Manikarnika & the Silence Around It

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‘Main Rahun Ya Na Rahun, Bharat Ye Rehna Chahiye‘ becomes the defining song of the film Manikarnika. That should be reason enough for Tukde Tukde Liberals to avoid the film – they turn up their noses at the word Bharat. And rightly enough, Manikarnika’s release has been met with radio silence too. It’s not the usual script – normally one would expect someone like a Karan Johar at least to use the opportunity to grab a few headlines but not this time. Not at the time of Kangana’s directorial debut. This is a woman who has made it purely on her acting chops (ya… ya… everybody has a past) and a knack for ticking off some of the biggest names and decision-makers in the insufferably nepotistic confines of the Hindi film industry. Her weapon? Her personality and her truth. Also, her inability to stay quiet and do as told. She’s the veritable Manikarnika of the Hindi film industry. Perhaps this is why (and how) she took up the task of portraying The Rani of Jhansi, Laxmibai. Problem is, no liberal media has even started writing things like ’10 things you didn’t know about Rani Laxmibai’, ‘Manikarnika sets off a trend of biopics on women freedom fighters’… that is all now left to us guys, people like me who are branded as right-wingers in a total copy-cat move that’s as irrelevant as it is inaccurate, as far as ideological imports from the US go. Kangana is called crazy by people who know people who know her. They usually hint at her weird affair and legal fight against Hrithik Roshan… but Kangana has already made it pretty clear in one of her interviews that ‘normal’ she ain’t and can’t even hope to be – given all the challenges she had to overcome and the industry she belongs (sic) to. She’s upfront about it. It’s people like Karan Johar, Saif Ali Khan et al who have to jump through hoops to admit it’s daytime when it’s day. But the interesting thing is, Kangana reigns over hearts. She continues to make films, and notable ones at that. She is now a film director and she has done a good job with her debut. I’ll talk about Manikarnika the film, the way I saw it. The first 20 minutes are a strange drag. The research value is probably there but a Manikarnika in a velvet blouse stringing a bow to kill a wild cat is something too… well, far-fetched for me. CGI wild cat sucks. And Manikarnika seems to understand that. Kangana’s would-be husband, Maharaja Gangadhar Rao (played by Jishu Sengupta) who is an arts & culture exponent, opens with a dance sequence on a set that looks like borrowed from some mythological TV serial of today too is a bit of… a letdown. Having said that, the actors are fantastic, led by Kangana. Especially, Gangadhar Rao. If the screenplay wasn’t so good, I doubt I’d find it so easy to excuse below-par lighting & strange costumes. The film portrays Rani Laxmibai’s strengths really well – sword work is nifty. Action scenes left a lot on the table though. And then suddenly, around the interval, the whole look, treatment, performances, everything just changes for the better. I have a feeling that there’s a point where Kangana (& her team) took over. There’s a change (for the better) in camera angles, direction, even costumes & jewellery, everything looking a lot more authentic than before. And that changes carry the second half of the film well past the victory line. To note, the credits show a never-ending line-up of post-production agencies, reflecting the scale of challenges Kangana must have had to surmount in getting this film finished and released. It also indicates that the film probably struggled to get out, for reasons not known to us. Be that as it may, Kudos, Kangana! If you ever end up reading this, know that we do understand why industry acknowledgment won’t be coming for your film that has just crossed 50Cr collections in five days. Because, acknowledging your film would be to appreciate your success, that of the character you portrayed – Rani Laxmibai, and that of a nation that’s trying so hard to stay in one piece despite your fellow Bollywoodiyas’ tukde tukde disposition. They know that talking about you & your film would only drive more crowds to watch your film and they don’t want to risk it. Not in the current political climate. In this country, you smash Brahminical patriarchy by defending those who attack its inherently, organically secular nature toward monotheistic cults. Best moment of the film for me:  When Manikarnika’s father tells her she is to become the Queen of Jhansi, she says, “I may have been raised a Kshatriya, I don’t know how to be a Queen”. To which, her father replies: You love your Bharat. You’ll find a way. So here are a few historical facts about Rani Laxmibai that were quite faithfully portrayed in the film:  Her name was Manikarnika Tambe – Her father, Moropant Tambe and Mother, Bhagirathi Bai. Her father worked for the Peshwa of Bithoor. She learnt shooting, horsemanship, fencing, and Mallakhambe as a child. She was 14 when she got married to Gangadhar Rao Newalkar, who was some 25 years older. After becoming the Rani of Jhansi, she had formed and trained her own army of women, from her friends at the court. She lost her husband when she was 18. The Maharaja had, at the adoption ceremony of their son, which was also attended by a British officer, in his letter said that ‘his widow Laxmibai be given the government of Jhansi for lifetime’. She had strategised & led the occupation of Gwalior fort while the Scindias escaped to Agra. She died 29 years old. In the battlefield, fighting the British. This was after she had made them taste defeat twice earlier. British officer Hugh Rose said about the Rani that she was: personable, clever, and beautiful. And that she was ‘the most dangerous of all Indian leaders’. Rani Laxmibai was NOT the first such woman in the history of the great land of Bharat. The great queen Abbakka Chowta of Ullal was. She came to be known as Abhaya Rani as she successfully defended Ullal from the Portuguese for 40 years. This was some 300 years before Rani Laxmibai came to be. Now that’s a film waiting to be made, a story that’s waiting to be told to a generation that can’t see ‘why we don’t bin our space programme so that more kids can go to school’.

The Best a Man Can Get is Still Gillette

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I wake up to this Gillette ad, which has kicked up a much bigger storm than the Kardashian Pepsi commercial did more than a year ago. I guess that ad was the start of brands taking on the role of SJWs – Social Justice Warriors. SJW is by definition a derogatory term which means a person who expresses or promotes socially progressive views. In a normal world there would be a few thumbs ups for this person but in reality, which is neither normal nor reasonable, the reasons for this are the fact that we have to hold SJWs responsible for having boundary issues. I digressed there. But that is the point. SJWs will stop at nothing. Such as pedophilia being termed as a condition rather than a pathetic scourge of the mankind. They want pedos to be included in the ‘queer’ category to be represented on the gay pride flag. Because, there is such a thing as a non-practising pedophile. So anyway, this is a small example of why SJWs don’t get a lot of respect. What happened then with the Gillette ad was a classic design problem I learnt about during a brief ‘knowledge-share’ session at my workplace – That when instructions are printed in a font that’s harder to read, the reader/user confuses that difficulty with the difficulty level of the task itself. Apparently, Ikea knows this. So thank you Ikea. My male friend had no problem assembling that beige double bed. Moving on to males. They’re exploding the dislike button on Gillette’s YouTube link. Here it is again in case you’d like to have a go at it too. They’re doing so just for suggesting that they are better than the toxic messages they receive from the likes of: Harvey Weinstein Donald Trump Charlie Harper Woody Allen Ramsay Bolton Karl Marx Don Draper Hitler Frank Underwood O J Simpson Aurangzeb John Eric Armstrong (Know more here ) Jack The Ripper List of all the men outed under the Metoo movement.  Does not include the stalwarts back in India. Top names though: Alok Nath. Rajkumar Hirani. Vinod Dua. M J Akbar. All renowned ones. Saddam Hussein Jordan Belfort Vladimir Lenin Pol Pot Genghis Khan Geobbels Che Guevara Robert Mugabe (Let me throw in THIS  link detailing the respective rules of these powerful men from Africa) Know that some of these characters are fictional but most are not. I trust you to know which is which. But I can tell you this: we haven’t even got started. The men who’ve gotten all riled up with this one ad that is the only sliver of good parenting they have / ever will receive, are the ones for whom this ad was made in the first place. It talks about not waking up to a world where bullying is justified with ‘boys will be boys’. And God knows it’s the males who are the worst sufferers of it. Instead of saying “yeah, we do have a problem; glad someone is speaking out”, they’re swearing off of all P&G products. Good going. Yes, a brand’s job is to sell. And trust me, sell they will. Gillette has moved on. It’s talking to my 25-year-old brother who knows that if his dad shouted at him, that’d be wrong. My 50-plus ‘Millennial at heart’ friend who hates boys night out where they crack sexist jokes all night long. My friend & ex-colleague whose husband is a hands-on dad who cooks like it’s his duty as much as hers. Did you know that brands were acting as SJWs when they asked you to wash your hands 4 times a day, for 30 seconds each time? That you needed to wear a deo. That you need to floss your teeth. Brush it twice a day. They you need to get your vitamins. That you need to safeguard your heart health with MUFA-PUFA loaded oils. That you need life insurance for your families.   Well, dear men, you need to give up bullying for a healthy society.  

Have you ever eaten off plates made of pure lead?

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Oh-kay, I spent yesterday at one of the fanciest 5-star hotels in Mumbai – Taj Lands End. Attending the Content Marketing Summit & Awards, hosted by the World Marketing Congress, a super busy event that’s a great place to meet with the top professionals in marketing. Last week, I was at the Digital Leadership Summit organised by Social Beat. At the St.Regis, Mumbai, super swank. Loves these places. Last month it was TechSparks 2018 at the Taj Yeshwantpur in Bengaluru. And this is not me showing off. I’m actually talking about something completely different here. You’ll see why I am mentioning all these grand old daddies of luxury living. Not name-dropping. Because, these luxury hospitality brands clearly fail – astoundingly – at both luxury & hospitality in one very important regard that interferes with one of the loves of my life: Food. In fact, the experience I went through yesterday makes me want to reinvent the term ‘arm exercises’. It’s a one between me and my friend I shall refer to here as Mundu Cracko. Arm exercises refer to the ultra-best form of workout one gets from lifting beer mugs filled to the brim (heavier the better) right up from the table level to one’s lip and holding it there while consuming the much-needed refreshment, while making sure to give it as many reps as one can humanly make in the course of one session. Unlike all other kinds, this workout mixes dopamine with spirit, thereby creating a whole new level of motivation. It’s muscle isolation, it’s endurance, it’s mood uplifting, it’s socially engaging because you’d probably do this with your buddies, and the healthy competition to keep going adds to the magic. It’s a sorry state of affairs then that this beautiful connotation must be vacated for a more staid & serious, a more literal one that has neither its original flair nor the spirit. In fact, it falls flat like non-aerated beer. Did I hear your enthusiasm just fizzle out? Well, I’m a teetotaler and yet I know we can empathise with the lack of carbonation, which we know contributes wholly to the beer’s mouthfeel and its refreshing-ness. You can imagine my feelings when I see that my but one indulgence – food – is now condemned to become an arm exercise in the least pleasurable way possible! I’m talking about how these hi-fi places I’ve named above in a list that is by absolutely no means exhaustive, make it difficult for a nourishment-seeker to seek precisely what they need: nourishment. And, it’s not a gender equal world out there either. I’ll explain: I’m actually talking about how heavy the plates are that they use in these event buffets dinners and lunches. By the time I’ve scooped in some salad and collected some chapaati and moved on to daal, and subzi… I’m already a spent force. I’m handling a towel that was once a comforter somewhere, a spoon that is a miniature version of a mason’s or a gardener’s spade, and a fork that is only slightly lighter than a garden rake. Thank God for small mercies. Because, by the time I begin eating, it has turned into an exercise in negative calories – I’m spending way more calories than I am consuming while holding myself erect, walking around carrying the huge ceramic receptacle in which my nourishing morsels lay, embraced by the mason’s weapons. The food itself becomes bland, unimportant, secondary, not germane to the issue. It’s only the challenge that counts. Can I continue to ingest, and chew, and swallow when I am busy demonstrating the term ‘Herculean effort’? And for how long? In fact, it becomes a conversation starter with quite a few participants: “Here we are again… huh, huh :-)… yes, this is heavy… dunno what’ll happen if I add that shallot – will I buckle under? Haha” I even joked with a fellow male participant that the practice of feeding people at such galas seemed rather skewed towards favouring men, who have a denser muscle tone than us ladies. Turns out he wasn’t too thrilled about it himself – saying he’d probably last 1 chapaati more or two but in the end, had to give up his right to nourishment. So well, I really wonder if you’ve wondered this too: Why do swanky places host stand-up buffets and then give us these plates made of pure lead to eat in?  Any hospitality folks out here who can help me out? What do you guys really want us to do? Not eat? Anyway, I doubt if you’re gonna get me to do a few more push-ups every day, stretch the zer0 workout I’m on. I’m pretty sure I actually lost 400gms of weight yesterday even though I ladled my way through some pretty hefty paalak corn and paneer-something & something-veg-biryani. Compliments to the chef. None to the hotel industry.

When it’s not exactly #MeToo… but

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I follow Sam Baisla, CEO & Co-founder of NEXEL and on my LinkedIn Feed, his post landed up containing the screenshot of a text message from a man to a woman, entirely professional in nature, sending her a kiss smiley while addressing her as ‘madam’. The receiver, of course, had been quick to point out to the man about the use of that particular kiss smiley and he had apologised. Yet, Sam Baisla had asked the following questions: How can you send “kiss” smileys to a girl you barely know? 🤦🏻‍♂️ How should a girl respond if someone does send something like this?🤔  Guys seriously need to learn how to talk to ladies. 🙄 Rules of public interaction must be made a mandatory teaching in schools and homes. ✌️ It’s ironical that there is no formal discussion/teaching on this.🙄 I think this small thing can be a very significant step towards curbing violence against women. 😍👍 What do you say? That sparked a conversation. Because just the day before, I had on my professional network, received a Whatsapp forward containing this: Disgusting, right? So how should I respond? Knowing that the man is someone I professionally interact with. This uncouth human being actually thought he was justified at sharing such a piece on a group that included women. And no one called him out on this group. He has a family, including at least one daughter. When I reminded him he’s on a professional platform, he neither apologised nor did he delete the post. he simply moved on saying that I was right and that he should not have posted such a thing. So this is my reply to this creep: Tarana Burke was born and raised in The Bronx, New York, at a time when it was one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in that area. She belonged to a low-income, working-class family and was raped and sexually assaulted both as a child & as a teen. Unlike most rape victims, she rose from that trauma and as a teenager, started working to improve the lives of girls who undergo extreme hardship. At college she protested against economic & racial injustice & inequality. Tarana is single mom to daughter Kaia. You’re judging this beautiful, strong woman through your ugly eyes that only see a woman as an object of pleasure. I hope the women in your family are blessed with the wisdom necessary to deal with someone like you. If you think men rape women because the women are pretty then let me tell you, every single woman, without exception, would want to be ugly. I will not even comment on your family life because I think your action should be your personal, individual humiliation and not on your family. Finally, assuming you’re right in your asinine way of thinking that ugly women don’t get raped, I’d like you to set your bar somewhere. Tarana, if you think is too ugly to be touched, you should think of just how desperate your fellow mates must be. It is the same depth of desperation that made you share something as vile & disgusting as this, didn’t it?  This shame is on you.  Of course, I exited that group on which this rubbish was shared. Now circling back to Sam’s post: How should women respond? Men’s only defence is that “Come on, I wasn’t thinking like that!! You know me. I’m a family man!!”. This is just a joke.” The defence of that defence needs to stop. This is not a joke. If this man had said something like that to me, I would tell him to crack another involving his mother or his wife. Exactly. The joke stops there. And the buck stops with us all. Respond by calling them out instantly. Openly. Don’t think about who’s supporting you or who’s listening to you and who isn’t. Don’t tolerate ugly BS in your personal or professional sphere. Don’t let abuse fly under the radar. Draw that line for your personal well-being.

Aiyoh – Made in China da!

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So, since I have glossophilia, this news is something I always look forward to: OED i.e. the Oxford English Dictionary has come out with its list of new words added this year. And every year round, a couple of Indian expressions find their rightful place and it helps us continue to look on to the Englishman with regard. This time, Aiyoh has made it to the hallowed rolls. With another discovery looming. Backstory: I’m a Gujju who finds it utterly normal to utter Aiyoh when expressing shock, awe, or surprise. And that’s not normal at all. So when my fave Aiyoh made it to OED, imagine my sense of vindication (Aiyoh in OED) ! Then imagine my sense of disappointment upon finding out that all this time I had been speaking Chinese. Kudos to my multilingual self but still! Turns out, Aiyoh is of Mandarin origin and Aiyah, Cantonese. So, quite literally the most used word in the South, almost like a punctuation mark, isn’t Indian at all. BTW – glossophile is one who loves languages. Which brings me to another observation: Almost all of our languages have some entirely versatile words that can mean an entire range of emotions, and interpretation of which depends on who employs it, how, and when. Like Achcha in Hindi. Achcha literally means ‘good’. As in, How are things? – Achcha hai! As in… Achaha, so you think you’re so smart! I’ll show you! | Achcha? Is that what happened? | Achcha, I thought so. | Achcha, okay, I’ll do it.   So, basically, it’s a reflection of a very pluralistic culture here. These are the Indian words that made it: Langra (the Mango variety), Tithi (dates in the lunar calendar) Very much like the head wobble we Indians do, which also could mean anything from okay to good, to yes, to I don’t know, my bad… and whatever else you want. Are there any such words in your language that mean a whole spectrum of things?