Mukti

Dadagiri redux

Posted in action, adventure, Bollywood, books, classics, desi fiction, Drama, movies, thriller, TV by jrahman on May 21, 2018

When Shashi Kapoor passed away late last year, my facebook was abuzz (or should I say alight?) with clips of mere paas maa hai.  I wanted to post my favourite Kapoor as my childhood favourite hero.  I was sad to find no clip of Kissa Kathmandu ki — Satyajit Ray’s small screen adaptation of his Feluda caper in Nepal.  Granted it wasn’t Ray’s finest, but all sorts of weird and improbable stuff can be found online, why not this, I wondered.

My mind then wandered to why Ray cast Kapoor and not Amitabh Bachchan, the only tall man in India, for the role of the towering Bengali detective?  Perhaps it was because Bachchan was by then too busy with politics.  But that leads one to wonder why Ray hadn’t made a Hindi Feluda earlier?

For that matter, why did Ray not make more Hindi movies?  It’s not like he was oblivious to Bollywood trends.  He even set one of the Feluda adventures in mid-1970s Bombay, when Bachchan was smashing box office records and the bones of villains.  In the novel, Lalmohan Ganguly is advised by Feluda about the masala that would make a blockbuster:

…. instead of one double role have a pair of double roles.  The first hero is paired against the first villain, and the hero number two and the villain number two make the second pair.  That this second pair exists isn’t revealed at the beginning…..

… need smuggling — gold, iamond, cannabis, opium, whatever; need five musical sequence, one of which should be religious; need two dance numbers; two or three chase sequences are needed, and it would be great if in at least one of which an expensive car is driven off a cliff; need a scene of inferno; need heroines against the heroes and vamps against the villains; need a police officer with integrity; need flashback of the heroes’ backstories; …. need quick changes of scenes…. ; at least couple of times the story need to be on the hills or the seaside…..

…. at the end — and this is a must — need happy ending.  But the ending would work best if it can be preceded by several tearjerkers.

Of course, this is tongue-in-cheek.  Ray wasn’t into making blockbusters.  And he explained in a number of places that he was most comfortable in his mother tongue.  But Ray was so in tune with the zeitgeist that even Enter the Dragon is channeled in that story, and I can’t help but wish he would have made the movie that would have been rishte mein toh baap to Sholay, Don, Qurbani, Tridev or Mohra.

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Basu’s bizarre bakwas

Posted in development, economics, macro, political economy by jrahman on May 6, 2018
Rubbish, Worthless, Nonsense, Silliness
(Urban Dictionary)

Upon being asked by a friend whether I had read Kaushik Basu’s recent piece on Bangladesh, my first reaction was — is that the rather lazy piece on why Bangladesh is doing well?

Let me note my gratitude to the friend for pushing me to read the piece. It is, to use the favourite adjective of Bangladesh’s Finance Minister, just bogus.  Out of respect for my personal interactions with the author, I will refrain from using that term.  But this bizarre article should still be debunked.

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Memoirs of a wimpy kid

Posted in Drama, family, gender, movies, society, TV by jrahman on April 28, 2018

Not only has my pre-tween boy read all 12 Wimpy Kid books, watched various movie versions, played the board game, and been through various activity books, he has convinced me to read (by which I mean listen on audibles) a few.  They are fun.  It’s not hard for me to see a bit of my own wonder years in these stories.

Of course, my tweens were in the 1980s Dhaka, not modern American suburbia.  My teen years were in international schools in the tropics, owing to my father’s job.  I was in high school (in the American sense) at the same time as the gang from 90210.  A quarter century before social media, our social lives were shaped by and mirrored what we watched on the tele.  It was appropriate years before Rage Against the Machine penned — Cinema simulated life in trauma / Forthright culture, Americana / Chained to the dream they got you searchin’ for……

Imagine then how old I felt when watching Dylan McKay grounding his teenage son in Riverdale.

Now, here was an idea — take the key characters from a comic book set in the happy days and set them in a town that must be the twin of Twin Peaks, this was stuff of inspired imagination.  I found the first few episodes of Riverdale riveting, but then somehow lost track.  I guess these days, if it is not binge-watched, it’s hard to watch at all.

Well, I wouldn’t at all recommend binge-watching the other Netflix teen drama from 2017.  Then again, I found the show quite padded, and just-not-good-TV, so I wouldn’t really recommend it at all.

But even a bad show, sometime, makes you think.   (more…)

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Games of Peacock Thrones

Posted in fantasy, history, South Asia, what ifs by jrahman on April 8, 2018

I haven’t read Helen Dale’s new book, but Jesus as an extremist, political philosophy of imperialism — sure sounds promising.  However, what about the counterfactual of an industrialised Rome?  I did read the author’s notes, and some commentary, with much interest.  This got me thinking.  What about a counterfactual of an industrialised Mughal Empire?

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Libraries…

Posted in family by jrahman on February 21, 2018

… are fun places with lots of books.  I love reading books.  I want to be the class librarian because I want to protect the books and help you read them.

That was the eight year old’s ‘statement’ as he nominated himself for the class librarian on the first day of Grade 3.  He was super excited to tell me about it as we walked home after school.  I shared his excitement as I too had great fun at libraries.

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Mountains of the moon – 9

Posted in Uncategorized by jrahman on January 2, 2018

For those who came in late:

Eruption

Shankar woke up around midnight.  There was a noise somewhere out there in the woods, something was happening somewhere in the forest.  Alvarez was also sitting up in his bed.  Both listened carefully — it was quite strange.  What was happening outside?

Shankar was quick to come out with a lit up torch, but Alvarez stopped him.  He said — I warned you many times to not go out of the tent like that at night time in these woods.  And where are you going without a gun anyway?

It was pitch dark outside the tent.  Following the rays of lights from their torches, they saw —

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2018 wishes

Posted in Uncategorized by jrahman on December 31, 2017

Facebook tells me that exactly four years ago we watched Frozen in the theatre.  To anyone born in the west in the past decade, there is no bigger cultural phenomenon than this Disney production.  My then not-quite-three discovered it in kids youtube — about that some other time — and then went through a phase of memorising every song by line.  And then, just like that, he got over it.  Initially I thought it was just a ‘boy’ thing, but it would seem sometime around when they finish kindergarten, kids of all genders get tired of the princesses.

I wonder what the kids understood from that movie.  What does a five year old know of pressures to conform, or courage to be themselves, or the balance between expressing oneself and the great responsibility that comes with great power?  Surely these lessons will be important when the kids are in their teens?  Will they return to it in a few years?

Come to think of it, the theme of the movie applies to us grown ups too.  Here is to letting it go in 2018.

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Dadagiri

Posted in adventure, books, movies, thriller, Uncategorized by jrahman on December 20, 2017

When Shashi Kapoor passed away a few days ago, my facebook was abuzz (or should I say alight?) with clips of mere paas maa hai.  I wanted to post my favourite Kapoor as my childhood favourite hero.  I was sad to find no clip of Kissa Kathmandu ki — Satyajit Ray’s small screen adaptation of his Feluda caper in Nepal.  Granted it wasn’t Ray’s finest, but all sorts of weird and improbable stuff can be found online, why not this, I wondered.  My mind then wandered to why Ray cast Kapoor and not Amitabh Bachchan, the only tall man in India, for the role of the towering Bengali detective?  Perhaps because Bachchan was by then too busy with politics.  But that leads one to wonder why Ray hadn’t made a Hindi Feluda earlier?  For that matter, why did Ray not make more Hindi movies?

The latest on-screen adaptation puts Ray’s sleuth in the modern day — check out the trailer:

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How many shades of hypocrisy?

Posted in gender, Rights, society by jrahman on December 5, 2017

Guest post by F Rahman

Too much learning is a dangerous thing – it was an op ed by Mehnaaz Pervin Tuli published by the Daily Star on 2 Dec 2016.  The author tried to show, using satire, the daily struggles of women who are meant to never speak up and are thus shouted down when they actually do. 

The satire was missed by Dhaka’s chatterati, and there was a large hue and cry in the social network.  Incensed, Farhana Rahman wrote the following.  The Daily Star agreed to print it, and then changed their mind, pulling Ms Pervin’s original piece from their website instead. 

Hypocrisy comes in all shapes and sizes in Dhaka. This is just another one…

JR

Every culture has it.  Every race has it.  Every era, including our own, has had it.  We have it too.  When you look within yourself, how many shades of hypocrisy do you see?  Of course, I cannot answer that question about anyone but myself, as I am no one to judge. We all should be the judge of our own selves and all the shades we bring along.

So was perhaps what this writer tried to do – perhaps she was looking within herself to see the life of us, as women, as a daughter, as a sister, a wife, a mother, a home maker, or a professional, and at end of the day, just a person.  A writer whom I never heard of, I came across her on facebook, when a friend commented on her piece that has been shared randomly.

I was curious despite the seemingly bland title of the article. (By the way, I think my title is equally bland. Solidarity!).

So she thinks too much learning is a dangerous thing.

She attempts portraying the typical female life in our everyday society, within her household and outside: the different roles she plays and juggles at every step of her life; and how they affect each other. She goes on to further detail how the complexity of our interlinked but different faces are all too often overlooked by people around us whom we save on our call-list as friends and family.  Forget any hope of real support, she reminds us how callous our F&F can be at the time of need!

We have talked enough about the brother getting the big piece of fish and husband getting the fish head or some versions of such, so I don’t want to bore you by explaining that bit – you get the context. Our writer here goes a step further and points out how even just by being a female in Bangladesh we are taken for granted to put on a number of faces, and then simply expected to live each of them with utmost perfection.  And just because we are women, we are not meant to speak up under any circumstances, even if we appear to wear our faces superbly.

As if being a perfect daughter, sister, wife, or a mother – which are supposed to be the only valid roles society had long deemed for us females – isn’t hard enough, the writer mocks how we seem to be deliberately making our own lives even more miserable by facing the outside world with (un)necessary further roles.

We know that there is no easy way, no chance of mistake, no one to lean on or no one to turn to. People will stand by the side, watching, and they will pretend applauding you as a successful woman, but one simple slip up is all that’s needed to reveal their true faces – the hypocrisy within them.

So my unknown writer friend tries expressing her frustrations and disappointments on all the above with “humour”.

Guess what?  It seems she slipped up!

How dare she, with her bad English (as if every other op ed writer in Bangladesh is an Oxford debater)!

Why couldn’t she be just happy with whatever faces she has to hold. Not only she dared to express her opinion, even worse, she made it to the newspapers in Bangladesh.

And from there, all hypocrisy just broke loose.

Sometimes life puts you in a spot that’s so bad that you have to just laugh at things.  It was pretty hilarious discovering how many of us didn’t take a breath criticising the writer’s education, background, or motive, while completely ignoring the fact that we ourselves lacked total empathy to hear the cry of a wounded heart.  Our reaction seemed to be less about what she wanted to say, but whether she had the eligibility to say anything.

I simply couldn’t stop wondering since when did we need “eligibility” to speak our mind! It amazes me that we are ready to reject someone just because she couldn’t express her thoughts “correctly” or offer any solution to our situations.  She dared trying mockery instead and apparently failed to “capture on a foreign language” her satire, never mind the exclamation mark at the end of her article!

How many shades of hypocrisy?  Tricky question.

We are either hypocrites, or we are not.

We cannot keep lecturing in our stuttering, heavily accented English on International Women’s Day to a room full of men about uplifting women, empowerment, justice or such big heavy words, and then go criticising someone who happens to be a woman, for being brave enough to speak her mind on issues we dare not touch, in whatever language she knows to whatever standard with whatever background she has.

When we do that, the shade is solid hypocrisy.

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Jammin until the break of dawn

Posted in army, books, democracy, economics, history, political economy, politics, uprisings by jrahman on December 2, 2017

What do you do during the evenings, after the day’s tasks are done, of work trips?  You might be tired of being up in the air, or just simply tired.  But depending on the jet lag, you might not find much sleep.  I certainly don’t, even when there is no jet lag — I hate hotel beds.  If you find yourself in a hotel that used to be one of Idi Amin’s torture chambers palaces, and your colleagues are fellow political junkies, you will likely talk about politics over a nightcap.  So did we that rain-soaked Kampala evening.  We talked about, among other things, Zimbabwe.

Why didn’t they get rid of him the old fashioned way, you know, APCs on the streets, tanks in front of the presidential palace, radio or TV broadcast by some unknown major…..

An old Africa hand explained why Robert Mugabe wasn’t toppled in a coup.  No, it wasn’t because of his liberation cred.  Kwame Nkrumah or Milton Obote were no less of independence heroes to their respective countries.  Both were ingloriously booted out, not just of their presidential palaces, but also the countries they led to existence.  At least they lived, unlike say Patrice Lumumba.  Clearly being a national liberator figure didn’t make one coup-proof, particularly if one had turned his (can’t think of a mother of the nation top of my head!) country into a basket case, and had faced concerted political pressure from home and abroad.  According to my colleague with years of experience in the continent, the key to Mugabe’s survival was in relative ‘latecomer’ status.

Mugabe came to power much later than was the case for other African founding fathers.  And the disastrous denouement of his rule happened during a period when the great powers saw little strategic importance in regime change in an obscure corner of the world.  The second factor meant there was no foreign sponsor to any coup.  The former meant that any would be coupmaker, and their domestic supporters, knew from the experiences elsewhere in the continent about what could happen when a game of coups went wrong.

Mugabe gave them hyperinflation.  Getting rid of him could lead to inter-ethnic war.  Easier to do currency reform than deal with refugees fleeing genocide….. 

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