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ECHO and Mira Nair’s film

March 4, 2009 Leave a comment

Not sure if I’ve blogged about this already, and I’m too lazy to check, but I did register my outrage elsewhere, so FTR:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20081023/film_nm/us_rome_film_un

Top film-makers focus on poverty, despite U.N. row

By Silvia Aloisi Silvia Aloisi – Thu Oct 23, 2:51 pm

ETROME (Reuters) – Wim Wenders and Jane Campion are two of the acclaimed
directors behind a collection of short films on the United Nations’ fight against poverty, but the U.N. agency meant to sponsor the project has pulled out of it.

“8,” which premiered at the Rome film festival on Thursday, brings together eight film-makers to illustrate the eight U.N. Millennium Development Goals, set in 2000 and aimed at halving the number of extremely poor and hungry people by 2015. Each director takes a different angle to show how poverty, climate change, lack of access to education and basic health facilities are affecting the world’s needy but also those living in the rich West. African film-maker Abderrahmane Sissako looks at an 8-year old boy being taught about the U.N. goals in a bare school in Ethiopia; actor-turned-director Gael Garcia Bernal shows a father in Iceland explaining the importance of education to his son; Campion explores the ravages of drought in Australia.Gus Van Sant, author of cult movies like “To Die For” and “Paranoid Park,” plays on the contrast between carefree American skateboarders and the dire statistics on child mortality in poor countries. Dutch-born Jan Kounen follows a pregnant woman in Amazonia desperately trying to find a doctor while another of the film’s chapters, by Argentinean-born Gaspar Noe, focuses on AIDS.

But it is Indian director Mira Nair’s take on gender equality that sparked a row with the United Nations Development Programme, which eventually withdrew its support from the project.

“AN INSULT TO ISLAM”: Nair’s short film portrays a Muslim woman living in New York who decides to leave her husband and young son because she is in love with a married man. “In April 2008, the UNDP came to us and demanded that we pull Mira Nair’s film or they would withdraw their logo from the project. They said it risked insulting Islam,” French producer Marc Oberon said after a press screening in Rome.”We decided we could not take it out, so they pulled out.”

UNDP spokesman Adam Rogers told Reuters the agency had felt Nair’s work “would get caught up in controversy.””We were afraid it would bring the wrong kind of attention to the cause of promoting gender equality,” Rogers said by phone from Geneva. He said the European Union had also backed out of the project.

Nair, in Rome to promote “8,” defended her choice, saying it was about a woman’s right to express herself. “It’s a storm in a teacup frankly. It’s not what the film deserved,” she said. “My film is inspired by a true story and was written by the person who lived that story. Freedom does not come neatly packaged. It comes with pain,” she said.”I also wanted to make the film because of the reaction in the West to any woman who lives under a hijab or a burqa. They are usually identified as women who have no rights and are submissive … which is completely untrue.”

Oberon said the UNDP had put pressure on some film festivals, including Cannes, not to screen “8,” but the UNDP denied this. Controversy aside, Wenders said he hoped the film as a whole would raise awareness about poverty, especially as the global financial crisis risks diverting aid and developments funds. “We are full of the best will, but the solution is only with governments,” the German director said, speaking in English. “(The crisis) might make some nations even less willing to fulfill what they have promised and signed. I am very much afraid that the bill will again be paid by the poorest.”

This is again one of those situations, like Aaliya Hassan’s, where discussions of intersectionality and concerns with not offending racial/communal/religious/cultural sentiments trump basic human rights for the victims, often women. Peeps, it does not matter what someone’s culture is, what a tradition says, what a set of people believe – if it is against anyone’s fundamental rights, it is bad. Simple.

Culture is allowed to flourish, rituals should be allowed to thrive, if they are (A) equal for all in degree and kind, (B) by choice: have no repercussions for choices of opt-in or opt-out, (C)humane, and (D) not hurt/harm freedoms of others who’re NOT meant to participate. That 4-way metric should be applied every time, for every one, every where. An evaluation needs to be done if you have a question on whether it is okay to do an all-night bhajan, or if (god forbid) someone’s husband passes away and she/he wants to commit Sati, or if your friendly neighbourhood Talib wants to close down a girls’ school because they teach girls ZOMG science!, or if you’re wondering whether to publish an article criticizing FGM in Palestine. Or anything else.

Culture needs to be E.C.H.O. – equal for all; free choice; humane; not impose on others. And I say this as a big, huge, curious fan of almost every ritual I’ve encountered in my life. So far.

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Before it’s all popular

February 5, 2009 Leave a comment

Let me put on record my minority opinion so I can finally be ahead of my time:

  • “Change” is a buzzword, and has been used by every politician worth his/her salt through history. It is an ambiguous concept and can mean different things to different people. In bad times and in good, the word ‘change’ cues to the listener EXACTLY what he/she wants to hear. When any salesperson/politician says ‘change’, your immediate next question should be: “What Change?”. Six faithful servants: What will change, which direction will it change in, how much and to what degree of change will occur, who will be included in the change, who will drive the change, and how will change happen?
  • “Change” in politician-speak requires three components/drivers: People (hir team, not just the politician hirself), Processes (legislative, executive processes: basically the constitution), Policy (easier). What ‘P’ is the politician promising to change?
  • Bipartisanship is a stupid concept. The whole point of a multi-party system is to have (A) dissent for better ideas, (B) checks and balances for distribution of power, and (C) multiple points of view for proper representation of the people in a democracy. Therefore, anyone promising bipartisanship without a history of delivering on it is either dangerously ignorant of democratic processes, or is fooling you or is unconcerned about democracy and more concerned about people getting along around him.
  • Change and bipartisanship are often mutually incompatible. Any change will meet resistance, and even any status quo will meet resistance. Anyone promising all three, change, bipartisanship and hope – is fooling the fuck out of you.
  • Anyone promising anything without having had some prior experience in it is fooling you. Works in job interviews, school applications, sex and presidential campaigns.
  • There is no smoke without fire. If thousands of women feel something is wrong about a guy, that he’s sexist or doesnt respect him – they’re right.
  • A high degree of youth enthusiasm about any object – a politician, an idea, or a thing – is good warning that it may be dangerous or not very thought-through. At the risk of Godwin’s law, look up Hitler/Nazism.
  • Barack Obama has nothing to offer but his oratory. And that oratory is not all that inspiring either. His 2004 Dem Convention speech may have been good, but that’s about it.
  • His anti-war stance was just a make believe stance; he made ONE speech in 2002 in front of a group of anti-war protesters as a State Senator – and no one in the world has any video or written record of that speech being made, or of its content. And he ran a Presidential campaign on the merits of this speech.bsa,
  • Every single policy of Obama’s released during the campaign came out after Hillary Clinton released her policy and it was identical to hers except for some red herring differences. Much like a kid that copies a test paper tries to put in some glaring differences.
  • Obama is old friends with Ayers, who got him the Annenberg position in the first place.
  • Obama’s public disassociation with Rev.Wright was premeditated and planned: he would first stand by him, then a few weeks later Wright would do/say something even more shocking and about Obama/his wife/his kids and Obama would come out and oppose him. People for and against Wright would both get a cookie.
  • Obama is a cheat and a liar and the $700 MILLION is composed of tons of illegal contributions – non-nationals, non-residents, people contributing over their legal limits, corporations and PACs, etc.

Luck by Chance

February 2, 2009 Leave a comment

Can I say I totally {heart} Zoya and Farhan and the whole Akhtar khandaan? I’m not usually in favor of family dynasties, though I’m not against them on principle either – but these guys simply rock. Zoya, it seems, has the same self-awareness and humor and ‘light touch’ that her brother has, combined with the potential for tapping into the zeitgeist that they share with their parents, but she’s also so much more down-to-earth and edgy than Farhan seems to be – to add to all of that, she’s a girlllll!! Awwww. Zoya, just don’t be an Obambi-fan, please?

Luck by Chance is another one in the whole new genre of ‘meta’ Hindi movies: movies about the Industry, replete with in jokes, references, actors playing themselves, snippets of gossip thrown in for a Bollywood-crazy audience and a guessing game of which real-life actor/producer/director each character is based on. These movies are smart about succeeding – the economics of the industry require that a big budget movie be seen by a vast number of people (since the margins are so thin most places). Which means both the multiplex/urban/young/educated/upper income class/white collar audience on the one side, as well as the single theatre/rural/less educated/lower income class/blue collar audience on the other side, have to both watch a big-budget movie. One way to do that is with big stars. Another way is to make sure the story has something for each group. The meta movies poke fun at the typical masala elements, and for doing so they need to depict typical masala elements – so they satisfy both their audiences [Much like rape scenes used to in the 70s and the 80s – those scenes helped titillate the pathetic losers who wanted to watch them, while also showing the villain doing the rape and then being punished eventually, hence satisfying the very same audience’s need for moral propriety and ‘order’ in the universe].

The difference is, unlike, say, Om Shanti Om, Luck by Chance has an actual story as well, and one that’s not too filmi or predictable or boring. Zoya manages to make the movie so chock-full of amazing moments that often you need to stop mid-reaction so you don’t miss watching the next moment. She assumes her audience is intelligent and can get subtle reactions without being spoon-fed (watch how Farhan’s character Vikram quietly adjusts his glares when Nikki walia (Isha Sharvani) is being chewed out by her mother (Dimple Kapadia) for her puffy eyes after a night-long surreptitious tryst in Vikram’s room). In a quirky twist, the character introduction of Sona (Konkana Sen Sharma) actually occurs in a monologue right at the end – not sure if this was forced by convenience/time, but this twist suddenly wenches the protagonist’s hat from Vikram and puts it firmly on Sona’s head. That’s when you realize that Zoya’s moved you and your emotions so far away from where they were three hours ago, and you’re rooting for Sona Misra, the naive, likable and ambitious small-town girl – not necessarily for the charming Vikram.

I wonder why, in a story that’s such an ode to the ‘outsider’ in an incestuous Bollywood that often ignores the millions of wannabes knocking on its doors, every character and every key actor Zoya chose, is ironically part of a ‘big Bollywood family’. The movie is written & directed by Zoya, the hero is Farhan, both children of Javed Akhtar, Konkana is Aparna Sen’s daughter, Rishi Kapoor is part of the Kapoor khandaan, Hrithik’s dad was an actor/director/producer and his uncle is a music director. The heartbreaking competition and the desperation she knows to be true, she shows in the song Sapnon se Bhare Naina – when hundreds of young men enthusiastically and desperately audition for a role they know nothing about, for work that hasn’t been negotiated, for a character they haven’t been told anything about, for pay they’re not even sure they’re going to receive. One man says he’s done one commercial in two years, his voice breaking. Another wants to do-over his audition so he can do better. A third haltingly asks Farhan to help him fill his forms in English, his voice low with embarrassment. It’s impressive that the film has such deep sensitivity and is so rooted to the ‘real world’ – it’s doubly impressive that every character has more depth than the usual single-note cartoons we usually get to see, but the best part is, the movie’s such a riot. As Ranjit Rolly (Sanjeev Kapoor) says, the movie moves from highlight to highlight – and makes it good.

Update:

Oh, and other things I noticed only on the third or so viewing:

  • It’s awesome that there’s a girl behind the camera in the picture-within-a-picture. Not for the actual movie, but for the second-round audition that Farhan does with Isha.
  • The songs are really, really terribly choreographed/picturized. Really. The romantic song, that I can’t stop listening to, is unbearably boring. And the other song, with Konkana waking up heroine-style, is not as bad as I thought it was when I’d first seen it.

Household Laws

November 15, 2007 Leave a comment

Now that I’ve ‘handled’ the running of a home for so long, I feel qualified enough to call myself an expert. And bringing my own very special theoretical, frame-work driven approach to any work, I think I’m now ready to present to the world the following (yet unproven) theorems (yes, I know others may well have discovered any or all of them, but hey, this is my blog, and I’m far from profiting by these, so there!):

  • The Law of Concurrent Failures:
    Every instance of equipment failure in the household will compel other finite, non-zero instances of equipment failure in the same week. This Law extends to electronic equipment, electrical equipment, transportation equipment, etc., and is especially true for fully-or-partially substitutable equipment.
  • Vacationers’ rule:
    At the start of any trip outside the home, at least one unit of the household will feel very strongly about having forgotten something or forgotten to do something important.
    – The competence of the unit in question managing to convince everyone to turn back is inversely proportional to the strength of his/her feeling that something is amiss.
    – The actual probability of something being amiss is inversely proportional to the probability of the household going back into the home to check for the omission.
    – The impact of the omission on household finances, household safety and household peace is inversely proportional to probability of the household fixing the omission.

…more to come.

Categories: general, housekeeping

Social butterflies, us

November 4, 2007 Leave a comment

We’ve been very busy lately. Not with work or anything, but socially. This is rare times; and it may seem long but it’s only been so for a week. For instance, this is what we’ve done and are going to do:

  • Met up with a new couple for a post-dinner chocolathon Saturday.
  • Watched a couple movies and cleaned up the house Saturday & Sunday.
  • Walked in and out of a birthday dinner Tuesday.
  • Celebrated Halloween Wednesday and went out for another movie.
  • Met two kids – another couple – and hung out socially with them for the first time – Thursday for dinner.
  • Caught up with relatives – a couple – Friday (I cooked). We were supposed to go dancing, but that never happened.
  • Met a single friend – one who’s always travelling – for lunch today (I cooked).
  • Watched two movies today – we did our usual thing of going in with one ticket and walking into another screen. I love this country!
  • I’m also off to watch a famous Telugu play being performed/read tomorrow and I’m really really looking forward to it.

Also, P & I are officially ready and competent to have children. Why, you ask? Well, I had a splinter in my foot which was painful and bleeding yesterday. And with a pin and a pair of tweezers and deep breathing and strategizing, we got it out. Yay!!!

Categories: diary, general, P

Depression

September 12, 2007 Leave a comment

Apparently depression is more dangerous than Diabetes, Asthma and Arthritis.

So I should be worried. More worried, in fact, than I was all of last year, when the whole illness thing was upon me (oh, yes, I was ill, and for some six whole months – we made acquaintance with many varied members of the medical community in this city). It had been nice then to talk about random symptoms to doctors who couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was wrong with me, and I reveled in the attention. To re-live it, I had:

  • A continuous low-grade fever (which I attributed to missing P on his long Canada trip)
  • Weight loss (I went from 140 lb to 95 lb; I celebrated so much, of course, at P’s cousin’s wedding when my darling women-in-law went literally green. Weight issues are so critical to them)
  • Night sweats (I remember throwing off the sheets in Dublin and sleeping near-naked next to a snoring P and two other semi-patient strangers)
  • Day chills (when I would load myself up with more sweaters and jackets than the average TV mom would demand of her ‘beta’; and of course with all that we couldn’t really walk around much except go eat lunch at a vegetarian-friendly place, which almost always turned out to be Indian- or Indian-influenced).
  • Fatigue. This last was embarrassing, and I could only think about my grandmom. When my granddad and she go out, she routinely walks some 10 steps behind him, and not out of respect for her husband, but because he simply refuses to walk slower and she cannot walk faster. She decided at 15 that she was going to be ill most of her life, and has suffered one illness after another till this day.

I remember times last year when going to the next-door Publix was a long, well-planned ‘evening out’ and I’d come back exhausted. I remember not seeing the car P bought for three days because I couldn’t get up and walk out the front door. I remember days when P left home for work in the mornings and found me exactly in the same place when he came back, not having moved all day, not even for food or water. I remember him loading the Container Store nightstand (one of our first purchases) with a fruit, water, a tic-tac and a book. I remember always leaving the book untouched because I was too tired to read.

So, that was fun; at least it wasn’t Lymphoma. But to get to the point, all that is not totally in the past. In the last few months, I’ve relieved the same existence. And not out of physical fatigue – no, I drive, I walk, I talk loudly, and I do have energy when needed. But other days, like this past week, I’ve stayed in bed – all day, every day. I don’t eat because I don’t feel hungry, I don’t talk to anyone, I do not go out for days on end. And I feel guilty, useless – considering I’m burdened with the paradox of being a fiercely feministic housewife, my life’s strings are all neatly tied up.

So when I read the news article about depression, I took a few of the 3 zillion depression-self-tests. Guess what, I passed (or failed, depending upon how each one was framed) each one of them – I’m clinically depressed. You gotta love this century, they have a name for everything. That does really make it easier to bear.

I’m going and getting St.John’s Wart tomorrow.

Categories: diary, family, food, general, health, P

So…

May 20, 2007 Leave a comment

So the cleaning lady had come over yesterday before I flew down to meet P early today morning. And her husband’s a handyman who helped me hang pictures and stuff.
I tell P about all this in great detail, and he half-listens, “Yesterday who came? The hanging man and the clinging lady?”.
I give up.

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But he was the cutest with his formal shirt and lovely H&M pjs, ruffled hair & always-upturned toes. I woke him up on reaching here. Apparently he’s forgotten all his t-shirts.
Aaaah, we had a nice little reunion of our own. Today’s the day of reunions.

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So we slept like little babies after the conf call, arm in arm, hugging fiercely on the bed. And P woke up to find his cell phone clock an hour behind. How’d that happen? Wrong direction?
Wrong feng shui, he says. Time kharaab hai – his time is bad.
Atrocious, what three days’ apart from your wife make you.

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I remembered last night bfore sleeping how P keeps making fun of me rolling my eyes when I’m upset. And he does consider me a godess. This Godess rolls the doe-eyes; as opposed to God rolling the dice.
Gotta love Einstein.

Categories: diary, general, humor, P