Bal Thackeray is dead…he was a ‘brave’ man

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Young Bal Thackeray - Economic Times

Image from The Economic Times (Click image to view full story)

The great drama that is Bal Thackeray finally came to an end in a fiery blaze in Shivaji Park.

Many called Thackeray a brave man who spoke his mind like no other in politics.

I would like to take a moment to ponder on this bravery.

We admire bravery because at the simplest level it is when someone stands tall despite being in a weaker position – a time when most of us would cower.

In that context, yes indeed Thackeray was very brave to say whatever he used to say from within the fortress that is Matoshree, surrounded by his private security, his state police detail, his metal detectors and his hundreds of crazy Shiv Sainiks.

He bravely preferred easy division to the harder path of unification. And where division would not come naturally – people never did stop celebrating Valentine’s Day I notice – he bravely chose to enforce it with brutal and mindless violence.

But since I do not have a Sena and therefore am not ‘brave’, I can only point out his bravery via this article far, FAR away from Mumbai.

I found Thackeray’s admiration of Hitler and dictatorships amusing. Since pretty much exactly like Hitler, Thackeray was never able to capture more than 30% of the votes and managed to come to power only once via a coalition.

Luckily our democracy was stronger than the German Weimar Republic.

While Thackeray’s impact in Mumbai is undeniable, for me personally, the vast effect Thackeray can have was really driven home to me when Times Now’s Arnab Goswami, during his coverage of the funeral, uttered these eternal words – “I am going to be silent now so you can soak up the moment”.

The man most famous for his ability to scream non-stop at up to six panelists for an hour every day without stopping for breath was going to keep quiet voluntarily?

Wow! Just wow!

(Side note: Why is the Indian tricolour – which represents all religions, democracy and all people – draped over the body of a man who openly called for the end of democracy, an admiration of dictatorship, violent attacks on ‘other people’, a hatred for other religions and the supremacy of Hinduism? Or if you want it simpler, why is the flag of India draped over a man who worked all his life to try and drive other Indians out of ‘his’ city?)

If we cannot be as ‘brave’ as Thackeray, let us at least face the truth – Thackeray was Mumbai’s most feared leader. He was undoubtedly loved by a few, since he used to riot in their name and who doesn’t like that after all? But he was mostly feared.

The Shiv Sena demanded a state funeral for a man who never served the secular, democratic state. It was granted because we were all walking on egg shells and didn’t want to give the barely repressed psychopathic tendencies inherent in the Shiv Sena a reason to explode.

I am sure he was a good father, uncle, friend and cartoonist. But let us not ignore that section of us who did not feel, as many claimed, “forced to acknowledge his greatness”.

While those who fought him politically might have “respect” for him, those whom his Shiv Sena literally fought – beaten within an inch of their life or mass-murdered – probably do not feel any great “respect” or “friendship” for this “brave” man. Mostly what they feel is fear.

But I am not trying to downplay the reaction shown by city of Mumbai over the death of Bal Thackerkay.

They were naturally devastated since many in the city profited immensely from him. Although it seems to me it was little more than war profiteering.

Because that is what Thackeray did – He waged war on Bombay, a war that the city, now called Mumbai, unfortunately lost.

He and his manoos can claim all they want. But the truth, which only the bravest of the brave may actually speak in Mumbai, is that they used arm-twisting and violence to steal a city that was never theirs to begin with.

Bal Thackeray was a bold man. He was a brilliant orator. He was good cartoonist.

While the locals were busy painting themselves as great martyrs somehow cheated out of their ‘legitimate’ share from ‘their’ city, he knew how to give them a bigger brush, all the better to paint themselves faster.

A people who just wanted to grab, not compete, propped him up.

Like all dictators, he was a violent man who ran a petty fiefdom through fear while those around him used him for their own petty gains.

And exactly like all dictators, in the end he planted the seeds of his own dissolution by placing himself above the ideals that originally propped him up in the first place.

If serving the Marathi manoos was the point and if their interests were best served by a Bal Thackeray-type person, then even an imbecile can see that the angry, disturbed and violent nephew – Raj Thackeray – is the perfect successor.

But Bal Thackeray, till the very end, insisted that his own feeble, simple and uncharismatic son – Uddhav Thackeray – be considered his heir.

It broke his party while he was living. One can only wonder where this insistence would take the Shiv Sena from henceforth.

I guess Thackeray had fans because, in the short term, they profited off him. I guess they mourned him because they fear that now no one will oppress for them. I guess they sob because perhaps they realize that after 30 years of being pushed ahead in the line, now they might have to actually come up on ability alone.

Although If I had given 40 years, essentially a lifetime, of support to this movement and only had one name change, slight improvement and one riot to show for it, perhaps I would have sobbed as well.

Surrounded and buffeted by such admirers and crazed devotees who would extract a horrible price if you didn’t agree with what he said – Thackeray, the brave man, died.

In a nation filled with politicians ruling with fear and intimidation – Thackeray, the tallest of them, died.

But his weeping followers should console themselves. I am sure Raj Thackeray will continue Bal Thackeray’s black legacy in no time.

The rest of us can move on.

Fun fact: The largest funeral in history was the one held for the then Tamil Nadu CM C.N Annadurai in 1969. An estimated 15 million showed up for that one in Chennai. Check it out

(Dear Times Now news channel who keeps saying Thackeray’s funeral was “unprecedented” with crowds “never seen before”. It’s called South India. Why don’t you Google it?)

More Obits –

Vilasrao Deshmukh is dead…he was a ‘great’ man

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What does Shri. Katju think the Press is for?

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Katju on the press

Press Council head honcho Markandey Katju warned that “freedom of Press” was not “absolute” and it would be “crushed” if journalists were not serving the nation.

(You can read up on all of his accusations – here. It has cricket and fashion shows in it.)

Let me take up that part of it that made the least sense to me.

His exact quote was –

“Freedom of Press is not an absolute right. The absolute right is the improvement of standard of living of the masses. If freedom of Press helps the improvement of standard of living of masses, then it’s a good thing.

But if freedom of Press lowers the standard of living of people, makes people poorer, then we must crush freedom of Press,”

Excuse me? What?

Now I personally have a deep loathing for most journalists in India. Not only are they simple, sycophantic and more interested in being politically correct than actually reporting the news, but also most of the times they simply report the wrong angle.

However, as much as I want them to improve and change, even I know that they are not here to “improve the standard of living of the poor”. They are paid employees of private companies who tell people what is happening in exchange for money. They are responsible for WHAT they report but they are not responsible for the livelihoods of those they report to.

Heck, if that were the case then the JP Morgan accountant from Bangalore is suddenly responsible for performance of the company’s stock across the world.

There are many journalists who are pro-business, pro-Congress, pro-BJP or pro-something or the other. Similarly there are many, many journalists who are pro-poor.

Bur 60 years filled with tens of thousands of journalists bleeding their liberal hearts all over newspapers, magazines, pamphlets and websites has not improved standards of living by one inch.

Why?

Because the Press can inform people, the Press can harangue people, the Press can alarm people. But the Press cannot stop the ‘poor’ from selling their votes to the highest bidder from the appropriate caste and electing corrupt, crooked criminals as their leaders.

On a similar angle, businesses and corrupt politicians have not flourished because they got good testimonials by the Press. No, they flourished because they exploited a corrupt system run by elected officials who got to their post by exploiting voters who didn’t bother to go beyond sycophancy when voting.

In fact, the few times when this veil has been torn down and the naked truth shown to the world, it was mostly done by this very same Press.

Telling the Press that they must work to improve the living standards of the poor is a tenuous connection to make. Especially since most members of the Press spend half their time desperately trying to prevent the ‘masses’ from doing extremely stupid things that will only ruin them in the long term.

The Press usually fails at these attempts but you always have that one idealist who keeps trying.

Telling the Press that they are lowering the standards of living of anybody is an assumption made from fantasy.

If nothing else, by employing lakhs of people – editors, reporters, camera crew, light boys, tea makers, printers, distributors etc, the existence of the Press is improving the lives of these people at least.

The Press is not denying access to the economy to vast sections of the people. How would they even do that if they wanted to? Steal all the money from the poor at gunpoint and replace it with newspapers?

Katju said that the Press was like Hanuman and the people like Ram. Since Katju likes Hindu mythology so much, let me take a Hindu mythological metaphor –

The Press is Veda Vyasa, the man who composed the Mahabharata after it happened.

To apply Katju’s criticism would be like going to Veda Vyasa and threatening him that his right to report on the Mahabharata will be “crushed” because he failed to work towards the victory of one side.

Since this apparently is a difficult concept to grasp, let me make it as simple as possible –

Dear Katju,

We are not for the ‘masses’. We are paid by the ‘masses’ for our opinion on what happened. We do not pay the ‘masses’ to listen to us.

(PS: If any media house is doing that, I assure you I am a great listener. For the right price I can be the greatest listener of all time. Mother promise.)

The freedom of the Press is a hallowed concept, enshrined by the Constitution and by long-standing practice. The idea behind this idea is that there should not be any restrictions on the coverage of an event by the Press – with caveats like sensitive situations, national security taken into consideration.

Many journalists and media houses don’t care about this freedom and conduct a rigid internal censorship to give preferential coverage to whoever profits them the most

But this freedom allows those rare few journalists to stand up to the rest, stand up to the politicians and report the facts. These journalists, who actually do serve the masses, are the only ones this threat matters to.

So if Katju is actually worried about the masses, he should stop threatening their greatest ally – a free Press.

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola – Trailer Review

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Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola

Some trailers tell you everything you need to know about the film and therefore you never need to watch the film (Ishkq in Paris, I am looking at you).

And then there are those rare trailers that tell you ABSOLUTELY nothing about the actual film, but once you see the trailer, you KNOW that you are going to be watching this film.

Matru ki Bijilee ka Mandola‘ is just such a film.

Have a look at it yourself –

We last saw Vishal Bhardwaj in 7 Khoon Maaf. A good tale but it could have been done better. But his slightly older films – Ishqiya as producer/writer and Kaminey as director/writer/composer are still fresh in my mind, so my expectations from ‘Matru ki Bijilee ka Mandola‘ were already high.

The heroes –

In order of appearance they are –

1) Mandola a.k.a Pankaj Kapur

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola

HEY! It’s Pankaj Kapur! The grand old man of Indian cinema!

I have always enjoyed his acting abilities and it amuses me to note that he is part that proud line of daddies – Amitabh, Shatragun Sinha, Jackie Shroff, Feroz Khan etc to name a few – whose children have vainly tried but epically failed to match their stature.

Although to be fair to Pankaj, Shahid Kapur in films like Jab We Met and Kaminey was a wonder. Then he started acting in with Priyanaka Chopra in shorts and in films set in Vegas and…well, why speak of a tragedy once it’s over?

The last time I had heard Pankaj’s throaty growl was WAY back in 2007 with the ‘Blue Umbrella’. Wikipedia tells me he did another film ‘Chala Mussaddi… Office Office’ in 2011 but I was not even aware of its existence.

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola

He certainly has an awesome look in ‘Matru ki Bijilee ka Mandola‘. You gotta love the pointed mustache!

2) Matru a.ka. Imran Khan

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola

Right. Imran Khan. Hmmmm *eyebrow rising*

Now I want to be as sensitive as possible, so I will say that I have no faith in Imran Khan whatsoever.

His last film was the immensely paint-by-numbers ‘Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu‘, whose performance in the box office can be described as ‘meh’. His performance in it as the brain-addled but ‘sweet’ girly boy was…watchable I guess.

On the other hand, he is a director’s actor and with a good director he can turn out capable performances – see ‘Delhi Belly‘.

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola

I certainly like his look in ‘Matru ki Bijilee ka Mandola‘. The beard and the beedi and the earring and the ‘I am a man from Haryana with no money whatsoever’ look suit him.

Even if the beard has no particular role in the film, I like the idea that actors are reflecting the local flavor, something that is done spectacularly in most Vishal Bhardwaj films.

ek tha tiger

Call me fickle if you want, but when it is possible to cut out Salman Khan the rowdy from the streets in ‘Wanted‘ and paste him wholesale and with no changes into the international ‘spy-thriller/love story’ ‘Ek Tha Tiger‘ without the audience seeing any difference, it makes me a tad bit jaded about Bollywood.

Anyway back to Imran Khan. I only presume he is from Haryana because he is dressed that way and rides a Bullet with Haryana plates. I have no idea who he is. His self-identification as “dog” is not helping matters either.

This was occupying my mind slightly, until I saw this –

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola

And I suddenly didn’t give a rats ass about who Imran…whats-his-name is.

3) Bijilee a.k.a Anuskha Sharma

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola

I love Anushka Sharma because I am a convert.

When I first saw her in ‘Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi’, I was like – “Alright, another Punjabi template looking to be the next Karishma Kapoor or Katrina Kaif.”

However to her credit, and despite looking shocking alike in nearly all of her films, she has managed to carve out a place for herself with films like ‘Band Baaja Baaraat’ and ‘Ladies VS Ricky Bahl’.

Even her ads on TV are cute and quirky, unlike most of the other girls *cough Shah Rukh cough*, so I am pleased to see her there as well.

In ‘Matru ki Bijilee ka Mandola‘ it is hard to know if she is the village belle, the village call girl, a ‘free spirit’ or Imran Khan’s wife/fiance.

We are not told anything at all, but her opening dialogue presents such possibilities about her character that it is enough to rivet your attention, if her actual entrance had not done that part already.

And Shabana Azmi is in it, although the trailer doesn’t tell us anything about her so we are going to ignore her for now.

The music –

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola

The trailer only features one song – the titular ‘Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola’ – so its hard to judge. However the winning combination of Gulzar and Vishal Bhardwaj have not let us down so far, so I am confident the music will be a solid as always.

The song we do hear is ample evidence in itself. The tunes are catchy and the lyrics are engaging. Although my favorite has to be the various dance steps littered throughout the trailer –

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola

The story –

So what does the trailer of ‘Matru ki Bijilee ka Mandola‘ tell us?

Nothing.

I suppose the idea of the trailer is to divulge as little about the film as possible (a good strategy to ensure bums on seats come D-Day), but instead to showcase the general tone of the film, so viewers will know what they are in for.

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola

In that spirit, the tone of ‘Matru ki Bijilee ka Mandola‘ is either insanity or uncontrolled fantasy. I get the feeling that I am probably not going to watch a film that follows ‘Bollywood’ logic. And thank god for that.

We have a midnight heist, trips to Africa, a possible wedding, diving into pools, midnight plane rides, some insane dancing and craziness all over the place peppered by strangely wonderful one-liners.

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola

And there seems to be some sort of overall obsession with buffaloes.

Buffaloes are everywhere. It’s in the one-liner –

“If your heart is a rhino, then you will feel all girls are buffalos my love” (I have no idea what this supposed to mean)

Some one asks if a buffalo is in the sky.

Imran Khan assures Pankaj that he is even willing to marry Pankaj’s buffalo (among a host of other possessions including his underwear and his watch).

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola

And in one scene, Pankaj’s has lots of sensors stuck to his head and mutters – “a pink buffalo”.

Okay then…

This trailer leaves a lot of questions unanswered, but in a good way.

I really want to know what is up with the buffaloes!

What is the nature of the relationship between these four people?

Does Imran marry Anushka because Pankaj threatened him in a plane?

Why are they sneaking around at night inside jeeps, wearing commando uniforms?

Just what in the world are they doing in Africa? Or is the film just set in Africa with the Haryana scenes being flashbacks?

The list goes on and on.

I hope it doesn’t all come crashing down. But we will have to wait till January 2013 to find it if it does.

Also, there is this –

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola

R i g h t . . .

Indeed sir, you have my complete attention.

There better be a really, really good reason for that, and I am coming to the theater to see this!

(And this of course.)

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola

Yes dear…Bahut pyar se dekhenge!

Dear PM, Why do you want me to go home?

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Home Sweet Home

Protests have swept Delhi and thousands of brave young men and women (who risk everything that the our culture holds so dear – their family ‘name’, future jobs, ‘good’ standing in society and their physical safety) have stood firm.

Long side-lined as the ‘un-political’ and ‘uninterested’ youth, I see their protests as a sign that they are registering their presence. Even if it is a few hundred, it is a start. I choose to believe that these people are there because they want to prove a point. And it has been well proven.

As for police and the politicians, in an incredibly convenient and sometimes downright disgusting equilibrium, they have only one thing to say – go home ‘peacefully’.

What do they think I will go home and do?

Live the middle-class dream?

Buy a house even though the land prices always seem to be skyrocketing and in somebody else’s control?

Get a job as a financial advisor in an American investment bank?

For millions of us, we have already have homes to go back to – bought by our parents after paying 20-year EMIs. We have an education to fall back on – bought by our parents through begging, bribing, buying and mental torture.

We have a world economy to emigrate to or a smaller economy here to manipulate to survive.

We even speak the Angreezi. Yes we do sahib.

Certainly this is NOT the case for all of us but for many of us – desperate dread of destitution does not drive us to despair. Instead dreams of a deeper destiny deliver to your doorstep. (Well the president’s doorstep in any case)

We do have a home. But what is the point of going?

What is the point of going home if from here to my home I must avoid the police (who are there for my ‘protection’) as fervently as I avoid potholes and pedestrians?

What is the point of going home if I must pray all the while that some child of some politician doesn’t run me over and then leave me to die un-mourned in a gutter somewhere while he or she lives without consequence or shame?

What is the point of going home if I must salaam the brother of the friend of the neighbour of this guy who “knows an MLA” as I enter my own gate?

What is the point of going home and then looking my mother or my sister or my wife in the eye and knowing that one day, just like this day, I will be home while she might be getting raped by men free from fear of punishment.

What is the point of going home and smiling even when as images of her – beaten and bloody, weeping, screaming in pain and fear – flash through my mind.

What is the point of going home and sitting with my father, grey-haired from a lifetime of clerking, while desperately hoping I am not one of those sons who will see his father being slapped by a rowdy with political connections or being told in a police station –“She is a whore! We all know it. Maybe we will fuck her later. Now fuck off, we are not filing a rape case. She probably took money for it.”

What is the point of a home where I am as exposed as if I was standing on the streets?

I may as well stand on the streets.

There at least I get some fresh air and all the running, beatings, riot police and tear gas will keep me excited and distracted from all of this.

Shri Prime Minister, Shri Sushilkumar Shinde and Shri whoever-else-says-so,

I don’t know what home you want me to go to so ‘peacefully’. My home is so much ash in my mouth.

But if I consider your free government mansion with its twenty servants and the Delhi police patrolling the roads and Z-level security manning the doors with their sub-machine guns, it occurs to me that there is only one home out there to which I can honestly go to ‘peacefully’.

Yours.