philhaal is guftagu se thak gaye hain hum.

She simply raises an eyebrow, twirls a finger, twinkles her eyes — and the screen goes ablaze. I wanted to join the front-benchers screaming with delight when, pre-interval, she naughtily murmurs, philhaal is guftagu se thak gaye hain hum.

We went to watch Kalank starring Alia Bhat and Varun Dhawan last night. I don’t have much to add to the film reviews, who’ve done a pretty fine job in pointing out both the strengths and the weaknesses.

Karan Johar and his runaway success straddles both new and old Bollywood. One of the reviews chimed in perfectly with what I felt; that Karan is all about “more is more.”

It detracts from the essence of the film and Bollywood is now the inverse of  Pakistani dramas. Pakistani dramas convey exceptionally powerful stories on shoestring budgets (Hum Safar was shot on 5,000 USD and it, along with Dastan, revitalised the Pakistani Drama industry).

One of Vidhi’s podcast suggestions is asking why Bollywood doesn’t garner the same level of international respect as Persian Cinema. We’re iA going to explore it in a future podcast but the splintering of a Unified India’s High Culture, where Pakistan got the Mughal bits and India the rest, has had some lasting damage.

Kalank also descends into a farce because it’s as realistic about Hira Mandi and pre-Partition Punjab as Aladdin is about “Arabia.” I enjoyed the performances all around but they lacked that raw intensity of the Khans.

Madhuri Dixit stole the show but even she had to navigate the difficult corners of the script. One reviewer touched on various influences on the film (Pakeezah, Raazi) but what came to mind is that this was supposed to be the Desi Titanic.

Partition is a painful and difficult subject; the cumulative and untold trauma can spin a thousand romances and tragedies. Like most psychic wounds it can be mined for great art but if KJo wants to pioneer Urdu cinema (Ae Dil Eh Mushkil) he has to first learn that the language of love is spoken with the heart.

It’s what powers the great Pakistani plays and initially I was surprised that the screen play was by Abhishek Varman, the language used was so elegaic and chaste (I thought more Urdufied than Urdu but that is to quibble over little details) but then I heard in one of the reviews that the writer was a Muslim.

In the end though I appreciated the nod towards Urdu culture though I found one line rather offensive, which roughly translated, “her face was Irani but her dress was Indian.” Self-respect starts at home.


The Kalash of Iran

87 years ago in a small village outside yazd called Hossein Abad

“Just to tell you a little story, the gentleman in the middle with white beard is my great grandfather who’s holding my mum in his arm.

His father had seven sons and they were Zoroastrian and one day he told his sons that he has seen a sign that Shah Barham has come and he asked them to investigate and they all did and became Baha’is,”

I came across this on social media and I found it amusing in light of the discussion on the Kalash of Pakistan. Continue reading “The Kalash of Iran”


Notre Dame & Babri Masjid

This status represented my initial thoughts on Notre Dame. Not all monuments are equal and the Notre Dame has a place in the global imagination. Continue reading “Notre Dame & Babri Masjid”


Tribal Woman in Coimbatore Who Is Standing Up to Isha Foundation

Excerpts from an article I read

Muthamma lived with her husband in the forested and hilly tribal areas surrounding Coimbatore. About 20 years ago, she and her husband started working for a yoga ashram in the area as a daily labourer. Subsequently, she had three children – two sons, now 24 and 19 years old, and a daughter who is 20. They have also been working in the ashram since their childhood and continue to do so today, as does her husband. Muthamma says that those that get work sporadically earn between Rs 250 and Rs 300 daily, while those doing regular work earn about Rs 130-150 a day. Muthamma herself stopped working at the ashram when she joined one of 18 self-help groups (SHGs) set up by a local NGO about ten years ago. She remembers that when she left, she was earning Rs 15 a day.

The SHG collapsed after a few years when its members were told that they would have to ask for tenders to have access to the forest produce and this was beyond their means.

The ashram stepped in and started using Muthamma and others like her to accompany its members into the forest to share their inherited knowledge of medicinal plants. Once this knowledge was transferred, they were abandoned and, since they were ‘illegal trespassers, it was the ashram members, armed with the traditional tribal knowledge that they had accessed in an underhand way, who were given access to the forest and its bounty.

Along with the nearly 200 tribal families, Muthamma and their newly-found allies put in an RTI application and gained copies of the documents connected with the 44 acres of land. They then approached the district administration to allot the land to them for house sites, which they needed desperately

The tribals are not alone in the struggle against the activities of the ashram. The Vellingiri Hill Tribal Protection Society filed a PIL in the Madras high court in March against the unauthorised structures that have been constructed on the wetlands at Ikkarai Poluvampatti by the ashram.

But the ashram has powerful friends. It is owned by the Isha Foundation headed by Jaggi Vasudev, who is now as much in the news as any of his fellow celebrity ‘holy men’. Just a few days before the March PIL was filed, the prime minister himself unveiled a 112-foot-high bust of the ‘Adi Yogi’ Shiva at the ashram – despite being requested by environmental activists not to be present at an occasion when a new violation of building norms was added to a long list of earlier violations.


Manifesto Musings

The Indian General Election season is here!

Will it be ‘Abki baar (phir) Modi sarkaar’ (‘this time (again) it is time for a Modi government’) or ‘Jaat par na pat par, mohar lagega haath par’ (‘neither based on caste nor on creed, my vote will be on the hand’; the hand is the symbol of the Indian National Congress)? Will India finally vote for a regime mainly on development issues or are we still some way off from such a scenario? How important will caste dynamics be? Will communal and sectarian politics play a role?

These are all questions that shall matter immensely as the country gears up for the General Elections 2019, beginning from 11 April 2019.

The manifestos for Indian General Elections 2019 of the major Indian national parties: Bharatiya Janata Party and the Indian National Congress, have now been released. Both parties have looked into various aspects of life and society in their respective manifestos, right from the economy and jobs to foreign affairs and defense.  While one focuses on its leader (the BJP’s with the focus being on Narendra Modi), the other seems to focus on people, in general. One talks of resolutions (‘Sankalp‘) while the other talks of its ability to deliver (the Indian National Congress).

As the country gears up to vote, I would like to look at the key points that are covered (or not covered) in the manifestos, in a series of articles called #ManifestoMusings. As both parties pitch their manifestos for claiming power in 2019, let us see what the two parties have to say on this.


Pakistan’s tourism industry

Sharing this here as she’s an ally not a Coloniser:

We just wrapped a couple of podcasts this week (I have to write shownotes) but we started the “Brown CamCast” (sounds like a Sunny Leone video) last night to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of Jallianwala Bagh.

I was always having difficulty finding podcaster since I’m not a prominent Twitter personality but it’s dawned on me that being in Cambridge and “being married to gown” (we were lucky Vidhi had time to join in yesterday’s podcast) allows me access to intellectual capital at my doorstep.

Razib stepped in as soon as Vidhi exited (I think there was a technical issue since I’m rubbish at hosting) but we had a good ongoing discussion.

Vidhi wants to do a podcast on “the evolution of Bollywood” and why it doesn’t get the acclaim/acknowledgements that say Iranian cinema gets.

MJ is doing a write-up on the BJP manifesto for his blog the Bengal Chronicle and we’re probably going to do an election podcast soon.


Chutzpah- celebrating HM the Queen’s birthday in the Punjab on the eve of the 100th anniversary of Jallianwala Bagh

Today is a very sad day for all Brown People. 100 years ago more than a 1,000 Indians were peacefully protesting on a…

Posted by Zachary Zavidé on Saturday, April 13, 2019

Today marks 100 years since the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. We remember those who were killed merely for demanding basic…

Posted by Barfi Culture on Saturday, April 13, 2019

Continue reading “Chutzpah- celebrating HM the Queen’s birthday in the Punjab on the eve of the 100th anniversary of Jallianwala Bagh”