Sunday, July 31, 2005

Response to a "Duke of Hazzards" review

I felt the same level of disgust when I saw "Starsky and Hutch - the movie". It was soooooooo unlike the TV program I grew up watching and was a complete disgrace to all that the 70's stood for (I'm talking from a purely child's point of view)

If they want to make a tribute to past TV shows, it's fine. But I do hope they do it with a certain degree of finesse and an understanding of what the original shows stood for. This total ignorance of original concepts and reckless massacre of much loved TV shows and movies is a sad indicator of our times. It would be great if such experiments in smut were carried out on something original like what they did with "American Pie" and its progeny.

But why tamper with our memories?

If this seems like I'm being overtly sensitive about the matte, that's right. I am not just sensitive about it but I am angry. Most of the old programs attracted us for their charm and engaging quality. The re-interpretation shows that they haven't studied the original but, instead, rehashed the superficial elements into something else.

Now I'm against re-working old TV shows because sometimes when it works, it rocks. Star Trek is a good example of such success. In my opinion, Jean Luc Piccard came across as a much better captain than Kirk. The series franchise did not depart from the main concept but made it stronger and stylised. The original had technical limitations and all the subsequent TV shows tried to fix them.

The new 'Battlestar Galactica" may not have the brooding presence of Lorne Greene but, at least, it's not made into something else altogether. However, the new version did not capture my attention like the original because it lacked a compelling storyline and tight direction.

I shall not even comment on the new Star Wars movies even though the recent film did try and make some amends. But it's a case of being 'too late' when it should have been sooner.

I shudder to imagine how the new Pink Panther, Herbie, Dr Who and Willy Wonka are going to be... of course, I'll go with my fingers crossed and if the movies suck, then, at least, I'll focus on the popcorn. Popcorns rarely disappoint, do they?

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Confessions of a 'confused' 'Gulfie'

I am quite angry.

Someone came to our house the other day and justified sending his daughter to India for higher education because… she shouldn’t feel like a foreigner in her own country and must remain in touch with the culture of the motherland.

Now this man had his own reasons for taking this decision and I respect him for it. However, the argument that a child needs to be in India to be a better Indian doesn’t cut much ice for me. It gives the impression that most of us who grew up outside India turned out to be really bad Indians and that we are a bunch of hopeless cases.

I shouldn’t be picking on this man for my rant because he is really a very nice guy but the reason I am so worked up is because I have heard this argument so many times that it never fails to irritate me. I feel most people who make this outlandish claim do so on the basis of some pet assumptions and not, necessarily, on some cold hard facts.

Now I agree that there are some dodos amongst us who behave a bit dopey whenever they visit India and act more ‘foreign’ than the ‘foreigners’. But there are, also, some dodos amongst the Indians who live in India as well… and would anyone dare make a generalisation?

However, I have to admit that I often feel like a ‘foreigner’ whenever I visit India and I’ve spent a lifetime figuring out why I feel this way. The reason has nothing to do with a feeling of alienation from the ‘motherland’, so to speak, and neither has it anything to do with any misplaced arrogance.

My problem with India comes from the expat life that I’ve led throughout my life. At school (CBSE curriculum, by the way, one cant get more Indian than a curriculum that the armed forces’ children follow), I interacted with people from different parts of India and the same situation followed at the Indian Association, Bahrain Sports Club (presently, the Indian Club), there were far too many interactions and friendships with non-Indians who saw me as just an “Indian”, and that’s what I thought I was and was content with that kind of all-inclusive identity.

But upon going to India (Bombay, to be precise), I was shocked to find out that this “Indian” identity that had, somewhat, defined who I was throughout my life was not relevant here any longer. People wanted a little more information. It was like the Indian identity was wrapped up in onion like layers – they wanted to know my religion, my language, my caste, my state, my economic background, my social status, everything. My claims to be an “Indian” were met with derision because people took these other layers very seriously and thought I was a bit silly to think of the ‘big picture’.

Another shocker that greeted me when I went to India was the resurgence of right-wing political parties like Shiv Sena who were as rabidly chauvinistic as any white supremacist group in the West.

Now the Shiv Sena people speak my language (that’s Marathi) and since I grew up with very few people speaking that language and the only ones who did were family and close family friends. So when I went to Bombay and heard Marathi being spoken so widely it did cause a disconnect… my initial knee jerk reaction to trust anyone who speaks Marathi soon led to miserable disappointments and hearing the narrow ideology of Marathi people toeing the Shiv Sena line came as a real shock.

I couldn’t believe that a political group could actually differentiate between other Indians and make horrible suggestions such as, they should speak the regional language (what about the national language, I asked), people from the other states should not come to Bombay, people from minority faiths were not ‘fully’ Indian.

My response to this India that I encountered was quite simple. I rejected it because I saw no merit in it. I preferred to be an ‘alien’ in such a dysfunctional setup that thrives on being fractious. I was not pleased to see Indians not looking at the ‘big picture’ and, instead, focusing on petty ethnic loyalties. I thought that if this is what takes to be a real Indian, then, I am not interested in being part of it.

It’s tragic that the “Indian-ness” that I grew up with is now a distant dream even in Bahrain. Now that there are so many Indians here, very few people are actually looking at the ‘big picture’ and are continuously emphasising their ethnic identities. This is wrong and a setback to what we had earlier experienced in this country. Thankfully, it’s still not a hopeless case though…

This is why I was quite angry with the man because… based on my own background, I feel, I have grown up to be a better and a much broader Indian because of having been brought up here. Do I regret it? Not a chance. Am I confused? Doesn’t matter. Will I trade my life for something else? Not a chance.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Response to a "Sarkar" review

I haven't seen "Sarkar" as yet and so cannot comment on how 'faithful' an adaptation it is of "The Godfather". However, I am a little bothered by the write-ups that I've read so far and the claims that have been made about it. But let me not beat round the bush and get to the point that I'm getting at.

It's perfectly fine with me if any director wants to pay tribute to another author or filmmaker but... have necessary permissions being taken to 'adapt' the work concerned? What is the copyright situation in such an adaptation? As far as I know both the book and the film are NOT in the public domain and so, consent must be given by the rights holders.

It's a pity that it's not just RGV but many other bollywood directors who seem to 'indulge' in this kind of 'creative' 'adaptation'... and I feel this situation is an insult to all of us who claim to be writers!

I am sorry if I am using such strong words but, I feel, we need to address this situation because it concerns us ALL.

Can you imagine if some director makes a film based on your short story and makes money out of it and, to add insult to injury, claims to be a fan of your work? Would you like that?

Do you realise that despite the fact that India has so many talented writers -- many of them part of Caferati and other writing networks, there is no apparent effort made to harness this creative energy?

(I am not including offbeat films in my rant because the very nature of their work demands original subject matter.)

India has such a great history of stories, folk tales, drama, music and yet... most of it is untouched because the producers don't think it's a safe-bet for box office success. But trust me, when the lawyers come knocking at their doors demanding 'compensation' for copyright violation, then, will it still remain a safe-bet?

I saw "Parineeta" last week and was pleased to see two things. One, credit given to the original author and two, a film was actually based on a classic Indian tale. But is it possible to see many more Bollywood film-makers taking similar trouble to dig the Indian literary goldmine for new subject matter? And even if they do, are they going to be so detail oriented in making a period film? Plus, will the acting be restrained and refined?

Lots of questions, I know, but... somehow I can't help being a little cynical.