A lot. Am reading I am Divine by Devdutt Pattanaik (edited by Jerry Johnson) and is a laudable work on the history of LGBTIQ within the Indian ‘Hindu’ society. To me, Hindu is a geographical identity whose one of the aspects is the legacy of Dharmic religions. But all that later. The book has sharp insights on the issue of ‘caste’, for which Hindus have been flogged over and over for centuries. It is particularly valuable in the current climate of creating divisions within our society (SC/ST Act issue, Lingayats, etc.)… all because Congress wants a few votes in order to remain relevant. Their cronies are helping them further their divisive agenda. And Shekhar Gupta is leading the pack, how? ‘I Am Divine’ offers a perspective. Before I present the relevant excerpt, here’s a background of the issue, taken from the same book: A hymn from the Rig Veda described society as an organism whose body parts are made up of 4 Varnas, Brahmins (learned ones, religious scholars) on top, Kshatriyas, ruling class and landowners come next, trading community or Vaishyas come third, and last come the Shudras, the service providers. This 4th group split later, with untouchables and tribals, who were pushed out of the social system. While many sages and philosophers spoke against this social structure, most rulers of the land respected Jati as it helped legitimise their rule, enabled them to collect taxes with relative ease from communities, rather than individuals, who controlled the lands and the markets. Many used Brahmins to establish new villages, and collect taxes on their behalf, thus making them God-kings. Muslim rulers too, in order to ensure stability, used Brahmins as bureaucrats and tax collectors, and so effectively let the 4-tiered social model persist. Here is the excerpt from ‘I am Divine’ that throws light on how this caste conundrum became so pervasive as to be thoroughly institutionalised: When the Portuguese came to India, they used the word ‘Caste’ for Jati. The British eventually documented castes for administrative convenience, and converted this rather fluid social system into a rigid and documented categorisation, even giving castes to people who really had no castes, and giving them social status in a standardised national hierarchy, ignoring the fact that the hierarchies of the Jati system functioned locally with numerous regional variations. Based on caste, the British assigned jobs in the military, they divided cities. Later, they switched from caste to religion, ignoring the caste divides in Indian Christians and Muslims, and amplifying the divide in Hindus, insisting that caste was an essential condition of all Hindus, based on books such as Manusmriti, which had originally only documented caste as social practice, not recommended or prescribed it. Hindus who moved to the Caribbean Islands as indentured labour in the 19th century, after slavery was abolished in Europe and America, retained their Hindu identity, but not any caste identity, as the socio-economic conditions there did not have NEED for caste. British administration did not bother to document the caste of labourers or classify them as such. But in India, where caste was strongly mapped to socio-economic realities, and where British administrators documented caste and made it essential category while recruiting for the army (only military castes were allowed) and for the bureaucracy (Brahmin and the landed gentry were preferred), caste not only thrived but was institutionalised. The documentation process also created the religion we now call Hinduism. So, when Shekhar Gupta propagates writings like: https://twitter.com/shekhargupta/status/976380884902338560?lang=en and makes comments like this: https://twitter.com/shekhargupta/status/944432538499530752?lang=en But, in no way has a response to this: https://twitter.com/rishibagree/status/985158383333392385 Because there are… https://twitter.com/OpIndia_com/status/985181379926331392 a body that he is now the President of, he is culpable of furthering the noxious legacy of the British Raj. He is no intellectual. His attitude is a vestige of the British system of divide and rule, which works very well in the present context as it did in those times. How long are we going to keep falling victim to this? Finally, for those who might have questions about Manusmriti, often blamed for all the major social ills in the Hindu society, please read this: Manusmriti & Caste System by Acharya Harikrushna Farashuram. Read, and liberate yourself from centuries-old burden of hate and disgust heaped upon our civilisation by people who pillaged, marauded, and oppressed entire civilisations around the world with complete lack of compunction and are now giving others certificates for human rights while fomenting violence in the Middle East. People like Mr. Gupta, instead of participating in the progress of our society by furthering a constructive agenda, happen to spread hatred because it helps them so. They have created a different class system of ‘intellectuals’ who act as if they walk on water, but won’t even acknowledge it. This should be our fight.
‘When I see a fool, I want to make him part with his money,’ said a really shrewd guy once. It could very well have been Luv Ranjan. Coming from this paragon of warriors for male justice, whose Pyar ka Punchnama part 1 & 2 addressed the evil that is the modern, independent woman, Luv’s latest is the second film of the year to cross Rs.100 crore in box office collections, after Padmavat. Congratulations are due. A cool 400 bucks of that 100 crore is mine; not counting the junk I had to eat to feel alive. I feel like a fool, but I had to find out what was making this film tick. And this is what I found. With Luv Ranjan’s SKTKS, He’s taken the Indian male’s fight to the home turf. No more girlfriends, no more bitches. For Luv if ‘Pyaar ka Punchnama‘ was about ‘bros before Hoes’, Sonu-Titu is about ‘bros before bhabhis‘. So just for fun, I’m gonna call this atrocity of a film ‘Titu’s Balls’ because well, my blog, my rules! And besides, balls is what Titu truly lacks here even though it may not seem so. The fun part is I’m spared the trouble of going through the details of this film since all you suckers must have seen it already. If any of you do claim to ‘get it’, please help me understand what exactly was wrong with Sweety. The mystery actually boggles my mind and I reckon Titu’s Balls Returns is inevitable. Strangely enough, the misogyny in this film creeps up on you, quietly, from amidst all the Panju glitter and show-shaa and swanky cars & modern interiors. It isn’t easily detectable. You see, Sonu wants to save his bro Titu, a man-child, no better term for him, from this woman called Piu. It’s another matter that he lets her ‘control’ him. Clearly, Titu has issues with setting boundaries. But Luv Ranjan, instead of showing that, decides that it’s better for Titu to be controlled by his bro rather than his girlfriend. And bro is such a gyaani who says breakup ko sex karke overcome karte hain rebound mein shaadi karke nahin. Clearly, bro is in control. So, imagine bro’s plight when Titu falls for his arranged match Sweety. Bro scuttles her plans to get close to her marital family, bro character assassinates her, bro investigates her… basically, anything to save a bro from the greasy, hairy arms of a mal-intentioned female who’s pretty, charming, works for an NGO, and wants to make a good wife. Bro hates it when Sweety decides that Titu, her would-be hubby, and she should start their new life by buying their own apartment in the name of both her MIL and grand MIL. Bro sees through the part where Sweety gets her house-help to work at Sonu-Titu’s place – bro’s hates eating healthy, clean surroundings, a neat closet. It’s clear, she’s plotting to gain control of their lives. But most of all, bro hates it when he can’t screw his weekend gals on the couch in his living room anymore. For bro, this is proof that Sweety is a bitch & he must save his bro from her. When nothing works to pull his bro away from Sweety, bro plans a bachelor’s party in Amsterdam and gets his bro away finally. Into the arms of none other than Piu. He flies her to Amsterdam and all three hang out together. Piu is no longer the monster who was eating his bro alive. He promises Piu that bro still has feelings for her and that he can see his bro marrying none but her. Bro thinks – better a stupid friend than a smart enemy. And bro’s right. In Luv Ranjan’s world, bro’s always right. Because, what’s a bro that takes out time for his woman, and family, instead of hanging out with his bro? What’s a bro that gets ‘serious’ about life and wants to ‘settle down’? What’s a bro that respects a woman’s feelings and loves them! What’s a bro that doesn’t party hard and fuck around? A freaking boring husband, that’s what he is. And when a bro becomes a freaking boring husband, bro will be left to pick up chicks at dance bars all alone. That can’t be fair. All for a woman! That seems too much freedom to sign away. Now, for bro, a woman who wants to look after her family after marriage is just a Ho. If she’s marrying a bro as rich as his bro, she’s a Ho. If she wants to host a religious ceremony before wedding, she’s a Ho. If she wants to send his bro a tiffin full of home-cooked meals to his work, she’s a Ho. If she welcomes bro’s ex-GF to her wedding, she’s a Ho. If she broke off her engagement with a bro because he tried to abuse her she’s a Ho. If she’s not a weekend ****sucker in scanty clothes and instead seeks to marry & settle down, she’s a Ho. And that’s the feeling that propelled this under 20-cr film to touch 100cr+ heights. Luv Ranjan is milking this formula and good luck to him. As for Hoes, you’re going to dance to the film’s amazing chart-busting numbers at the next shaadi you attend. comic relief >> Hypothetically speaking, a friend asked me, “what kind of people would enjoy watching this crap?” I hypothetically replied, “it’s your husband, honey”. Oh, and the ending? Sonu emotionally blackmails Titu. Titu leaves Sweety standing under the wedding mandap. Alone & crying. Sonu gets his revenge. Titu goes back to his bro. The exorcism comes through. Luv Ranjan makes crores. Because the Sonu’s n Titu’s of the world find this film almost cathartic. After all, there are Sweeties in everybody’s life and all these men wish they had a Sonu in their lives, who would have come riding a steed in shining armour, and swooped them away to live (&screw around) happily ever after in this eternal bromance that is life.
Praf, short for Praful Patel, is a 30 year old divorcee, living in Atlanta, US, only child of Gujarati parents who have owned a general store all their lives. She’s holding down a job as a housekeeping staff in a hotel. She not only has a past but a post-past as well – her ex-boyfriend happens to be her boss at the hotel. Praf wants to make money, create financial security for herself, a craft almost perfected by Gujjus in general, but Praf is different – her aims are the same but her means are not. Self-control is not her thing. This Gujju gal has the balls – or shall we say vagina – to take risks. Okay, playing Baccarat (without knowing anything about the game) just to pursue a guy you’ve spotted inside a Las Vegas casino cannot be called guts. But then, the Gujju gal doesn’t even have the $25 she needs to enter the game at the table. Our lady does a James Bond, like it or not. She also gets the guy. That’s where all the trouble begins. The addiction to gambling, losing money, trouble. Wanting to win it all back but no money to stake. Trouble. Using up all her savings just to play a few more hands, no luck. Trouble. Losing all money, landing in the hands of a loan shark, Trouble. That’s what Praf is. She doesn’t hedge her bets, doesn’t listen to her parents, doesn’t settle down with a boy to make sev-tameta nu shaak for the rest of her life, no wisdom coming with age. Instead, she goes on to single-handedly rob a few banks to earn the nickname Lipstick Bandit. The character of Praful Patel is inspired by the story of the ‘Bombshell bandit’, Sandeep Kaur, who went on a 5-week long bank robbing spree because she was pushed to the brink to pay off loan sharks she had used to fuel her gambling addiction. One has to say, the story is interesting. Has it been executed well? Yes, mostly. Kangana is the queen of nuance. She’s as usual, great. The performances are good. The story has its dense details – a close-knit but unhappy family. A difficult, tension-filled father-daughter relationship. Sweet moments with the boy Praf’s parents are trying to set her up. All good. But the film lacks the aha moment – when you experience the character so strongly you identify with her emotions. ‘English Vinglish‘ was full of such moments, so was ‘Queen’, to name a few. They had a very strong screenplay. Also, Simran felt a tad bit longer than it absolutely needed to be. Now for the ham scenes: Luckily in the case of Simran, all the ham scenes happened outside of and after the movie. I say luckily because otherwise, the film would have been that much longer and would have had to somehow feature Barkha Dutt and Rajat Sharma. That was me popping the lighter vein. One thing though: In terms of matter and gravity, I daresay the ham scenes overshadowed the movie itself. Kangana is an unbelievably strong contender for the solid ‘hero’ crown and she doesn’t even need to earn it. She has proved she has a vagina, and her films are the least of it. And as far as item numbers go, why can’t they be more like the AIB video/song? In that sense, I’m rooting for every Praf, Tanu, Datto, and Rani that Kangana plays. Now for a miss: There was much talk of Kangana adding this ‘sexual’ ‘edge’ to her character. That Praf actually likes sex. I would have thought that puts her in the ‘human’ category but in the Indian film industry and the larger Indian society, this is what makes news. You can probably hear a dilliwali aunty (no offence meant to Dilli, Dilliwalas, and aunties – it’s the combination here) scoffing a “Haw!! This girl likes sex!” If you’re going to the hall thinking you’ll see some exciting moment there, say hello to disappointment. It’s a bit scene where Praf likes a guy, pursues him quite decently, I’d say ladylike manner but that would run afoul of the definition of ladylike. Ladylike and sex don’t mix. To be a lady, step 1: you shun your human nature for the divine. Anyway, Praf takes the guy to bed. No great shakes there, as you will find out. But, this ‘controversy’ is also why Simran is larger than life as a movie. It has set a lot of people talking. And some people squirming after being kneed in the nuts. That this sort of thing is one of the firsts in the industry is probably why I’d give kudos to Simran. Thank you Praf, for being there. And thank you Simran, for being there.
Lucknow Central? So here’s a line from the film: There’s no justice. It’s either good luck or bad luck. Good advice if you’re planning to go watch it. Because, there’s going to be no justice done to your time, money, or hopes. If you’re lucky, your cable operator wallah will call up during the show to discuss your latest plan and I suggest you do so in detail; if not, you’ll end up watching until the part where Farhan decides NOT to scale the walls of Lucknow Central Jail so that he can *** wait for it *** realize his dreams of playing in the jail’s band, of which HE is the only member who is even slightly tolerable, musically speaking. Besides, he’s a convict, jailed and all, and I’m sure by now the government has his #Aadhar number. It’s not like he has any real, valid, comfortable career choices, except that he knows that he’s Farhan Akhtar in real life playing Kishen here and therefore, need not take the burden of thinking ‘Log Kya Kahenge’. He need not reason that the cops and the system don’t give two flying fucks about his band and his dreams and be they realized or not, they’re going to try their utmost to see that he gets back into the jug. But, instead of thinking all of the above through, the makers invested all that time and energy into making sure that every single convict looks well-groomed, so well-groomed in fact, that I was expecting them to break out with a Sunny Leone-style ‘Layla’ item song any time now. Strangely it never came. It certainly wouldn’t have felt out of place. So, banished are the zebra stripe uniforms and so is all the fluff off ALL of the men’s bodies, really ALL, even those who are not Farhan Akhtar (Yeah I noticed it, and so what if I notice such things!!!, huh?) For a long time I wondered which salon & spa services should be considered a product placement here. I kept looking for a clue but later I figured there was no need to split hairs… they were all gone… already… anyway. This brings me to another funny thing about the movie: product placements. Come on, at least be subtle, man. You’re in a jail, not a mall. Different spelling, see? This Diana Penty is guzzling water from a pink coloured bottle of bottled water, very surreptitiously as if she’s expecting to find a clue in it. Good old H2O is the only thing that appears to be in colour in that scene. Then there’s a brand of condoms Kishen is carrying in a mug on what seems to be his orientation day at Lucknow Central jail. Enough said. And then, there’s an ecommerce website where they’re ordering stuff from, sitting in Lucknow Central Jail. Musical instruments C.O.D. Little Kishen and Gayatri opening those branded boxes as if kids opening their gifts from Santa on a Christmas morning. All this happening inside of Lucknow Central. The Lucknow Central jail. The flipping Lucknow Central Jail. Who cares about Log Kya Kahenge? You know but I’ll tell you what: there’s a certain charm about these movies set in places like Lucknow. A non-metro no-nonsense real flesh-and-blood non-Karan Johar kind of charm. You’ll find it in tiny details and the ambience – like the lota party in ‘Toilet’, the lovela sweets in ‘Bareilly ki Barfi’… and the accent, Oh, the accent. Like how Rajkumar Rao did it in Bareilly, or how Usha Buaji in Lipstick under my burkha. Alia Bhatt and Shahid Kapur in ‘Udta Punjab’. It shows a certain commitment to the role. You won’t see that here. Kishen doesn’t care. He’s here to realise his dreams. Not his job to convince you, me, that he’s from Uttar Pradesh. In Lucknow Central I found only about three things that had something to do with UP: Raja Bhaiya, Ravi Kishen, and a shot of my favourite dish Baati-Chokha. There was the jail signboard, not to forget. Now comes the best part: The HAM scenes. It’s my favourite part of any movie. This one had some but certain opportunities were missed, however. When Kishen is put in jail, his father is nowhere around to provide some worthy hamming and moral support. None of that jeep pulling away… tch! From undertrial to convict in a few seconds, facing capital punishment, Kishen keeps his smile on, even tells Gayatri to keep smiling. From being beaten within an inch of his life to being confined to a dark dungeon, Nothing. Kishen’s “rockstar” dreams crushed. Nothing. Being starved in jail. Nothing. Threatened. Nothing. Opportunities missed all through. Once in a while a real ham comes along: One of Kishen’s band mates gets out on parole, to meet with his ‘girlfriend’ with whom he had been chatting all along from inside the jail (Don’t ask how, since convicts are not supposed to have a cellphone. Corruption, that’s how). He finds out she’s “settled”, with a bun in the oven. The guy is mighty pissed. How dare this woman go ahead and get a life while he is here serving a life sentence, doing her a favour talking to her and thinking only of her!!! How dare she! Angered, he tells her to get out of his sight lest he should kill her. Score! The final one comes along when Kishen and his rock band is this close to making their plan a success. But if I tell you what happens next, this sequel to Rock On (jailhouse rock version) will lose all its magic. So I won’t. Enjoy the weekend. Remember: There’s no justice. Only good luck or bad luck.