Archive for the ‘reviews’ Category

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Unnaipol Oruvan – Selective Amnesia

September 21, 2009

The heroes of Tamil cinema have always displayed utmost sincerity when it comes to changing the society. On one hand we have the likes of Vijay and Suriya playing moral police and lecturing on how women need to dress and behave while on the other, we have Shankar’s heroes like Rajini and Vikram who cleanse the system by their superhuman acts. But these films are for the lesser mortals. For the ‘thinking’, elitist, net savvy crowd, there is Mr Kamalhassan, the ‘intellectual’ who is hailed as a great thinker and filmmaker. So, for his part in changing the society, he has come out with Unnaipol Oruvan, a movie which sparks with nationalistic fervour. And, going by the reaction the movie is receiving in the web and visual media, it looks like there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

UPO as many may be aware is a remake of the Hindi movie ‘A Wednesday’. It tells the story of an unnamed common man played by Kamal, who,angered by the problems caused by terrorism decides to take on the terrorists singlehandedly. The rest of the film revolves around how he goes about doing it and the explanations which he gives for his actions.

The common man’s apathy

The film’s protagonist highlights the problems and sufferings faced by the common man as a result of acts of terrorism and suggests that the only way to end terrorism is by using terrorism against people who perpetrate these crimes. He seems to totally absolve the common man of any role or responsibility in such acts. As Martin Luther King once remarked, ‘The greatest threat to democracy is not the people who commit acts of violence but the silence of those who proclaim themselves to be good citizens’. Most of the Hindus in Gujarat did not approve of Narendra Modi’s goons massacring Muslims across Gujarat, but they remained silent. The central government elected by the people also remained silent. Even when they did have a chance to do something, what did they do, they re-elected Modi. If a Muslim affected by all this,takes to violence to avenge the injustice meted out to him, would that be considered terrorism? If that is terrorism, then aren’t the people and the government elected by the people responsible for making him a terrorist. How different are his actions from what Kamal does in UPO? Acts of terror don’t happen overnight. It takes years of exploitation and subjugation of one sect of people over another before the oppressed react in the way they do. The common man’s understanding of the happenings around him is appalling.

Cowards who don’t vote

Our common man also comes down heavily on the people who don’t vote calling them cowards who have no trust in democracy. The whole concept of democracy is a farce as far as India is concerned. Here, it is actually the parties who contest the elections who have no faith in democracy. If they did there wouldn’t be so many cases of booth capturing, illicit voting and other criminal activities happening so freely. The people who have been cheated and exploited all these years have at least now realised this and are boycotting the polls in some areas. And our hero wants the people to support such a system. What a joke!

Indifference to everything

Kamal and his writer E.R.Murugan seem to be so upset that people in the South don’t react enough to killings in the north. What is his take on the Maharashtrians’ reaction to hundreds of suicide deaths of farmers in Vidarbha which is only a few hundred kilometres from Mumbai or the North Indian’s reaction to regular deaths of dalits in Bihar or Keezhvenmani? He wouldn’t have even heard about all these because these are all ‘regular’ events. They don’t need such an adverse reaction as one warranted by bomb blasts though the loss of lives from such events are far more than those from terrorist attacks. What does he think about the Indian government’s reaction to the genocide of Tamils in SL. Selective accusations are aplenty in this film.

Anti- Muslim rhetoric

The movie is filled with anti-muslim rhetoric conveniently ignoring the actions of Hindutva fascist forces which lead to most of these events. It cleverly camouflages this by showing the central character as a Muslim. Also, to show him as being secular, Kamal makes one of the terrorists a Hindu. Even when a Muslim character explains his stance, the scene is reduced to a comedy. When he says that his 16 year old third wife got killed in the Best Bakery attack, the other guy says, ‘you still have the other two, why don’t you manage with them’. Kamal need not be courageous enough to mention the forces behind the attack but he would have done well by at least not ridiculing the whole episode. Apart from sparingly mentioning about the attacks by Hindutva forces, the film hardly makes an effort to shed any light on the background of any of the attacks. It seems like the protagonist is obsessed with the idea of India and doesn’t want to know about anything else. All he wants to do is finish off the terrorists and everyone will be happy.

UPO is a half baked effort which tries to look at things from a superficial point of view. Watching the audience applaud it only goes to prove that they are willing to accept whatever gets dished out to them in the name of nationalism and democracy.When even the so called literate and knowledgeable crowd consider this to be a great film, it makes us shudder to think what kind of impact this film would have on the ‘common man’.

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Religious ‘freedom’ in India

August 14, 2009

It is a known fact that in Hindu majority India, minorities have always had it hard. Among the people who convert to other religions, mostly it is the dalits who form a significant percentage. The main reason they do so is to escape the oppression they face from the so called upper castes who refuse to treat them even as humans let alone as equals. But even this doesn’t seem to have alleviated their situation. From anti-conversion laws in TN to genocides in Gujarat and Orissa the obstacles they face is beyond words. A recent report from U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has confirmed this.

Excerpt

“It is extremely disappointing that India, which has a multitude of religious communities, has done so little to protect and bring justice to its religious minorities under siege”

The report has only reiterated only what most of us know already.As expected, the Indian government has termed the report ‘regrettable’. This is not the first time the Indian Govt has turned a deaf ear to such findings. When the issue of caste based discrimination came up at a anti-racism conference in South Africa some years ago, India refused to accept that the caste system was a form of racism and went on to proclaim that the practice was fast declining when the actual facts showed exactly the opposite. The first step to rectify any issue is to accept the fact that there is an issue. It seems like the Indian goverment is totally oblivious to this fact.All it wants to do is to paint a rosy picture of its multilingual, mulitcultural heritage, conveniently ignoring the travails faced by millions of its own citizens.

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Nadodigal:Corny as Usual

July 31, 2009

‘Love’,  the only thing that has kept the Tamil film industry afloat.  There have been numerous stories revolving around this thing called ‘love’ that we have been convinced it is the only human emotion/feeling that is worth living for.  But the irony is that this concept of love which is a deity in all these movies is nothing but superficial.  The characters popularly known as ‘hero’ and ‘heroine’ are forced into it no matter what their personal takings are with respect to relationships, education and so on.  The other thing that has always been emphasized in all these kind of movies is that ‘love’ is a constant just like the universe which begs the question ‘Why should or would it have to be a constant?’  Unlike the scientific explanation to universe being a constant this one doesn’t have any sort of explanation as it has been proclaimed to be ‘divine’.  Movie after movie is being churned out around this concept and the people just don’t seem to grow tired of this stale concept. Every movie being made is claimed to be something different and the only difference that one can find is its difference to reality and ingenuity.

On this note came another movie revolving around ‘love’ called ‘Nadodigal’ which was dubbed as a path breaking movie and there is word doing the rounds that its going to be made in various other languages.  The cliché in all these movies is that if it had to have ‘love’ then it should have ‘friendship’ which goes beyond anything is another story all together.  Now in a lot of movies we all have come across these groups of friends who nominate someone in their group to ‘love’ who apparently is the ‘hero/heroine’ and act as an advisory committee in this regard.  This ‘friend’ analyses the lover and recommends and to an extent persuades them to fall in ‘love’ which sometimes quite intriguing.  But this gives rise to another predicament wherein the lovers are forced on to a relationship which would even jeopardize their ‘friendship’ as they were persuaded, aided or coerced into it by their ‘friends’. Would this happen in real life is another question altogether but is this reel life being forced on into the society is a question worth pondering on.  Anyone would agree on the impact of movies on Tamil society and this is the cause of concern as the movies do not depict the reality of life and even the depiction of reality is totally lopsided.  This has created and is creating a generation of youngsters with shallow thoughts on relationships and emotions which would or has already created a phoney society which embarks itself on a load of platitudes to assuage its short comings.

The movie on the whole is realistic in its representation of its characters and their life but fails in its mission by justifying their immature understanding of love.  True that they went a long way to secure their friends’ relationship but they should have the maturity to understand that ‘love’ is a human emotion which can also fail. ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’ is a popular adage which can apply to this movie and the ‘friends’ should have the capacity to understand that just because they were part of the ‘unification of lovers’ shouldn’t compel the lovers to paint a rosy picture for eternity.  To cut to the chase the movie lacks any kind of maturity with regards to its approach to ‘love’ and ‘friendship’ which are relative terms in their own right.  To glorify this movie or to celebrate it as an eye opener is just a sham that is being promulgated by the media whose only interest lies in exploiting the sentimental nature of the rustic audience to reap profits with minimal effort and concern.

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Enge Brahmanan – What’s the point?

June 13, 2009

Megaserials and reality shows have become the lifeline of satellite TV today. Among the whole heap of crap which gets shown each day, we happened to see an episode of a serial called Enge Brahmanan the other day.

For those who are not aware of this series, Enge Brahmanan is a book written by Cho Ramasamy and has been televised now. There is a story happening in the background and now and then, Cho comes in to explain aspects, importance and the practical use of the Hindu religion, cultural practices, rituals etc. If the couple of episodes which we saw are any indication, the series is nothing but a propaganda exercise by Cho& Co to uphold the Brahmin hegemony in the Hindu religion. No wonder the Tam-Brams of Chennai and elsewhere are going gaga about this series.

According to many tam-brams, Cho personifies the quintessential Tamil Brahmin; an intellectual whose knowledge on a wide range of topics is second to none and whatever he comments/suggests must be true. It is a pity that the wider audience do not feel the same. The series is full of Hindu rhetoric and most of Cho’s views are fascist and glorify the so-called noble values of the religion. All through the series he remains faithful to his role as the voice of the upper middle class elite. But at the end of all this, one begs to ask the question, what is the point of all these viewpoints? How is it going to better the life of the common man who struggles day in day out just to make ends meet. Sample this. In one of the episodes, a ‘rationalist’ character in the serial plans to buy a plot of land in the tamil month of Marghazhi. His wife being a staunch believer advises him not to do so as the month is considered to be inauspicious for venturing into anything new. In comes Mr. Cho explaining why the month of Marghazhi is considered inauspicious. Apparently, during this period, it is daybreak for the Devas of the celestial world and one must spend all their time worshipping them and not involve themselves in other mundane activities. In another episode, when explaining about the bad omen which gets initiated when someone says inappropriate statements, he cites the example of NS Krishnan (a rationalist himself) and Thangavelu (a famous comedian). Apparently, when rendering some financial help to Thangavelu, NS Krishnan said “en kitte irukkara lakshmiya un kitte tharein” and from thereon NS Krishnan’s career started declining and he ultimately reached financial ruin.

Even ridiculing the above two viewpoints would be a waste of time as it would mean we are giving it too much importance. That being said, the conventional brahmin himself has evolved a lot and doesn’t stick to the rules of his religious books. When the author himself doesn’t follow everything he wrote and picks and chooses the values he espouses, how can he expect the viewer to subscribe to everything he says? At a time, when logical reasoning and rational thinking are the need of the hour, efforts such as Enge Brahmanan should be vehemently discouraged. The series insults and ridicules the intelligence of the viewer to reason out things and tries to preach stuff which can safely be termed as ridiculous. As Voltaire remarked ‘Those who make you believe in absurdities will make you commit atrocities’.