Monday, November 03, 2008

Who is allowed in ?

My response to the following sardonic posting in the blog - "Mumbai v/s Australia: in 2008, Mumbai's population is 13 million (total land area including suburbs approx. 600 sq km) Australia's population is 21 million (total land area 7,617,930 sq km) So there is still enough scope for Mumbai's infrastructure and Municipal Corporation to compete with Australia's infrastructure!!! So lets go to Mumbai, we have the right to do it!!! "

Are you making the point that filled-to-capacity Bombay/Mumbai cannot take any more migrants or are you suggesting that only marathi manoos migrants are henceforth welcome? Therein lies the difference!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Thank you, Raj !

" My dear Raj,

My apologies for having to communicate through the editorial pages of a newspaper, but frankly I am left with little choice since you seem to have decided to stay away from the so-called 'national' non-Marathi media. At the very outset, let me say that I am impressed with the manner in which you have carved a niche in Maharashtra's political landscape. I remember meeting you after the Mumbai municipal corporation elections in February last year. It wasn't the best of times for you: your party, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena was marginalised, while your cousin Uddhav Thackeray and the Shiv Sena had captured power in the city. With many of your supporters deserting you, you appeared down, if not quite out. Twenty months later, I see you've bounced back: local and national dailies have you on the front page, you are the subject of TV debates and your politics has even united Bihar's warring netas.

And yet, my friend, there is a thin line between fame and notoriety, more so in the fickle world of politics. Bashing north Indian students may grab the headlines, getting arrested may even get you sympathy and strident rhetoric will always have a constituency, but will they be enough to secure your ultimate dream of succeeding your uncle Bal Thackeray as the flagbearer of Marathi asmita (pride)?

If Balasaheb in the 1960s rose to prominence by targeting the south Indian "lungiwala", you have made the north Indian "bhaiyya" the new 'enemy'. In the 1960s, the Maharashtrian middle-class in Mumbai was feeling the pressure of competition for white-collar clerical jobs. Today, it seems that there is a similar sense of frustration at losing out economically and culturally to other social groups in Mumbai's endless battle for scarce resources. With the Congress and the NCP having become the real estate agents of the state's rural-urban bourgeoisie and the Shiv Sena a pale shadow of its original avatar, the space has been created for a charismatic leader to emerge as a rabble-rouser espousing the sons of the soil platform.

But Raj, I must remind you that electoral politics is very different from street agitations. Sure, the round-the-clock coverage of taxis being stoned and buses burnt will get you instant recognition. Yes, your name may inspire fear like your uncle's once did. And perhaps there will always be a core group of lumpen youth who will be ready to do your bidding. But how much of this will translate into votes? Identity politics based on hatred and violence is subject to the law of diminishing returns, especially in a city like Mumbai, the ultimate melting pot of commerce. Your cousin Uddhav tried a 'Mee Mumbaikar' campaign a few years ago. It was far more inclusive, but yet was interpreted as being anti-migrant. The result was that the Shiv Sena lost the 2004 elections — Lok Sabha and assembly — in its original citadel of Mumbai. Some statistics suggest that one in every four Mumbaikars is now a migrant from UP or Bihar. Can any political party afford to alienate such a large constituency in highly competitive elections?

Maybe, you are not even looking at winning seats at the moment, but staking claim to the Sena legacy in a post-Bal Thackeray scenario. Perhaps, that's exactly what the ruling Congress-NCP combine in Maharashtra wants: like a market leader who gets competing brands to crush each other, the Congress-NCP leadership seems to be practising divide and rule politics once again. They did it with Balasaheb and the communists in the 1960s, with Bhindranwale and the Akalis in the 1980s, even with the Kashmir Valley politicians in the 1990s. A larger-than-life Raj Thackeray suits the ruling arrangement in the state because it could erode its principal rival, the Shiv Sena's support base. It's a dangerous game, but often when politicians run out of ideas, they prefer to play with fire. It's a fire that could leave Mumbai scarred for life.

Now, before you see my writings as the outpourings of an anglicised non-resident Maharashtrian, let me just say that like you, I too am proud of my roots. I too, would like to see the cultural identity of Maharashtrians preserved and the economic well-being of the community assured. Where we differ is that I am a citizen of the Republic of India first, a proud Goan-Maharashtrian later. Fourteen years ago, I left Mumbai for Delhi to seek professional growth and was fortunate to be embraced by the Capital. Like millions of Indians, I too am a migrant and a beneficiary of a nation whose borders don't stop at state checkpoints.

Moreover, I cannot accept that 'goondaism' is the way forward for forging a robust Maharashtrian identity. By vandalising a shop or stoning a taxi, what kind of mindless regional chauvinism are we promoting? Taking away the livelihood of a poor taxi driver or beating up some defenceless Bihari students reflects a fake machismo that is no answer to what ails Maharashtrian society today. The Maharashtra we are all proud off was inspired by the progressive ideals of the Bhakti movement, by a Shahu-Phule-Ambedkar legacy of social reform. Are we going to dismantle that legacy under the weight of hate politics?

When you started the MNS a few years ago, it had been pitched as a party committed to a 'modern' Maharashtra. If that vision still stands, why don't you take it forward in real terms? Why don't you, for example, set up vocational courses and technical institutes for young Maharashtrians to make them competitive in the job market? If cultural identity is such a concern, why not launch a statewide campaign to promote Marathi art, theatre and cinema by financially supporting such ventures?

If Mumbai's collapsing infrastructure worries you, then target the politician-builder nexus first. And isn't it also time we realised that Mumbai is not Maharashtra, that the long suffering Vidarbha and Marathwada farmer needs urgent attention? Why not use your political and financial muscle to start projects in rural Maharashtra instead of focusing your energies on Mumbai's bright lights alone? An employment generation scheme in a Jalna or a Gadchiroli may not make the front pages, but it will have far greater value for securing Maharashtra's future.

Jai Hind, Jai Maharashtra! "

Rajdeep Sardesai (Editor-in-Chief, IBN Network)
Hindustan Times / October 30, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

More on Bombay

Comment left by me in another blog -

"Bombay was never a Marathi city - it began as a British (trade) project! (So were Calcutta and Madras). Marathi 'asmita' cannot be saved by refusing to share borrowed spoils."

Monday, September 08, 2008

Mumbai Tumhara Sahar ?

Let the Hindi film & television industry shift away from Mumbai. Ditto with the Stock Exchange. Same with the BCCI. The Marathi upper middle class Thuk Re manoos will lose his parasitic sting for ever.

What have these bandits, who speak for Marathi asmita, done about farmer suicides in Vidharva and Marathwada ? What irony that these Jaichands have been born to a historically progressive state like Maharashtra !

And I am not only speaking of the Thuk Re clan. All those Marathi men & women in the public eye, rich & famous because of the cosmopolitan, industrious, audacious and bhel Hindi character of Bombay, and who choose to keep silent while Hindi and its adherents are bashed about, are equally culpable.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Powwows with Prachi

SOLEMN RAMBLINGS / Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I've been watching quite a few heavy documentaries lately... Night and Fog by Alain Resnais, War and Peace, and Father Son and the Holy War by Anand Patwardhan... My mind seems to be constantly running with visuals from these films and everyday, by nightfall, I seem to be losing all my ways and excuses of comprehending life and the millions of people who comprise it... including myself. This notion of homogeneity that one relies on - does not exist. India itself is a country of many worlds. What will the world be like...? Perhaps there will never be equality - of any kind...

Arun Gupta said... (June 26, 2008)
Its kind of ironic, isn't it, that we admire patwardhan for taking up the distant causes of 'right' things and simultanously endure / ensure a 'wrong' thing like ragging right in one's own backyard.

Prachi Mokashi said... (June 27, 2008)
Well I admire Patwardhan's way of influencing ones opinion about certain things... although perhaps it's not the best way... is it? Personally, I don't think I can do the same - for any kind of a situation including ragging... 'To each his own...' Guess this is called being selfish...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sitaron Se Aage

The starlet, who is going to be a star, is happy. She has met Shahrukh Khan. She has retrospectively discovered that college was cakewalk, twice over. And she is going to call back in an hour, as her mobile phone battery is down.

Meanwhile, in a 'heritage' campus, some desires (later to be deemed peripheral) are beginning to unfold - again.

माया, महा ठगिनी हम जानी...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hindi Bashing

I went to a friend's house. He is cosmopolitan, an artist, and not a north Indian. We were listening to a recording of his little daughter reciting poems. It was all very beautiful. Suddenly the father was heard in the recording instructing the kid "Say - down with Hindi songs". The kid, ironically, said something completely opposite.

I am sick & tired of these closet Hindi bashers.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Losing It at the Movies

I have been wanting to study moviegoing for a very long time. I feel most filmmakers are interested only in the making part - the who, why, when, what, how and where of the screening experience does not interest a majority of them ('Purple Rose of Cairo' by Woody Allen is an interesting exception).

Of what use is a film which has not been seen yet again in a semi-lucid print by a lonely heart (amidst other such losers & oddballs) on a humid monday afternoon, in a smelly hard-on-the-ass moviehall, an hour and Virar fast away from home ?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Social Interaction

Social Interaction: that's what ragging is euphemistically referred to as by some of us in a not-so-ingenious act of double-speak. We get away with it year after year, spawning new armies of happening young things, carrying the legacy of gratuitous violence and equivocation in subterranean self-serving bloodstreams.

How does one tackle this ? How does one deal with this pernicious worm which has found its way into the hearts and minds of the once-upon-a-time chosen ?

The meek were meant to inherit the earth, weren't they ?

P.S. I had sent the above text through email to the community as well. For the FIRST time in my life here I had a hate message (actually an attempt at hate shairi, in Hindi) waiting for me, slipped surreptitiously under my office cabin door.

For the times they are a-changin'.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Not a Jolly Good Fellow

I have not been behaving of late, leaving crotchety comments on neighbourhood blogs. Sample these -
The IPL times that we live in, whether it be in Delhi or elsewhere, human behaviour is likely to be based on greed and possession based unidimensional stimuli. The original sin is to accept the undemocratic and uncaring raj of capital. I sometimes think that at a macro level the present human race has already touched the tipping point. The Flood is nigh. We may as well learn to swim :)
problem is not that you are not (or cannot be) a good filmmaker, problem is that you are shy of acknowledging your filmmaking wholeheartedly - very typical of ug fvc, who are always trying to be generic CD/VC for some reason, as if being a filmmaker is a disease...

Sleeping with the Emigré: Teaching Film in a Design School

Emigré: Someone who leaves one country to settle in another.

I have been teaching filmmaking in a design school for the last 12 years. Our 'mission statement' is to create design informed short filmmakers. But often we end up unwittingly creating film informed designers. In less polite words, many of the alumni (especially the undergraduates) flirt with moving image a little, but eventually gravitate to a conveniently indeterminate (and seemingly more profitable and peer-endorsed) domain called communication design.

I see this as a clear lack of pride in their chosen profession and a waste of our energies. This problem is less visible in the postgraduates though, as they apply directly for the specialisation, and hence their passion for cinema is a given (in most cases).

I can never understand (or appreciate) a 18-year old who does not have clarity about what he/she wants to do as a profession, at least for that moment. I always had clarity - at any given point of time - regarding my chosen profession. I was going to be a space scientist once (like most children); then roads and railroads interested me a lot; then I was going to top the IIT entrance; later I was going to be a journalist; then an IAS/IFS officer; and finally a filmmaker. I remember getting FTII prospectuses for years together, every year, even before I was eligible to apply.

The first time I gave the FTII entrance test in Kolkata, I was supremely confident and was looking around in the examination hall for 'who else' will qualify along with me. Of course I did not make it that year, to my surprise !

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


आजकल महाराष्ट्र में हिन्दी वालों की पिटाई चल रही है। उत्तर प्रदेश और बिहार के अप्रवासी मजदूर महाराष्ट्र के नए हरिजन हैं। और मराठी सभ्रांत (एवं समृद्ध) समाज हरि का नाम ले मौन है।

सालों पहले हिन्दी भाषी होने का मूक आतंक मैने बहुत करीब से अनुभव किया था - बंगाल में बड़े होते समय। घर की चारदिवारी के बाहर हिन्दी बोलने में मुझे शर्म आती थी, क्योंकि हिन्दी अप्रवासी मेडों की भाषा थी (बंगाल की नजर में हर हिन्दी भाषी मारवाडी/मेडो था, हर मेडो के पास बहुत पैसा था और ज्यादातर पैसा भोलेभाले स्थानीय का खून चूस कर नाजायज कमाया गया था)।

मेरा निम्न मध्यम वर्गीय बचपन इन काल्पनिक पैसों के सुखद स्पर्श से वंचित रहा। Instead one had to be constantly on one's guard regarding any publicly visible spending, lest the locals (who were of course free to splurge) detect a Hindi belt capitalist :)

I believe Hindi suffered as a language (and a culture) because of being made the rashtrabhasa. It became rigid, sarkari and boring; it became an unfortunate overt symbol of perceived northern expansion; and its native speakers (including yours truly) deserted it in droves, taking its existence and health for granted.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Jo Jeeta Wohi Chukandar

Once, when I was working in Zee, I had thought of floating a game show (they were much in fashion then, besides being very cheap to produce - 3 episodes a day !) that would celebrate losing. It was to be called "Jo Jeeta Wohi Chukandar"

I hate the idea of winners. A society which only celebrates winning (and not living) cannot be caring and egalitarian.

I picked up this cartoon strip most probably from the office of Mr. S. Balaram, who was earlier my senior colleague, and now heads the DJ Academy of Design at Coimbatore.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Emperor's New Clothes

This wickedly perceptive 1837 story by the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen is (regretfully) still relevant, given the IPL times that we live in, where everything and everyone is on sale; where pretence & pomp substitute for substance and where expedient obsequiousness is seemingly the only way up...

Once upon a time there lived a vain Emperor whose only worry in life was to dress in elegant clothes. He changed clothes almost every hour and loved to show them off to his people.

Word of the Emperor's refined habits spread over his kingdom and beyond. Two scoundrels who had heard of the Emperor's vanity decided to take advantage of it. They introduced themselves at the gates of the palace with a scheme in mind.

"We are two very good tailors and after many years of research we have invented an extraordinary method to weave a cloth so light and fine that it looks invisible. As a matter of fact it is invisible to anyone who is too stupid and incompetent to appreciate its quality."

The chief of the guards heard the scoundrel's strange story and sent for the court chamberlain. The chamberlain notified the prime minister, who ran to the Emperor and disclosed the incredible news. The Emperor's curiosity got the better of him and he decided to see the two scoundrels.

"Besides being invisible, your Highness, this cloth will be woven in colours and patterns created especially for you." The emperor gave the two men a bag of gold coins in exchange for their promise to begin working on the fabric immediately.

"Just tell us what you need to get started and we'll give it to you." The two scoundrels asked for a loom, silk, gold thread and then pretended to begin working. The Emperor thought he had spent his money quite well: in addition to getting a new extraordinary suit, he would discover which of his subjects were ignorant and incompetent. A few days later, he called the old and wise prime minister, who was considered by everyone as a man with common sense.

"Go and see how the work is proceeding," the Emperor told him, "and come back to let me know."

The prime minister was welcomed by the two scoundrels.

"We're almost finished, but we need a lot more gold thread. Here, Excellency! Admire the colours, feel the softness!" The old man bent over the loom and tried to see the fabric that was not there. He felt cold sweat on his forehead.

"I can't see anything," he thought. "If I see nothing, that means I'm stupid! Or, worse, incompetent!" If the prime minister admitted that he didn't see anything, he would be discharged from his office.

"What a marvelous fabric, he said then. "I'll certainly tell the Emperor." The two scoundrels rubbed their hands gleefully. They had almost made it. More thread was requested to finish the work.

Finally, the Emperor received the announcement that the two tailors had come to take all the measurements needed to sew his new suit.

"Come in," the Emperor ordered. Even as they bowed, the two scoundrels pretended to be holding large roll of fabric.

"Here it is your Highness, the result of our labour," the scoundrels said. "We have worked night and day but, at last, the most beautiful fabric in the world is ready for you. Look at the colours and feel how fine it is." Of course the Emperor did not see any colours and could not feel any cloth between his fingers. He panicked and felt like fainting. But luckily the throne was right behind him and he sat down. But when he realized that no one could know that he did not see the fabric, he felt better. Nobody could find out he was stupid and incompetent. And the Emperor didn't know that everybody else around him thought and did the very same thing.

The farce continued as the two scoundrels had foreseen it. Once they had taken the measurements, the two began cutting the air with scissors while sewing with their needles an invisible cloth.

"Your Highness, you'll have to take off your clothes to try on your new ones." The two scoundrels draped the new clothes on him and then held up a mirror. The Emperor was embarrassed but since none of his bystanders were, he felt relieved.

"Yes, this is a beautiful suit and it looks very good on me," the Emperor said trying to look comfortable. "You've done a fine job."

"Your Majesty," the prime minister said, "we have a request for you. The people have found out about this extraordinary fabric and they are anxious to see you in your new suit." The Emperor was doubtful showing himself naked to the people, but then he abandoned his fears. After all, no one would know about it except the ignorant and the incompetent.

"All right," he said. "I will grant the people this privilege." He summoned his carriage and the ceremonial parade was formed. A group of dignitaries walked at the very front of the procession and anxiously scrutinized the faces of the people in the street. All the people had gathered in the main square, pushing and shoving to get a better look. An applause welcomed the regal procession. Everyone wanted to know how stupid or incompetent his or her neighbor was but, as the Emperor passed, a strange murmur rose from the crowd.

Everyone said, loud enough for the others to hear: "Look at the Emperor's new clothes. They're beautiful!"

"What a marvellous train!"

"And the colours! The colours of that beautiful fabric! I have never seen anything like it in my life!"

They all tried to conceal their disappointment at not being able to see the clothes, and since nobody was willing to admit his own stupidity and incompetence, they all behaved as the two scoundrels had predicted.

A child, however, who had no important job and could only see things as his eyes showed them to him, went up to the carriage.

"The Emperor is naked," he said.

"Fool!" his father reprimanded, running after him. "Don't talk nonsense!" He grabbed his child and took him away. But the boy's remark, which had been heard by the bystanders, was repeated over and over again until everyone cried:

"The boy is right! The Emperor is naked! It's true!"

The Emperor realized that the people were right but could not admit to that. He though it better to continue the procession under the illusion that anyone who couldn't see his clothes was either stupid or incompetent. And he stood stiffly on his carriage, while behind him a page held his imaginary mantle.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A Debt Overdue

When the Present has latched its postern behind my tremulous stay,
And the May month flaps its glad green leaves like wings,
Delicate-filmed as new-spun silk, will the neighbours say,
“He was a man who used to notice such things”?
That's a poem by Thomas Hardy

I love it.

I had Hardy for English Literature in college - his novel Mayor of Casterbridge. I went on to voraciously devour his other novels as well - A Pair of Blue Eyes, Far from the Madding Crowd, Under the Greenwood Tree, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure... Those were toothsome times - youth, relative poverty, unrequited love, college canteen, samosa chai, all route bus pass, delhi winter and Hardy's attractively unlucky men & women.

Few years later, at the FTII admission interview, I had blabbered something about liking Hardy's gloomy romanticism. I would like to believe that got me in. Nothing else explains my good luck, having had to follow worthies like Anup Singh Bhatla and Anant Balani (later my classmates in Direction) in the interviews. Their long duration inscrutable tête-à-têtes inside had put my subsequent short & sweet interrogation in perilous perspective.

It was raining that Pune August. Or was it...

Friday, February 01, 2008

Nothing in Particular

Tanuja in Parul's evocative student film "Nothing In Particular" (1998). I have tried a bit of Photoshop on the original image.