Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Pick of the Month: Conversions and Re-conversions! #Gharwapsi

Of all the tweets, this guy has created a gem! And given the spectacular nature of the tweet, and going by the age-old wisdom that a picture is worth a thousand words, let me keep this post to the minimum, and leave the rest to the reader's good judgement.

When the Indian parliament has been stalled by hopeless hapless opposition, raking up the spectre of "Ghar Wapsi", little did they know that Twitter is faster than mainstream media, or that social media, unlike its traditional counterpart, could not be bought.

For a country that has been a fertile hunting ground and an evergreen pasture for religious zealots from the world over, there is at least one honest "soul" that has announced to the world, what has been happening for well over a few centuries.

Keith Stevens, Pray for our Pastures, indeed!

Monday, December 29, 2014

The PK Controversy

My posts have been dwindling in number these days, and I hardly have time to blog about movies. But this movie did it - PK!

To begin with, let me make it clear - this is not a PK movie review. That the movie has had rave reviews is no news any more; nor is it anything strange that Aamir Khan's movie has been raking in the money for its producers. And it would be utterly unremarkable to state that Rajkumar Hirani has again succeeding in tickling the funny bone in an absolutely subtle way.

But is that the only feat that he has achieved subtly? Here are a few questions to ponder when you have come out happily after watching the latest Aamir Khan starrer.

The movie is named PK. Can you think of any country that is associated with the letters PK?

There are many instances featured in the movie ridiculing Hindu religious practices. The movie is supposed to be driving sense into people, against superstition and the negative tenets of religion. If this is a secular movie as it is projected to be, why have all religions not been equally depicted? Why is Hinduism being meted out special treatment in a movie that parodies religion per se?

We all know how neutral, genuine, secular and impeccable NDTV's reporting is. So, why would NDTV rate PK 5 stars?

Is every situation in the movie justified? One of the scenes that has stirred up controversies, for instance, features an artiste posing as Lord Shiva, getting caught up with the alien Aamir Khan in the loo, and trying to escape the menacing alien by running away from him, desperately seeking help. Would Rajkumar Hirani have had the guts to depict the divine messengers from other religions in this fashion?

The movie plot exposes a Hindu religious leader's chicanery. The movie also proclaims that not every Pakistani is a defaulter. So, why does it not take the pain to clarify that not every Hindu preacher is a conman? And how about preachers of other religions?

PK asks for answers from every Hindu idol and finds no response. Could he have also prayed to every other religious place and displayed his despair? Could he have also posted pictures of missing Gods other religions? Was that so difficult to depict in a self-professed secular, rational movie?

Yes, there are mentions of "building the temple", there are references to terrorism, conversion, etc. But they are fleeting, superficial, and lacking in depth. Of course, the entire story-line of PK lacks depth, with a simple agenda of maligning and ridiculing one cultural group, while seemingly embracing the message of love against separatism. But why has the message not been equitably distributed across all cultural / religious groups?

Is it because the reactions to such misadventures would be so enormous that the very release of the movie could be jeapordised if other religious practices were ridiculed to the extent that Hinduism has been taken on in this movie? Is it because Hinduism has become a soft target that could take any amount of beating and thrashing, or is it because of some ulterior motive?

There are many better ways of spreading the message of religious harmony than this increasing trend of Hindu-bashing. And it may not just end there. There is a depiction of an elderly Sikh man who lies for the sake of his wife's luxury, a scene that is complete out of context and unwarranted.

PK, when he discovers that not every Mahatma Gandhi's picture would get him the barter, throws Gandhi's pictures on the ground, littering it around one by one. Could there have been a better way of doing that than in a way that could be seen as desecrating the Mahatma?

While everyone in India has been portrayed in a bad light (apart from Anushka Sharma, who happens to be the only person to give money to PK the alien than take money), the embassy officials in Pakistan have been shown to be one lovely lot, peaceful and harmonious, sweet and jubilant.

So, that brings us back to the first question: The movie is named PK. Can you think of any country that is associated with the letters PK?

That makes us think further - who is funding Bollywood? After all, a director would want to thank his producer. Subramanian Swamy's tweet aptly questions the funding part of this controversial PK.

PK, the movie, is not just satire. It is not just cheeky in its stated message. It is not just subtle in spreading the message of peace and harmony. To the contrary, it has only stirred up religious sentiments, particularly among the Hindu and Sikh communities. PK is one more of those cunning narratives that camouflages as harmless expression of art, delivering a vicious stab at a culture and belief system, with a knife coated in humour and innocence.

So, Aamir Khan, Rajkumar Hirani, and the crew involved in producing PK, here is the bottom line: Spread the love, be equitable and stay positive. The world deserves better.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Prime Minister Narendra Modi - The Moment of Truth!

Courtesy: http://loksabha-2014.com/
After ages of stagnation that was creating an atmosphere of suffocating toxicity, there is one ground breaking phenomenon that has taken the Indian political, and quite possibly its socio-economic, landscape by storm. Narendra Modi has been invited to be sworn in the 15th Prime Minister of this ancient nation. And the results of the Indian elections could not have been better for a country that has been entangled in the web of a seemingly irreversible route to coalition politics.

Narendra Modi as Prime Minister of India, holds much more importance in the larger scheme of things, to the way India has taken shape over its recent history. While a vast section of vested interests may want to hijack the turn of events by painting a picture of uncertainty, and possible gloom and even devastation, for the minority, it is questionable if squinted views and deliberate vilification could be justified by having such a narrow perspective of what the event signifies.

Well, let the world have its own view - here is what the turn of events mean for India, from the rather superficial vision of Clearway!

Courtesy: http://ridingtheelephant.wordpress.com/

1. It is the beginning of the end of Dynasty Politics in India.

Would someone remind our lawmakers that India is not a monarchy and that it is supposed to be a democracy? If Narendra Modi can deliver on the promised and beyond, this could well be the beginning of end of one of the most nauseating features that could haunt a democracy - the dynasty. Nothing could be more unfortunate than a country of over a billion not being able to find its leader beyond one family.

2. India would now have a Prime Minister!

For the uninitiated, we have had a care-taker Prime Minister for an extended period of 10 years before Mr Narendra Modi fills the gap. Dr Manmohan Singh is an economist; what on earth did he have to do with leading a nation? Having said that, it is fortunate that India remained safe from external aggression for the two terms that India remained without a full-time Prime Minister at its helm!

3. India would now have a leader who could decide - and talk!
Courtesy: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/

Since we did not have a Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh did not have permissions from the High Command to give detailed press conferences or statements. He occasionally broke his silence using terse comments such as "Mind your Negativity" when he sensed adversity in public mood. Modi, on the other hand, has been willing to take the bull by its horns. It is his humble beginnings, the hardships that made him rise to prominence, and the way he has had to counter criticism and bullying by vested interests, that perhaps give him the edge - he does not have to learn to be tough.

4. Vilification has its limits.

 After all, since Ram Mandir is no longer the core agenda for BJP, everyone else had to group around, and latch on to, the massacre in Gujarat. It did not matter that the courts found Modi not culpable; the negative campaign in the country coupled with the United States of America, along with other nations, virtually boycotting him. It is a different issue now as to how the US could extend its invitation to a person who was banned from its territories, while nothing else has changed apart from the fact that Narendra Modi is no longer the Chief Minister of a State but would shortly be declared the Prime Minister of a powerful nation. But then, when did the United States hold principles above political, economic and strategic benefits?

But the case in point is, vilification is not without limits. And there is only so far that propaganda could go.

So, is it all pleasure and no pain? Is there a flip side to the golden coin?

1. For the BJP, the enemy lies within:

It is now that Modi's real test begins. For a party that has been deprived of power at the centre for so long, and for an ideology that is made to look criminal by vested interests, it is easy to be carried away and be swayed by the force of the tide in its favour. The first job for Modi as Prime Minister would be to rein in his own cadre and restrain the over-zealous from needless adventurism. It is good to be vociferous while in the opposition, but governance is responsibility.

2. The country is different from a state:

What worked in Gujarat, or the way it has been featured and projected, would invariably be difficult to replicate in a large, diverse, and difficult country like India. If Modi has stood for development in his state, he would have to prove that it was not by chance, but by good intent and design. He has been blessed with an unparalleled advantage this time - not many leaders would have the freedom of absolute majority, without having to play to the coalition gallery. But then, the very nature of expectation is that it comes with massive scope for disappointments - and portraying larger-than-life images is much easier than living up to it.

 3. A leader has to be inclusive:

And Modi can be no different, especially in an era of information technology and communication, where a new generation of voters is claimed to have powered the BJP to an absolute majority in the parliament. From the looks of it, the electorate has changed - and suppression would no longer be tolerated. It is important for a leader to demonstrate that he stands for equality, and any form of discrimination has to be off-limits. Will Modi demonstrate an undeterred willingness to be inclusive?

4. Calling the shots:

So, Narendra Modi is able to make decisions, he could be inclusive, he would foster economic development, create jobs, appeal to the youth, rein in the rogue elements within, keep enemies at bay, and develop international relations. All good. But how independent would he be in calling the shots, despite the absolute majority? How much influence would the RSS have with time in issues of governance?

It clearly needs not just decisive action on the part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but also a fine balancing act to deliver what has been asked of him. Modi has certainly hit the ground running and set off in style by this extra-ordinary gesture of inviting foreign heads of states for his swearing-in on May 26th. If you are to set the ball rolling in the right direction in the external affairs arena, this is the way to go!

And if at all there was something that was evident from Narendra Modi's emotional speech in the BJP's parliamentary party meet, it was his sincerity of intent and earnestness towards his job.

Is governance much more than emotional speeches? Yes, of course it is. But here we have someone who has a track record to show, one who has had humble beginnings and not from the dynasty, has risen through the ranks, and promises to show earnestness in intent and decisiveness in action.

Courtesy: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/

This is not even day one, and he has a full five years to deliver consistently and try to beat the sky-high expectations. Given the controversies that have mired his past with views and counter views, given the mixed signals that RSS has managed to emanate over the years, considering the sizeable and complex challenges that lie ahead, and given the fact that there are more detractors hoping he would falter than any of the other recent Prime Ministers of India have had, Modi has to walk a long distance, and a tight rope in that!

But then, if you would not bet on this guy, who else would you bet on?