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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Cricket India Vs Australia: Dhoni Double Puts Chennai Test India’s Way!

Morning did not quite show the day on the third day of the first Test between India and Australia in Chennai today. India not only had to overhaul the Australian total of 380, but also had to take a substantial lead for any chance of turning the match in their favor. The crowds wanted Sachin Tendulkar to do it for India notching up his 52nd Test hundred in the process. But the Australian bowlers maintaining a tight leash right from the morning checked India effectively and the early exit of Tendulkar who added just 10 runs to his overnight score of 71 put paid to fans hope and also for hope of a dramatic turnaround the Indian way. However, Virat Kohli went on patiently, and suddenly he found a very determined partner in the form of his captain MS Dhoni who egged him on to become more aggressive

Morning still did not show the day though. Kohli and Dhoni launched an assault on the Australian bowling attack and built a partnership of 128 runs with Kohli completing a brilliant century. When Kohli fell again to Lyon who made it a point to use the rough created on the pitch well for 107 at the team score of 324/5 things were uncertain again. Dhoni was as determined and ruthless as he showed from the beginning of his innings, but the fall of two early wickets of Jadeja and Ashwin—both capable of playing long innings—at 372/7 the old spectre of Team India not able to take substantial lead came up to haunt the crowds again. Meantime Dhoni completed a magnificent hundred. Harbhajan Singh who hit two successive hundreds against New Zealand in 2010 could not last long too and it seemed all over for India at 406/8 with only a slender lead of 26 runs.

What followed made the day that the morning could not indicate. In a most spectacular and chanceless batting display skipper Dhoni went berserk hitting all around the park with great ferocity as well as accuracy. In a befitting support for his captain newcomer Bhuvaneshwar Kumar started showing his batting prowess mixing aggression with caution. In about 25 overs till the end of play the duo with Dhoni firing all cylinders added 109 runs and Dhoni achieved his first double century in just 231 balls with 22 fours and 5 sixes. The duo had already achieved the biggest ninth wicket partnership record against Australia and both remained unbeaten at stumps on the third day—Dhoni on 206 and Kumar on 16 with the total score reading 515/8. The lead so far of 135 runs could very well be match defining.

Australian skipper Michael Clarke looked humbled, Pattinson looked to lose his sting and all bowlers looked clueless on a pitch that did nothing for the pacers except for some hint of a reverse swing and some rough patches for use for the line spinner Lyon who got three wickets. The last frontier fears of lifeless pitches and powerful Indian batting seemed to have overpowered the mighty Aussies at the moment. How much more Dhoni adds to the lead and how the Aussies bat in the second outing are the most pertinent questions now. The Scorecard:

The last two days of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy first Test in Chennai are set to be very exciting ones with Indian hopes rekindled. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Cricket India Vs Australia: Chennai Test Could Go Either Way!

The focus had been on off-spinner Harbhajan Singh staging one more comeback in his 100th Test, and the place for local boy Ravichandran Ashwin, another offie, did not look guaranteed. But as it happened on the first day of the Chennai Test between India and Australia for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy Ashwin captured the very first five Australian wickets to fall and reduced Australia to a precarious 153 for 5. Indian skipper MS Dhoni’s ‘first day turners’ did seem to help his spinners after all, though the man of the moment Harbhajan went wicket less on the first day and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja chipping in with just one. 

That India could not capitalize on Australia’s capitulation had been the usual story for quite some time now, first day turner or not. The Indian camp tended to put the blame on a glaring umpiring decision when Aussie captain Michael Clarke while on 39 was not given out caught and the replays later confirmed the nick. But nowadays such decisions have been a part of the game and therefore these could not be put as excuses to justify a traditional Indian failure. Clarke on the other hand did capitalize on this ‘life’ and raced on to score a brilliant century (103 not out overnight) and thus taking Australia out of the woods. He kept at his job on the second day today too and made 130 before falling to Jadeja. The Australian tail wagged on to the visible discomfiture of the Indian bowlers and the final first innings total of 380 looked very respectable.   

Ashwin achieved a new high of his career with the final tally of 7 wickets for 103 runs. Jadeja finally got two and Harbhajan just the one in the form of tailender Siddle.

The Indian opening woes continued as new recruit Murali Vijay (10) was beaten by sheer pace and was comprehensively bowled by an ominous looking James Pattinson who reached the bowling speed of 150 km per hour. He also removed a lackluster Virender Sehwag for 2 making the hosts totter at 12 for 2. And then walked in Sachin Tendulkar, the prime concern for Australia as expressed recently by Clarke, and changed the game for India. He looked positive from the very first ball and balanced aggression with caution very well. Like in Clarke’s case Tendulkar too escaped a near certain decision for leg before as the umpire remained unmoved. For just the second time in 14 outings Tendulkar achieved a half century and remained not out on 71 at stumps on the second day.

Termed the new ‘wall’ for India Cheteshwar Pujara built up a partnership with Tendulkar playing some delightful and aggressive shots, but succumbed to the Pattinson pattern for 44 giving Pattinson all the three wickets to fall today. As a big relief Virat Kohli started the Australia Series with a patient half century and most importantly remained not out. At 182/3 in reply to 380 the Chennai Test could go either way with a lot depending on Tendulkar and Kohli and later on Dhoni and Jadeja. Both team have maintained a very healthy scoring rate that augurs well for Test Cricket. The Scorecard:

Dhoni’s ‘first day turners’ still remains an issue. While such pitches hardly helped the Indian spinners till date the England spinners excelled as we had seen recently. And while the Indian pace bowlers have been reduced to nonentities by this policy the opponent pace bowlers have always found reverse swing as well as low bounce. Pattinson today was deadly with reverse swing and the ball keeping low on occasions like getting through Pujara’s defense. It was good for India that Pattinson was sparingly used due to his side strain that kept him out of action since November last. Anyway, we look ahead for another absorbing Test between two very competent rivals.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Hyderabad Twin Blasts: The Terror Comes Back!

Just when the politics of terror seemed to have subsided allowing the Budget Session of the Indian Parliament that started on February 21 2012 with the President of India addressing the joint session maybe to work a little better than usual,  the terror struck back in full ferocity, venom and revenge. Two massive blasts ripped apart a prime market locality of Hyderabad, a major city of Southern India, around 7 pm yesterday. The victims caught unawares could hardly recover from shock and trauma of the first blast when another high-intensity bomb went off just 100 meters away. Fortunately a third bomb discovered in the same locality was defused in time. In a kind of a vicious circle of terror the city of Hyderabad got hit in 2002, 2007 and now 2013.

The real face of the terror got exposed one more time. It did not discriminate while ripping apart the innocent victims—killing 14 and maiming over 120 so far. The Home Minister of India, Sushil Kumar Shinde, whose comment was utilized by various forces to communalize terror recently got into the action mode immediately briefing media and visiting the affected area this morning. The Prime Minister condemned the cowardly act and announced compensation packages for the dead and injured.

It was easy for the media and all opposition political parties to blame the government because there were intelligence inputs about possible strikes, particularly after two key terrorists had been hanged over the last three months. But what government as there were many governments in the union of India hopelessly divided on jurisdiction of power and political affiliations? Who knows at what level of ‘divisions’ the alerts were either ignored or not acted upon properly? Yes, Indians are soft targets for terror attacks over the decades, but this is basically due more to a divided India rather than to intelligence failures or lack of competent action. India have been divided always on vote bank lines; on religion or ethnic or culture or language or caste links; on rich-poor discrimination; on bureaucratic class hierarchy; on military or police rank/position systems; on man-woman matters and on what not.

On the second day of the Budget Session today, all the members of the Indian Parliament stood up to observe two-minute silence in memory of the Hyderabad Bomb Blast victims and they looked to be really united. But, the moment the two minutes ended the opposition members raised a din demanding answers for the tragedy leading to an adjournment of both the houses despite the immensity of the tragedy and despite the fact that the Home Minister was scheduled to make a statement on the floor at 2 pm today.

It was in July 2011 when the terror last struck Mumbai and it was September the same year when it struck the national capital Delhi. Routine measures like declaring High Alerts do follow after every attack. But basically a divided India is making it easy for the terror to come back again and again, and strike at will.

Get united completely and cohesively, and eliminate terror. Stay divided, and get destroyed by terror. The choice is ours.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Newsroom Humor: Shedding Your Load!

One of the richest states of India, Maharashtra, has been reeling under unprecedented power cuts for over a year now (events relate to the summer of 2007 when power shortage was most severe). The supply of power was not sufficient. There had been a shortage of about 4000 megawatts. The average cuts are for 4/6 hours a day. The worst affected areas suffer load shedding to the extent of 16/18 hours daily. The ruling party was at its wits end and the opposition was at its attacking best.

But there had also been a sweating dilemma. While the whole of Maharashtra was subjected to load shedding Mumbai had been spared so far. Top ministers were stoutly defending that Mumbai just could not afford it. Mumbai is the pride capital of the state and is also called the financial capital of India. The city municipal corporation here has an annual budget that beats the combined budgets of many states of India. Apart from trade and industry highs Mumbai keeps on making national or international headlines for many other reasons—be it acts of terror, strikes and even rains. 

The opposition parties realized this very well. But morally they had to cry sore. They said that Mumbai should at least feel the discomfort of load shedding—be it for few minutes only. They pointed out the wastage of power in Mumbai super malls and multiplexes—the daily power consumption of a mall could feed six thousand rural families. But they know too well that money generation could not be stopped at any cost.
The dilemma was leading to some novel protest marches and demonstrations all over the state apart from irate perspiring crowds ransacking state electricity offices.  Students demonstrated organizing mock classrooms powered by kerosene lamps in front of offices. With summer temperatures soaring to over 40 degrees the heat of the problem was rising unbearably.
So then, fed up with load shedding, members of an opposition party decided to shed their clothing too. They sat in protest rally in Mumbai clad only in their under garments. And in large numbers too. Sweating bare chests and backs highlighted the dangers of ‘shedding’.

The editor of a TV channel decided that this was real hard news when he received the coverage tape with bytes of the main opposition leaders. The ladies of the news room sighed a collective ‘..Ooooh’s. They found the visuals very offensive and refused to write the language translation for ‘under garments’ in the news story. The editor insisted, ‘Come on! This is news—this is reality!’ Finally, the ladies relented with the condition that ‘under garments’ be replaced by ‘unique way of protest’. 

The news went on air, but the super (name superimposed on screen) of the main leader’s name while he was shown speaking to the channel was missing! The editor shouted, justifiably so! One male reporter defended the omission with a mischievous smile, ‘You see, Sir, he is a respected leader. He should not be identified this way. It’s only out of respect, Sir!’

Well, load shedding might have forced people to shed their cloths, but not their esteemed sense of respect and decency. Ahoy!
                      (Article first published as News Dress in 2007 at

Friday, February 15, 2013

India Vs Australia Test Cricket: Gambhir Mind Games!

Former Australian captain Steve Waugh once made famous his strategy of the ‘mental disintegration’ of the opponents and since then this tactic of mind games have been regularly resorted to by Australian cricket teams, particularly with a challenging Test Series like the present one in India coming up.

True to the ‘spirit’ Australian captain Michael Clarke today expressed his ‘surprise’ over the omission of Gautam Gambhir from Team India and said it was indeed good news for his bowlers. He also said that India would definitely miss the services of a ‘wonderful’ player like Gambhir. Clarke was speaking to reporters in Chennai on the eve of their second warm-up match against India-A led by none other than Gambhir himself. While opener Gambhir had indeed been the backbone of the Indian batting for several years Michael Clarke is also worried about his relatively new team facing up to the challenge of Team India in India.

However, Clarke was quick to clear up his ‘mind’ by saying that it is not about what you say, but it is about what you do. Performances on the field matter more than what you play on the mind, he seemed to defer from his predecessor Steve. By the way ‘Gambhir’ in most Indian languages including Hindi prominently means ‘serious’. You see, this could be not just mind games, but serious ones!

The first Test between the two tough rivals starts from 22nd February in Chennai. Mind games, real or imaginary, may just add up to the real game.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Newsroom Humor: Hapus Mangoes in America!

Hapus and alphonso mangoes are grown mostly in the Rantagiri district of Maharashtra, a state of India. They are called the kings of mangoes. The taste is pure, deliciously sweet and fibrous yet very soft. The look is green-brownish-pinkish. The shape is a delight to the beholder and the size fits the palm.

The mango season begins in around April in this western state of India when the price remains very high—about $10-$15 a dozen. In June-July it falls to tolerable levels. Mango festivals are organized in Mumbai around this season where growers from different regions of the state open their stalls of the priciest mangoes and sell at wholesale rates. Folks throng such festivals and try for a good bargain. Here pricing rates per dozen are not so much adhered to. The customers look for a peti, that is, a straw padded wooden case of rows of mangoes sealed tightly that can be bought at bulk rates.

The newsroom of a local TV channel got the news that hapus mangoes are being exported to America after a long break of 18 years. That was big news. It occupied the headline slots for whole of that day. It was newsworthy and also sentimental as it evoked a sense of pride among the local newspersons employed there.

Two days later there was a shortage of hard news and it was becoming very difficult to manage the mandatory three headlines for a bulletin ten minutes and above. The chief reporter discovered something and rushed to the editor gushing out, “Sir, hapus mangoes in America! We’ve got our headline!”
“That was two days ago. We made full use of it. No way!”
“No Sir! The mangoes have reached America!”
“Are you crazy? You mean to say we make another headline that the mangoes have reached America now; and then we go on making headlines how many Americans have devoured how many mangoes on a daily basis! Don’t get too patriotic, man! Now, get rid of that mangola mania and hunt for some hard news!”

         (This article was written in 2007 and published at Ezinearticles. Since the topic is relevant any time we have decided to publish it again here. We plan to republish several other Humor articles later here. Enjoy! )

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Kolkata College Violence: Politicians Of Future?

Times of West Bengal, a state of eastern India, seem to be marching step-in-step with the increasing intolerance shown by its Chief Minister Mamata Bannerji to almost everybody living in her state—from writers, journalists, cartoonists, rape victims to even foreign investors. As we have often referred to her in these pages ‘merciless’ Mamata promised a new beginning by uprooting the 34-year-old stagnant and autocratic rule of the Left in May, 2011 and by bringing her Trinamool (grass-roots) Congress (TMC) overwhelmingly into power. But over time she has managed exactly to shake up those very grass-roots of West Bengal. She has managed to antagonize political parties and citizens alike thus creating an unhealthy atmosphere of mistrust, doubt and malevolence. Today we have witnessed another shame happening to this state known once for having a most literate, cultured and sensitive population. 

It was just a college in prime Kolkata that like any other college is supposed to impart education on the students. And it was just a day when nominations were to be finalized for the college union elections. But maybe discarding education completely and taking lessons from the political behavior rampant in this country called the largest democracy of the world students came well prepared for the occasion—with guns, crude bombs and all other ‘political’ weapons.

The rival unions had to be the student wings of the TMC and the Congress for the simple reason that Congress could not manage to come to power last time and that Mamata walked out of the Congress led ruling coalition of India in apparently utter disgust. The role of the Left union could not be put in the ‘right’ perspective till the last reports came in. The students though were in the right political perspective and their ‘dedicated’ and ‘inspired’ behavior must have made Indian politics proud. And violence was the only possible result. .

It was the most shameful and ugly outburst of violence coming from none other than the students—the future of India. They lunged for each other’s blood and there was absolute chaos with smoke, fires and brickbats piercing the broad daylight. The shame was complete when a police sub-inspector on duty got the bullet and was declared brought dead at the nearby hospital. Scores of others got injured in the mindless violence. And what followed was equally shamefully political—passing the buck and more blame game.

Future politicians of the largest democracy of the world in the making? Grief!   

Monday, February 11, 2013

Test Cricket: Gambhir Dropped From Team India Against Australia!

The opening pair of Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag will not be in action in years for the coming two cricket Tests against Australia to be played in India. Since 2004 this pair has achieved the fifth all-time highest opening partnership average of 52.69 and the third highest of nearly 60 at home conditions. But taking into account only the overseas records the pair fails to even figure in the world list of highest opening partnership averages speaking volumes for India’s batting frailty in greener wickets abroad and recently at home too.

Star opening batsman for India Gambhir finally gets the sack for the first two Tests of the 4-match India-Australia Test Series 2013 staring in Chennai from February 22. The chief national selector Sandeep Patil deliberated for over two hours at the Mumbai headquarters of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) yesterday to select Team India for the first two Tests against Australia and decided to drop Gambhir for his indifferent performances and the recent home Test series loss against England. Gambhir who could not score a century in three years is likely to be replaced by either Shikhar Dhawan or Murli Vijay—these two players being given a chance for their good performances in the domestic circuit. Virender Sehwag who too suffered from non-performance like his erstwhile partner has been retained in a rather surprise move. Maybe his glorious unpredictability and home conditions were the considerations. One-day star Suresh Raina has also been ignored.

With his good, tough and competitive record against Australia off-spinner Harbhajan Singh has been given the nod after being dropped in the Test Series against England in 2012. Playing his 100th Test the experienced campaigner would very much like to add to his tally of 408 Test scalps. Fast bowler Bhuvaneshwar Kumar who performed impressively in the ODI Series against England has been selected with Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan and Umesh Yadav still nursing injuries.

Sachin Tendulkar joins the Test team coming fresh from some good knocks in the domestic circuit. Virat Kohli would definitely like to put behind his disappointment of 2012 and to start afresh in a tough series that matters a lot. Cheteshwar Pujara who showed a lot of promise against England must be hungry for more success with Ajinkya Rahane definitely not wanting to lag behind.

Australia have already arrived in India and are fast acclimatizing to the conditions. They having always dreamt of conquering the last frontier in recent years must have smelt blood this time since England did just that in 2012. Skipper Michael Clarke would sure take heart from England’s showing and marshal his fast bowlers to disturb the suspect Indian batting despite the spinning prospects thanks to MS Dhoni. Australia would also want to contain their traditional rival Sachin Tendulkar at any cost. In all, this Series is set to be engrossing if India can match up to the aggressive Australians.

The Australia Tour of India 2013 will have four Tests with the first Test in Chennai from 22nd February and it will conclude on 26th March. There will be no one-day international series, because the spicy cricket bonanza called IPL in its sixth avatar starts from 3rd April and is set to put everything called cricket too on hold till the end of May, 2013.

Team India: MS Dhoni (c), Virender Sehwag, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Murali Vijay, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Ravichandran Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashok Dinda, Ishant Sharma.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Politics Of Terror: And Then Afzal Guru Was Hanged!

In another masterful and top secret operation, the second in three months, the Government of India executed the Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist Afzal Guru in the national capital’s Tihar Jail at 8 am yesterday.  Justice was delivered after long eleven years. On the fateful day of 13th December 2001 a stunning attack was carried out on the Indian Parliament in session and within 48 hours of the attack Afzal Guru was hauled up by the police. He was held responsible for plotting and planning this daring attack right on India’s sovereignty. Afzal Guru was sentenced to death and the Supreme Court of India confirmed it in 2005. Guru’s wife appealed for clemency with the President of India and the death penalty had been pending since then. The terrorist had been lodged in a high security isolated cell in Tihar Jail since 2001 and yesterday, the 9th of February 2013, he was hanged just a few meters away. The jail authorities informed about his burial inside the jail premises later.

Why the great delay? Politics? Yes, say the opposition political leaders in view of the 2014 General Elections and the alleged non-performance of the coalition government. The Government of India said it was done in due process of law and any politicization of the issue would be unfortunate. At the same time Congress leaders in Maharashtra reportedly introspected on the possibility of early elections. The main opposition party BJP had to welcome the execution, but said the delay was immensely political. The BJP had been using the delay in Afzal Guru Execution issue as a major political plank and while questioned on its possible loss now of an election campaign for 2014 the party countered by saying that the Government had to do it thanks to the BJP’s intense public opinion drive. Politics of words and of taking credit?

The BJP also alleged that the execution was carried out just to balance the repercussions caused by the statement made by the Indian Home Minister on right-wing terrorism recently.  This brings us deeper into the Indian terror politicking scenario.

In this country terrorists are known more for their statehood or religion or any related parameter and less for the cowardly acts they commit to annihilate innocents. Terror gets classified as per such parameters and every class is blatantly and stoutly defended by its loyal supporters. The Kashmir valley had been put under indefinite curfew and stray incidents of violence were reported since yesterday. Why? Because terrorist Afzal Guru was a Kashmiri and his state and religious supporters including his family considered him innocent. Just the same way fiendish terrorists belonging to other state or religion garner blind support for themselves. Parameters stretching up to language, castes and colors continue to be the cross currents of the Indian politicking that often causes interference, hindrance and intolerance. Politics of diversity?

To take this murky point a little further people always against the death penalty expressed the sentiments that no person should be hanged in a civilized society. Now, they consider the society ‘civilized’ only when brutal terrorists or criminals or rapists face capital punishment, and not when innocents get killed, murdered and raped anytime day or night, anywhere and almost every day. Politics of ‘human’ rights? Anyway, as we have said earlier, ours not to reason why…!

Politics or not, a terrorist gets his deserving punishment that at least makes the kin of the victims happy. A strong message also goes out for terrorists, criminals and rapists. Ajmal Kasab and Afzal Guru dealt with in three months. Justice finally gets delivered, better late than never.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Movie Race 2: Abbas-Mustan Losing The Race This Time!

Honestly speaking, there is no need of writing a review for a listless movie called Race 2, still I decided upon writing one, definitely not as review of the movie but as a lament on Abbas-Mustan, the most exciting director duo of Bollywood, for their ‘twisted’ attempt of crafting another suspense thriller, a genre where they proved their mastery beyond doubt for over two decades.

Known for the landmark Bollywood films like Khiladi (1992), Baazigar (1993)Daraar (1996)Soldier (1998), Baadshah (1999) and Ajnabee (2001) which were also major successes at the box office, the director duo always remained truthful to the popular formula format of drama-comedy-action-music-dance and yet dished out convincingly genuine entertainers in the suspense-action genre. The slick and breathless moments of suspense taken forward with enlivening pace has made all major Abbas-Mustan movies really memorable. The other technical details like photography, sound track, editing and music too have always been masterfully done to support the total product. Personally speaking, I always relished the Abbas-Mustan moments and waited for their movies every time. This is despite the fact that almost all of their blockbusters were influenced by Hollywood flicks. In India nobody minds copying as long as they do it expertly and convincingly.

Unfortunately, the magic somewhat had gone downhill since the early years of the new millennium. The expert duo checked and prevented this trend in Race (2008) which became the fourth biggest grosser of the year. The ‘twisted’ tale of Abbas-Mustan had also begun with this movie as they seemed to depend on twists more than on the overall script. Though full of twists, Race was a convincing flick thanks to the intensity of the relationships shown, a well woven plot, spectacular chase and action scenes and the usual Abbas-Mustan doses. But things got worse since 2008 and the pulsating duo was on the verge of being forgotten, even by me. They seemed to be running out of ideas and maybe because of that they thought of making a sequel to very successful Race. That decision also garnered renewed expectations and anticipation among their loyal fans and serious movie lovers.

Race 2 that released on January 25 all over has, sadly, nothing to offer but twists and more twists. The movie does have the Abbas-Mustan moments, but these fall flat due to the lack of a script and characterization and music-to name only a few. Saif Ali Khan and Anil Kapur—the only remnants of the original—do look intense or jocular, but their performances add up to nothing really. John Abraham oddly paired with ‘sister’ Deepika Padukone does precious little to ‘race’ up the movie. More ominously, the director duo is also found to be depending more than usual on body exposure and double meaning dialogues this time. Loyal viewers are also smart as they get to believe nothing that happens in the film, because they get used to expecting twists and more twists. The predictability of twists becomes hilarious at times. Such an unflinching treat of twists! 

Sad though, Abbas-Mustan still has their dexterity and craftsmanship. What they desperately need at the moment is a good script. Hope the director duo would not fall to the trap of making Race 3 as being reportedly gossiped and look for fresh subjects. That Race 2 has still been able to do good business at the Box Office is proof enough of their popularity and acceptance.

Give them a good script and they will get back to making wonders.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

India: Facing The Music!

India had been known as a great country with great traditions of great music. Since time immemorial music has always struck a chord in most of the hearts. Never before in history India had been made to face the music like it is being forced to do now!  You cannot be sure if Indian music has lost the traditions or the traditions deserted Indian music or we have lost the traditions or music or both!

Some people did not like one particular music band because all of the musicians there were girls and they forced the girls to call quits from music ushering in a crescendo of hurtful cacophony.

Some people did not like a particular movie and they forced the producer-director to impose cuts even after the film was officially certified for viewing ushering in a harmful web of politics.

Someone did not like the still existing harmony in the Indian society and tried to break it up forever ushering in a downpour of hatred and winning away all the intended supporters to his side. His counterpart, equally hateful of harmony, did the same thing his way ushering in an out-pour of hatred and winning away all who opposed the other one.

Someone talked of a flourishing and a modern developed country of the 21st century trying to win young India over to him while someone belonging to the same group took the country back several centuries by reliving the hate filled memory of the distant past trying to win away all regressive souls to his side.

A momentously huge and historical religious congregation seamlessly gets transformed into a hysterical political pilgrimage of manipulations, mud-slinging, opportunism and divisiveness.

Everybody seems hell-bent on spreading negativity as lethally as possible throughout the country.  Nobody seems to be interested in doing the positive and the right thing at the right time. All want to score their victories on ruins. All seemingly positive efforts are getting drowned in this hailstorm of negativity. India whines.

Is this all because of 2014, the great Indian year of the General Elections coming closer? How close will be close enough for total destruction for the country and resounding victories for hate mongers? Well, ours not reason why, ours but to go facing the music!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Movie Vishwaroopam: A Frightening Case Of The De Facto Censors!

This has been just another example of the growing intolerance in the country against even creative expressions of various sorts. Let it be books, paintings, movies or music some groups or individuals may not like your work or even hate it so much that apart from blacklisting of your work you may have to be on the run for your dear life. We have talked earlier in these pages about the plight of MF Husains, Salman Rushdies and the like. Movie Vishwaroopam puts the focus yet again on this intolerance, more ominously Cultural Terrorism or Cultural Taliban-ism of India.

Originally in Tamil language, movie Vishwaroopam is written, co-produced and directed by Kamal Hassan, one of the finest cine actors ever produced in India. He also features as the main lead of the film. Vishwaroopam was scheduled to release in Kamal’s home state of Tamil Nadu on 25th January, 2013. But few people belonging to fundamentalist Muslim organizations did not like it and called it insulting to tenets of Islam. The state government of Tamil Nadu citing law and order issues banned the movie promptly. Law and order being a state subject the central government can hardly interfere in that and if that particular state government is outside of the ruling coalition at the centre the scenario is bound to be the worst.

Brilliant performer and ever sensitive artiste that he always is, Kamal Hassan could never accept this lightly and his immense hurt showed in everything he uttered and did subsequently. He petitioned in the high court, appealed to people, the film fraternity, and governments and also threatened to leave the country if the stalemate continued. The film fraternity including Bollywood prominently came to his support and several front-line Muslim actors and artistes who had seen the movie said that there was nothing objectionable for Muslims. The Hindi version Vishwaroop released on 1st February in India and there were absolutely no problems anywhere. The movie has done good business and has got critical acclaim too. But the artiste had to show his work to his own people. Meanwhile the movie has become a raging national debate with the most vociferous being people who have not seen the film.

On Saturday, the 2nd of February, Kamal Hassan started negotiations with the objecting Muslim groups. Finally he agreed to seven cuts on his movie and by Sunday decks were cleared for its release in Tamil Nadu, most probably on Thursday the 7th February.

The most frightening part of the Vishwaroopam controversy is that the movie got censored again after it was viewed and unanimously cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) which has been the premiere censorship authority in India since 1951. The CBFC has also dismissed allegations from certain quarters that the censoring process was lacking in totality. Now an officially certified film got into trouble from certain objecting individuals and the producer-director has in fact agreed to cuts despite getting a clear certificate from the CBFC. This has raised crucial questions about the authority of the censor board and about how to deal with the de facto censors. Kamal Hassan too cannot be blamed squarely for agreeing to the unofficial cuts because he had his business and his home territory to be deeply concerned about.

Sensible people of the country must get their thinking-act together to ensure that the Vishwaroopam controversy does not become a frightening precedent. Intolerance or cultural terrorism must be stopped at any cost.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Crimes Against Women: Reports, Fast Track, Ordinance And Reality!

The horrific Delhi Gangrape was committed on the night of 16th December, 2012 on a moving public bus and over the last one and half months some progress has indeed been made. We must call this as ‘progress’ for the simple reason that any new measure or laws on crimes against women in this male-dominated country has to be welcomed as a step in the right direction, because precious little has been done in this field for decades or even centuries. At this moment disappointment or disagreement over the new measures must not be politicized like in fight against corruption where various activist organizations politicized the issue so dividedly that the fight was almost lost.

Within one week the Justice JS Verma committee was appointed and in just about a month it had submitted the report suggesting sweeping changes including in marital rapes, sexual crimes by military personnel and special powers enjoyed by armed forces. The report though did not recommend death penalty for rapists and was silent on amending the juvenile justice system. In just around a week from the submission of this report the Government of India promulgated an Ordinance on rape laws in a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Sing, to be exact on Friday the 1st of February, to fast-rack amendments to criminal laws. The Ordinance went beyond the Justice Verma report upholding death penalty for extreme cases and proposed to replace ‘rape’ by ‘sexual assaults’ to expand the definition of crimes against women trying to include voyeurism, stalking, inappropriate words or deeds and other crimes as suggested by the Verma Committee. The Ordinance though did not accept suggestions regarding marital rapes and armed forces special powers.

Women activists belonging to several organizations rejected Government’s Ordinance on the ground of its not accepting certain Verma recommendations what they termed crucial issues. But these same activists preferred to be silent when the Verma Committee did not address capital punishment or juvenile justice issue. Just because the ruling coalition is involved in issuing this Ordinance the activists should not cry opposition, instead they should welcome the other strong measures adopted for the first time in the country. The Young India must see to it that nobody politicizes and highjack the issue in these early hours. We had mentioned in the beginning about what happened to the anti-corruption movement due to rampant politics designed just to corner the Government.

Within ten days of hearing arguments over charges against five accused of the Delhi Gangrape the fast-track court in Delhi framed charges yesterday. The trial is set to begin from Monday. Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi visited the victim’s family last night in Delhi and spent over an hour with them assuring extreme punishment for all accused. The family reiterated the demand not to spare the juvenile accused that was reportedly the most brutal. 

The reality remains despite the progress, because you cannot change a legacy of centuries overnight. The Juvenile Justice Board declared the 6th accused as minor based on that brute’s school certificates that suggested his age is still less than 18. He was capable of committing the worst possible adult crime and as per our laws he is likely to be kept in the remand home till he attains 18 years of age and then possibly released. As if the ‘minor’ brute has been put under a probationary period to be able to commit more ‘mature’ crimes later. The five accused too pleased not-guilty as per our laws fast or slow.

The country needs a fast-track cure for the gender bias most urgently.
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