Naxals, Agitators and democracy

Chakravyuh is the latest localized adaptation of a Hollywood film by Prakash Jha. (see Avatar/Pocahontas, even Namak Haram for earlier versions of the same theme). At a time when our national morale is low again after the highs of India Shining, this is supposed to be a reminder to urban India that the poor are suffering. India is riddled with problems. Poverty is rampant, the powerful are corrupt and the enforcers are either impotent or unwilling to enforce change. Surprised? I thought not.

One doesn’t have to live in a village to know that there are huge problems in our country. Hell, there are Babas and activists on fasts all over the country and media reminding us that the ruling class is robbing us blind. We also know that when oppressed, people are prime to be taken advantage of, as the Naxals have been doing to the poor villagers and forest dwellers trapped between two forces.

Because Naxalism is not the answer. Nor is agitation/fasting. The answer is for the so called elites who rink they know better to go to the people who are being oppressed and teach them to vote right. in a democracy, the value of you as a citizen is determined by the number of votes you influence.

If you don’t even vote, or vote for the person most people in your community vote for, you have zero influence. If you convince a few to vote according to their interests, you have a certain influence. By the way, Facebook doesn’t count, and blogs count even less. The bulk of voters are poor, and they need to understand what their votes bring them.

That’s why Kejriwal is right, we need to use democracy to bring about change, and that’s harder than either agitation or violence. We also need to curtail the power the government wields and make it more transparent. We need to allow local governments to have a say in what happens there, but also need to incentivize them to industrialize. We need fair, market based compensation for the displaced, and we need companies to fight for the lands.

Only when there is true participation, fewer discretionary powers and more transparency will we progress. We also need a social safety net that support those who can’t earn enough for their needs, and helps them not just by handouts but by making them fit into the marketplace.

For all this to happen, the first step is to actively campaign for the candidates/party you care for. How many are willing to put their money where their mouth is and go sweat it out on street? I can only answer for myself: Not me. And that, friends, is the real problem with India. Any solutions for that?

Let The Sky Fall

What happens when the world changes around you? When age is chasing you and the feet are tiring, when the enemies, deadly as ever, are nowhere and everywhere.

This is not the Bond of yore. This is not the guy who makes it look effortless to beat up a bunch of goons. This guy gets hit sometimes, he pants when he’s tired, and he is often in pain. But he does the job nonetheless. He is the hero who suddenly finds people around him too young. Where he starts to feel tangles of bureaucracy trapping him.

In this world, his only anchor is another one feeling rapidly outdated – M. She was always ruthless but effective, and when she falters on the effectiveness she finds herself being pushed out exactly at the moment her past is catching up with him.

And that takes the form of Silva. The ex spy who has turned against those he once worked for.

Won’t reveal anything else about this. Just suffice to say that Bond is kick-ass again. This is contemporary and up to date. This has pace, glitz and glamour, but it also has a heart, a soul and most importantly a brain.

This film makes Bond make sense in a world where spies seem non-sensical. And that is largely because of a bunch of great performances by Daniel Craig, Dame Judy Dench and Javier Bardem. This is a far cry from the world of Pierce Brosnan when a smile and a quip was all the acting a Bond needed.

All in all, Sam Mendes has made an art film about spying in the modern world and an exploding, masala Bond film in one neat package.

And thus it is that a guy whose hobby is resurrection resurrects himself and his name. In the process he has made another killer film in an immortal franchise.

The Two Heroines

Who do you think would be more interesting? On the one hand we have housewife with two kids, a distant husband, and a constant struggle with self esteem. On the other a girl infatuated with a silent, intoxicating stranger and who keeps fluctuating between a harsh reality and lascivious dreams.

20121013-181950.jpgWell let’s look at the latter first, you seem to say, so here goes. In Aiyya, Rani plays a dreamy “girl” who maintains sanity by lapsing into fantasy. She inhabits a world of squalor, and dreams of clean, quiet streets till a mysterious dark, red eyed, brooding man with an enchanting smell walks in her life. And then she is torn between her attraction to him and her impending marriage to a simple guy who likes Deepti Naval. There is a good idea here, and a sorta kinda twist at the end of this tale, but stretch this over two and a half hours, and you start wishing something bad happens to her, just to make something happen.

The best thing about this film is its complete reversal of gender roles without breaking the world we live in. The girl is not empowered, she is paraded before prospective in-laws, and no one asks her for consent. But within herself, the heroine experiences what can only be described as lust for the dark stranger who smells really nice.

Had the makers eliminated an unnecessary and unnecessarily loud grandmother, toned down the mom, removed the dogs and fired the Lady Gaga lookalike coworker, we would probably have a decent film. As it stands though, this movie is symbolized by the ever present, all encompassing garbage.

20121013-182223.jpg Run therefore, to the one symbolized by fresh, enticing laddoos, English Vinglish. The warm, sweet tale of a lady suffering a crisis of identity, because her family cruelly makes fun of her. She finds acceptance everywhere else, but keeps craving for the respect of the ones she has dedicated her life to.

It turns out she needed a break from them to find herself. Learning English is not even a path, but a mere side effect of her self discovery and self appreciation. From making an assortment of new friends, and even an admirer, she learns to love herself, and live for herself.

The best part is the language she uses to express herself. Sridevi shuns all words and uses her face to say all she needs to. To say Sridevi is good in this is like saying laddoos are somewhat sweet.

In Aiyya, Rani is at her best when she is in her ridiculous costumes in the item numbers, but adds to the shrill tone when she is annoyed or complaining. In the end, however, Aiyya’s failure is not hers. That blame lies solely with the director. Director Sachin Kundalkar earlier made Gandha in Marathi, and this is literally one third of the story of Gandha. And Gandha was a total of 96 minutes long. No one should be surprised that this film feels bloated in the extreme.

Gauri Shinde, on the other hand, crafts a story with believable characters and understandable situations. Even she finds it hard to resist stereotypes, but tried to control the tone of the film. It’s to her credit that the character of Sridevi, although designed to evoke sympathy, doesn’t fall into the “Bechari” category, and instead becomes endearing and relatable. English Vinglish not perfect by any means, but does enough, maybe a bit more than that.

Thus it is that a story of a simple housewife is more compelling than that of a young girl passionately enchanted. Don’t blame the subject, however. Blame the story.