Monday, February 21, 2011

#5 The Book and the Tragedy

(You may ignore this: I've been writing about Gandhi for the past two weeks, and was about to wrap up the series this week. During this time, I held my pen- and didn't write about anything interesting I saw, because- well- it's Gandhi! But, I read something today that just made me pounce on my laptop the moment I came back home from work.)

There is this one book. I've heard about it right from when I was a kid. Both my grannies have read it, my aunt has read it, I'm pretty sure my dad's read a part of it, my mom's definitely read a part of it (how could they do that- a part of a book?), a lot of my friends have read it- but, I've never read it. It's just the sheer size of the book that stopped me. After my Tenth Boards, I decided to read a Big Book, and had two choices- this and LOTR. I chose the latter, because it was in English; and I'd still be reading the former if I had tried to start reading it then. The book is in Tamil, and is considered the best novel ever written in Tamil.

Ponniyin Selvan.

There are certain things you take for granted, because you're too stupid/ignorant to really understand them. This novel is one such thing for me. I never even tried to learn the plot of the novel (until recently), but I knew that the book is worth being called "Legendary".

A few weeks ago, I started seeing news-bits saying that Mani Ratnam was going to make a movie out of it. See, this book has been a dream project for so many film-greats: MGR and Kamal- the ones I can confidently mention. I'm pretty sure everyone who has ever made a "decent" Tamil movie has always toyed with the idea of making a Ponniyin Selvan movie. But just like the first 200 ODI, the best of them got to do it- Mani.

I like and admire Mani at many levels- his keen sense of Art, his integrity as a Film-maker, the attention he pays to every scene in a movie, his foresight as a story-teller, his self-respect, his restraint from media, etc. I've watched most of his movies, loved most of them, criticised all of them, but never hated any of them. Play his movies chronologically, and you'll notice his growth as a film-maker with each of them.

I never got to watch Raavan(an), but I heard that movie's most admirable quality was its cinematography. I learned that Mani had tried some stunningly unique camerawork in it. After reading about his Ponniyin Selvan project, I "knew" that Raavan(an) was just a prelude to the epic movie that was to come. It is sometimes what certain film-makers do- they do a "learning movie" to understand and master a technique.

For example, Shankar's use of CGI in his movies follows an almost textbook learning-curve. Not to forget the years James Cameron spent filming underwater, capturing exotic flora and fauna on film- preparing the groundwork for his future projects. Christopher Nolan once stated in an interview that he had wanted to make Inception for a long time now, but wanted to gain some experience at "handling" big projects before he made his "dream movie"- and thus rolled out the two Batman movies.

I was happy. At last, we are going to have our fair share of a decent "epic" movie- the splendour of ancient palaces and courtyards, some realistic Old Tamil, the awesome battle scenes (I was sick of watching Brad Pitt's awesome sword-neck-drive in Troy being made a travesty of in numerous Tamil movies), the haunting tunes of Old, etc. You know the works. I could actually picture the first scene as Mani would make it- well, many variations of it.

Anyway, as I was saying- I was so HAPPY. And then, I saw the fatal post on Facebook (I'm tagging him in this post). Rumours have been going around in the tinselworld that Vijay has bagged a lead role in the movie.

Apocalpse Now. Please.

I chanted the traditional sixteen-No's to myself, before I sadly/grudgingly started looking for news items about the said rumours. Here's what I don't get- why do the good movie-makers like Mani, Gautham and Shankar approach Vijay? At all? He is a talentless actor, a "film-star" who survived many years in the industry only because of his dancing skills, and a shameless "Masala" moron. Why give him a chance to revive his market?

Okay. Everyone needs a second chance. But why this line-up of awesome movies? Agreed, 3 Idiots is just a feel-good movie with a message- but it has Aamir Khan in it. Aamir is probably the one actor in his age-group in "Bollywood", who cares about the Art anymore- and that's why I (and I'm pretty sure a lot of people) respect him a lot. Why should this total jackass get Aamir's role, when there are more deserving candidates?

And, why Ponniyin Selvan? I hope it's just a rumour and Mani didn't really do (or agree to do) anything that stupid. Stuart Townsend was initially set to play Aragorn in LOTR, but Peter Jackson realised that he was just not the guy. There's no basis really to say that, had Townsend gone on to play Aragorn, the movie wouldn't have been any good. But, you've to agree- no one could've played the part better than Viggo Mortensen. See, some actors are born to play certain legendary roles. I don't see Vijay being "born" to play a legendary character. The character (I've read) is a "charming" person, and I don't see why it has to be Vijay. He's not the only one who's got charm (God, this makes me sick). I can produce a list of actors who're "charming", and so could anyone who has watched at least a couple of Tamil movies. It doesn't have to be Vijay!

Last argument. Leonardo DiCaprio, who has proven his worth as an actor and not just a pretty face, was an initial choice for Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequels. Fearing mass-outrage from fans, the role was handed to Hayden Christenson. I only hope something similar happens, and the Producers would kill the news while it is still a rumour. I've done my part.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

#4 Why Idiots Hate Gandhi: Part-3

Abhira-Sumbha Yavanah Khasadayah
Ye 'Nye Ca Papa Yad-Apasrayasrayah
Sudhyanti Tasmai Prabhavishnave Namah"

- Bhagavat Gita 2.4.18

Note: This was very difficult to write, for there were a lot of unpleasant things- that'd rather remain unsaid. But, that wouldn't do any justice to the title of this post. The sequence of narration is rather slippery, so please bear with me.

A little history of religion wouldn't hurt. In fact, it is necessary that we know it, for it has played (and still plays) a major part in the shaping of our country's policies.

The Jews had the word 'Kofer', the Christians- 'Infidel', the Muslims- 'Kafir', and the Hindus- oh wait, Hindus? How can one define a Hindu? Did it denote someone belonging to a race, or a region, or a belief system? Well, before we do that let's see who was not a Hindu. The term for a non-Hindu (even before there was a term to denote someone belonging to the Hindu religion, ironically) was 'Mleccha'.

Now, those Sanskrit stanzas at the beginning of the post- they were not for just a Classic opening.
The stanza's first two lines mention a number of Mlecchas:
Kiratas- People of Mongoloid ancestry, who inhabit Nepal and North-East India
Hunas- The Huns
Andhra- Do I need to say?
Pulindas- Greeks
Pulkasas- People from a province called 'Pulkasa', race unknown
Abhiras- Again, the people from a kingdom called 'Abhira', near the dried banks of the river Saraswati
Sumbha- Name of a kingdom, inhabitants' race unknown
Yavanas- Ionians
Khasadayas- People with no hair on their upper lips- Mongols, Chinese

We take for granted that before the advent of Jainism, Hinduism was the only religion in India. False. Now, as is evident from the stanzas mentioned, even during the purported time of Krishna- there were those who didn't follow what we today regard as the Hindu religion. Which puts us back to the question- how do we define a Hindu?
Every Indian would know the Indus-Sindhu-and-hence-Hindu story. I'm not repeating it here. Etymology apart, the religion of the people who were called Hindus wasn't really a "religion". It was more of a belief system. Its core values were derived from the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Puranas- in that chronological order. It was Adi Shankaracharya, who formed the Shan-Matha (Six Religions), during his travel across ancient India; and it was that, which cemented this belief-system into a "loose" religion. Loose, because people still had the freedom to choose their "favourite" God, and worship them. Till this day, it has how Hinduism has been.
Hence, it is safe to say that India has never been a Hindu Nation.

Now, Bharatavarsha means exactly that. It is a Hindu Utopian Model- call it "Ram Rajya" or "Hindu Rashtra" or whatever you may. The movement to establish Bharatavarsha has been in motion for centuries, now. For comparison, it is similar to the retaking of Israel by the Jews and the Reconquista to form Christian Spain.

So, what does any of this have to do with Gandhi? Enter Politics.

Godse claimed in his famous speech that the foremost reason for the assassination of Gandhi was the Partition of India. What he failed to mention was how many times people had tried to assassinate Gandhi, before him. There were a grand total of five attempts at Gandhi's life before 30th January 1948. One of them- at Panchgani in 1944, is quite a remarkable one. The attempt was carried out by none other than Godse himself! In 1944 (when Godse first tried to kill Gandhi), India's Partition was still a theory- called the Two-Nation Theory. This leads us to conclude that Godse killed Gandhi for an entirely different reason. Let's take a look at his tutelage.

Veer Savarkar was a great patriot and served a jail sentence at Andaman. He is also the father of the Hindutva movement (curiously, he was an atheist). He had a vision of establishing Bharatavarsha. As early as 1937, he said: "India cannot be assumed today to be Unitarian and homogeneous nation, but on the contrary there are two nations in the main — the Hindus and the Muslims.". His statement in 1943: "I have no quarrel with Mr Jinnah's two-nation theory. We, the Hindus, are a nation by ourselves; and It is a historical fact that the Hindus and the Muslims are two nations.” But, when talks for Partition were taking place in earnest, Savarkar reversed his previous stand, and was opposed to the Partition.
Godse was a member of the Hindu Mahasabha and a close confidant of Veer Savarakar.

The demand for a Hindu Nation was unfair, since India has been home to people belonging to so many other religions, since ancient times. Gandhi, and the other Secular leaders of pre-Independent India were opposed to the idea of a Hindu India, on that basis. This didn't stand well with the Hindu Nationalists, and hence Gandhi had been a target of assassination, ever since he professed his love for all religions.

Two things are now very clear:
1. Godse always wanted Gandhi dead. The Partition was merely a ploy for killing Gandhi. He hated Gandhi's principles of non-violence, more than anything else. He was afraid that, through these principles- Gandhi was appeasing the Muslims. He stated: "All his experiments were at the expense of the Hindus."
2. Bharatavarsha was impossible with Gandhi alive, for he was opposed to a Theocratic state.

The Partition happened because the Muslims were afraid of the rise of a Hindu Nation, and the British did only but encourage this fear. Gandhi is not to be blamed for this. The top Congress leaders even offered the post of first Prime Minister of a United India to Jinnah, giving him the liberty to choose an All-Muslim Cabinet to extinguish this fear. Didn't work.

Till the rise of the Big-time Corrupt, what did people hate more than anything? Vote-bank politics. Gandhi is often regarded as the Father of Vote-bank politics. That is why he is hated by many, so vehemently. Godse, non-violence, Bhagat Singh, etc.- just a cover for their hatred. (Come on, who the hell are we kidding? Everyone HATES Vote-bank Politics.)

But, is Gandhi really the said-Father of this shameful policy? Well, that's another thing entirely. Why did Gandhi do what he did? What was his Politics? Why was his Politics successful in ridding India of the British rule?


Thursday, February 10, 2011

#3 Why Idiots Hate Gandhi: Part-2

Conspiracy theory, I admit, was easy- very easy. The real Gandhi-assassination material requires intense research.
There are so many arguments and so many counter-arguments on the subject, that what happens is this: the Gandhi-haters would mostly read the most popular articles (sadly)- that depict the events leading to Gandhi's assassination from Ghodse and his fellow Hindu Nationalists' point-of-view; while the people who'd do anything not to hate Gandhi would sift through the "other material" about Gandhi which describe what happened in a- let's say: sane manner. (I love writing long sentences)

A word of caution: if you are looking for any mention about politics anywhere on this post- you may exit right away. It's about religion. (There's hardly any difference between the two, you say? Hmmm.)

Nathuram Godse delivered a speech stating his reasons for killing Gandhi. The speech is now popularly called "Why I Killed Gandhi". This speech is often regarded as sacrosanct by Gandhi-haters, and they flash it around as a standard- recruiting more people into their club. I do not want to post the entire speech here, but shall quote him from time to time.

"His activities for public awakening were phenomenal in their intensity and were reinforced by the slogan of truth and non-violence, which he paraded ostentatiously before the country. No sensible or enlightened person could object to these slogans. In fact there is nothing new or original in them. They are implicit in every constitutional public movement. But it is nothing but a dream if you imagine the bulk of mankind is, or can ever become, capable of scrupulous adherence to these lofty principles in its normal life from day to day. In fact, honour, duty and love of one's own kith and kin and country might often compel us to disregard non-violence and to use force. I could never conceive that an armed resistance to an aggression is unjust.
I would consider it a religious and moral duty to resist and if possible, to overpower such an enemy by use of force. (In the Ramayana) Rama killed Ravana in a tumultuous fight and relieved Sita. (In the Mahabharata) Krishna killed Kansa to end his wickedness; and Arjuna had to fight and slay quite a number of his friends and relations including the revered Bhishma because the latter was on the side of the aggressor. It is my firm belief that in dubbing Rama, Krishna and Arjuna as guilty of violence, the Mahatma betrayed the total ignorance of the springs of human action."

Both the Ramayan and Mahabharat talk of a strategy to tackle an enemy, when faced with a misunderstanding: Sama-Dana-Bheda-Danda. The strategy is very simple, and is described as follows:
You have a misunderstanding with your enemy. In that case,
1. You offer the enemy Sama (Peace).
2. If Sama doesn't work out, you try to reason with the enemy and come to a compromise- Dana.
3. If both Sama and Dana fail, you use Bheda (diplomatic tactics of creating differences within the enemy camp).
4. If none of the above work out, use Danda (violence) as the ultimate measure.

Two illustrations of the above-said strategy:
A. In the Ramayan, Ravan kidnaps Ram's wife Sita. The misunderstanding is clear- both of them want Sita. But since Ram is the husband of Sita, and Ravan was the one who created the misunderstanding by kidnapping Sita (clearly not a case of Helen and Paris)- the Peace was violated by Ravan and not Ram. There was not point in Ram offering Ravan peace. Ram sends Hanuman as his emissary to Ravan to negotiate the release of Sita. Ravan refuses to negotiate with Hanuman and sets his tail on fire (a clear violation of how an emissary is to be treated, thereby justifying the burning of Lanka). That's Sama and Dana down. Hanuman's visit creates differences within the Lanka camp and Ravan's brother Vibhishan joins Ram's side. That is Bheda. Ram takes up violence at last, and devastates Ravan's armies. During the Ram-Ravan Duel, Ram strips Ravan of all his heads, save one; and totally disarms him. Ravan cries in shame at being so-defeated by a mortal, and Ram takes pity on him- asking him to go back to his chambers and if he so wants, come back the next day to end the fight.
B. In the Mahabharat, the same strategy is used as follows:
Sama: The peace was broken by the Kauravas in the first place. No point in offering them just peace.
Dana: The Pandavas negotiate the return of Indraprastha, and promise that they'd not hold a grudge against the Kauravas. When Duryodhan refuses, Yudhishtir requests for the grant of five villages- as a last resort. Duryodhan refuses even five pin-pricks of land.
Bheda: Krishna reveals Karna his true identity and sends Kunti to emotionally blackmail him. Karna- Duryodhan's trump-card against Arjun is turned. This strategy is used extensively throughout the battle.
Danda: The Epic Battle.

In both the Puranas, the protagonists shun the use of violence, keeping it always as a last resort. Violence is never glorified, and the deep pain caused to the characters for resorting to violence is fully described.
In the Ramayan, Ram breaks down at the sight of the felled monkeys (who were later revived by the Sanjivani herb).
In the Mahabharat, Arjun breaks down at the prospect of having to use violence against his own relatives. The epic closes with great sorrow, after the emptiness caused by so much death and destruction.

Gandhi followed the Puranas, and never wanted to use Danda- knowing full-well what the consequences would be. Godse, on the other hand- seems quite eager to use violence for the sake of his "kith and kin and country". And he claims to follow the example of the Puranas- what a fucking joke! There is no more clarity required on how misguided he was.

Now, having established that non-violence is a Puranically sanctioned tool, what needs to be looked at is- why did non-violence fail? Why did the massacres during Partition occur?
The answers lie in what Godse considered his "kith and kin and country".

Up next: Bharatavarsha.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

#2 Why Idiots Hate Gandhi: Part-1

I know, I'm in trouble. It's not just because I'm printing my name in the bad books of Gandhi-haters. It's because I'm afraid I made a huge commitment by typing that 'Part-1'. Gandhi is perhaps the most character-assassinated person in the world; not because of the enormous volume of crap printed about him, but by how successful they've been. This is not a knot that can be unmade in a day. See, convincing people that Gandhi was indeed a great man is very difficult. The reason: the same reason you can't explain the integrity of Film-making to the champions of "commercial" cinema, and why you wouldn't dare try explaining a five year-old the meaning of the word "orgasm".

Before I begin in earnest, a statement: I am not a Gandhian. A true Gandhian would never call another person an idiot. I merely admire Gandhi a lot, and am quite irritated by misinformed jingoistic bigots.

Well, let me start with the question I usually ask Gandhi-haters: Why do you hate Gandhi?
Pat comes the reply: Because, he was responsible for the death of Bhagath Singh.
This happened to me on three different occasions, in three different places, and the respondents were from three different states. Long live Conspiracy Theories!

John F Kennedy- arguably America's most-loved President.
Imagine the conversation:
Dude1: Man, I hate JFK.
Dude2: What? Seriously man, of all people- JFK?
Dude1: Yeah. John-Fucking-Kennedy.
Dude2: Oh. (Ponders for sometime, and tries to change the subject) Dude, who's the guy on your Tee?
Dude1: That's Che Gwu-Vaera.
Dude2: You mean, 'Che' Gae-Var-ah?
Dude1: Whatever.
Dude2 (unable to control his curiosity): Why do you hate JFK again?
Dude1: Neil-fucking-Armstrong, man. That lying son-of-a-bitch.
Dude2: Sorry?
Dude1: Dude, he never landed on the fucking moon. He didn't even get into a rocket, that old fraud.
Dude2 (knowing look on face): Oh!
Dude1: Oh yeah, Dude! It's all a huge god-fucking lie. The chimps shot the "one step of a man" video in a place called Area 47.
Dude2: You mean Area 51?
Dude1: Yeah, whatever.
Dude2: But, what the fuck does any of that have to do with JFK?
Dude1: Man, he was the one who started the Apollo-shit-me-Mission.
Dude2: Dude, JFK was dead by the time they, erm- landed on the moon.
Dude1: Oh. Was he?

Agreed, the probability of that conversion to ever occur is very remote. But, if at all something similar does occur, Dude1 wouldn't feel very smug about himself at the end of the conversation.

But Gandhi, on the other hand- gets to be hated by a sizable lump of India's teenagers because, You-Know-Why! The pity here is- these Conspiracy-Theory-Gandhi-Haters feel quite cool about it, something like (some guesswork here) belonging to an elite well-informed class.

Very few men earn the respect and admiration of their peers, enemies included. But there is only one who was celebrated as a Mahatma during his lifetime. And, he doesn't deserve to be hated- just for the sake of being hated.

Coming up next: Nathuram Godse's Famous Speech.

Monday, February 7, 2011

#1 Why Blog? Why Now?

There were some unfortunate souls who read the version 1.0 of this post. I spent a whole day brooding over why I even wrote such a pile of crap in the first place, and was determined of taking down this whole blog. But then, inside my head- I could hear the voice of a wise man (me) encouraging someone at some point of my life to never give up on whatever they were doing. Not wanting to feel like a hypocrite, after having felt like a moron for quite sometime today- here I am: bravely typing version 1.1 of Why Blog? Why Now?. (It's still #1 though. Hey, who cares?)

So, Why Blog? Well, for quite sometime now (let's say a couple of years)- I had this feeling that bloggers are bloody narcissistic bastards. (Now you know why I always looked at you like toadstool, if you're recoiling now). To be honest with you, I wasn't much of an internet surfer, when the advent of blogging began. Later on, the ones that I did stumble upon strongly reminded me of Barbie dolls. (I leave that to your imagination) Here, I am not just talking about real blogs. The ones I saw on movies and serials too weren't very encouraging. The way bloggers are kind of typecast as self-centered people only cemented my belief that blogging is indeed a narcissistic activity.
So, why am I doing this now? (How I love introspection). My idea of narcissism is wrong. Narcissism is to think too superior of yourself, right? Just because someone writes about themselves doesn't mean they've to be narcissistic. Probably, what one becomes when they blog too much about themselves is lose their privacy, but that's hardly narcissism. The very fact that blogs are a huge success is an indicator that people aren't as self-important and self-centered as I supposed they were. (Hey, who the fuck likes Paris Hilton?) People connecting with others on the internet based on their personal experiences is probably the core value of social networking.

Having proved myself to have been a jackass, the next question: Why Now? Well, I used to write short stories till about a year ago. (I might as well be saying that I'm sterile- how sad). I don't know why this happened. I just disconnected. I can think of many reasons for what went wrong. The one that makes most sense to me is that I didn't see myself making any clear progress as a writer. And then, last night- it struck me. It was not a revelation. (If you are imagining a halo behind my head, stop right there!) What struck me was what middle-aged working-class people go through- the feared 'mid-life crisis'. I don't want to get into the specifics of the horror. All I felt was this sudden urge to start writing again. But- about what? That, was when I had the revelation. Blogging.

I want to abide by two rules. (See, there's no fun without 'em) First, I shall never be a self-centered, self-important, narcissistic bastard. (Well, for all I know- I could very well be one. But, I hope to never write like one.) Second, I wish to keep doing this.

So here it is: The Theory of Everything. I hope to go back to the days, when I used to see interesting subjects everywhere, and passed running-commentary of everything I saw inside my head.


(Clint Mansell music)