Tuesday, December 28, 2010

An inapplicable dilemma (for the most part)

To be or not to be. Most times, that is never the question, is it?
We are.
For us lesser mortals, the pertinent question most often is how?.
How do we suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and yet live to hope for a better day? How can we bear the whips and scorns of time and yet hope to heal?
How to be?.. so that we then are what we want ourselves to be. That, my friends is the question.

Probably the last post of a good year, blogically speaking.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

On C.S.

Came across this article while browsing through the content on CNN.

I've had an on and off like-dislike relationship with C.S Lewis' body of work - and that includes the movies made on his books. Once, in a debate with a person defending Lewis , I called C.S. 'virulent', a charge I retracted later.

If I were asked to pick one passage/quote that I thought encapsulated his thoughts on Christ, I would pick this:

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

The quote sums up what I like (and dislike) about Lewis. He seems brutally honest when he assesses the claims of the Nazarene. His personal faith in Christ does not stop him from critically examining Christ's reported claims (Though one might fault him for having given just one from a plethora of possible medically feasible options). Having made such a scathing analysis, he still takes the third option in his writings.

I sometimes wish the Godfather Trilogy was made in C.S's time. It would've convinced him that two great options are enough. You put in a poor (nay, pathetic and unnecessary) third where no more is required and you ruin the trilogy in average. On a more serious note, the dilemma, or trilemma as it were, seems unnecessarily psychological. One first needs to determine the veracity of the claims attributed to the Christ or if a historical Jesus actually existed and performed the miracles and quoted the quotes attributed to him. One can extend this requirement to other religious figures and it persists. In the absence of such proof, any claim of divinity/divine inspiration is hasty and speaks more of the person wanting to cling to the claim than the correctness of the claim itself.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Paanch disappoints. Too long. Even gimmicky towards the end. Also, it doesn't seem to have it's heart in the right place. After two and a half hours, I didn't quite get the point of the film. Was it about why normal kids take to drugs, rock-n-roll and violence? Was it about trust and faith and how money trumps both. Was it another suspense thriller?
Clearly inspired by the Jakkal-Sutar-Jagtap-Shah trial, the movie could have been a lot more. Or a lot less, if it wasn't for a stellar performance by the cast. Seems to be the start of a pattern I see in all of Kashyap's films. IMHO, brilliant scenes are a necessary condition for a good film, but are insufficient by themselves.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Druth Gath

There's something about certain Tarantino movie scenes that reminds me of Hindustani music set-pieces. There's the languid beginning with painstaking attention to the smallest detail (bordering on boring at times but giving no indication of what is in store). Then there's the subsequent fascinating conversation between musical instruments and vocals on one hand and movie characters on the other, both brilliantly paced. The steady build-up is capped by an explosive ending that leaves you breathless. And needless to say, asking for more.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

On Chirkin

The song moTumasTer from uDaan has a line that goes thus:

Chirkin ka muse hai,
paryaavaraN hi loose hai.
uDne na dena isse,
DoomsDay ka fuse hai.

Googling Chirkin brought to my notice the interesting fact that Chirkin was an Urdu poet who had (for lack of a better phrase) a toilet fixation.
Apparently the man was pissed off (pun intended) with his fellow shayars for not giving him much attention. So he went about writing shitty poetry. How and why he made that leap of logic - 'people ignore me so I must anger them by making poetry about their excretory habits' - is unknown to me at the moment.
Unless there have been earlier Hindi songs that have mentioned him, credit must be given to Anurag Kashyap for bringing Chirkin to our notice.

It seems, from elementary web-investigation that Diwan-e-Chirkin is now out of print. What a waste...

Monday, August 30, 2010

The arbitrariness argument

Recently came across the Euthyphro dilemma while reading about the Ontological argument. While the essential question it raises is of course pertinent, it does so in the context of morality, the relativistic nature of which in a logical debate raises problems.
Assume therefore that the concept of morality in the Euthyphro dilemma and in the arbitrariness argument is replaced with physically measurable (or mathematically computable/derivable) quantities - e.g. the cosmological constant, or the gravitational constant or the speed of light. A common theistic argument, the Fine Tuning Argument or Anthropic Principle is that for life to exist as it does, these constants must be precisely what they are. Let's assume this to be true. Let us also, for the sake of argument assume that the quantities were chosen by God to be so.
God being omniscient and omnipotent (two common assumptions in theology) could well have chosen other numbers for the above constants and still make the universe work in exactly the same way as it does right now. But he chose to go with the numbers we now measure or calculate to be true. In picking some numbers over the others, God is being arbitrary since no number is inherently better than others (42 of course, is an exception...).
Alternately, there are parallel universes out there with all possible combinations of these constants.
The first argument goes to show that arbitrariness is a necessary attribute of God if we believe in the concept of numbers. The second lacks physical proof and suffers from the same drawback - an omniscient being could well have interchanged these combinations amongst the other universes.
Since arbitrariness is generally thought of as an undesirable quality - one cannot 'trust' someone who is arbitrary with making 'correct' (quotations added to reflect fuzziness of the words and their inappropriateness in a logical discussion) decisions - we must conclude that our otherwise perfect God has arbitrariness as an undesirable adjoint attribute (alliteration!!).
The arbitrariness does not magically disappear even if one chooses to believe that there is a perfect reason somewhere for this set of numbers to be chosen unless, of course one considers numbers as being too illogical to figure in a logical argument.

One could alternately view God as the benevolent creator who let things proceed as they did. The constants then are not a product of design, but turn up that way just coincidentally and that we run into problems when we try to justify things by sticking probes and measuring quantities by assigning numbers to them - a limitation of man as it were. The essential problem with such a view is that it lies outside the domain of logical discussion and one enters the domain of belief, where, suddenly (and magically), our logical devices and faculties cease to function.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Measured cinematography, exceptionally underplayed artwork that fits the setting, brilliant sound work, real acting (save the story telling bit), superlative lyrics.

Minor quibbles that might indicate that the negatives are more than the positives. That truly isn't the case. They should've hired locals/actors from the region to portray locals (students, father, uncle), they've gone with Ronit Roy (who does a pretty good job) for the father and Ram Kapoor for the uncle, and (what seems like) two Marathi actors (The senior and the old guy in the hospital). In this respect, I felt that authenticity was compromised. Naav suggests a fight back, but the ending seems like a cop-out. In general, the lyrics aren't perfectly suited for the screenplay (Getting it perfect must be a real bitch especially if the lyrics are so awesome). Some scenes don't fit: The car breaking scene indicating angst and frustration followed by incarceration. Highly unlikely - not the car-breaking by protagonist, but doing that in front of a cop risking incarceration - then again, I probably feel that way because I can't put myself in his shoes. The kids end up running the restaurant - again, fortuitous and artistic license must be given. Ditto for the end scene in which Rohan smuggles the kid away - just when his dad has gone to get the auto. The MoTumaster isn't that fat...

I think Rohan was his uncle's son, not his father's, both literally and figuratively. The dialog in which the uncle tells him that every father wants his kid to be just like him followed by the album scenes and uncle whispering into his ears indicates as much.

All said and done, very much worth the watch. If just 5% of the 1000 odd films made every year were qualitatively as close to this film...well it would be awesome wouldn't it?

In case my preference for local actors is somehow misconstrued as some sort of parochialism, I wish to clarify that isn't. I just like accents in a movie to be as authentic as possible.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bi Got, these guys are awesome!!

Zaid Hamid and Glenn Beck. Two demagogues, different continents, same philosophy, similar styles. Similar audience. By and large, so far, similar results, thankfully.
I worry about the day these guys become influential enough to affect policy changes in their respective countries.
I also think (but I'm not putting my money on it) that 28-10-2010 is GB's political launch pad just as Takmeel-e-Pakistan was for ZH. But things look rosier for GB since he isn't in the kind of religious trouble ZH is in Pakistan.

Update: The good Neeraj Gaur has since brought it to my notice that Raj Thackeray belongs to the group too. True that. Other than the fact that he's already a politician, he's a good addition to the group. I'm sure GB and ZH would concur.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cover up

The Slimes of India has an interesting notion of what is obscene and what isn't.
Take a look at their photo galleries and one thing immediately strikes you. Pictures of nude women are left largely untouched, but for a smattering of photo-shopping on the womanly parts. Mind you, the aforementioned parts too are left largely untouched (ahem!), just a bit of photo-shopping done on what the Slimes deems obscene.
For all practical purposes, there is little difference between the Slimes' site and respectable porn photo-sites. There is little left to imagination, and I doubt the Slimes would win if a PIL is filed against them on the grounds of public obscenity.
Note, however, that this post isn't a complaint! I just find it funny and sort of pointless that they bother to cover up that little. Or that much, depending on where you're looking from.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010


Music directors often add a few tidbits of nonsensical gibberish or a few words from another language to make things sound, well, different. I'm guessing they think it adds to the music, but I see no value addition.
Take the e.g. of Harris Jeyaraj and that song from Kaakka Kaakka - Uyirin Uyire. The 'Ummahazeeyah Waahi Aala' part is patently nonsensical and I'm willing to bet a good amount of money that the words don't belong to any standard language. Poor Jyothika, she mouths the words with such sincerity! Another instance that comes to mind is 'Naakuvenchaalo Aaguvenchalo' from Raavan's 'Beera Beera'. Or 'Aiiya ja, Aiiya ja' from 'O Re Kanchi' (Asoka) and the 'Dil Dero, Dil Dero Dil Dero, oooo...' fisherman chant from 'Chinna chinna Aasai' (Roja). In a similar mould are AR songs from R.O. Mehra movies. They invariably contain some stuff said in French, while one would never guess the need for it from the context in the respective movies, Delhi-6 and RDB.
Empty Words.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Rahman and Drugs

The transitions in Rahman's music are mood altering, magical, evocative. The music grows on you and you gradually lose the power to resist listening to the music. Addictive stuff. Thank goodness it'll never be made illegal.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

While on the subject of Naxalism...

The songs 'Thok de Killi' and 'Beera' from Raavana give me the impression that Raavana has a Naxalism/rebellion-against-the-state-by-a-Robin-Hood-like-character storyline. A friend suggests (by way of speculation) that the Stockholm syndrome gets to Ash in the course of the movie, I concur. She gets kidnapped by the baddies since she is the daughter of someone important. She is probably engaged/married to Vikram in the movie and Vikram is probably a good cop. In a twist to the Ramayana tale, she falls in love with her captor, Abhishek who does a Robin Hood/Kishenji routine in the movie.
Let's see if idle speculation matches reality.

I don't think you'll understand...

"The right thing to do is to stop the violence. How can you kill innocent people and expect your demands to be heard?"
"I don't think you'll understand, we wouldn't if we could help it..."
"Then make me understand. On moral grounds, your case doesn't stand. In the long term, this doesn't even make tactical sense. Your demands will never be met. You are fighting the might of the state."
"I know. I'm fighting a lost cause. The only hope I had was if I aligned myself with the ideologues."
"You didn't stand a chance even if you aligned with them. I suspect you knew that."
"I did, but they made me feel empowered. Holding a gun can be very liberating... I still go hungry, but at least I'm not as afraid as I used to be. I have what resembles a purpose in life, however shallow it might seem from the other side. You think I would have taken this position willfully if the state hadn't forced me to? They rape my land, my women, my rights and expect me to keep mum? And allow them to keep buggering me?"
"Some logic."
"I told you, you wouldn't understand..."


Very A. Roy-ish, the above attempt. (In essence, not in terms of quality of prose)
I don't know if the logical conclusion of Green Hunt i.e. a win for the state, will improve the lot of the tribals. I'm guessing marginally and on a long term basis if the GoI is genuinely concerned. I'd like to believe that it is. Some things it will hopefully not neglect once it stops gushing about it's (eventual) victory over the cadre and the ideologues : Tribal property rights legislation overhaul -- profit sharing and/or reasonable relocation compensation or/and employment/possiblity of subsistence (in case of land acquisition for mining/development) and a semblance of administration. Not too much to expect, no?
I'm on this side of the fence. I belong to those who don't understand. I don't think I will. I don't think the tribals* can have it both ways, reap the benefits of development and yet remain isolated. Perhaps they don't want to remain isolated. I'm clueless about their demands. I only get to hear noise from the ideologues. IMO, the best deal they might get,from a preserving-the-culture point of view (if the GoI is in the mood for it), will resemble Indian tribe reservation in the U.S.

* - Oversimplification -- grouping all tribes into one

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sania Mirza

got a Padma Shri some time back.
I think she deserves it. She is, as some email forwards have been telling me, A true blue Indian. She took the pledge to heart and implemented it.
Remember, India is my country, all Indians are my brothers and sisters....?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


The definition of comfort that I am interested in is the one that involves making our lives easier.
This definition makes me think of how comfort has upstaged passion/interest as a prime mover in our lives.
Of course, this is no value judgement, but it has always seemed to me that comforts are meant to be conveniences, things that exist in order for us to do better that which we are supposed to be doing. I find that comfort (and eventually luxury) is now not a mere convenience, but is an end in itself.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

What is more important?

Happiness or satisfaction?
You can be happy to get something and yet unsatisfied because you haven't got enough.
You can be satisfied that you did your duty and yet deeply unhappy that you had to make a sacrifice for it.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A case of mistaken theism

The lady who stood besides the religious warrior had spent a lifetime criticizing his faith. He had just killed her in a suicide bomb-blast.
He was puzzled by the injustice. Here he was in heaven, religious warrior, having blown himself in the name of his god. Here she was, an embodiment of all the hatred that was in his heart. Surely, she was going to pay for all the blasphemy she had committed in her faithless life.
The Angels ushered them in for judgement. God almighty spoke to the two of them, in a beautiful baritone, "My Children, you have served me well. You have prayed well and you have done all that was expected of you. You shall live in heaven in this life, the hereafter, as you called it on earth."
The lady wore a confused look, as did the warrior. They were happy, the two of them, since they were not going to hell. But they were both puzzled. Both were afraid of questioning God almighty, especially since he had been kind to them.
While being escorted to the garden, the warrior struck up a conversation with an angel. "Angel Machaiela, may peace be upon you, can I ask you a question?"
"Sure, my brother, please do."
"I followed my religion all my life and for that I have been justly rewarded."
"You have, my brother, you deserve it."
"But why has that evil woman been rewarded?"
"Evil? No, our angels have mentioned in their dispatches that she was pious and recited her prayers four times a day."
"She used to, but she became a blaspheming apostate and spoke against the Lord our God"
"My friend, two thousand years ago I probably would have opened an investigation into this allegation and we would have found out the truth about this lady, but you see, our angel brothers and sisters are overworked. We haven't been able to keep track of all activities of every human. So what has been recorded, stays. When we recorded her thoughts and deeds, she was fifteen years old and did everything expected of her. That was a long time ago, but that is the last record we have of her thoughts and deeds."
"But I thought God knew everything and recorded each and everything...."
"Brother, are you questioning God's judgement?"
"I dare not, but the injustice, the sheer injustice, it makes my life seem pointless"
"Nay, my brother, stop. Enjoy the fruits of the garden and your life here. Love all, since you are all God's children."
Having spoken thus, Machaiela disappeared from the scene, leaving the warrior alone with the lady.
At the first given opportunity, he lunged at her and tried to strangle her, but he was unable to. They had retained their thoughts, somewhat magically, but did not retain the matter of their bodies. She smiled at him and just continued to walk.
She was disappointed, of course, since she had been sure that there was no such thing as heaven, but she was happy that the prayers she had said thirty years ago were useful eventually.
The warrior sunk to the ground, helpless. In the distance, beyond an ethereal lake he could see his neighbor, a Kiskotist, seemingly enjoying himself, playing in the celestial waters. The warrior began to weep.