The Poor Have No Place in Hindi Films: Farooqui

Don’t know when this paradigm shift (as they call it) occurred, but it sure did. Time was when Indian movies were of the type that portrayed mainly the angst of the country side, the poor, and the rustic – Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai (in fact, most Raj Kapoor movies), Gopi, Mera Gaon Mera Desh, Awara, Jagte Raho, Apna Desh, etc. Now according to Mahmood Farooqui the poor and dispossessed have no role – literally – in Hindi cinema. One of the most comprehensive and acerbic of analyses done on our own Hindi cinema by writer and Dastangoi artiste Mahmood Farooqui appears here. Excerpt:

“Time was when one had to learn Urdu to survive in the Hindi film industry. Now, if one does not know English, one would find it difficult to find work of any sort. Most of today’s stars can speak only English fluently. Hindi film posters and promos rely increasingly on English. Scenarios, screenplays and scripts are written originally in English, and even the dialogues tend to be translations from English, but the actors’ and the makers’ lack of command over written or spoken Hindi seems of no consequence.
“This neo-real cinema, then, is also a neo-liberal one. It is made by English-speaking middle classes, for the English-speaking middle classes, for people who also watch Hollywood and regard it as ‘world cinema’, for people who live in flats and aspire to a universal, americanised lifestyle. As such, Bollywood today produces two kinds of films, fantasies of the old sort and a new socially relevant film. Whereas earlier masala films pitted their relevance on certain universal truths about Indian society – love between social unequals, poor vs rich, badmash vs sharif – this cinema tries instead to recreate an expanding and self-referential middle-class habitus, where the poor and the marginalised do not even find the token representation they did earlier. Films that have been big hits in recent years treat relationships either as a matrix between two adults who do not occupy a social space – Chalte Chalte, Hum Tum, Fanaa, Salaam Namaste – or as a story of families where emotions (the Karan Johar films) and not their social location provides the main conflict.”

Nowadays even the poor are shown in incredible fashion, something to overwhelm and wow the audience – Vasthav, Satya, Hera Pheri – (A very slender list, because I don’t see many Hindi movies these days. What with the prices of movie tickets in multiplexes, the number of kerchief-in-the-neck-and-whistling-at-heroines front bencher is gone. Nowadays I am more glued to UTV World Movies.) with sets that makes one go “What’s that?”

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This Blog is 7 Years Old! Happy 7th Birthday

This blog is 7 years old exactly. The birth anniversary was yesterday. Sorry I couldn’t post this yesterday. When I started blogging I didn’t know what I was starting. I was writing content for a website and I use the blog to keep my research material and some links.

Only later did the sanctity of the blogging space occurred to me and I started respecting the blogging space. Today it ranks among the top 20,000 blogs in the world.

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Sirdoyouwantacreditcard?

SircanIspeaktoyouuuuuforamooommmentttttttt?

Yes

SirIamspeakingfromACACAcreditcards sirrrrrrrr!

So?

Sirdoyouwantacreditcardddddsirrrr?

No.

Butsireverybodyhascreditcardsthesedays sirrrr! Howcomeyoudon’thaveonesirrrr?

I didn’t say I don’t have a credit card. You asked me if I want a credit card. I said “No.”

Sirrr ACACAisgivingyoucreditcardwithlifetimefreesir, noneedtopayforlifetimesir.

I already have a lifetime free credit card.

Sirthenwhydon’tyoubuyanothercreditcardsir, afreelifetimeonesirrrr?

Because I can’t afford to run up so much credit.

Siryoucanevenpayafter40days. Noneedtopayimmediately. Yougetcreditsirrrr! (She sounds desperate and pleading.)

This is how a conversation with a call centre executive goes. They call them customer support executives (CSEs). Can I call them executives? They slur their words, theycombinetheirwordsintoone, they eat up whole expression, and they get common idioms all wrong. Agreed some kind of Indian-isation of words is inevitable, but is this sort of boredom and lassitude in their attitude acceptable? An educational system that emphasizes rote learning and learning only to score marks (and percentages) is throwing into the world people such as these who don’t have a basic understanding of the language. (I am not talking of English here; I mean any language, since these executives can’t even write in their own languages.)

Something needs to be done fast before the country turns out into a wasteland of forgotten tongues and the distorted and disembodied argot of a people who supposedly ruled us by making us believe we are only good to be clerks. No, don’t want to sound too harsh on the British, they had their compulsions you see, they still have. I think they should apologize to India for having taught us to brush our teeth (using a brush I mean and not using the index finger) and use potty (I grew up using the squatting type, nowadays I can’t squat for nuts.).

Anyway, going back to my meandering rant. I don’t know. I have seen countless trainers trying their best to convince Indian call centre executives that English is spoken in a certain way and all they get is, “WhatmakesyouthinkEnglishshouldbespokenyourway?”

How about putting pebbles in their mouths and telling them to speak more slowly, like Demosthenes did?

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Happy Onam – the Harvest Festival!

Happy Onam! To my foreign readers who do not know what Onam means here’s a short introduction.
Onam is the festival of harvest celebrated in Kerala and wherever Malayalis (the inhabitants of Kerala, the state situated at the southern extreme of India) exist, which mean anywhere and everywhere in the world, er, and the Moon. (It is said that when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, the first thing he saw was a Malayali’s Thattu shop.) Onam is celebrated in the harvest season, the season of prosperity. It’s the time that the ears of corns have ripened in the rice fields of Kerala and the labourers are singing “Nadan Pattus” (country songs) and “Vadakkan Pattus” (songs from the north) when they harvest the paddy and collect them on huge bamboo mats. Their voices blend into an enticing chorus wafted on the water-filled fields and one is almost tempted to join in the harvesting. There’s a sense of competition and rivalry as each farm labourer is rewarded a percentage of the portion he/she harvests. So, even children pitch in to help their parents as they gather the grains that will go into their pathayams (granaries) and feed them for the rest of the year.
Then, in the night, under a starry sky, in the dim light of storm lanterns and petromaxes the threshing is done. I remember sleeping in the field on such nights under the stars when I was a child. The whole atmosphere is rent with a feeling of festival, a joie de vivre which permeates everyone. Palm toddy is consumed, food is downed. Then in the morning after a night of revelry the freshly threshed paddy laid out to dry and the straw is also spread to mature into a dry tindery aspect. Then when the sun goes down on their petty rivalries they measure out the grains in “Paras” and “Changazhis” – the traditional measures of Kerala. Then complication calculations are done mentally (no paper, calculator or book is used) on each ones share of the paddy and everyone goes home with their share of the grain.
That’s the harvest season in Kerala, in short. Legend has it that Mahabali, the benevolent and much-loved demon King of Kerala (before he was jealously banished from his kingdom by Lord Vishnu) asked to visit his subjects once every year – during the time of harvest. He knew he will see his subjects at their very best and most joyful. Pictures show Mahabali as a smiling and potbellied and double-chin-ed king with a crown on his head and an umbrella made from palm leaves shading him. That sterotype continues even today. A potbelly and a double chin are considered signs of prosperity, still. Honest!
That’s the spirit of Onam, celebrated by all Malayalis all over the world, of whatever religious faith or persuasion they are.
Happy Onam! 
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Went to Church, Singing Jitters

Went to church and sang heartily. A good thing about singing in church is that you can sing out loud without worrying about neighbours. Got to clear my voice, I got to perform my poem today. They said in the church choir that my voice didn’t suit any of their classifications: Bass, tenor, alto, or, soprano. Rubbish! Grr! I think my voice is a cross between tenor and alto. Don’t know much about music but I sing by the ear. Got to bawl out my poem today, come out with my voice from somewhere deep so God help me.

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Two Episodes: Chris Dickerson and Charu Hasan

This is about online friendships, about people whose writing you read and don’t know if you will ever meet – Chris Dickerson and Charu Hasan – whose messages touched me in disparate but significant ways today.
Episode I – Chris Dickerson
Read this awesome account of the “I Have Often Walked Down This Street Before” march in Los Angeles by my Facebook friend Chris Dickerson and read about how the peaceniks and beatniks of the sixties screwed up the message of peace and brotherhood we (yeah, I too was in the periphery of this movement, long hair and all) should have sown with courage and foresight:
“Man, thirty-some years ago, it was all us young punks. We were gonna change the world. Yeah. Then Vietnam ended and Nixon bailed. We couldn’t wait to hightail it to the nearest disco, coke up, party down and get laid. Job done, world changed, nothin’ but good times ahead.
“Like hell.
“We left the job undone, the world little better off. Nothing we did held fast.”
Yes nothing those idealistic youth of my teen and adult years did stick or were built into anything solid. Our peace movement petered out and was taken over by religious bigotry and greed and to present anarchy. Today’s youth doesn’t even care to change the world seeing as to how their older generation failed so miserably. They prefer greed over idealism.
Episode II – Charu Hasan
Picked up the threads of a net-friendship I started some years ago with the venerable actor and lawyer Charu Hasan brother of superstar Kamal Hasan. He wrote to me recently, “Yet to be honest, I have never been happier in life as I am today. Keep writing to me. Who knows? It might be useful when you reach my age. I.” I hope I am like him – ebullient, warm and caring – when I am his age. His presence of mind is awesome and, pray, look at his humour. May God bless you and grant you lots of happiness!
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Missed the Vodafone Crossword Award

Missed the Vodafone Crossword Award at the NCPA today because there weren’t any cabs to take me there. Hurriedly finished work thinking of going and encouraging some friends but when I got out of office the streets were a bleak cabless vista of puddles and stray people stooping under their umbrellas, afraid of the rain, afraid of getting wet. But then Bombay rain does that to you. It’s been raining continuously for two months now. Soon I guess it will be like Marquez’s novel “One Thousand Years of Solitude” in which it rains continuously for four years in a certain country (he doesn’t mention which). But then how do I know from a windowless office that it is raining outside? When it rains Bombay cabbies like to play truant. I should have some kind of device to see where these guys are when it rains. May be sitting somewhere and drinking rum. I once saw a cabby sipping from a bottle kept in the glove compartment. I think they should be penalised for driving or whatever when they are sitting in some bar when it rains outside. But that would be unreasonable, no?

Outside V.T. saw an unusual crowd of young people milling around. All goodlooking ones too. Wondered what was happening. Met my friend in train who said his son is attending “Malhar,” the college festival at St. Xaviers College. So that’s it. I have never attended Malhar, so, am wondering what Malhar would be like. Anyone?

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