UNCEASING WAVES

Avengers, Black Panther etc.

Posted in Society and Culture by Karthick RM on May 13, 2018

This was a boring weekend so I decided to write this. Dont take it too seriously. Or maybe you can. I dont know. 

When I watched Black Panther, I couldn’t help but draw real life parallels. The ‘villain’ Killmonger was Steve Biko, Thomas Sankara and Malcolm X combined. Of course he had to be killed. The ‘hero’ T’Challa on the other hand was Mohammed bin Salman, Benjamin Netanyahu and Shah Reza Pahlavi combined. Of course he had to be saved. Killmonger’s Wakanda would have been a nightmare to every imperialist power that bleeds the poor countries of the world in a thousand different ways. T’Challa’s Wakanda is a wet dream come true for the American military-industrial complex. Killmonger, who believes in a global solidarity of the oppressed, refuses to live in such a society and prefers an honorable death. “Just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from the ships. Cause they knew that death was better than bondage.” Killmonger joins other great revolutionaries who were defeated/killed by Hollywood liberalism, like Magneto in X-Men, Bane in The Dark Knight Rises and Koba in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Watching Avengers: Infinity War, it seemed fitting that Thanos should avenge Killmonger. Cannot Thanos be read as a radical person of color who is battling white superheroes and their stooges of color? And where Killmonger was motivated by fighting against global oppression, Thanos is motivated by global ecological concerns. Academic Joel Hodge correctly points out that “Thanos is selfless – he is seeking a higher good for the universe, not himself – and offering a systematic answer to the problem of sustainability.” On the other hand, western liberals, especially those suffering from an overdose of white guilt, have been thoroughly disturbed by the film. One has compared Thanos to America and complains that “America has been Thanos, and it got over the slaughter without much difficulty. America has claimed that killing thousands of people irrespective of their age, occupation, status, or personal storyline was for the greater good.”

This is blatantly untrue. America has always been selective in who it murders, who it allows to be murdered, where it promotes human rights, and where it violates it. A dictatorial North Korea and a Syria which is accused of war crimes are America’s enemies, but a Sri Lanka that committed genocide of Tamils and Turkey which indulges in ethnic cleansing of Kurds are America’s strategic partners. America has maintained its financial order by augmenting fiscal, political and ecological disorder in countries where it seeks to hold influence. Thanos, on the other hand, is truly indiscriminate in his attempts to bring balance to a world that abuses nature, technology, man and itself. His thinking and actions defeated the American warriors and their allies on screen and baffle social justice warriors who watched it. Maybe Thanos represents a posthuman politics that a few philosophers have been trying to theorize. Maybe he represents the Nietzschean overman, the one who is not afraid of the Truth in its entirety and the one who does not resent taking terrible decisions, thus casting terror in minds conditioned by a liberal human rights thinking. Maybe he just took Gandhi’s famous quote “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not every man’s greed” to heart and decided to act upon it.

A political reading of such films is not entirely fanciful. Consider Captain America: Civil War where Cap beats the daylights out of Ironman. The movie was prophetic. The good Captain is an ultra-militarist chest-thumping patriot with neanderthalic ideas of nationalism while Ironman is an ultra-militarist pro-assassination cosmopolitan patriot with deep roots in the arms industry. The political parallels are too obvious to miss. Trump defeated Clinton in the US Presidential elections a few months after the release of this film. But remember, at the end of the day, Iron Man and Captain America are on the same side. So are those like the Hulk, who represents the destructive potential of an angry white ‘involuntary celibate’ male nerd, and T’Challa who, as said before, represents a Third World monarchy that is a strategic partner for American interests. Thanos, however, is quite the outsider not just to the world, but to the hegemonic liberal democratic ideology of the West.

What is more important is that every Marvel movie till now has been about crisis, ending the crisis, and getting into a newer crisis in a loop – much like the history of capitalism. The multi-billion dollar enterprise of Tony Stark that invests so much in defense technology and not in health, education or sustainable aid to poor countries should be seen as a part of the crisis, not a solution. And including a diversity of characters changes nothing. Capitalism can function smoothly with any face and with any race. When Thanos eliminates half the world, he is not killing humanity – he is showing humanity a better path from the crisis-ridden one that capitalism has forced upon the world. The fact that he does not choose to preside over the new order, even after sacrificing family and friends to achieve it, but instead retires to solitude makes him the true heroic character of Infinity War. In the interests of the balance that he achieved, the Avengers should stay down.

That they won’t is another story.

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The Young Karl Marx

Posted in Society and Culture by Karthick RM on May 9, 2018
The Young Karl Marx

Marx giving it to Wilhelm Weitling

Saw Raoul Peck’s ‘The Young Karl Marx’. An excellent film, which beautifully captures the roots of the Marx-Engels friendship. Marx admired Engels and decided to engage in a partnership with him for two reasons: Engels was empathetic towards the working class. More importantly, he understood how the industrial bourgeoisie functioned. Empathy to the bottom class, alone, does jackshit unless you understand and analyze how the top class functions. In fact, such isolated sentimentalism deprived of any critical understanding only ends up reproducing the rule of the top class.

Through this basic Marxist understanding, you can also infer why Brahmin scholars are more interested in doing/assisting/promoting Dalit studies than Brahmin studies – in fact, maintaining a focus on the former prevents an interrogation of the latter. You wont dismantle caste by empathy (academic or literary) to the cheris or by glorifying them in cinema. It is fashionable, but it is also seasonal. Caste can be understood and, hopefully, dismantled only when the critical focus is turned on the power/knowledge of the modern agraharas.

For that, we need Marx, Ambedkar and Periyar.

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The Death of Stalin

Posted in Society and Culture by Karthick RM on March 25, 2018
The Death of Stalin

Screenshot from the film

Among Western films critical of the Soviet Union, Armando Iannucci’s “The Death of Stalin” is remarkable, probably one of the best. It is also light years ahead of the usual liberal tripe (like Ivan Passer’s Stalin) in its understanding of Stalinism. Iannucci again demonstrates that organized political horror like Stalinism can be best captured through comedy than through melodrama. Gulags, executions, purges, cultural policing, the ‘Jewish Doctors’ plot, Beria’s rapist streak, the Malenkov-Khrushchev power struggle are all brought out in a humorous vein, to the point of being thoroughly hilarious at the expense of human suffering. Some fainthearted liberals have accused Iannucci of taking a flippant approach to such ‘tragedies’, but ‘tragedy’ assumes that the victims have dignity. Dignity is the first quality to be crushed in totalitarianism, especially of the progressive variety. Only a joke remains.

One insightful-comic scene showed political captives hailing Stalin just prior to being shot. You usually dont have this performance with the victims of fascism. For instance, I doubt if anyone summarily executed at Auschwitz would have shouted “Sieg Heil.” There is always some room for moral heroism under fascism. Stalinism offers no such possibility. The victim could either die for progress or die against progress, as brilliantly captured by Koestler’s novel Darkness at Noon.

Yet despite its moral totalitarianism, the USSR was still an inefficient, imperfect system. Iannucci brings that out in his satire. It is not always historically accurate, but compared to “Darkest Hour”, “The Death of Stalin” is to the point.

8.5/10

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Few Points on the Andal Controversy

Posted in Society and Culture by Karthick RM on January 26, 2018

1. Andal’s poetry is beautiful. I say this with reference – and with reverence – to the aesthetic quality of her works. But what is beautiful need not be progressive, and vice versa. What is beautiful need not even be true or good.

2. It is wrong to condemn Andal’s poetry as regressive, using modern Dravidian anti-caste ethos as a standard. You cant expect that from someone who lived in the 7th/8th century. It is equally wrong to praise Andal for being a sexual libertarian. One anachronism does not cancel out the other. Prejudice of modernity does not only affect the male gaze, but also the female gaze.

3. The addressing of god in sexually intimate terms is not unique to Andal – several others in her time, after her time, have done it. Those in the Christian mystic tradition did it in defiance of the established orthodoxy and in face of persecution.

4. If ‘radicalism’ and ‘transgressiveness’ is a criteria, then Basavanna and Akkammadevi stand way ahead. Their approach is universal and social, while Andal’s is particular and asocial. But that is a problem with Vaishnavism as such.

5. Sexual liberalism alone is a lazy standard for evaluating the progressiveness of a person or a society. Sparta had remarkable sexual freedom for its women citizens. Slaves and slave women are a different story.

6. Vaidyanathan’s apology was plain cowardice. Vairamuthu should have been more assertive in defending himself. For someone who writes so much on the Tamil martial tradition, he cuts the figure of a fresher weakly protesting against the college bully. Contrast with how boldly Thirumavalavan stands by his comments on the Hindu religion.

7. Fundamentalist groups threatening and initiating violence over academically inaccurate comments on Andal (or silly cartoons on Muhammed for that matter) are enemies of democracy, decency and sanity. The argument that the poet or the cartoonist should be more responsible so as to not provoke these groups is only a cheap defense for fundamentalism.

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Some Comments on The Purananuru

Posted in Society and Culture by Karthick RM on December 2, 2017

1. On Amazon.in, the cheapest copy of the best English translation of The Purananuru (Trans. George L Hart and Hank Heifetz. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999) available is at Rs. 1670 (last time I checked). I got my as-good-as-new copy at a second hand book store in the UK for 2.50 £, roughly Rs. 220. Lucky me!

2. This work of poetry is also a passageway into the world of the ancient Tamils, a people who celebrated war, love, meat-eating, wine, knowledge, and generosity. And the poems indicate a strong sense of ‘Tamilness’ in terms of a people and a geography.

3. Martial ferocity is praised. So is compassion, charity & righteousness. The strong and wealthy are urged to provide for the weak and needy.

4. Providing for agrarian prosperity, building dams, protecting order in trade and society and curtailing banditry are considered desirable qualities of kings. And the Sovereign is considered ‘the life of the world’.

5. The poems are thoroughly secular in nature, though there are occasional references to gods, including Brahminical ones like Rama – Ravanan is referred to as an ‘arakkan’, translated as ‘demon’. The first poem is an ode to Shiva. Murugan is the most referenced god in the poems.

6. There is clear reference to Brahmins who are learned in the Vedas, who are considered as holy as cows, and who are deserving of protection and gifts. Likewise, there are also vague references to the ‘low born’. (But a Tamil scholar recently told me that the system of caste in the Tamil land as we know it today originated only after the fall of Cholas.)

7. Chastity and purity of ‘women of the house’ is glorified. At least one poem attests to the practice of Sati.

8. Though it appears that war and wealth are praised, a closer reading also suggests a stoic asceticism of the poets.

9. The most celebrated animal in these poems is the Tiger. No wonder…

The Ainkurunuru

Posted in Society and Culture by Karthick RM on September 1, 2017

9780231150651A fascinating work. Though the poems are concerned with the ‘interior landscape’ of individuals – love, sex, the home, the family, separation, longing, ecstasy, frustration, contentment – they also throw light on the geography of the Tamil world two millennia back. Centered around the heterosexual couple, a key character in these poems is the “thozhi”, or the female friend of the heroine, who not only acts as messenger between the couple in times of distress, but also functions as a sort of a marriage and relationship counselor. (The vulgar modern day equivalent of the thozhi of course is the “nanben da”, the duffer-friend of the hero of Tamil cinema who crudely takes on the role of the thozhi. Remember Vivek or Santhanam.)

Selby has done a brilliant translation of the Ainkurunuru. Tamils should be eternally grateful to these ‘westerners’ who have taken our classics to the wider world, and have also opened windows to the aesthetics of the ancient Tamil world to those Tamils who have lost touch with their language (I partially include myself in this list) but are keen to learn about their own culture. Anyone interested in Tamil history, anyone interested in poetry, and anyone interested in love must own a copy of this book.

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Finishing Don Quixote!

Posted in Society and Culture by Karthick RM on December 29, 2016

Akira Kurosawa says somewhere that to have lived on the earth without having seen a Satyajit Ray movie is to have lived without seeing the sun and the moon. I would use this quite hyperbolic statement for a person who has lived a literate life without reading Cervantes’ masterpiece. I began reading Don Quixote in November 2015 – I finally finished it today! Reading this book was like working on my dissertation’s chapters, most of which I began working on just 2 weeks before the deadline. I had ample time to complete reading this classic novel. But in between, I read several other shorter books and short stories, cleared my viva and got my PhD, got my first peer-reviewed journal article published, presented at two big conferences, wrote book reviews, got a job, shifted my home to another city, and fell in love and got married!

Eventually in November this year, after only finishing about 400 pages of a 932 page book, I decided I will close this novel and get back to it later in life, having not completed it for over a year. However, when it comes to reading novels, there is nothing I detest as much as closing a book without finishing it (the only exception to this rule is James Joyce’s Ulysses – I tried reading it during the 2nd year of my PhD but decided after 30 pages that it was a novel for me when I am 40). So, in the last two weeks, I managed to finish the remainder of the book. Really, reading such a work requires commitment to continuity and discipline. And what a novel! While my general mood is misanthropic, it is works like these that makes one root for human civilization.

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Unpacking My Library

Posted in Society and Culture by Karthick RM on November 12, 2016

Read full essay at Outlook.  

“Even with help from my partner, it took me two full days to unpack and arrange my books. While surveying them in the process of writing this article, I couldn’t help but wonder why some books were placed here and not there, why have I purchased the same book twice, why have I not yet opened some books, why have I not yet finished the books I have opened, why are there some books still on the market and not on my shelf… The book collecting passion is not just a “chaos of memories” as Benjamin said; it is also a chaos of the future. Gaps in my bookracks gape at me, demanding to be filled. The last book to be added to my philosophy shelf and thereby filling it was Leszek Kolakowski’s Is God Happy? And now, I need to create more space for future philosophy books without disturbing the order that I have established. Or maybe I will introduce a little anarchy…”

 

 

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The Hindu-Muslim Love Story

Posted in Politics, Society and Culture by Karthick RM on November 3, 2016

Originally published on Round Table India

“If you accept to play the games by the rules set up by those who own or control the board, you will always lose.”
– Jean-Paul Sartre

Surprisingly, a writer for Scroll.in in a recent article asked a very pertinent question – “Why doesn’t the violence against Dalits incite liberal fury, as does violence against Muslims?” (Unsurprisingly though, he fails in his analysis.) But it is worth our while to consider this question. So what is it about caste violence that makes it worthy of far lesser attention and outrage than anti-Muslim violence?

One obvious conclusion to arrive at, and which is not without truth in it, is that the lives of lower castes value less. Three main material reasons for this is that the Dalits have never been ruling classes in this country and structural violence against Dalits has been a constant for centuries; two, Dalits do not have the international networks and influence like the Muslims, and atrocities against them will not provoke adverse reactions from external actors; finally, the (forced) invisibility of Dalits in the public sphere makes the liberal mind ignorant and immune to anti-Dalit violence.

But a far more insidious process is happening here, one that is ideological in nature. This is the Hindu-Muslim Love Story. And it is this narrative that we must try to decode if we are to understand why the concern for Muslims does not extend to the lower castes, if we are understand why the anti-Muslim BJP is enemy no 1 for the liberal Hindu, but the CPI(M) which began its rule in Bengal with the massacre of hundreds of Dalits is an ally in the fight against communalism.

Historical Precedents

The historical playground is important. At one end, the Hindutva brigade moans the Islamic invasions and the ‘cruelties’ of the Muslim rule in India. To counter the Right Hindus, it has been pointed out by several Left Hindu historians that the Muslim rule was tolerant to their Hindu subjects and that claims of persecutions were exaggerated. They present several historical records to show the privileges that Hindus enjoyed in Muslim courts. We know that the ‘Islamic bigot’ Aurangzeb’s court had a sizeable representation of upper-caste Hindus. Movies are made eulogizing Akbar’s affairs with Rajput princesses. We can add some more examples. Muslims served in Rana Pratap’s army. Devaraya II built mosques for his Muslim soldiers while Ramaraya allowed his Muslim subjects to kill and consume cows in their quarters. Vavar’s mosque near Ayyappan’s temple in Sabarimalai is worshipped by the Hindus. The Muslim lady Bibi Nanchari’s devotion to Vishnu is celebrated by The Hindu as a ‘tale of eternal love’ – indeed, she is considered at places in South India as a lover and consort of Vishnu.

Liberal scholars will hold up these facts to state the tolerance, pluralism, multiculturalism etc. of India. What is missing in these historical romances is the fact that none of this mutual tolerance and respect translated into a modicum of change for those at the lower ends of the society. None of these religiously liberal rulers even considered something as simple as providing the untouchable castes access to temple entry or a decent education. Whether the Indian postcolonialists like it or not, it was secular colonial modernity that opened up that space. That is another theme to be considered later. But it is precisely the validation of this Hindu-Muslim Love Story that is required to preserve the entity of India, to impose an artificial unity on several nations within the sub-continent, and to put a veil on far deeper structural injustices in the Indian society. Why? Because the Good Hindu realizes that the Muslim is necessary to his being-a-Hindu and is thus genuinely grateful to the Muslim for it.

Another writer on Round Table India, Khalid Anis Ansari, has captured how the Hindu-Muslim narrative in India is set by the Hindu upper castes and their Muslim equivalents, the Ashrafs. He also notes how this works to the detriment of the lower castes and the Pasmandas, the lower sections of the Muslims in India. Let us see how this ideology operates.

Good Hindu/Bad Hindu

Brahminism’s brilliance as an ideology is its creation of false binaries and forcing them on people who have nothing to gain from either side, but are nevertheless ‘compelled’ to take a side. Shankaracharya or Ramanujacharya? Gandhi or Savarkar? Congress or BJP? Teesta Setalvad or Amit Shah? This is a strategy that predates and perfectly complements the postmodern condition of making false free choices in neo-liberal capitalism. “Do you want Pepsi or Coke?” No thanks!

We might assume that the Good Muslim/Bad Muslim is such a binary that has dangerous consequences. But it is the Good Hindu/Bad Hindu binary that is far, far more lethal. The Bad Hindu is a bigot. Often coarse and vulgar, he is easily identified by his unabashed xenophobia. The Bad Hindu is just like any other fundamentalist in any other part of the world, easy to understand, easier to oppose.

The Good Hindu on the other hand is a peculiar phenomena. He reeks of ideology. You can find him quoting any radical text from anywhere in the world, giving support to exotic causes, and leading the fight against imperialism. He has several isms (pluralism, feminism, socialism etc) in his jhola which he will take out and use according to context. But the ism hidden in the pockets of his Fab-India kurta is the cultural logic of Brahminism…

In my stay in JNU, I had met some ultra-leftist Good Hindus who defended Osama bin Laden, Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Taliban for being ‘anti-imperialist’. These same leftists accused Kanshi Ram, Mayawati, and the Dravidian parties of being corrupt and practicing identity politics. But then again, these Good Hindus will also adopt the role of Dalit saviors if the situation requires, accusing the OBCs of being the real oppressors. They will discover Ambedkar and write a preface to him to introduce him to the Western world. They will use corporate platforms to convey communism, while lecturing to Dalits and OBCs about the evils of capitalism.They will question White privilege, but questioning Brahmin privilege will be termed ‘identity politics’. They will note how their party cadres are 90% Dalits, but not how their party leaders and intellectuals are 99% Brahmin… such are the riddles of the Good Hindu!

Fluid, flexible, and highly fashionable unlike his neanderthalic Bad Hindu counterpart, the Good Hindu is the highest point of evolution of Brahminism. And if there is a cause par excellence that he is committed to, it is Islamophilia. And we can take some examples from cinema to consider this point.

Some Islamophilic Cinematic Fantasies

We can consider some movies where the Hindu-Muslim identities are subject to an intense romantic treatment. These are just a few popular samples. Mani Ratnam’s Bombay (1995) is of a Hinduized Tamil male marrying a conservative Muslim girl. In the wake of the Mumbai riots, the love story comes to the foreground and unites Hindus and Muslims as one family, one nation, one India. Karan Johar’s Kurbaan (2009) shows a Hindu woman married to a Muslim terrorist and his My Name is Khan (2010) shows a Hindu woman married to a Muslim who is not a terrorist – both movies promoting the idea of tolerance and the vitality of modern India. The more recent Rajkumar Hirani’s PK (2014) showing a Hindu Indian girl in love with a Pakistani Muslim shows that Indianness can also be reconciled with Pakistaniness. Anything can go: as long as the Hindu upper caste remains at the top, and the Indian physical and ideological structure that preserves this remains intact.

Aparna Sen’s Mr and Mrs Iyer (2002) is instructive here. The Hindu character, Meenakshi Iyer, a conservative Brahmin wife and mother of a child, is exposed to an Islamophobic world of rioting Bad Hindus while travelling with a Muslim acquaintance. As she witnesses the violence, her humanitarian (Good Hindu) side takes over. She helps out her Muslim friend, and gets helped out by him in return, with both developing a strong mutual attraction eventually. We must resist the temptation to be blinded by these ‘human feelings’ overdoses and question the brutal logic that lies beneath. In the movie, Raja, the Muslim character does nothing to change the attitude of Mrs. Iyer towards her caste identity, how the “Iyer” identity by itself discursively implies that there are caste identities inferior to it. Is this not also the character of Muslim Rajas in India, who accommodated the elites, but did nothing for those at the lowest end of the spectrum? At the end of movie, as at the end of the Muslim rule in India, the Brahmin remained a Brahmin, if anything, more revitalized thanks to the Muslim. So, one must not miss the significance of this movie winning the Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration. (Incidentally, Nargis Dutt’s story itself is a Hindu-Muslim Love Story.)

We can observe such fantasies playing among the reactions of the Good Hindus to the bogey of Love Jihad that was raised recently by the Bad Hindus. One such Good Hindu woman was very concerned for the safety of her Muslim partner and the prospects for their marriage under Modi rule. She feared, perhaps rightly, that the Modi rule would place restrictions on Hindu women to make their choices. And she ended up defending the Aam Aadmi Party, an outfit no less Brahminical than the BJP. Another such touching story was narrated in The New York Times, of one Ms. Iyer and a Mr. Khan. Their children were praised as “poster girls for a modern and liberal India.” So it is not just the reel, but also the real Mr. and Mrs. Iyer who make a fantastic story!

The Story That Is Not Told

Now, to prevent misinterpretation, the author must add here that he is not conveying a lack of belief in the possibility of love between a Hindu and Muslim. Indeed, love, genuine love, can exist between them as individuals. But when this love becomes a story that articulates certain identities (at the expense of others) and enters the terrain of discourse, it ceases to concern two individuals alone. It becomes political, exposes the politics of the narrators and the subjects, in what they say and what they do not say, and why this is so.

We know for a fact that violence in the forms of killings, attacks, sexual assaults and humiliation heaped on Dalits is a pan-Indian phenomenon, an everyday occurrence, and has been happening even prior to Muslim arrival. If so, why aren’t stories of inter-caste marriages and appeals for dismantling caste bigotries appearing in the public domain with the intensity and zeal as the Hindu-Muslim Love Story? Why couldn’t these individuals be critical towards their Hindu identity and challenge it? It is, as Ambedkar observed, because the Hindu who is obsessed with his own self and the selfish interests of his class is incapable of critical self-introspection. The Dalits and OBCs asserting their humanity will dislodge the superhuman status of the ones at the top. Which is why the romance of the external Other is much preferable to asking crucial questions about the construction of the Self, which stories of the internal Other will bring about. In fact, the romance of the external Other is a screen to prevent such questions being asked about the imagined Hindu Self.

What Position to Take?

Why did Ambedkar and Periyar attack ‘Islamophilic’ Gandhi more than ‘Islamophobic’ Savarkar? The intellectual acumen of Ambedkar and Periyar was such that they realized Bad Hindus like Savarkar and Golwalkar were only a malignant symptom (and one can extend this to the BJP, RSS and VHP too) while it was the Good Hindus like Gandhi then (and in contemporary times we can add CPI(M), Congress and others) who were saving the disease of Hinduism using the love of Muslims as a cover. The former wanted a militant Hinduism, one that would not tolerate other religions. The latter wanted to create an image of a benevolent Hinduism, one that would embrace other religions, while benevolently maintaining its inherent social hierarchy. The Bad Hindu wants only his own particularity to be respected. The Good Hindu, in his tolerance for all religious particularities, also wants his own particularity to be tolerated. Neither are capable of a genuine Universality. To be asked to choose between these two is to be subject to a fraud.

Unfortunately, some non-Brahmin writers too have fallen in the trap laid by the Good Hindus of specifically opposing Hindutva’s opposition to Islam and Muslims. I have sought to show in the article above how Brahminism is a dynamic system that creates elite subjects who BOTH hate and love Muslims. If the bad Hindu uses Dalits and OBCs as mere pawns in the Hindu-Muslim hate games, the Hindu-Muslim Love Story of the good Hindu places them as poor spectators allotted the cheapest seats in a farcical drama. The only radical thing to do is avoid taking sides and to articulate the Periayarite and Ambedkarite position that the construction of the Hindu identity is by itself an oppressive riddle that needs to be dismantled. Ambedkarism and Periyarism have no place in, and no need for, the fantasies of Mr and Mrs Iyer.

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A Few Good Men like the American Liberal and the Indian Liberal

Posted in Society and Culture by Karthick RM on November 3, 2016

14907093_1007164592726355_5738480194756239295_nIt is a shame to confess this, but I watched A Few Good Men for the first time only a few days back. The American courtroom drama captures the political drama between the American Liberal and the American Right-Winger that has been playing out for several decades now. If Jack Nicholson militarist diatribe in the famous “You cant handle the truth” scene was powerful, so was Tom Cruise’s prosecution of the accused. Both men stood for the American ideal; they just interpreted it differently. But the American Liberal is willing to fight for his ideals, even though he might not understand the nature of the same. The transformation of Cruise’s character in the movie from frivolous to serious is a commentary on how the liberal would rise up to the occasion to save the system from its unwanted (but necessary) elements. And as much as we may find them annoying, many American liberals are serious in their opposition to the Right.

14568087_1007164549393026_1664785442703190775_nFlashback to Shaurya. I watched this movie a few years back, knowing that it was a remake of the above flick. Now this is an Indian courtroom drama with Rahul Bose playing Cruise and Kay Kay Menon playing Nicholson. Menon was spellbinding; every frame he appears in reeks of power. His militarist rant, with a mixture of blind patriotism and personal tragedy, effectively shows him as a man of principles, however bad they may be. (Kay Kay Menon is a dangerous actor: In Gulaal, he had my support for free Rajputana!) Menon was a worthy choice to play Nicholson’s role. On the other hand, Rahul Bose had not 1% of the passion or intensity of Cruise’s character. Like the Indian liberal, his character is visibly – politically incorrect terms ahead – emasculated and impotent. And yet he wins by trickery, and proceeds to give a banal monologue about Indian secular values, which even he doesnt seem to be convinced about. But in reality, the Indian liberal will never put up a fight against the Indian militarist because, like Bose’s character, they have no conviction and reality is no courtroom drama where such easy victories are scored.

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