Sunday, October 14, 2012

'You are not alone'

Last night I watched a couple of things on TV - an event so rare it should be recorded here.

First, there was a brief glimpse of (I don't know which season of) KBC. This lady, after having reached the Rs. 20,000 threshold, was allowed to chat for a while with the Big B. She charmed everyone by saying how she has played and won KBC many times - once a day, in fact - in her mind.

Apparently she talks to the Big B every day while working out: they play KBC and he asks her questions and she answers, each answer the right one, until at the end of her hour or hour and a half she has her one crore. Then she stops, because one crore is enough for one day and there are more games to be played and much conversation still to be had with the Big B.

I was surprised and charmed and delighted by Pujaji's unselfconscious, frank confession not only to the world but also to the object of her daily speeches. I could never admit - not even now, when I am half-confessing - that I also talk to people I am never likely to meet in my life because they're dead or fictional or worlds away from my life. I can only imagine that I would pass out if I should ever happen to meet those dead/fictional/otherworldly people I'm such friends with in my head.

Then later, I watched X-Men: First Class. And where Michael Fassbender says, "I thought I was the only one" I said, with Charles Xavier, "You are not alone."

Oh yes.

Utpal Dutt's 'Ray, Renaissance Man?'

Over at The Big Indian Picture (which is, by the way, a must-read) is a magnificent rant by the actor Utpal Dutt, on many things Ray & GoI related. It is even more extraordinary when one realises that this speech was delivered at a Sahitya Akademi/Lalit Kala Akademi/Sangeet Natak Akademi seminar on Ray, shortly after Ray's death.

In contrast, I am thinking of the recent SA Young Writers' Festival, where the general tone was self-congratulatory and unjustifably optimistic.

Utpal Dutt, in his own words:

Already in Pather Panchali, Ray’s protagonists suffer not because gods have willed it so but because of poverty created by men. They are evicted from their home by a power that is stronger than gods— a social system that condones exploitation. And this revolt against a concept of gods who crush human beings reaches fruition in Devi, where a girl, a common housewife, is declared a goddess incarnate and is expected to heal and cure every sick villager, until the boy she loves more than her life is dying and is placed before her so that she can touch and heal him. She dare not play with this boy’s life and tries to flee, her sari torn and her mascara running all over her face. One has merely to compare this film with dozens churned out from the cinema-machine of this country, where a dying child, given up for dead by medical science, is placed before the image of a goddess—and, of course, there is a lengthy song glorifying the goddess—be it Santoshi Ma or some such forgotten local deity. Then the stone image is seen to smile, or to drop a flower on the boy’s corpse, and lo and behold, what the best doctors could not do, the piece of stone achieves in a second! The corpse opens its eyes, even sits up. This is followed either by another unending song of thanksgiving, or the boy’s parents weeping and rolling on the ground to show their gratitude. This kind of brazen, shameless superstition is peddled by film after film in this country every year. Are they any less dangerous than drugs? If drugs destroy the bodies of our young men, these films destroy their minds. A proper tribute to Ray would have been to make it impossible to make such filth and, instead, to make arrangements for Devi to be shown all over the country at cheaper rates. Devi is a revolutionary film in the Indian context. It challenges religion as it has been understood in the depths of the Indian countryside for hundreds of years. It is a direct attack on the black magic that is passed off as divinity in this country. Instead of the vulgarized Ramayana and Mahabharata, the Indian TV could have telecast Devi again and again; then perhaps today we would not have to discuss the outrages of the monkey brigade in Ayodhya.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


I was in Delhi last week for a few days and after what seems like a decade, I actually found myself enjoying the city. This, despite a baggage mix-up at the airport, ratty hotel room with filthy sheets and the severe shortage of gajar in this season.

The thing is, I remember Delhi with such unhappiness: how I left a decade ago, my brief visits - a day every couple of years - when I desperately wanted to be home instead of whereever else I was; all of which made the city a place I refused to re-experience.

This time, though, it truly was fun. I loved the Metro, hanging out with friends, I even enjoyed reading my poetry, which is a thing I somehow have failed to do recently.

As always, I girl-guided my way through the packing and unsurprisingly came back with heavier (and more) bags.

Some things were weightless, though, and I feel I should share one at least of these objects with you.

Yes, this exists.

Oh, and did I miss my chance to say Fifty Years Ago Today on the 5th? Apparently I did. But at least I didn't do what MTV India did, which was to wish Lennon a long & happy life yesterday.