Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Shahina the Terrorist

This report about my friend Shahina came in Malayalam newspaper Janmabhoomi. Titled "Shahina tried to sabotage the Delhi blast case as well", it says "Shahina, who tried to sabotage the Bangalore blast case, is understood to have tried to sabotage the investigations of the Delhi blasts that happened in 2008 September."

So how did Shahina sabotage the Bangalore blast case? By exposing some bogus witnesses the Police had manufactured. The case against her is that she intimidated and tried to influence the witnesses. (A video of her "intimidating" one of the witnesses could be found here).

Seeing this report in Janmabhoomi, I don't know whether to cry or laugh.

In this case, I know Shahina and was with her during the post Delhi blast days. So I know this is nonsense. But in many other cases we see similar reports -- in Janmabhoomi, in Mathrubhumi, in Kerala Kaumudi.. and we tend to believe at least a large part of it. Because we do not have any reason not to believe it.

This news tells me how foolish I was. A late realization, but I think better late than never. Thanks Shahina for being a twist in the story. I know it has not been that great an experience for you, but still.

   *    *    *

(In September 2008, a significant part of an article by Shahina that appeared in The Hoot was used in an email that the media houses received "from Indian Mujahideen". She wrote about that experience in Hindustan Times later. The blog post mentioned in that note can be found on this diary, here).

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Terrorist Factory

"The criminal engineering of making an unmaking of a terrorist is nothing new, but for me it is new. I traveled to Kudaku to meet the prosecution witnesses in Madani case. Prabhakar, Yoganand and Rafeeq are the three witnesses who gave the testimony that they have seen Madani in the place with Naseer. Among the three, Yoganand and Prabhakar are BJP activists. I took the interview of K K Yoganand and Rafeeq. Both of them disclosed that they have seen Madani only in Television. Yoganand saw him in person for the first time when Madani was brought to Kodaku for staging the whole drama of 'evidence collection..", writes Shahina.

For more, see the report in Tehelka: Why is this man still in Prison?

Thanks Shahina for taking this up and taking the trouble to talk to the witnesses. The Kerala media and the public -- Hindus, Christians and Muslims alike, except some who did not mind getting termed "fundamentalists" -- seemed to take Madani's Kudaku visit for granted. And there were movies like Anwar that gave a second judgment on Coimbatore blasts.

Good that you are with Tehelka, you are here to tell us these stories:-)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Notes From a Diary, A Note of Thanks

I am happy to share the news that I have been selected for Sangam House writer's residency programme this year. (From the website: "Every winter the Sangam House invites approximately twenty writers to live and work at an arts institution in southern India. Each year, half the invited writers come from the South Asian subcontinent and half from other countries around the world. Sangam House is open to writers in all languages and disciplines - we welcome fiction and non-fiction writers, poets, translators, playwrights and screen-writers..")

I did not have any work published in print, so it was a compilation of some posts published on this diary that I submitted as a writing sample. This gives us a reason to celebrate on this diary, and adds some pressure on me to keep making quality posts.

I am thankful to those who have been reading my diary. The ardent followers as well as occasional visitors. People who have connected with me on social networking sites and those who prefered to remain private readers. And those who augment the posts with their comments -- the named and the anonymous.

As a token of thanks to my readers, I have touched up the notes that were compiled for Sangam House submission and made it look like a book (Titled "Notes From a Diary". Back cover shown here). Thanks to Bena who helped with editing. It is free (and free to share), so those who'd like a pdf version please mail me at my gmail id sudeep dot ks. You could also read it here as a google document.

Monday, October 04, 2010

It could have been worse, but isn't it bad enough?

If you thought this judgment was bad, imagine what would have happened if the judgment said the land belonged to the Waqf board.

"..however, I must also confess my immense relief at the Court turning  down the claims of the Sunni Waqf Board, not because I believe that the Board’s stance is wholly without any merit at all, but, rather, simply because had the Court favoured the Board (which is what many of my Muslim friends had rather naively expected) it would certainly have provoked Hindu hordes into unleashing yet another massive reign of terror against hapless Muslims all across the country..", says Yoginder Sikand. It sums up the motivation of the verdict and shows how silly is the "call for peace" sounds heard all over now.

But before we hail this historic peacemaker verdict, let us ask this question:

"..As a friend of mine, a fellow agnostic, brilliantly expressing my own reaction to the judgment, quipped, ‘Are we now to be governed by Hindu shariah?’" [Ayodhya Verdict: Musings Of A Now Hardened Agnostic, by Yoginder Sikand]

Also see: Thol Thirumalavan, Dalit activist and MP from Chidambaram, speaks about the verdict (Tamil Video, on youtube).

* * *

Some interesting responses from some of my friends, on the facebook:

Anu: third hindu epic is 10,000 pages long. seeking english to sanskrit translators.

Bobby:  the next title suit should be about the ownership of Kerala - created by Parasuram's axe - but owned once upon a time by Mahabali and taken by stealth from him by Vamana!!!!!! Wonder who all would be parties to this litigation!!!!!
Bindu:  appalled again that proclaimed democracies are just theocracies in disguise. from yesterday, not even in disguise, i guess.

Sandali: Breaking News: Now that the existence of Lord Ram has been proven, Sita's descendants have moved the Lucknow bench of the High Court (since that's where his birth was proven yesterday) seeking intervention in the abandonment of Sita by her chauvinist and masochistic husband that eventually led to her unique suicide in the end.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A poet from the streets of Bombay fades into memory

"When I was born it was without a name
When I go, I will leave a name behind.."

He did. For those who did not know Narayan Surve, there is nothing much one can find on the web. I think the best publicly available documentation of the poet's life is Narayan Gangaram Surve, a Marathi film by Arun Khopkar. It had noted theatre/film actor Kishore Kadam playing the poet, and had touching visualizations of his poetry. Apparently, this was also the first Marathi film to win the national award for the best film in Short film category.

Narayan Gangaram Surve : Part 1 (25 min)

Narayan Gangaram Surve : Part 2 (20 min).

Surve grew up in the streets of Mumbai and was raised by a mill worker. He did not have the privilege of going to school. Yet he learnt to read and write, and wrote poetry on the life around him. He passed away yesterday. Just like the mills and mill workers, just like "Bombay", the poet of Bombay has also faded away into the world of memories.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Art of Copying, Sathyan Anthikkad and Values

Let me clarify first -- this not a post that make fun of copying.  Let us consider films for instance. I don't think a film is bad because it is a copy. I believe copying is an art and also a political act. It is also known in other names -- inspiration, adaptation. With due credits, or without giving any credits to the "original". (Whether the word "original" makes any sense or not is a different question. Every writer/film-maker gets an idea from somewhere. It could be some real-life events, a story they heard somewhere, or many such stories. Let us leave that part for now.)

So why is it that I don't consider copying a crime? If one knows the job reasonably well (and does it reasonably well), the viewers stand to gain. There is absolutely no point comparing that work with the original.

Take, for instance, some of Priyadarshan's early films in Malayalam. Most of the Malayali filmgoers that time did not have the remotest chance of watching One flew over the Cuckoo's nest. They saw Thaalavattom and enjoyed it. It was certainly one of the most entertaining films made in Malayalam around that time. Does it make any sense to compare Thaalavattom with One flew over the Cuckoo's nest, except may be for academic purposes? Similarly, I think both Bluffmaster (Hindi, 2005) and Gulumaal (Malayalam, 2009) were reasonably good rip-offs from a hilarious Nine Queens (Argentina, 2000). I watched Nine Queens very recently.

Forget foreign films. In fact, it does not even have to be from a different language. Consider Sreenivasan's 1998 movie Chinthavishtayaya Shyamala (also in Malayalam). It had an irresponsible husband and his wife as central characters. It made people laugh, made people think. More important, a lot of people watched it. Unlike K R Mohanan's Swaroopam, which had a similar theme and also had Sreenivasan in the lead role. Even as K R Mohanan denies it, many people believe that Shyamala was a commercialized extension of Swaroopam. And I think Sreenivasan deserves credit for taking it to a wider audience.

As long as there are no complaints or "conflicts of interests", I think it is good to have copies. A copy could also happen by pure coincidence. Recently, there was a mail making rounds that Avatar was a remake of Vietnam Colony. Hindi film Aamir had striking resemblances to Filipino movie Cavite, though the director said he had never seen Cavite.

But there are some copies that irritate. When one wishes that the director did not apply too much creativity of his own. For instance, take Sathyan Anthikkad's remake of Pursuit of Happiness (2006).  It is called Katha Thudarunnu, released earlier this year. The first is about a father whose wife left him has to raise his kid by himself, and the latter about a mother whose husband was killed has to raise her kid by herself. For a detailed comparison, see this post by Jo. May be he thinks that Keralites cannot digest a father bringing up a son alone. Or he is afraid suggesting such a possibility would damage our "value system" that is created for (and by) men for their convenience.

This is the Sathyan Anthikkad we have been seeing of late. One who makes only safe films, that are supposed to carry "social messages". In Bhagyadevatha he carried a message that paying up dowry solves all problems, including that of dowry. In Innathe Chinthavishayam, he showed the hero sending three women (who were living a happy life) back to their useless husbands, carrying home the message that the onus of "holding a family together" is on women. Vinodayathra was another nightmare, apparently copied from a Korean film. Worse, he got a best scriptwriter state award for that film. (Copy or no copy, I think we have had enough of Sathyan Anthikkad. Can't believe he is the guy who made Appunni once).

In an interview given to Deshabhimani Varika, I see him claim that women and children can go watch his films without worrying about violence. Unfortunately, violence in his films (especially on women) are worse than what we get to see in "violent" films like Chota Mumbai or Big B.

*  *  *

[This post is inspired by Jo's post "The story never ends" and the comments there and a discussion about Sreenivasan on a mailing list.]

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Thank God it is not P = NP

Last Friday the news broke that someone has proved that P NP (read P is not equal to NP), answering one of the age-old problems in computer science. In simplest terms, this amounts to saying that there are some problems that cannot be solved easily on computers, no matter how fast the processor is.

The proof (rather claimed proof) is spread over hundred-odd pages. The person who did it seemed serious -- he sent it to some people who are really good in the business, to check if the proof was foolproof. The mail got forwarded in many directions and someone immediately posted it on the net (yes, I think it was a silly thing to do), and the name Vinay Deolalikar became familiar in a day. Mailboxes flooded with queries about the correctness of the proof. (I came to know about all this only yesterday, as I was traveling this weekend).

Some people were sceptical about the proof, and justifiably so. Scott Aaronson literally bet his house on it. He said in response to one comment on his post: "If P≠NP has indeed been proved, my life will change so dramatically that having to pay $200,000 will be the least of it."

That explains the seriousness of the proof. If a USD $1,000,000 prize money announced for this problem was not proof enough.

One my friend said, thank god he did not prove P is equal to NP. As that would mean all 'hard' problems in computer science have a solution that can run in a reasonable time on a computer, and many people like him (and me) would become jobless.

This is the latest update I have seen: Issues in the Proof that P≠NP (Dick Lipton's blog).

But is is not dismissing this as yet another publicity gimmick. "..
the author has advanced serious and refreshingly new ideas of definite value, and deserves time and space to develop them more fully", says Lipton. Which means even if the proof is not complete, it is likely to lead us to a correct and complete proof in the near future.

The paper can be found here (pdf).ലിങ്ക്

Friday, July 30, 2010

Divisive Mindsets at Work

There hasn't been any posts on this diary since the one on Raavan. A lot of things happened during this time.

First there was an unfortunate incident of a college teacher's hand getting chopped off in Kerala. I wrote about it on Kafila. [A Dialogue with God and Dialogues that go missing, with Bobby Kunhu].

The frenzy created by the media and the ire against one community are still on the high. A couple of days back the honourable chief minister came up with a statement that said some Muslim groups are working with an agenda of making Muslims a majority in Kerala. (Numbers suggest otherwise -- The decrease in population growth rate between 1981-91 and 1991-2001 is 34.2% for Kerala. For Malappuram district, it is much higher: 40.4%. We can wait for 2011 census figures for the current trend.) I think that statement from a chief minister of a state was extremely irresponsible, in the mildest terms. He even hinted at a 'reverse Love Jihaad', of Muslim women 'trapping' Hindu men. (A report on the sources of the 'original' Love Jihad can be found here: "Love Jihad was no Farce").

Then there was news about how the induction of Dalit women as cooks for the mid-day meals in schools in Uttar Pradesh angered a section of people. A report on it on the India Today website was very funny, in a sad way. It was as if the schoolkids were all living happily together, and then some "Dalit cooks" came and divided them. I first wrote about it on The Hoot ("Casteist reporting" -- The report on India Today site has changed since then) and followed it up with a post on Insight young voices blog ("Dalit cooks expose divisive mindsets").

All this is certainly disturbing, even if it isn't suprising. It tells us how divided we stand. It tells us we have a long way to go in our journey to becoming a civil society. It tells us progress cannot be gauged in economic terms alone.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Raavan, in times of (Chidamba)Ramayan

Govinda as Sanjeevani Kumar

All the shortcomings notwithstanding, I want to salute Mani Ratnam, Sharada Trilok and Shaad Ali (producers of the film, according to Wikipedia) for what they have almost done. To make a film on the Indian Government's Operation Green Hunt on the tribal population of this country, and release it at a time when the operation is at its worst.

The film has Vikram playing Dev Pratap Sharma, a dutiful police officer. He represents the state (just the way PC and the mythological Ram do) and is a symbol of all the supposedly moral values (which appear extremely immoral to many of us). Mani Ratnam is careful enough not to project him as an evil person per se, even as he does not mind attributing some villainy to his brother Lakshmana Pratap Sharma. All the nonsense that Dev does is part of his duty. That includes playing a drama of questioning his wife's chastity as a ploy to trace the path to Beera's den and to eliminate the "evil".

Aishwarya plays the Bahurani of Sharma family, a role that is not very different from that of the Bahurani of the Bachchan family. No wonder she naturally comes about as the stupid white woman. All that she has to do extra is some song and dance sequences, and we know she is not good at that. Let us forgive her.

Mani's current favourite Abhishek (I think his best performance till date was in Yuva) plays the title role -- of Beera Munda, a young tribal leader. The name holds heavy resemblance to Birsa Munda, a tribal leader who lived more than hundred years back in time. He was also young (he died at the age of 25, in the year 1900) and was a local hero. [Birsa Munda (1875-1900) was a tribal leader and a folk hero, belonging to the Munda tribe who was behind the Millenarian movement that rose in the tribal belt of modern day Bihar, and Jharkhand during the British Raj, in the late 19th century making him an important figure in the history of the Indian independence movement, says Wikipedia. Mahashweta Devi has written a novel on that story, called Aranyer Adhikar]

Birsa Munda

Beera is being presented to us as a strong, rugged beast of a man. That is how the character is described on the the film's website. The description continues: Anti-establishment, non-conformist, voice of the underdog, and fiercely protective of his people; He's the beacon of hope for the oppressed lot and the pride and shame of Laal Maati. Nicknamed after the mythological daemon Raavan, he is a saint and the sinner.

Oh lord, please forgive Mani Ratnam. This is what he and his urban middle class fan following can think of at best of a tribal hero. He has to be "a beast of a man", he has to be a shame of Laal Maati (I don't think the resemblance to Lalgarh is a coincidence), and he has to be a sinner. As an obedient actor, Abhishek constantly tries to put up a cruel face. Thankfully, neither the actor nor the director seems very much worried about making him look like a tribal. The 'beast of a man' reminds us more of a "cruel Jamindar's Goonda" stereotype.

One my friend said, had Birsa Munda been a cult like Che Guevera or Bhagat Singh (it is not difficult to figure out why he is not), Mani wouldn't have dared to do this.

The most interesting character in the film is that of the Salwa Judum. He is called Sanjeevani Kumar the forest guard, played by Govinda. He knows Beera is good and that he is a God to the people there, but he helps Ram in finding his Sita and in eliminating Beera.

Why does he do that? It is not just those thirty silver coins. That is the only way he can survive in this system, as he is very much part of the system. He is Hanuman. He is you and me. He is Mani Ratnam. She is Sharada Trilok. He is Shaad Ali Sahgal.

* * *

[I checked the web for reviews, and liked this one by Cath Clarke in The Guardian that calls the film plain sexist: "..May be it's the forest air, or a touch of Stockholm syndrome, but she takes a liking to her captor; heaven knows why since Bachchan hams it up like Toshiro Mifune at his most snarlingly crazy-eyed. Meanwhile, her husband (Vikram) gives chase, bearing down with the full weight of the law. Which is hardly surprising since flashbacks show what a cracking wife she is, fetching him his dinner while singing sweet songs and dancing alluringly.."]

* * *

[ Images : Govinda, Abhishek and Aishwarya in Raavan, from the film's official website.
Birsa Munda, tribals and the British forces, from ]

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

An Encounter

I happened to have an 'encounter' with Praveen Swami recently, thanks to Annie Zaidi who mistook me for a Counter Currents editor. I must admit that this is the closest of its sort that one can imagine.

It is upto the readers to decide whether this was fake or not. :-) [See link]

[Also see: Comments at this older post]

Saturday, May 15, 2010

When I long the sea...

When I long the sea, am shown the stream,
Where never comes the nymph nor the shore where I would scribe my heart…

On the thorny way -
Naked am barefooted,
Walk in ecstasy, in the midsun
Leaving my hair free.

Never have I seen the tree,
Never I sought the shadow,
Still walking am all alone
The journey to reach my Soul.

The rituals come to an end
The mirage gone down the lane.
Patched me, the broken mirror
And me looked at myself, over and over
- my arms were agile,
- my legs were firm,
- my heart was strong,
But with the face, missing!

Slowly and steadily I walk up the hill
Alone am all alone,
The journey to reach my Soul.

[By Bena]

Friday, April 30, 2010

An ad that shows you don't need a 3D TV

That is supposed to be a video commercial for a 3D LED TV by Samsung. It shows the "possibilities" that a third dimension adds to our visual experience. Fair enough.

Now the only hitch is that I am able to see and feel all of that on a plain 2D LED screen of my laptop. So I ask -- do we really need a 3D TV?

[I have had the same question every time I saw an HD-TV ad on a normal TV!]

Friday, April 09, 2010

The Business of Killing and Getting killed

The tribals are forced to shoot the easy prey -- the poor jawans from Bihar or Orissa who hardly had any choice but to join the forces.

The poor armymen and the police in turn are forced to kill the poor tribals.

Because they are the people who come face to face.

I am tired of the reasonings of why the tribals side with the Maosists -- I know they have incentives to offer, like an alternative goverment, a justice system in place as opposed to a corrupt and failed state judiciary.. I'm also tired of the 'success stories' of Salva Judum -- the state also has incentives to offer in getting the tribals to fight among themselves.

Both the 'Naxalite' thinktanks and the 'state', with all their good or bad intentions (be it the money in the mines, the social justice they read in books, sheer existential dilemma, an urge to save the tribals from the goverment and Multinationals or a similar urge to save the same people from the Maoists' hands..) live "happily ever after". This happiness includes the pride in giving up the silver spoon for a social cause.

Then there are cleansing methods like areal strikes, in which big guns can operate themselves without the fear of getting hurt.

A third party who makes hay in this mess is the 'Parivar', who want to take the Adivasis into their army and prepare them for other types of genocides.

I am sure the days are coming when the people realize they are being taken for a ride, and kick all these outsiders out. I mean, if any of them remain.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Where the women and cattle are kept

I don't think all opposition to women's bill can be equated with the male fear of 'women taking over'. Wrote about it here.

[Image: Cartoon by Ravi Shankar in Hindustan Times, 2010 March 16]

Copy Left, Right and Centre

Sharat said that in the end titles of his film on Chengara. Salutes to the committed filmmaker who I never met.

[Photo: Irom Sharmila, Sharatchandran's profile photo on facebook.]

Friday, February 12, 2010

Khan Saheb, you better remain Rahul

Scene one: SRK and Obama

Shah Rukh: "My name is Khan, and I am not a terrorist."
Obama: "Yes I know that. Sorry for that airport incident."
SRK: "And my son in the film -- he is not a Muslim, he is actually a Rathore -- is also not a terrorist."
Obama: "I know -- I am sorry for him too.."
SRK: "But all other Muslims excluding my immediate family -- they are probably terrorists. And if they talk of Palestine or Israel, then you can be sure."
Obama: "Mm.."
SRK: "And yes, a terrorist has to be a Muslim, that everyone knows, right?"

* * *

Scene two : SRK and Shiv Sena

SRK: "My name is Khan, and I am not a terrorist."
Shiv Sainiks: "But we are.. and it is people like us who decide who should be called a terrorist. You see, we can even execute a series of riots in a communally sensitive atmosphere and make people remember only the blasts that followed.."

* * *

Scene 3: SRK and audience

SRK: "My name is Khan.."
Audience: "Sorry you better be Rahul. Otherwise we are not going to fill your cinema halls. No matter how much ever a good guy you try to be."

* * *

Scene 4: SRK and me

SRK: "His name is Karan Johar, and he is not a terrorist".
Me: "You want me to believe that, after Kurbaan and MNIK?"

* * *

[Related News: Sena terror prevails; MNIK not to be released in Mumbai
Let those who love Pak-lover SRK watch MNIK: Thackeray]

[Related fact: I went at 6:25 for 6:30 show on the opening day, and got tickets comfortably. The show was not full.]

[Related post: Where does Aamir lead us?]

[.. and a related e-mail]

Anu on Chitralekha

".. I have no wish to debate the details of the case or repeat the rapidly spinning tales around Chitralekha. As I find it deeply offensive and denigrating to all my intersecting identities with Chitralekha - dalit, working woman, wife and mother.

Instead, I would like to use parallel anecdotes from the lives of Ruby Bridges, Savitribai Phule, Barbara McClintock and Chitralehka to frame these questions: How are pioneers perceived? And whom does a pioneer facilitate?"

Anu writes : Chitralekha a perceptual divide. [on Insight round table]