Wednesday, October 3, 2012

When God is taken to Court: A review of OMG!

Just came back after watching the movie Oh My God! and it is after a really long time(seems like eternity) that I am getting down to writing about a movie.
Well, I went to watch OMG expecting it to be a laugh riot, for a movie with Paresh Rawal will never disappoint you on that front. And OMG! did not disappoint me either. May be not something that I will term a laugh riot like Hera Pheri (Paresh and Akshay combo) but a movie that has definitely left me smiling long after I left the hall and even when I laughed, there was a message within. Of course, it is based on a play and so all credit must go to the original writer, but then, no one can take back the credit from Paresh Rawal, who has carried it on his own shoulders and delivered another good performance.

I was disappointed with the first half of the movie, which I won't call as slow, but wasn't exactly what I was expecting it to be- it was neither a laugh riot, nor had any punch apart from a few lines that made you laugh (at times forcefully, because I had paid the money and I wanted to get the satisfaction of having laughed..LOL). The first half was basically what can be described as the story of a man who doesn't believe in God (but makes excellent profits selling idols of God) but has *only* his shop destroyed in a mild earthquake after he mocks a Godman; and doesn't get his insurance because the earthquake gets classified under "Acts of God" clause of the policy.

It is the second half where the movie picks up once he decides to file a case in court and makes all the GodMen a party to it and his case is accepted. From there, the movie is a reflection of today's society, on how the nexus between politicians and such Godmen runs, how, people are targeted because someone finds the act of questioning God (or rather his Godmen) as blasphemous. People of all religion who had their insurance claim rejected citing this "Act of God" clause throng to him, many of them afraid that members of their own "religious community" will turn against them if they do it themselves. The movie also depicts the role of media and the sensitization it can lead to in a small way, and how it can change public opinions. In one such TV interview, Paresh Rawal is asked, "What does he think religion makes of people?" After some thought, he replies,
 "Religion either makes you helpless or a terrorist. (Dharam insaan ko ya toh bebas banata hai, ya terrorist)"

The court proceedings are a treat to watch, where the deft Paresh puts forth his arguments, questions the various illogical practices going on in the name of God, whether it is the shaving of your head at Tirupati or pouring of milk on a Shiva Linga or lighting of candles in a Church or "chadar chadayi" in a daragah; nothing escapes his scrutiny. Then again he uses the same Holy Books that his opponents were citing to shut them up, signifying how Holy Books are mostly twisted by people with their own agenda to mislead people.

But the movie doesn't stop at this, it further goes on to show how the whole business of religion and religious people thrives on apotheosis. As Akshay Kumar(playing God in the movie) says, "Logon se inka Dharam mat cheeno, nahi to yeh tumhe apna dharam bana denge" (Don't snatch religion from these people, else they will make you as their religion).

The movie has some excellent dialogues like "Mazhaam insaan ke liye bante hai, insaan mazhaab ke liye nahi" and "These (religious) people are God-fearing people, not God loving people, today or tomorrow they will get back to these (illogical) practices". The movie releases at a time when every second day the world is reeling under protests and riots over religious issues, where these so called GodMen/Religious leaders feed on this fear of people and make this world an uninhabitable world of intolerant people. Whether you are an atheist, or a god loving or god fearing person, a religious bigot or a liberal man, this movie will surely lead you to think that if God really exists, will such a mad rush and mindless rituals please Him?

As for the acting and all, Paresh Rawal carries it all on his shoulders, and no where do you feel the need of any other actor. Akshay may have been roped in for the "star" factor but his role is minimal and anyone could have played it. Keeping with the bollywood formula, there was on Govinda song with PrabhuDeva dancing in it, which could have been easily done away with. Also, another piece of advice for Bollywood would be not to attempt to reproduce Hollywood stunts. The entry of Akshay Kumar is a direct rip off from Dark Knight movie and those "stunt" scenes look like a scene from some video game (yes, it is that bad). His bike is styled on Batman's bike and these are the only sore things in the movie which happen in the first half. The second half thankfully remains away from these bollywood formulas and thus sails through.

The best part though happened after the movie finished and I came out of the hall. A group of young (and hot) men could be heard talking and wondering why do they actually shave off their head once in a year and is it of any good. May be they will go back to the old ritual of mundan, but it atleast got them thinking.

P.S. - In my college, there was a case going on in the court between the administration and local people over land, and God (Lord Rama) was actually made a party to it, so such a thing has happened in reality already!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Anonymous Me

 As I deal with my first break-up.. every 2nd day going into the mode of "I should give him more time, it couldn't have been over" I stumbled upon this note I had written for someone I had a big crush on for over a year. The guy worked in my office, and, after almost a year of secretly admiring him, it seemed that he was finally showing some interest, pro-longing the chat on his own when I would run out of things to talk.

I was so madly in love(? may be) that right from New Year, I had started planning of what I will give to him on Valentine's day. Of course, I had never directly told him my emotions, but I saw hints, and thought V-day was the perfect day to propose. New Year came, I thought he will at least send an sms wishing me the same.. it never happened.. I was so confused with his mixed signals, I decided to end it all in my mind and move on. And I am glad that I did, for a few months back.. he got married. As luck would have it, I instead celebrated V-day with my current boyfriend (or should I call him my Ex? Nah, I still think we have a chance and I should approach him once more) whom I met just when I was trying to move myself away from this office crush/love.

Anyways, as is my habit of not destroying things/memories, I had kept this note saved in my laptop. I had written the note in one of the moments of extreme romanticism, when I was thinking of how to propose him on V-day. Read the note.. may be you will get to see the dilemma that I was in, the emotions that I had.

Someone who admires you just thought that a handsome man like you should receive beautiful flowers on this special day to make it more special for you, and bring a smile on your face. That someone doesn’t know whether this is the right thing to do, or whether you already got many red roses, whether you will be able to guess or have an inkling of who that someone might be. That someone has never given a rose to anyone earlier on valentines (or otherwise also) but thought this is the perfect time to do. That someone couldn’t have a heart break today (in case that someone read it all wrong all these days) and so remains anonymous, because at times ignorance is bliss, and this ignorance might atleast save me from having an upset mood today (if there is a chance of that).

I know anonymous posts/messages suck, but that Someone just hopes that you won’t mind the flowers today, and keep it thinking that someone likes you enough to have sent you flowers today. That you are the subject of someone’s blogs, someone’s thoughts revolve around you all the time; that someone could just go on writing about it on and on… That someone would be waiting to see whether you could guess who it is..

Saturday, August 18, 2012

N-E Exodus : Connecting the dots

It was like any other holiday for me. 15th August meant a day off from office, getting up late, and then going for the flower show at Lalbagh, and later meet up with friends. I was excited about the day because I was getting another temporary tattoo for the day, and was to wear the new T-shirt I had bought from Kolkata. Of course, I had no idea in the morning as to what ironies the day would hold.

By the time I returned back home, it was 11pm already, and when I logged into my Facebook account, I saw a post by a friend about people from North East fleeing Bangalore because of the Assam Riots. It seemed weird to me at first thought why would people in Bangalore feel any effect of Assam riots? Then I saw another post by another friend about the same. I visited the website of a few national dailies and didn't find any news related to it, and thus dismissed it as something minor may be. But when I woke up the next day, the news seemed to be everywhere. What seemed strange and ridiculous was that the reason behind the exodus was messages doing the rounds that NE people will be attacked by Muslims because of the riots that happened in Assam. Even before I could gather what exactly was happening through the news sites, there were facebook photos and posts by some right-wing Hindu groups and other fundamentalist groups that were being shared that talked about how NE people were being threatened by muslims. One such misguided (and hate spewing) page Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena uploaded a photo saying a "fatwa had been issued against NE people" (the picture seems to have been removed now, after the same was reported in a newspaper article by THE HINDU). What was more astonishing to me was that even while the administration seems to have been taken by surprise at the exodus, RSS cadres were quickly deployed to "assure the people of their safety" in the Bangalore station. And as the "news" (or rumour) spread throughout the day, the message that was being clearly passed was that "people from the NE are being threatened by muslims, who will avenge the death of Bangladeshi immigrant muslims in ethnic clashes in Assam.

Probably what made the NE people believe these rumours were that a few days earlier, there was violence during a protest called out against the Assam and Myanmar "riots". Initial investigations have revealed that the violence was pre-planned. Nevertheless, it gave the right-wing parties another opportunity to mis-guide people, by posting pictures from the protest, and passing off islamic flags there as Pakistani flag and further spreading hatred against the community.

What seems strange is the way events have unfolded. The timing of these disturbances seems crucial to me. Parties have already started preparing themselves for the coming general elections. That such rumours should have spread before Eid, with a clear intent of passing the message that Muslims are out to harm NE people (and thus trying to create an overall environment of hatred against the community and increase communal tension). Also strange is the fact that the exodus should happen from Bangalore  and Pune. While Bangalore is BJP ruled, Pune and Mumbai are strongholds of Shiv Sena and RSS. Add to that how RSS seems to be prepared for helping those fleeing the city. A communal environment and disruption of harmony would only help in polarising the votes in the upcoming elections and by playing on the Hindu card, may be try and swing the "majority hindu votes". The govt has just come up with the report that most of the doctored pictures of Burmese Muslim killings originated from Pakistan, but that was already known. But the question remains, how did the SMS start circulating in the first place? How did the rumour mill start working? Who started "warning" (rather spreading the rumors about) the NE people against attacks by muslims? Isnt there a sinister political motive behind this whole development? Above all, how come only South India?

Amongst all this confusion, fear and panic had set in the people from North East, mostly students and workers. No attack was reported thankfully.. none happened in real. Both the state and central govt acted responsibly and tried confidence building steps. While the exodus seems to have eased a bit from banaglore, the panic that spread to Chennai and Hyderabad is yet to subside. AMidst all this, we can all pledge not to share things/information on these social networking sites without authenticating them.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

BASANT - The Big Fat ISM Wedding

ISM-Dhanbad during Basant

“You know about Basant? The whole college is decked up like a dulhan to welcome the alumni.” These were the first words I heard about Basant when I had entered ISM as a fresher when there was a sordid attempt to woo the only “Bengali Sardar” to their side during the hay days of POLY. The stakes were high, for I had two parallel identities that no side wanted to give up on. But let me get back on the analogy of Basant and Dulhan (or rather Marriage) that the senior drew.

Decked up ISM
Yes, Basant is the Big Fat Indian Wedding of ISM, replete with all dance, drama, get-together, bonhomie and of course, food. Like any “shaadi-byaah”, decoration of the college is of prime importance. Every nook and corner of the campus (only the main site, not the jharia one) will be covered with lights. Each new building that comes up in the area around the main building provides a new opportunity for the decorators. Yes, the “baraatis” need to feel welcomed, and spending lakhs on decorations at least gives you the impression that something important is happening in the campus and someone cared to launder all this money for you. After all, who likes a dulhan on her wedding day without the make-up and jewelry she adorns? Only in this case, this marriage happens every year.

An Indian marriage is more about the congregation of people (known or unknown) than the actual marriage itself, and Basant holds true to this fact. You have alumni pouring in. For many it is that one family occasion where you meet all your old friends, try to recognize others as some distant relative (read some junior or senior) and form your own small group to move around with. An exact replica of an Indian wedding, where your near and distant relatives meet after a long time, and their kids probably for the first time; and soon enough, groups are formed based on various interests. While the alumni are the baaratis, current ISM students and organizers form the bride’s side and family. It is upon the ladkiwaale to make sure the baraatis are well entertained. But like most weddings, expect some or the other hiccup that only the closed ones (read organizers) of the family would know.

If in an actual Indian wedding the saalis steal shoes and demand the money from the groom, the ritual gets slightly changed in case of ISM. Money does switch hands, but in exchange for roses and not shoes. So, a Rs 5 rose gets sold for anywhere between Rs 100 – Rs 500 and there is little that the baraati alumni can do. But it is just not the baraatis paying, boys from the ladkiwale side don’t hesitate either. The roses also play an important role in getting the story of the heart across to a girl, another important aspect of Indian marriages, where many future nuptials also take shape.

Performance during Basant
Like a Bollywood movie shaadi, naach-gaana forms an integral part of this ISM wedding. So, you will have a singer or a performer called in to entertain everyone that some will go gaga over, while others will find problems with and rue how they could have done a better job had they been “in power”. In the end, no wedding is well-organised and a memorable one unless you have a big feast to gorge upon. Food can make or break an Indian wedding, and people judge a good wedding based on it. After all, many do come in for free and good food. It is that day when no one in the student community has to “contribute” in  any form upfront, and so even the most matiyao of ISMite would turn up during dinner time. 

With the hum-drum over, everyone heads to their own previous state of inertia. Notes are made about the mistakes not to be repeated for the next wedding, on how the caterer and decorator went back on their words. Some praise for having organized a well-planned wedding to some criticism of the goof-ups. Everything is soon forgotten and flushed down the toilet along with the food eaten the last night. As for the bride, who cares about her state as long as the wedding was a show of pomp and everyone had their own share of pie to eat.

This post was written for Mailer Daemon, the college newsletter of ISM and published in MD's Vol VIII, Issue 3.

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