on and on

does a tv drone
on and on,
lying in wait
for a catastrophe to happen,
and then wail
on and on?

an everyday zalzala

roz ba.Dhataa huu.N jahaa.N se aage/
phir vahii.n lauT ke aa jaataa huu.N /
baarahaa to.D chukaa huu.N jin ko/
i.nhii.n diivaaro.n se Takaraataa huu.N/
roz basate hai.n ka_ii shahar naye/
roz dharatii me.n samaa jaate hai.n /
zal-zalo.n me.n thii zaraa sii girah/
vo bhii ab roz hii aa jaate hai.n
my crude translation of the kaifi azmi poem above::
i venture out, everyday, ahead of the world
and find myself at the same place everyday
the walls which i had brought down
i bump into them, everyday.
many cities spring up everyday
and sink into the ground
the tremors faltered a little
but they return everyday now.
i'm thinking of the mumbai slums - will they return too after the havoc of the very recent past?


aara huun main

raad huu.N barq huu.N bechain huu.N paaraa huu.N mai.n
Khud-parastaar, Khud-aagaah, Khud-aaraa huu.N mai.n
gardan-e-zulm kaTe jis se vo aaraa huu.N mai.n
Khirman-e-jaur jalaade vah sharaaraa huu.N mai.n

here's my vain translation:
i'm thunder, i'm lightning, i'm the poison that kills
i know, i act, i stand up
i'm the saw that'd severe the oppressor's neck
i'm the spark that'd set his world on fire!
that was a poem by maqdoom mohiuddin. i can't set the world on fire but, perhaps, somebody out there can.
the picture shows the falaknuma palace: an oppressor's lair once.


cut and thrust.

(swordplay part 2) the rapier is a slender double-edged sword that can be used to both cut and thrust. it is often accompanied by its sidekick, the dagger. just as our rapier-wielding hero is often accompanied by the character providing the comic relief in the movie. the sidekick is a vital tool- measured against his clumsiness the hero would always look more efficient. his rough, rustic simplicity makes the hero look suave and polished. his ungainly physique makes the hero look strong and athletic.
this is a cinematic ploy, employed even today, to bolster the hero's persona. except, the hero has more than one sidekick now. these additional props are, perhaps, a sign of the times. of our growing incapacity to believe in heroes. and conversely, they also reflect on the inadequacy of the lead actors entering, or being thrust upon, the world of telugu cinema today. one can derive some minor consolation from the fact that tamil flicks , and telugu movies based on them, often use dozens of such props. consider, for instance, the horde of sideys crowding most of the scenes in basha.
coming back to the sidekick in the 'folk' movies: he also performs another crucial function in the movie. his unflinching loyalty and support make all the hero's exploits seem, somehow, right and justifiable. the hero's irresponsible philandering, his overreaching ambition, his unstated aversion to a normal vocation and his problems with authority are all pushed into the background by the sidekick's presence. in a way it's the sidekick who makes the hero!
let's consider the sidekick's personality: as characterization has never been one of telugu cinema's strong points, we have to build the character ourselves from whatever rudimentary details we can glean from the movie itself. let's look at his home and family- it is often left very vague and undefined. he's a hanger-on, his station in life is to hang around the hero and his home, why does the director need to dwell on his home and hearth? his roots, his growing years and the experiences that moulded him are all unimportant. in contrast, though placed in a workingman's family, the audience is never left in any doubt about the hero's noble antecedents. and his eventful infancy and childhood. and his family, stepmothers and brothers. and his guru... and other details of his life and and times.
what does this mean?
it means the filmmaker knows his pecking order. the hero's armed rebellion is not for any radical redistribution of power but to effect a transfer of authority from a reigning tyrant to a potential tyrant. the sidekick's role, as a member of the great unwashed, was to lend legitimacy to the hero's claim and not to put forth his own point of view. just as indian voters are expected to endorse one clan's claims over another and not to stake their own claim. therefore, the sidekick's roots are irrelevant, just as the roots of a majority of indian voters. is that also the reason why the 'period' any 'folk' movie is set in, always remains unstated? because the director is making a film on his own times? the sidekick is a mere rubber stamp. a cheering supporter (just as any indian voter) and not a partner. his stake in the fruits of the campaign the hero leads is nonexistent. revolution is a tea party, according to the director, but that does not mean everyone drinks from the same cups as you!
ten years after independence, that was the director's view on indian democracy.
i'll take a break here. before that, let me try to answer the question: why does the hero prefer the rapier? is it because he needs to flaunt it, frequently, in front of the heroine and her other suitors, to reinforce his claim? with its seeming suppleness and easy swing, the rapier is , perhaps, the best weapon to publicize his virility.
on the sidekick and other tools, later.


on swordplay !!!

picture this: a young man, slightly fat, always dressed in tights. he's a commoner, but largehearted and a skilled swordsman. a happy-go-lucky fellow whose favorite pastime is playing the fool with his friends and standing up for the villagers' rights. it is this latter avocation of his that pits him against the king's cruel brother-in-law and his men. he confronts and chases them away with his deft swordsmanship (swordplay is perhaps a more appropriate term). from here on chasing them away becomes one more of his favorite pastimes. scaling up the palace walls to woo the princess, becomes another. he has bumped into her during one of his numerous adventures and decided she's it. planning an insurrection with the dhoti-clad peasantry in a cave-like hideout, befriending wizards and holy men, outwitting the evil tantrik, uniting his estranged parents etc., are some of the feats he accomplishes before winning the crown and the princess.... play around with any permutation or combination of the above elements and what you'd come up with is a 'folk movie' or what can be better described as a fictional, period drama. except, the period any movie 'x' of this genre purportedly refers to is never properly defined, in the tradition of all folk lore, and the drama part of the
movie is always hopelessly melodramatic.
movies of that genre of telugu cinema has few takers now, the pundits say. adventure, romance and rebellion- out of fashion?
now, a confession: i like those movies. and the more i see of today's fare the more i like those old flicks. their approach to storytelling was breathtakingly simple. and so were the stories, or, should i say story? the devil, like always, lies in the details. for instance, why does the hero wield the french rapier most often when he could have chosen from a wide variety of indian swords? more questions in the next post...

a fool and his ministry...

how do you come to terms with a situation wherein someone you trust your future bread, butter and cable tv with
goes and deposits the same trust in a speculating cheat? the least you expect of a minister is that he should have a little more sense than a semi-literate housewife who would perhaps, in understandable circumstances, be tempted to part with her prized jewellery in the expectation of doubling it, to a charlatan masquerading as a tantrik. those minor incidents of deception evoke, among other emotions, a feeling of sympathy for the victim. should we sympathise with a public official who gave away the equivalent of, roughly, the average yearly earnings of around 5500 indian families?
what's being paid, not returned , is damages. by a company which has a long history of covering up, burying, or simply refusing to acknowledge the questionable actions of authorities at the very top of its echelons. a sizeable portion of volkswagen's dark record of slave labour in nazi germany has not been disclosed until now. so the company, a pastmaster at this game, is moving quickly to sort out the misdeeds of a mere representative to pre-empt the minor embarassment of legal proceedings in india, in order that it can concentrate on defusing the major embarassment caused by much bigger fry at home.
the minister has the sympathies of his boss. after the initial euphoria over the news of damages being paid, the minister would perhaps sit down and calculate how much he has lost: i'm not implying any kind of brokerage. only the investment in acreage that seemed a sure thing until yesterday. boy, does he need sympathy!
a fool and his money are easily parted, they say. a fool and his ministry? well, the minister can check in next door.. and wait for the next schustler-hustler to come around on an even more alluring special purpose vehicle to take him for a rollicking new ride.
an afterthought: shouldn't it be our government which decides the extent of damages it has suffered?


the manmohini act

finally, we have a shadow prime minister. or more correctly, a prime minister who prefers to be a shadow. or is that a shadow as a prime minister? we hear from the left, and from the right..but the prime minister? if he does speak, he does it into his beard or to the congress. no, i don't mean his party- they'd rather hear from the person in the shadows, behind the shadow. a gap, as large as the country, exists between him and the country. he doesn't have the messianic persona of nehru, indira's catchwords and schemes... he doesn't even have a complacent snore like deve gowda's.. how's the hoi polloi supposed to pick him out from behind the dark veil of shadows and get to know him? to know what he plans to do about them? they might not be as smart as the people they voted for, or the people who voted in their name, but they are the ones who picked the shadows who picked him to do this manmohini act to strike the objecting middle classes dumb. until now, he's done precious little to impress either the fawning middle classes or the meddling classes representing the left. every member of the supporting cast pontificates on policy except for the prime minister..and we hear sickeningly familiar rhetoric about strengthening the public sector. in my view, every step in this direction would punch one more hole in the sinking ship that's rural india where these precious resources should rightfully, and at least now in the face of mass suicides, go. isn't that another major plank of yours pm, reviving the rural economy?
to end, he doesn't seem to be a prime minister who is fully engaged- definitely not enough for a person touted to be a formidable egghead. there are more than four million young people out on the streets and fields and other work and loafing places of andhra pradesh alone, when they are supposed to be in school, and the fact that twenty or thirty years from now these citizens would be just as hazardous a material to use or dispose of as the plutonium the pm has gone looking for in america should give wannabe-superpower india some food for thought.
Add to Technorati Favorites