Archive for politics

Scroll on Censor Chief Pahlaj Nihalani

Posted in the good with tags , , on July 25, 2017 by Qalandar

Central Board of Film Certification chairperson Pahlaj Nihalani has issued his latest and by no means his final directive: actors can henceforth not drink or smoke on the screen. This is only the latest in a long line of diktats conjured up by the producer and distributor to purify Indian cinema for the sake of national interest.

He became the board’s chairperson on January 19, 2015, reportedly as a reward for having directed the Har Har Modi video ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Soon after taking over the censor board from Leela Samson, Nihalani made his political leanings clear when he told NDTV that he is proud to be a “BJP person” and that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is his “action hero.”

Read the complete piece HERE

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Why I Have Nothing to Say on Dangal

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 18, 2017 by Qalandar

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I more than enjoyed Dangal: it was fantastically well-made, uniformly well-acted, and pulled off the difficult feat of making wrestling interesting, even deeply engrossing – that’s creditable, when you consider that most sports movies rely on the built-in appeal of sports that are already popular, with great cultural resonance. Heck, to even make a sports film – i.e. a film in one of the most hackneyed genres – half decent, let alone excellent, is pretty darn impressive.

And yet, when I (more than once, and over a period of a few months) sat down to write a review of Dangal, I found I had nothing to say. Which might make this piece nothing more than a narcissistic exercise in my writer’s block, but I’d like to believe there’s more going on here. The “nothing” is symptomatic of a wider issue, namely that Dangal is a very impressive film – just not a very interesting one. Continue reading

A Brief Note on Visaaranai (Tamil; 2016)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , on January 18, 2017 by Qalandar

I just saw Visaaranai, and I don’t think I can write a review of the film.  Or rather, there’s something obscene about (merely) reviewing this terrifying representation of four migrant laborers caught in a criminal justice system so pitiless, so oppressive, “corruption” is a banal term for it, banal and lying in its suggestion of hope that the norm might be something else; obscene, because Visaaranai does not so much indict “the system” as it does everyone who allows himself to consume uncritically a news report or a police story of gangs busted, terrorists nabbed, or policemen feted.  The most charitable thing one can say is that a great chasm of unknowing separates us, should separate us, from trust in such news stories: Visaaranai demonstrates, with almost mathematical precision, that any other response is unethical.  There are plenty of other reasons to watch this film: as a naturalistic representation of a politicized police force, it is unequalled by anything I have seen; the acting is uniformly good (perhaps none more so than Samuthirakani as Inspector Muthuvel); and the direction by Vetri Maaran superb, but these are not essential: the implicit proof that it offers of our own degraded complicity in the charade, is. I haven’t seen a better film in years, and I haven’t ever seen a more necessary one.

A huge thanks to Chandrakumar for writing this, and for affording us the privilege of hearing his voice at film’s end, and really to everyone associated with this film (including Dhanush, who gets a producer credit) for making this film possible.  Thanks also to Netflix for making this film available in the US (I can only hope it’s available at Netflix India as well).

How Bollywood Shuts Out the Poor (The Caravan, July 2016)

Posted in Refugee with tags , , , , , , on October 26, 2016 by Qalandar


Junior artistes, formerly known as “extras,” occupy the lowest rung on the Bollywood-actor ladder. They appear in the background—in scenes shot in railway stations, busy streets, bus stops; they are a villain’s henchmen, soldiers in a hero’s army, or corpses inside a morgue.

EXCERPT: “The geography of Bollywood stardom corresponds pretty much exactly with Mumbai’s geography of wealth.”

Read the complete article HERE

Wild Bias: The Reaction to Sairat (CARAVAN, July 2016)

Posted in Refugee with tags , , , on October 25, 2016 by Qalandar

EXCERPT: “Sairat, written and directed by Nagraj Manjule, premiered in Indian theatres on 29 April. It quickly became a phenomenon. Within two weeks, Sairat brought in over Rs 52 crore at the box office, becoming the highest-grossing Marathi film ever. Videos of people dancing in cinemas to the film’s soundtrack went viral on social media; kids mimicked scenes from it; theatres in Maharashtra’s Satara district scheduled extra screenings at three in the morning.

Sairat tells the story of two lovers—Parshya, a Dalit man, and Archie, an upper-caste woman—who elope from their village in south-eastern Maharashtra and are eventually murdered by the woman’s family. This makes the film’s success particularly exceptional, since Marathi cinema typically shies away from portraying the injustices of caste. Also exceptional was the fact that the film was made by Manjule, a Dalit filmmaker from a Maharashtra village in an industry dominated by upper-caste, urban people.”

The complete article may be read HERE.

How Bollywood Shuts Its Doors on the Poor (THE CARAVAN, July 2016)

Posted in Refugee with tags , , , , on August 22, 2016 by Qalandar

EXCERPT: “BOLLYWOOD STARDOM, though, has a particular geography. Historically, the Hindi film industry has recognised only certain parts of Mumbai. It knows Yari Road and Lokhandwala in Andheri West, where aspiring actors, screenwriters, assistant directors and directors live; Aram Nagar, where production houses hold auditions for films, television serials and advertisements; Juhu and Bandra West, home to film stars; and south Mumbai, or Town, where many movies are shot. But it doesn’t know Dharavi, Bhiwandi, Naigaon or Nalasopara, or any of the city’s other slums and sprawling suburbs.

Still, if you visit any of those slums or suburbs, you find thousands of people who don’t know this, who don’t want to know this. They, like so many of their fellow Indians, are in thrall to Bollywood. They crowd theatres to see new releases, follow stars’ lives, and, in indulgent moments, imagine some twist of fate landing them on the silver screen. Some of them take such daydreams more seriously than others. Some, like Jadav, make that dream the centre of their lives.

So they go knocking on doors, trying to find a way in. They look for acting classes that promise them a leg-up, and approach casting agents who promise to get them auditions. And, repeatedly, they find all doors shut. Because the truth is that Mumbai’s geography of Bollywood corresponds pretty much exactly to Mumbai’s geography of wealth. The city Bollywood knows is that of the haves. The city it pays no mind to is that of the have-nots.”

Here’s a LINK to the complete article

BOOK: Cut-outs, Caste and Cine Stars: The World of Tamil Politics

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2016 by Qalandar

I hadn’t heard of this book but it sounds fascinating — Qalandar

Penguin India’s blurb: “A must for [anyone] who wants to understand Tamil Nadu politics’ “New Indian Express Tamil Nadu is a state very different from the rest of India, both culturally and historically. It has retained a fundamentally separate identity for itself in language and caste structure, and this is most evident in its politics. Cut-outs, Caste and Cine Stars: The Word of Tamil Politics tells a political story that has all the elements of a blockbuster film, where ironies and larger-than-life characters abound: Periyar, a Kannada-speaker, who introduced the notions of Tamil self-respect and regional pride, yet dismissed Tamil as ‘a barbaric language’; the matinee idol MGR, a Malayalee born in Sri Lanka, who became Tamil Nadu’s most popular mass leader; the Dravidian movement which, by its own ideology, should have helped the Dalits but has instead supported only the upwardly mobile middle groups; and parties that rose to power by propagating anti-Hindi and anti-Brahmin sentiments but have now allied themselves with the BJP. It is fitting that this reel-like scenario is presently dominated by the electoral politics of Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa, one a scriptwriter and the other a former actress. Well-known writer and journalist Vaasanthi has observed the dramatis personae in this epic drama at close quarters for a decade. Now updated with an additional chapter on the war of succession Cut-outs, Caste and Cine Stars offers an objective and insightful view of a political world that is both fascinating and perplexing.”

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