s, the police were 'elevated' from being mere participants of a corrupt system to those who perpetrated the crimes to serve their direct ends. The complexity of the mix progresses from distant and symbolic to ambivalent or good to the damned. In the last three decades they are mostly kept within a good vs. evil binary.

An over-simplified contrast between Shankar and Mysskin's approach to crime could be summed as follows: One is about an upright and all-powerful individual overcoming a corrupt system and the other is about an upright system overcoming corrupt individuals. It's safe to say that neither of them tread close to reality in any sense.

in light of the 7 people shot dead and several suspects killed in custody mysskin's police's purported vulnerability and victimhood is perverted.

will prolly never venture into the caste angle (it's alluded to in Virumaandi).

[1]The argument is simple: the bureaucracy under the colonial rule had no qualms about engaging in 'illegitimate' activities because the government they were 'stealing' from had little legitimacy to stand on. So when the government was handed over to India, not much changed in the civil servants' psyche, presumably.

End of draft

Bicycle Thieves

Note: Publishing a draft from 2012. Since then two more bikes have been stolen. So the count stands at 11 as of today (May 5, 2018). But the last bike was stolen back in 2013. I've had a good run since. I probably wanted to talk about my very first bike in Canada, in 2005, and how it got stolen in about 10 days of having it. I didn't bother locking that bike because I thought, well, it's Canada. Why would anyone steal bicycles here? Anyway, 13 years later, I still don't fault myself for being that gullible. I was a product of that stupid, presumptive generation (as opposed to this stupid, presumptive generation).

From the 2012 draft:

When I came to Toronto about 4 years ago, I spent quite a bit to bring my somewhat expensive bicycle from London, ON. It would have made sense to sell it and buy a new one instead of spending so much on shipping it, but it had become 'mine' already. It got stolen the first week. Unfazed, I bought another one. It got stolen the first day - when I took it to the store near by to get a lock. Left the bike out and came back to find nothing. I didn't give up (read "learn my lesson"), I got another one. This one was stolen too, the second day. So in a matter of 2 weeks, 3 of my bikes were stolen. It might be worth mentioning that I already had 2 bikes stolen when I was in London. In the years since 4 more bikes have been stolen from me bringing the total count to 9.

End of draft.

The dirty fight

Note: Publishing the draft of a post that I started writing back in 2010, I think. I might have revisited it once or twice since. I'm still not sure if I should expand the lazy cryptic here: t'ism. I decided to not use the actual t word then because I was a little paranoid about being tracked and watched over. I still am to a certain extent.

From the 2010 draft:

I was not able to view t'ism as black and white as many of my friends and the adults around me did when Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated. My earliest memory of thinking about t'ism is one of "why don't I feel so bad about it?" It was only in my late teens was I actually able to articulate why I seemed to 'understand' where the t'ists came from. I didn't necessarily sympathize with them. But the idea of a disproportionate force was definitely featured in my discussions about war and the options available for the weaker side. It resonated with some bitter experiences from my childhood -- one that many kids who grew up with an older brother could relate to.

When I look back, my brother wasn't a bad guy in the general sense. He was supposed to be the kid who's good at studies, disciplined, responsible, quiet etc. I hated him for all that, of course. Also I knew him differently. He knew that I could see through what many others couldn't, so there were no pretensions of keeping up that good, quiet persona when it came to a fight between the two of us. Being the bigger guy he would always win a scuffle. My best options were to wait until he least expects it and deliver a painful blow. But we were on equal footing as far as this strategy was concerned. He would do the same to me. The only thing he seemed to shy away from, due to his psychological predisposition to avoid the sight of blood or some such, was that use of sharp objects. To me, it was fair game.

I've stabbed him with a compass a few times, thrown a knife at him, slashed him with razor blade, and thrown stones at him (none of this after I turned 12). I would have some sense of guilt after the fact but in the heat of moment I had no qualms. To his credit, he maintained a 'bro code'. We both did. He's never outed me to my mother unless the damage is so severe or visible that she found out herself. The physical altercations stopped in my early teens and after a few more years of hating on each other we became 'proper' brothers in our early 20s.

I was a relatively small guy throughout my school and college days but with a big mouth. I had a flair for taunting people and delivering deeply hurtful insults on the go. Didn't matter who was at the receiving end -- the weaklings or the bullies. Now, the bullies will invariably retaliate and a physical altercation would ensue every now and then. And my go to move is to punch them right in their face. Many thought it was below the belt, so to speak, because you could leave their face permanently damaged with cut. Didn't matter to me because I knew that's not a bar that I could respect and still survive the fight [1].

1. The last time I had a proper school-yard fight was in my 8th standard. It was also the time when WWF was very popular and we were stupid enough to try to incorporate those moves in our fights and end up badly twisting our ankles or dislocating our shoulders.

End of draft. 

Sense (false) of elevation

Note: Publishing the draft of a post that I started writing back in July 2007. A few days after I returned from ooru. Basically, I wanted to talk about one might feel all important, loved etc., when they're visiting a place after quite sometime and you're there only briefly; and how all that might create a false sense of elevation and might contribute to delusions of grandeur that could fuel other more serious issues. Like, deciding to move back because things are so good over there. I'm sure this topic has been explored in greatly by 'expats' and such. So I'll leave it here.

From the 2007 draft:

It's been over a week since I got back from Madras. I've spent most of the time watching and organizing all the videos and photos that I shot there. I hadn't been there after close to two years. So everyone was obviously happy to see, well, mostly.

End of draft.

Zoned Out: Ideas for a film that will never be made - 1

The protagonist is not quite an adrenaline junkie in that he doesn't obsessively seek out avenues to get his fix, but someone who'll push it if the 'right' circumstances present themselves. The only things he's afraid of are being arrested by the Indian government on drug possession charges and full body paralysis. He rides his motorcycle like a maniac and has a cyanide capsule in his mouth -- the idea is that in case he crashes into something he'd bite the capsule and die rather than live through the unsavoury aftermath. And the prospect of him accidentally biting into the capsule makes his bike rides that much more maniacal. Equally terrifying is the possibility that as he's approaching certain death -- about 200 microseconds into the slide off the bike -- the cyanide capsule pops out before he could bite and he's left paralysed as result of the crash.

PS. No, this protagonist is not a woman.

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