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Kurbaan vs. New York

November 22, 2009 1 comment

After watching the Kareena-Saif movie, we totally feel “hamne apna Saturday ‘Kurbaan’ ko kurbaan kar diya”.

The movie was a bore. And way too much like New York with John Abraham and Katrina Kaif and Neil Nitin Mukesh – Islamic terrorism, a wronged desi guy out to blow up some Americans, a hapless ‘innocent wife’, a friend who’s an infiltrator into the terrorist group. But it’s fascinating how two people can treat one identical storyline in two such totally different ways. New York was nuanced, shocking, held its suspense so well, and made you intensely relate to the characters and feel their moral dilemmas. Kurbaan set out to dazzle you with the looks of the leading pair – and it succeeded with Kareena, not so much with the over-botoxed, rebonded-combovered-hair Saif – and was a movie that never made up its mind about whether it was a love story or a window into the souls of people who like killing other people. At the end of New York you walked out wondering about the pointlessness of terrorism and the senselessness of American state-sponsored violence; at the end of Kurbaan we walked out wondering about the pointlessness of the movie and the senselessness of a story that pretty much glorified terrorism.

The problem (one of the many problems, really) with Kurbaan is that it was like that episode of 24 where a liberal dude trusts the brown stranger against the fervent opposition of the all-American dude suspicious of all brown people with funny names, and then the brown stranger turns out to be a terrorist after all. It shamelessly encouraged the average viewer to go ahead and stereotype every bukha-clad Muslim woman and every young brown man with a backpack and rewarded such stereotypes.

The writing was abysmal. They couldn’t make up their minds whose perspective to pick – Kareena’s or Vivek’s or Diya’s, so they went with option (D), all of the above. Unlike New York, where everything unfolds from Neil’s p-o-v, and so even small revelations – like Katrina knowing all along that her handsome all-American husband is actually a terrorist – are discoveries that keep you engaged in the story. John’s haunted expression and sudden character twists are hugely gut-punching, even more so when you hear the back-story and see the real, very plausible torment he’s undergone. Here, you never really related to Saif or felt for him – not in the initial love story, not when he’s revealed to be a scheming, manipulative husband, not when you’re told why he became a terrorist, and not when he falls in love with his now-pregnant wife, and not when has his final melodramatic change of heart. His journey seems eminently alien and strange, and each twist is totally ‘yeah, right’. They’d’ve been better off making his a fully negative role, throwing in a couple of wife-whacking scenes and maybe having a last-second unexplained twist (was a change of heart? did he really spare her? or did he miss his target for once?).

The logic was non-existent. It’s completely frustrating how at least two of the characters – Vivek Oberoi’s and Kareena Kapoor’s – are supposed to be Amreekan educated and liberal-thinking, but in any moment of crisis, faced with any example of rule-breaking, small or large, they end up going the illogical, circituous route. When Kareena’s neighbor comes to her for help since she’s presumably being beaten up and about to be murdered, she doesn’t go to the cops or to a local NGO dealing with DV cases, or to a women’s shelter. No, she leisurely pays an in-person visit to a news reporter that the neighbor had met months ago in an internet chatroom (yes, huh?! indeed), and passively walks away when the reporter tells her she’ll call the neighbor in a few weeks after her vacation/travel. And then Kareena, professor and consummate Manhattan girl, generally wanders around in the neighbor’s basement in the dead of night. Seriously heroine, WTF?

Poor Vivek ends up having to go one better. When he gets a lead on the people who may have bombed a plane and killed ~200 people, he decides to take on the whole terrorist agency by himself, and fight for world peace singlehandedly in a severe Miss World relapse moment. When he’s in the middle of the terror plot, he still doesn’t want to tell the cops what he knows, but renders ultimatums to Kareena (who’s under house arrest) to source a f***ing subway map for him ‘definitely by tonight!!!’. He tells the FBI/cops about the plot at the last minute, because evidently just saying ‘subway system under threat’ is less helpful than giving exact station names, because the silly FBI can’t figure that out for themselves. Touching, such faith in the American legal system. And just proves my often-repeated assertion that modern journalists are, by definition, stupid. Thank you, KJo.

Of course, the five stations targeted by Saif and Om Puri & co. to ‘teach the goras a lesson’ are the ones with the highest possible concentrations of desi people – Jackson Heights, Lexington Ave – somehow suicide bombing takes on layer 2 meanings here, or maybe they thought desi/NRI audiences wouldn’t be horrified enough if it was 57th avenue or Harlem. After all that analysis, Rensil couldn’t even be bothered to keep his stations straight, because the back-ups bombers who were to target Times Square and Grand Central and 5th ave end up somehow, in a twist, at three of the originally planned locations, having been magically swapped for the dead guys with backpacks.

More logic issues – not only do the incompetent FBI not examine voicemails and evidence – (what happened to all the wiretapped evidence courtesy FISA and the Patriot Act, huh? huh? HUH??!!), they wait around for hours in churches for tip-offs from random people, in touching displays of patience and loyalty to anonymous informers. And then reinforce their good-guy status by exclaiming ‘Jesus Christ!!!’ at regular intervals, since of course this is all a war about Christianity vs. Islam, in which Hinduism mysteriously proves victorious.

Finally, possibly the brightest spark of talent in the movie belongs to Kiron Kher’s uninhibited Afghani character – she somehow assimilates Iranian/Syrian hijabi sartorialism (maybe the real Afghan hijab was way too scary) and diction from villains in 1970s Amitabh-starrers to come up with a pretty good composite character, not too unlovable or too far from her usual Punju mom roles, but also crazy enough so you’re a tad afraid of/for her. She was definitely better than Om Puri, whom one barely noticed – except when he sulked off in a huff when his authority was easily challenged by upstart Saif. And Saif! Saif, that nawabi bad-child looking for his lost youth just continues to embarrass himself and us by trying to be all-in-one: cool-dude and action-superhero and chocolate-boy-lover in every movie. He unfortunately seems to have upped his ambition and jock-style pecs (and steroidal intake) at the exact time that his talent – and jowls, and hair volume – are moving downwards. This when he’s not terrorizing and manipulating Kareena in reel life and in real (watch their interviews where usually confident Kareena turns to him constantly for affirmation, very unlike the Poo-ing brat of Shahid’s time).

Kareena is as luminously pretty as ever, and came good in the last scene with snot freely running down her face, but somehow she leaves you with utter despair for Indian women – if psychology professors are this dumb, there’s not much hope for the rest of us. She’s completely unresourceful, can’t be bothered to do basic checks on the men she falls for, ends up accepting invites to boring sex-segregated parties, is trapped into house arrest in her own house and promptly packs a head scarf when she realizes her husband is a terrorist. And of yes, when tasked to do a difficult (!) chore, she turns to the only tool at her disposal – no, not Google, not her brains or her education, but her body and sexuality. It’s possibly not just Saif here who’s missing the 80’s.

So, yeah, John Abraham still has my heart.

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These [pirates’] rules, they’re more like guidelines anyway

November 17, 2009 Leave a comment

Cap’n Barbosa from the Dead Man’s Chest speaketh:

The Indian Air Force on Tuesday said it was planning to have women fighter pilots in future, but they will be inducted with a pre-condition of not bearing children till a certain age.

“In a few years time, we might see this change (women getting inducted as fighter pilots) coming in with certain pre-conditions that till this age we request you to be happy, be married, but no offsprings,” IAF Vice Chief Air Marshal P K Barbora told reporters here.

After 13-14 years of service, investments made on fighter pilots are actually recovered by the government,” he said in an indication that women fighter pilots will be allowed to have kids only after putting in 13-14 years in IAF.
The IAF Vice-Chief said if a woman pilot has to take pregnancy leave, she will be off-flying for around 10 months, which will not be fruitful for both her and the Service.

Citing reasons for Services not inducting women into combat arms, Barbora said, the armed forces “feel that it is not right to have a lady or a woman exposed to a conflict where she can be a prisoner of war.”

Secondly, psychologically, are we fit? another factor,” he added.

This is when I stop being proud of the Indian military that ‘keeps us safe’ (wev), and start wondering about eligibility & selection criteria that allowed Barbora and his ilk to come up through the ranks. First, psychologically, is he fit? Second, mathematically, is he sound? Third, how robust are his faculties of logic?

If 13-14 years are all that are required to break-even on training costs, then what’s preventing them from directly saying that they require 14 full years of service – get initiates to sign a bond to deliver 168 full months of committed service or pay back training costs and suffer penalties? If someone takes 10 months off to deliver it’s not like they are never fit to do anything after that – ask Kim Clijsters, who won the US Open 18 months after delivery. And why the exception for pregnancy – what if someone (a male candidate maybe?) falls ill with a debilitating heart disease at 30, and needs to take six months off to recoup?It’s not like large emergencies never happen to fighter pilots, or that employees of the IAF are exceptionally protected from all such unexpected events .

Do Barbora and others that helped make this decision think they’re fooling anyone when they say “Now, women in the age group of 21-23 years are inducted into the flying branch and may be allowed to start family after crossing the 35-37 years age bracket.”? Is that condition likely to allow for any woman’s priorities at 21? Or, for that matter, any man’s priorities? What about changing priorities? And what if someone gets pregnant by accident? Is the IAF going to demand and force abortions? Sheesh, people, do you even think these things through before you call press conferences to shoot off yer mouths?

Maybe Barbora and ilk need to recieve printed copies of the story of Major Stephanie Nelson (her story here), the US Air Force fighter pilot (she flies F-16s) who got pregnant and was still treated with respect and equality.

A many-colored jackass

November 6, 2009 Leave a comment

Yeah, something was always definitely off with this guy:

“He wanted a woman who prayed five times a day and wears a hijab, and maybe the women he met were not complying with those things,” the former imam said.

Mr. Hasan, 40, a lawyer in Virginia, described his cousin as a respectful, hard-working man who had devoted himself to his parents and his career.

Well, he was surely not ‘respectful’ of the women he met – but of course, that’s such a minor detail that no one would even care about.

Apparently this guy was such an enormous patriot that he would go “against his parent’s wishes to join the army” to demonstrate his patriotism, the same parents that he was devoted to – but this same uber-patriot had expectations from his wife that she behave in accord with a totally different culture, a different country’s social norms.
And add to that, the mandatory inflexible hijab requirement should’ve set off major alarm bells that this man needed an eerie amount of control over his dependents, and would not compromise such control. Obviously it didn’t set off those alarm bells, because who cares – women are meant to be controlled any way, whether you’re Muslim or Christian, brown or white or black.

ROTFLMAO

October 9, 2009 Leave a comment

I thought, after the initial shock laughter, that this would be a depressing day, like June 6th 2008. But I’m still giggling, and it seems like the whole world is with me today.

Some of the gems:
(from Pumapac.org)
“Just think: The Nobel Peace Prize on the very day we actually bombed the moon.” Uppity Woman.
Althouse suggests obama be recommended for the Nobel Prize in Literature for “writing” Dreams From My Father.
Ezra Klein reports the Nobel Committee also awarded obama the prize in Chemistry. “He’s just got great chemistry,” the Committee said.

Barack Obama’s Teleprompter: Bill Clinton called and was gracious in defeat. Offered to fly Kanye West over for Awards Ceremony.

Erik Erikson: Barack Obama is becoming Jimmy Carter faster than Jimmy Carter became Jimmy Carter.

Ms. Behaved: Didn’t our last one term president win one of these?

(from Corrente)

From Talkleft: You know what would be genius? If the Onion just posts: “Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize!” as their headline.

BREAKING NEWS: President Barak Obama also to be awarded the Cy Young, Hiesman, The Congressional Medal of Honor and some unclaimed Olympic track & field medals at a joint ceremony in Stockholm.

From Dr.Violet Socks: Best line yet: over at Lawyers, Guns & Money they’re predicting that Obama will win the Cy Young Award.

By anniethena: Today is John Lennon’s birthdayAll the Nobel Committee is saying is Give Ponies a Chance….

By Paul_Lukasiak: that’s why he’s getting the award…the Nobel committee understand that Obama will give the greatest speech on Peace EVAH, if they give him the prize….and that’s more than enough justification….

(from michellemalkin. – umm, I go where the jokes are, just for today)

Rush Limbaugh quip: “I don’t believe this! He’s not only the first post-racial president, he’s also the first post-accomplishment.”

from someone’s twitter: 8 year old kid inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in anticipation of getting his first guitar this upcoming Christmas.

By Lockstein13: So, “Nobel” is how you say ACORN in Swedish.

(from telegraph.co.uk)

You’ve completely missed the point. The Nobel prize was clearly awarded for his heroic effort & sacrifice in trying to bring the Olympics to Chicago.

What an OBAMANATION!

Bin Laden has been peaceful since 9/11 too…

Bush is still holding out for the Nobel Prize in Economics based SOLELY on his accomplishments! (None of this wimpy ‘aspirational’ stuff.)

(from volokh.com)

For extraordinary diplomacy at the Gates-Crowley “Beer Summit”

UPDATE: “Obama? I thought we were giving it to Osama

The Norwegians wanted to honor one of their own, and the committee discovered that Obama was born in Oslo, Norway, the son of a Volvo factory worker.

Norway needed to stimulate its prize industry, and Obama was willing to trade in an older, less efficient prize.

He was the 10th caller.

Patent Lawyer:

For uniting a political party in chaos and on the verge of collapse–and it wasn’t even his own!

For bravely finding a dog for his allergic daughters to own.

For helping to rid the world of explosives by detonating some on the Moon.

For proving that the greatest leaders are those that accomplish nothing.

For making the world laugh with his hilarious and asinine diplomatic errors – like the “recharge” button incident.

For bringing peace to the streets of Chicago…er, scratch that one.

You know, Obama did claim to be qualified to take the 3AM call (or in this case the 5 AM call), but you conservatives never believed him. Neither, apparently, did the Europeans – they waited until 6 am to call the White House, for fear of waking him up.

From yoyo: Did you hear that Vegas has made Obama the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl?

Reason Obama got Nobel Peace Prize: It was a slow news day!

Because the Nobel Committee was cheaper to bribe than the IOC.

I am watching the White House, expecting to see a puff of white smoke from the chimney, announcing to the world that Obama has been selected as the Pope.

to be updated as I find more…

Categories: stupidity, terrorism/war

What’re your weekend plans?

August 20, 2009 Leave a comment

Keep your weekend free. This Sunday, I’m getting myself a copy of the New York Times’s special issue. Yup, after nearly four years of being increasingly distrustful, disappointed, disillusioned and disgusted with the NYT, I’m actually recommending to everyone that they buy and read this issue, because of the most heart-warming, well-researched articles they’ve put out in a long, long time.

The Women’s Crusade
Nicholas Kristoff talks about the ‘alchemy of gender’ in a deliciously long article, excerpted from his and Sheryl WuDunn’s book. I was alternately in tears and alternately giggling with excitement and nodding in vehement agreement through the story (but it could just be undiagnosed bipolar :-))

A New Gender Agenda
An interview with Hillary Clinton (swoon already), but I’m shocked at how much and how often she references India. It’s clear she’s actually one of the rare Westerners who can wrap their heads around the fact that one nation can be both more liberal and more conservative vs. another at the same time; that progressiveness is not a one-dimensional continuum. She gets that India is, in many ways, a model of development for the West and desh seems to be as top of mind for her as it is to me. And most effectively of all, she’s understood that advocating to the rest of the developing world (argh, I hate that term) that development = American values will not get them or her too far, that she needs to use someone else, someone closer to the developing world as an example – therefore the frequent references to Indian democracy in Nigeria, and to Liberian elections in Congo. Wish someone would smash some of her wisdom into Aaron Sorkin’s pathetic little brain sometime.

And hey, I’m suddenly more respectful of journalists again. Who knew.

Shattering Glass ceilings? First woman ever to…

July 13, 2009 Leave a comment

…be court martialed by the Indian Army?

Army court-martials its first woman officer
For the first time in the Indian Army’s history, a military court on Saturday ordered the court martial of a woman officer for disobeying orders, levelling false allegations against her superiors and communicating service matters to the media.

Captain Poonam Kaur had accused three officers, including her commanding officer and second-in-command, of sexually harassing her last year. She was then serving with an ASC (Army Service Corps Battalion) at Kalka near Chandigarh.

….

A court of inquiry conducted before the court martial had slapped 21 charges on Captain Kaur — whose father is a retired army havaldar —of which 11 were dropped, as there was no evidence to substantiate them.

The charges levelled against her included wrongfully getting married accommodation allotted and having an improper relationship with her driver.

I’m not defending either Captain Kaur or the Indian Army – I don’t have enough information, and I’m not interested in fighting that battle. A charge of physical abuse, sexual harassment and/or rape is a career stopper (not very often, of course: Phaneesh Murty, K P S Gill, Sanjay Khan, Virendra Kumar Dohare) – but a false charge is not just unfair, it also reduces the credibility of many, many true charges and causes plenty of harm to everyone involved. And I’m of the school of thought that true gender or racial or communal equality is not just equal opportunity to success, but also equal leeway to be bad, to fail, to irritate, to upset those around them. We’ll know women are equal to men not just when the # of women CEOs are equal to the # of male CEOs, but when the average woman is as much at ease to go against the grain as the average man is, when the punishment is commensurate with the crime and not with the gender.

It’s just unfortunate that the first woman to have broken this glass ceiling, to be court martialed and sacked from the Indian army was done so regarding a complaint of sexual harassment by her Commanding Officer. It’s very, very hard as it is for women anywhere in the world to speak up about sexual harassment (when the perpetrators are friends or acquaintances, the rapes go unreported 61 percent of the time – this is in the US), even harder for Indian women, and those in and around Punjab have to deal with the additional Punju male ‘pride & ego’ (a survey done in the state of Punjab a few years ago found that for every rape reported, a humongous SIXTY-EIGHT go unreported), and for anyone in a job, especially in the army to speak up against their own boss, even in a trivial case, is so difficult as to be impossible (example in case: yours truly!). When the victims get the courage and resources and huge support system required to fight such cases and go public, invariably there are plenty other issues – e.g. media silencing, a media trial on the woman’s character, and sometimes, incredibly stupid, out-of-touch judges (“a judge summoned a nurse who was raped, her one eye gouged out, in Shanti Mukund Hospital in the heart of Delhi by a hospital employee. The judge wanted the woman to answer a strange request by the rapist: would she marry him, as now, presumably, nobody else would“).

The second issue here is the problem inherent in all military, jingoistic groups. Armies around the world demand absolute control over their employees. Military personnel and processes are used to expected to give absolute, unquestioning obedience. This is understandable at some level, because they do want their soldiers to die for a cause, and you can’t have last-minute thoughts and backtracking and discussions and challenges in a battlefield. However, this sets up everyone inside for abuse and isolation of the worst kind (e.g. Lavena Johnson, tons of other cover ups of rapes and murders, and why soldiers rape) . Add to that the whole culture of ‘looking out for each other’, and ‘having your brother officer’s back’, which somehow translates to defending the brother that did the raping & the harassment rather than protecting the sister that was raped and/or harassed (if you have the stomach for it, read this story about Houston firewomen targeted in a hate campaign – major trigger warnings). And top it all with the weird defensive argument that if you complain about something the army or your President is doing, you’re somehow unpatriotic and don’t care for your country (see: Dixie Chicks). That last one is seriously f***ed up, because by making sure the army is functioning as it should, you’re actually strengthening it.

Given such a context, it’s really really sad that Captain Poonam Kaur’s case has been resolved so badly. It only further stops other women from speaking out when in bad, dire need, and closes out the options of half of the world’s population from living and working productively.

General White Stupidity

June 3, 2009 Leave a comment

After having stayed here in Southern US, and having resigned once triggered by a racist, ignorant and offensive comment by my then-manager, I’m obviously seething at the Australian
attacks on Indian students.

These are on the heels of months of mounting tension here in the US, too: Over the last twelve months, ~10 students from Andhra Pradesh have been violently attacked and killed, most in seemly unrelated petty-crimes-gone-bad situations.

A 21-year-old Indian student has been attacked by a group of males in suburban Melbourne after they stopped him and demanded cigarettes and money. […]

Police said Mr Singh told the men he was a non-smoker. The men then demanded money and when the student refused, he was slashed across the chest.

Mr Singh made his way to a police station where he made a statement about the attack. […]

Today’s incident also comes after a vandalism spree at a Sikh temple in Shepparton, in central Victoria, yesterday.

Shepparton police tonight confirmed the attack but told The Age they had no further details.

But worried as I am, I had to laugh at this:

However, website India Today reported racist graffiti and a swastika were painted on the walls and a car driven into a fence around the temple, smashing it.

If that is true, then these attackers are fools indeed. Someone please, please let them know that painting a swastika on a Hindu or Sikh (or Buddhist or Jain) temple is actually auspicious.