Friday, November 24, 2006

Dam Bad?

"New Delhi, Nov. 22: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has postponed his visit to Manipur to lay the foundation stone of the Tipaimukh dam, adding to the drama over the controversial project in Churachandpur district.." [from yesterday's paper]

What drama? Here are some links: [Oct 24: Naga groups in anti-dam brigade], [Nov 12: Tipaimukh strike cripples Manipur],[Nov 13: Delhi to ignore dam protest]..

* * *

Chinese movie 'Still Life' wins Golden Lion in Venice

From China Daily: "VENICE, Italy - The Chinese movie "Still Life," a surprise entry set against the backdrop of China's gigantic Three Gorges Dam project, won this year's Golden Lion - the top award at the Venice Film Festival - on Saturday..

"Still Life" was shot in the old village of Fengjie, which has been destroyed by the building of the Three Gorges Dam, and tells of people who go back there.."

* * *

"Perhaps India's most precious fragile ecological zone, the Northeast is now facing a paradox: to be damned or not. The big dam lobby is planning to bulldoze thousands of acres of forests, fertile villages, rivers and streams to build 73 dams in the Northeast and 42 in Arunachal bordering China. At Yazali in Arunachal, the Ranga nadi has been killed, destroying downstream ecology.

Outside the mainstream's gaze, this is a recipe for apocalypse now under a nasty Police State. The tribal people of Arunachal have begun the first fight which has spread to Manipur. Despite deaths in police firing as in Manipur recently, the fight has spread.."

[quoted from Tehelka 2nd anniversary special in an earlier post on this diary]

* * *

Some Q and A on Sardar Sarovar: Who pays, Who profits
[This document is somewhat old, the figures may have changed a bit, but not for the better]

* * *

Some more dam stories, including Tehri and the legendary Bhakra-Nangal, to appear in a follow-up to this post (say, in the comments section). Please post your comment with the stories/details you have on big dams.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Deepa aur Shabnam (and Kunhimema)

They are women at the creche.

Deepa reminds me of Kunhi mema, my mother's younger sister. Both of them look very similar (Ok, Kunhimema looks much smaller now-- really true to her name-- she has shrunk over years) and both have a deep sadness written on their face. Even the clothes Deepa wears remind me of mema.

Or may be everyone who goes through such hardships look the same. I don't know about Deepa, but I have grown up seeing different stages of my mema's life.

Singing romantic film songs ("Devathaaru poothu..") in her teens, with some sadness in it even then;
Taking us to the Kasturba Gram and issuing children's books for us from the library for us;
Her marriage (we really celebrated that one, I can't remember any other wedding as much);
Eating pork at her place (it was yummy!)
Her husband (he became our pappan) who used to run a mini van and later a Toddy shop;
Going for a Mohanlal-Priyadarshan comedy film with the newlyweds;
Having rabbit's meat at pappan's shop once;
Playing with their children Sreekanth and Sreejith;
Pappan dying of heart attack young;
Mema carrying the family on her shoulders..

She knit flowers to make garlands for god at a temple in the morning,
Worked as a peon at a bank;
Later she lost that temporary job and went to a bakery (after the garlands were made)..
Her body shrunk in the process.
She developed pains in her body, was admitted to hospital once or twice;
Doctors asked her to take rest but she could not afford it;
She takes medicines.. but she hasn't given up.
She goes on.

She cries well-- One funda of her life is that when you're at a house where someone has dead, you should really cry loud, and it would make the people there feel good :)
(She did that at her marriage also, like many other girls, to make her parents feel good).

Ok this has already become so long.. I'll write about Shabnam (and things/feelings/people I associate with her) in another post, hopefully sometime soon.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Uchchakkum Rathriyum Kaaryam Kashtam

My friend has come to India after a training abroad. It seems he has got some Johnnie Walker with him. That takes care of the mornings but what about afternoons and evenings?

[reference: Malayalam film Udayanaanu Thaaram]

Some Nostalgia

enerally landed on this page of IITB slangs-- new and old, thanks to Anish.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Cameraman

"Cinematographer with a preference for natural light who acted as midwife to Bergman masterpieces", says an obituary of Sven Nykvist (1922-2006) that The Guardian carried. Thanks to G P ramachandran for pointing me to this article and reminding me of a cinematographer's role in films like The Virgin Spring, The Silence, Cries and Whispers and Fanny and Alexander.

a shot from cries and whispers

(Image: a shot from Cries and Whispers (Viskningar och rop, Swedish). Ingmar Bergman and Sven Nykvist shot Cries and Whispers (1972) in red. Nykvist won an academy award for Best Cinematography for his work in this film).

Saturday, November 18, 2006

I'm Hearing Voices..

["I'm hearing voices again" - Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf in The Hours]

Following up to yesterday's post, I'm featuring a few of the woman voices on the blogosphere here. These are people I know-- if you know of someone, please add to the list by posting link(s) in the comments.

summer in hyderabad, by jenny:

"they put it in the local newspaper,
among the tits and thighs that
keeps the sales going on,
between the color face of a PYT
the black and white of my death.."

[the obituary]

"..and so i come close to your bruised head your black eyes that you hit against the mirrorr and i come close to the lips that kissed death and escaped yet another time and i touch your face remembering the summer clouds that all morning went pass my sky.."

[when i come back (for M)]

Walk Alone, by bindu:

"It is only when you shift houses
That you know
That your self moved in certain corners there
When you drag old dust filled memories out
To pack or discard
That you know
They existed in those particular nooks and crannies.."

[Shifting houses]

"We each have one
Calculate, add, multiply, enter
How much have I done?
How much have you taken?.."

[Logbook of Lovelssness]

"We play games of conquest
We conquer minds
For some short while
We need to fill ourselves within others
Or, else we fear,
We do not exist.."

[Conquests of the Mind]

it's time.., by gargi:

"i dont see her when i search my memories
i dont like/dislike that.
now, she exists in my life,
not as my mother.
someone who is present.
thats all.

is that because of her
is that because of me..."

[mother, mother..]

flux, by sreejitha:

"Fear is like an antenna.
When you are weak
it's there
fully active
to recieve
all curses around.."


"You spoke:
Spoke of truth
for truth itself
here and there
Got trapped.
Trapped in "love"
they call it, still.."

[Abhimanyu phase]

"IT's not easy knowing what to share.
For, all the time u might not be knowing what you have.
They might not have allowed a space wherein you can peep and find out
What you are
or at least to begin with,
What you have.."


towards a language of my own, also by sreejitha:

"i mix up too many things.
all because of ignorance.
i dont even know
how to be democratic- cum -assertive
So to put in another way
I can be a passive democratic person
or an active undemocratic assertive one.."

[mixing up]

"I asked myself how to live
or with someboday
or in a commune?
First i wanted to foster my thoughts
being with myself.."

[so.. how to live?]

"Let men be free from patriarchy
Help men to be free from patriarchy.."

[I, a feminist]

"So what has been tough for me as a feminist?
One thing is
BEing with someone who loves you.."

[Dealing with..]

I know one need not feel depressed about the boring reruns of words and images.. There must be a lot of people who can give us something drastically different, especially women. And other sections of the society who have been silenced or have had to remain silent for a long time now. I don't mean the privileged ones who have established themselves, or even the lesser known (but still privileged) who express through blogs or shortfilms. It is a matter of getting the right platform, and I understand it's tough. Attempts to get these thoughts into limelight fail often [recently read an interview with a documentary filmmaker's wife in a Malayalam weekly-- she was desparately trying to give the "safest" answers that made the interview a mockery, but I believe she didn't have much of a choice]. But I think the time is near.. they can't remain in the dark for ever.

Friday, November 17, 2006

A Natural Question

This Onam, one of the leading periodicals in Malayalam published an interview with an author who writes short stories and has written a couple of novels. The last question was paticularly interesting: "When you write so much about intimate encounters between men and women, the natural question is whether it has anything to do with your experiences".

I don't understand why is this a "natural" question, and wonder if this would have been a "natural question" had the author been a man.

She could have just said that none of your business. But being a woman, and having to live in Kerala among an apparently intellectual society that is sex-starved and moralistic when it comes to women (many woman writers have faced threatening phonecalls and other kinds of threats), she prefers to give the safest answer possible-- a disclaimer that it's got nothing to do with her or anyone else's experiences, and they are completely imaginary.

* * *

I hear that Sithara S, who has written some quality short stories in Malayalam, has gone into silence. She didn't live in Kerala (probably out of the same fear) and was settled in a foreign country. But a woman has to keep fighting those who try to silence her-- either from the society outside or from within the family-- especially if she chooses to express (through writing, theatre.. whatever). I hope Sithara gets back into business soon-- the Malayalam short story scene is really sad.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

How long?

One third of the planet will be desert by the year 2100, say climate experts in the most dire warning yet of the effects of global warming..

The century of drought, The Independent (U.K.), Oct. 4, 2006.

"Drought threatening the lives of millions will spread across half the land surface of the Earth in the coming century because of global warming, according to new predictions from Britain's leading climate scientists.

Extreme drought, in which agriculture is in effect impossible, will affect about a third of the planet, according to the study from the Met Office's Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research.

It is one of the most dire forecasts so far of the potential effects of rising temperatures around the world - yet it may be an underestimation, the scientists involved said yesterday.."

areas that cause CO2 emissions mainly are the

This pic from the film "The Inconvenient truth" showing the global temp rise by 2100 shows that the carbon dioxide emissions come mainly from the "developed" countries whereas the resulting rise in temperature would be more in the poorer regions including Indian subcontinent, Africa and South America.

[Thanks to Deleep for the link and the pic].

Friday, November 10, 2006

Intolerance and indigestion

The Telegraph
, Sunday October 8, 2006. Bharathi S. Pradhan writes about Dor:

"When you first watch Nagesh Kukunoor’s impressively shot Dor, you want to simply applaud it as good cinema. (I even sent him a text message that I loved the film and its performances.).."

"Whether it’s Ayesha’s award-worthy performance or Shreyas’ amusing moments, the credit marks pile up in favour of the director who has made engaging cinema out of a story inspired by the Malayalam film Perumazhakalam.."

I haven't seen the film (it was not even released in this city), so I can't comment on this. I'm not sure I'd have checked it out even if it were running here. I had given Perumazhakkalam a miss, after seeing some of the newspaper promos. But the article is titled "Kukunoor’s minority report". May be there are some interesting observations.

As it turns out, the observations are not just interesting. Funny, ridiculous, alarming..? Or may be all of these.

"..once you stop the gush of compliments and ponder over the film, you realise that Nagesh Kukunoor has a definite agenda other than just entertaining his audience."

[Well, what could it be?]

"He did it very subtly in Iqbal where he set the deaf and dumb aspiring cricketer smack in an agrarian Muslim family. It was done so casually, it could have been any other normal Indian family with its cricket-loving mother and sister, and a hard working farmer-father opposed to the game. There were no Allahs, subhanallahs or mashallahs punctuating every sentence. Except for one scene taken outside a mosque, there were no namaaz versus cricket practice debates either."

[Oh, that's certainly not acceptable! Wonder how we missed it in Iqbal! This guy is so clever he is pushing an agenda in such a casual manner that we don't notice!]

"In short, other than introducing the lovable little family, Nagesh never reminded you that this was a Muslim family. On hindsight, one understands that his agenda was to show a Muslim as no different from someone from the mainstream. So far, pretty fair."

[Ok, that would pass, even if it is not entirely fair.]

"But after watching Dor, one suspects Nagesh was only testing the waters with Iqbal."

[Wow! That one sentence takes the cake. "testing the waters with Iqbal". Checking whether we, who are being taught continuously by Ms. Pradhan and others how dangerous and fanatic these Muslims are, can take one film with a "normal" Muslim family!]

"In Dor he goes further and draws a stark contrast between the ‘progressive’ minority community and the ‘regressive’ Rajasthanis (read that as Hindu). Nagesh’s Muslim family has a lively, spirited heroine called Zeenat.."

[But how dare he show a lively, spirited girl in a Muslim family?]
[some storyline details snipped]

"..Very sweet, very innocuous. Except when you move to Rajasthan and contrast Zeenat with Meera, the widow whose signature must be got on that pardon-nama. It is here that Nagesh’s determined agenda to show the Muslim as progressive, independent-spirited and far-from-marching-backwards-into-the-dark-ages, moves into top gear.."


"Zeenat befriends Meera without revealing who she is or what she wants from her. If you think about it, it’s actually a con, winning the unsuspecting widow’s confidence when there is an ulterior motive behind the hand of friendship."

[Thanks for telling us.]

"But Nagesh strives to ensure that you don’t lose your sympathy for Zeenat. And then, he has Meera go through all the humiliation that a traditional Hindu setup gives its widows. Most of it is unfortunately true, for widows do get treated like sub-humans in the land of sati, dowry and female infanticide.."

[Point noted.]

"However, Nagesh cleverly chooses this backward-thinking traditional family as a contrast, even going so far as to have Meera’s father-in-law, otherwise a proud man, strike a pimplike business deal where the payment is his widowed daughter-in-law’s youthful body! Sure, that happens too, but it looks a trifle mischievous to take the worst elements of this (Hindu) society only to paint a glorious picture of the (Muslim) other.

Go ahead with your agenda Mr Kukunoor, we applaud any story of a normal progressive Muslim family. But must it be at the expense of bashing another community thus?"

That surely we can not take. We'll portray Muslims in general as terrorists, pimps, villains, bad guys, religious fanatics in may be all of our movies but we can not take if a not-so-pleasant picture is portrayed of one single Hindu man or one regressive community (we know that happens but thats not the point..) in a single film. We sure can not tolerate this. We can not digest this. Sorry, no Hajmola, no Gelusil will help.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Nicaraguayil Ortega!

Malloo film buffs may remember this dialogue from the film Sandesam: "..Nicaragua-yil Ortegaye purathakki avide oru pava government-ine sthapichu.." (In Nicaragua, Ortega was ousted and a dummy government was put in power.. [by the US])

Sreenivasan's character, a hardcore communist, tells this (and some comments on what happened in Polland-- it was a good laugh) in reply to his brother's-- he's a Congressman-- comments criticizing the left parties in Kerala. Their father, played by Thilakan, can't stand these two political rivals fighting in the house.

Today I was reminded of this line by my [needless to say, leftist] friend Dileep. It seems Ortega is coming back to power in the central American country after 16 years. He also sent me a link to Deshabhimani online news (CPI-M paper in Malayalam) that celebrates the comeback.

But another friend Arun tells us it's not the Ortega that he used to be.. It seems there are considerable changes his positions.

"Mr. Ortega, ousted in a 1990 election after his Sandinista government had fought a civil war against U.S.-backed Contra guerrillas, has reinvented himself as a moderate and a reconciler who will bring jobs and growth. His campaign colour is pastel pink, his rallies play John Lennon's Give Peace a Chance, and his running mate is Jaime Morales, an ex-Contra.

Mr. Ortega, 60, is paunchier since his rebel heyday, when he was compared to Che Guevara. Secularism has given way to support for the Catholic Church and its abortion ban campaign. He has declined to debate with rival candidates and focusses on rapturous rallies in the barrios.."

[ Sandinista comeback alarms U.S., also from The Hindu.)

However, if even a moderate, paunchy, Catholic Ortega is sending panic signals to the U.S., we may see more sanctions, more poverty (Nicaragua is apparently the second poorest country in the western half of the globe, after Hayti), another "axis of evil" and probably another war or another coup. It seems the U.S. had warned the people even before the elections of sanctions and other "dire consequences" that a Sandinista comeback would lead to. Business as usual.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"Minority" on the other side

"Why can small numbers excite rage? They represent a tiny obstacle between majority and totality or total purity. The smaller the number and the weaker the minority, the deeper the rage about its capacity to make a majority feel like a mere majority." [Arjun Appadurai, Fear of Small Numbers]

Naeem Mohaiemen starts his article with the above quote. Here's some background, in his own words:

"I was stirred from slumber by an e-mail I got from Dhaka last week. With the most volatile elections of Bangladesh history approaching in two months, the minority vote (Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Paharis, Adivasis) is a target as they are expected to vote for the left-of center AL (Awami League) en masse, vs. the rightist-islamist ruling coalition of BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party).

In the e-mail, my friend wrote: "I have already received 3 independent e-mails from
contacts in Bangladesh (2 Hindu, 1 Christian) who are terrified after threats their families have received in the last few days ("don't vote, or we'll kill you", basically). As the rumor-mongering kicks in and accusations are traded, the minorities will again become a pawn between the two main factions."

I wrote the text below in response. An abbreviated version of this was published in the main Dhaka newspaper yesterday.."

To The Polls, Unless Your Name Be Das, Tripura, or Roy, by Naeem Mohaiemen.

Monday, November 06, 2006


The news of blasts in Guwahati city leaves us shocked. We were at one of the blast sites a couple of days back. What do these blasts achieve? Is this the only way to get noticed or to raise one's stakes in a bargain? Can't we even dream of a day when we can walk free in this part of India without being afraid of an uncertain blast or a certain armyman?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

High-class Non-vegetarian

One of the first things I noticed in Chennai was the number of "High class vegetarian" restaurants in the city. First time I saw one, I told Sreejitha we may not be able to afford this one, it's calling itself "High class". But we decided to give it a try, and fortunately that wasn't the case to be. (The food wasn't High-class either, but that was not our major concern). "Are you a Brahmin?" and "Are you a vegetarian?" questions that hit us when we started looking for a house helped us understand that terminology better. My friends (who have been staying in Chennai for some time) then shared with us their experiences of the tough times thay had finding house in this city, the dirty looks that they faced for being non-Brahmin, meat-eating scoundrels.

Then I saw "Hotel Malabar" at Kodambakkam which proudly announced "High class non-vegetarian hotel". I was happy to see that, though the food wasn't so good (my friends who stay near Malabar told me it used to serve real High-class non-veg food earlier, at affordable prices).