Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I'm not yesterday: lovely ads

Lovely ads, on the roadsides of Delhi. Of Mail Today. I believe these ads are done by Capital advertising. (photos: sudeep)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Onam Release : Film on Chengara by Sharat

A film by C.Sharatchandran on the Chengara land struggle in Kerala. 36 minutes, split into four parts of nine minutes each. Music by another filmmaker K.P.Sasi. The titles running at the end (in part 4) says "copy left, right and centre."

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

The film gives some insight into the cultural and historical background of the struggle. Some excerpts from the film below.

Some Historical Background

  • communist party held a convention at trichur in 1956 where they accepted the slogan 'krishibhoomi krishikkaranu' .. and thus came the land reforms bill.

  • the bill intended to distribute land to the tenants who 'leased' the land (
    പാട്ടത്തിനെടുത്തു കൃഷി ചെയ്തിരുന്ന കുടിയാന്മാര്‍) and to the dalits and others who were agricultural workers who toiled in the land..
    for this there were two conditions in the bill: one, to give ownership to the tenants, with a ceiling of 15 acres per family. two, the surplus land should be given to dalits and adivasis.

    if we consider the land distribution in kerala, it failed to account for the caste system that existed in that society, so the tenants and workers who could articulate better got the land.. there is no caste below ezhava which benefitted from this bill.. which meant the middlemen got the land.. they were exploiters of the dalit working class.. as a result, the dalits were naturally thrown out from the land..

    when ems govt initiated the land reforms bill, the liberation struggle (
    വിമോചന സമരം) started.. in turn the central govt dismissed the state govt. the govts which came to power later diluted it.. the landlords approached the judiciary to protect their property.. this led to changes by the intervention of judiciary.. this process left the land reforms incomplete and majority of the population remained landless..

    since majority of the lower caste communities were neglected in the land reforms, the govt introduced the right to shelter and decided to provide 10 cents in the villages, 5 cents in muncipalities and 3 cents of land in the corporations.. a large population was left out of this also..

    the govt stopped this and later introduced 'lakshamveedu' (literally, a lakh houses) colony or the harijan colony, but still a significant percentage of this population was left out without any land by the end of land reforms in 1970. they are the people living in small huts as outcastes in the roadsides and on the wasteland..

  • the plantations in kerala have been exempted from the land reforms act around 38 years back.. not any single political or social agency demanded that the waste land or the govt owned land in the plantation sector be distributed to the landless people.

  • Reactions

    നമ്മള് കൊയ്യും വയലെല്ലാം
    നമ്മുടെതാകും പൈങ്കിളിയേ
    എന്നുപറഞ്ഞ്‌ വോട്ടുകള്‍ നേടി
    അധികാരത്തില്‍ വന്നവരെല്ലാം
    തൊഴിലാളികളെ വഞ്ചിച്ചു..

    (a slogan that recalls a famous communist song/slogan of the earlier days that says the fields that we toil on will become ours)

    the leaders of communist movement took refuge in our huts in the earlier days..
    we used to go for daily wages works (koolivela) and get tea or coffee powder..
    we used to feed them with what we earned..

    please don't think we are speaking shamelessly, it is a matter of our integrity and culture..
    but thats how the dalits of this state have given their lives for the communist movement in kerala..
    we had many hopes when they came to power in 1957..

    they showed the black and downtrodden people of kerala the dream of getting a better life.. of getting land..
    that is how the communist party came to power through ballot (for the first time anywhere in the world).

    അപ്പോ ഓണം ഉഷാറാക്ക്.

    [earlier post and comments : ..to kill a struggle?]

    Sunday, September 07, 2008

    Where does Aamir lead us?

    Aamir is being celebrated as a brilliant film by many critics and common viewers alike. The film has also done very good business at the box office, rather unusual for an offbeat film like this.

    I am not too concerned about this nor am I suprised at it, but I am worried when it gets labeled as a film that breaks the stereotype of Muslims in Bollywood, and in the psyche of the Middle class (majorly Hindu) India in general. I had heard some people talk of the 'sensitive portrayal of Indian Muslim' in this film, and then there was this article Beyond prisms of prejudice by Ziya Us Salam [The Hindu Magazine, Sunday 24 August 2008].

    That is a matter of concern because Aamir in fact upholds precisely those very stereotypes.

    Which is why I felt it was only natural for this film to have such a 'universal' appeal among the Middle class Hindu India.

    In one line, the film's premise is that Muslims are out to terrorize the nation. 'Brothers' sending in money from all over the world, the kingpins misleading the educated youth by brainwashing them and using them as pawns, the ordinary poor Muslims on the streets silently approving of all this with a smile on their face that they know this is how it works. And we have an exception in the lead character of the film who turns from a victimized, helpless position to be a real Aamir (leader) by refusing to be part of it.

    [If that weren't enough, the film tells us through its hero -- Aamir, the real leader -- that he has overcome difficulties by his hard work and become a doctor working abroad, and that is the way to go for the community to get out of the poverty and bad living conditions. Is it any surprise if it finds many takers among the anti-reservation warhead of the elite Brahman class?]

    Honestly, I feel this guy is much more dangerous than a bearded terrorist Muslim villain of Bollywood. (We have seen this 'achche Muslims bhi hote hai' caricature also many times in mainstream Bollywood itself).

    Aamir might have its directorial high points (I particularly liked the presentation of the villain), but let us not give it the sensitive film tag. This film takes the rotten path, feeding the most insensitive and unhealthy of the psyches precisely what they crave for. That is it.

    If you want to catch a more sensible film on a similar theme, try Mumbai Meri Jaan.

    [Image edited from a poster at the film's web site]
    [Thanks to my friend Bhakti who took me for Aamir]