Friday, August 19, 2011

Films Seen Recently

Band Baaja Baaraat (Maneesh Sharma, 2010): A charming tale of middle class living and ambitions, spoiled by needless shrillness in the second half. I had high hopes after watching the post-coital morning scene of mutual discomfort, but the director couldn't stay at that peak and quickly brought the film back to the "level". It is obviously a feel-good film, with the entrepreneurship dream proceeding smoothly without a real hitch. Anushka Sharma sure can dance.

Kabhi Kabhie (Yash Chopra, 1976): Saw this film for the first time after having been a fan of its soundtrack songs. A big let-down it was. Instead of mature ruminations on relationships, the script and the direction (not to mention the hastily put together sets) were evidently B-grade, with cliched dialogues, unbelievable coincidences, loud acting, and a ludicrous plot. Shashi Kapoor and Rishi Kapoor didn't act in this film, they just shouted and jumped around. Amitabh scowled and glowered, and the women mostly cried. I am still a fan of the music, though.

Kung Fu Panda (Mark Osborne & John Stevenson, 2008): The animation genre has turned distinctly new-age. I didn't really care much for the film's message (being as it is an apology for the inadequacy felt by millions of unhealthy, overweight, alienated middle class wage slaves). "Believing" in yourself is a good way to achieve difficult goals, but the film takes it too far and the message becomes laughable. Did you notice that nobody ever gets hurt in all the fighting that goes on? "There are no accidents" is the Paulo Coelho mumbo-jumbo which makes people ascribe meaning to meaningless random events. Life, to a large extent, is magnified Brownian motion and our pattern-seeking minds see meaningful symbols and patterns where there are often none.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Films Seen Recently

Shaitan (Bejoy Nambiar, 2011): An interesting take on denial of reality by fun-loving youth. Kidnapping themselves to extort money from their parents to pay for a bribe to cover up for a hit-and-run. While the first half is dripping with black humor, the second half is too much of a thriller. A satire on Gen-Y, more than anything. As in most Anurag-Kashyap-esque films, music is definitely eclectic and creative.

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (Zoya Akhtar, 2011): Tales of quarter-life-crisis juxtaposed with a tourist brochure of Spain. Starts slow and only the last half hour can be considered having even a whiff of drama. Stilted dialogue delivery. Caricatures abound and G-rated infantile jokes by grown men. Safe for families. The chic-consumerist lifestyle in full view, with the goal obviously being to "discover" oneself. Mr Roshan is handsomely built, but did I see some crow's feet around his eyes. Time for Botox, Sire? (going by the epidemic of cosmetic surgery in Bollywood these days). Unearned privilege and self-created problems come easy to these guys. Women are merely props: the possessive fiancee, the teary-eyed mom, the fun-loving platonic ho (whose body double rides an Enfield Bullet which is obviously ubiquitous in Spain's countryside). And I realized that Macbooks are very popular in India.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
(Rupert Wyatt, 2011): Typical Hollywood melodrama-action-preachy-sci-fi-CGI-feel-good-summer-hit. But I did enjoy the CGI shots of the Golden Gate Bridge. Americans seem to find inordinate glee in seeing police cars topple. Maybe that is the suburbia's vision of Armageddon. It is a comic book movie, where the bad guys are identifiable a mile away, and the good guys are just so CUTE and COMPASSIONATE that they seem to have held each other's hands and look empathetic with a tear of understanding all their lives. Yawn. This seems to have made a shitload of money at the box office. Sigh. To each his own, I guess.

Kamla ki Maut (Basu Chatterjee, 1989): A rather funny take on middle class moralizing about sex. Some scenes (such as Pankaj Kapur and his friend's wife seducing each other and being later found out by the MASSIVELY clueless hubby, and Pankaj Kapur's reaction thereof) are so well-done that one doesn't know whether to laugh or cry. Highly recommended.

The Next Three Days (Paul Haggis, 2010): I like such thrillers. A Frederick Forsyth kind of plot, containing a lot of intimate and real-world detail about how to break into a jail, get into somebody else's car, evade airport security, get around urban surveillance and suchlike. A slow build-up leading to an electrifying, if a little too convenient, climax.

Kalyug (Shyam Benegal, 1981): A modern retelling of Mahabharata. Well done conceptually, but in an effort to copy every part of the mythic tale, a bit labored in parts. It was mighty interesting to see the faux-cuckold Dharamraj, and the virile markers of Bhim da Kharbanda. And the reaction of Arjun when he finds about his mommy having had spiritual liaisons? Priceless. Will perhaps be enjoyable only to those who remember the details of the old tale. One cremation ceremony, too many, I felt. But. These joint family dramas are such fun! And oooh, Shashi...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

On Men and Women, part IV

Socialization and social roles, if too opposed to human nature, will lead to massive unhappiness. To act according to our natures is distinctly fulfilling, and if that is thwarted beyond a point, one wonders what is the meaning of life, after all.

In the state of alienation, when men are not allowed to be men, and women are asked to be not just women, men as well as women will not know themselves, and seek endlessly for a feeling of what essentially is their own nature, suppressed.

With the proliferation of the knowledge industry, jobs and homes are no longer stable or restricted to one place for long. While white collar jobs are alienating for reasons long known, it is also important to see what urban ghettoized nuclear living does to what I call fulfillment of gender roles.

We are born with the same genes that we've had for thousands of years, even though our environment has undergone a drastic change. Is there harm in wondering whether there is a limit to human adaptability? We may adapt, but there may be a steep psychological cost of that adaptation. We may survive or even seem to thrive, but we will not know what or where a home is.

By all indications, gender warfare is escalating. The genders loathe each other, but want to win each other's affections. This is leading to an epidemic of sociopathy.

Not only this, due to massive cultural programming (which I think is driven by complex factors, more on this later), women cannot easily admit to themselves that they want a protector-provider male, and men feel guilt at looking at a woman's body and seeing primarily sexual fulfillment. This leads to self-deception in relationships. Both genders (want to) think that they are pursuing "love" and not a biologically driven destination, not able to realize that the ideal of "love" is a fiction created by mass media.

One doesn't need to imagine too hard what happens when this fiction of "love" dissolves into a realization of what one actually wants and expects from the other, and what the other actually wants and expects from oneself. "Unconditional Love" between a man and a woman is such a fraudulent concept that even very otherwise aware people fall for it. There is always an expectation from the other. But it is politically and culturally incorrect for women as well as men to admit what they want. Hence, the confusion.

But why all this cultural re-programming? Why, day in and day out, are men being asked to be accepting and altruistic, and why are women being exhorted to be aggressive and demanding? I think it is naive to imagine that this is solely because of women "awakening" to their oppression, that this is perhaps a historical or a political reckoning.

That too, but one has to ask: why is the media so interested in this political upheaval? Mass media is never known for agenda of social consciousness and enlightenment. Why are magazines, television, movies, all so insistent on creating an empowered female, or for that matter, a sensitive new age metro-sexual guy? Statistically speaking, what does that empowered female do with her new-found enlightenment and power?

One word: consumption.

Analyze women's magazines, closely examine chick flicks (a horrendous recent example is Sex and the City 2), go through the newspaper color supplements, and what is the one thing that jumps out of all these? Happiness is to "feel good about yourself". And that "good feeling about oneself" presumably comes through spending and consuming and having no real goals beyond oneself.

And "love" is the ultimate commodity these days. The harder it economically becomes to actually love another human being (and emotionally it always was a chimera anyway), the more insistent is the message that we must find it, that everybody else (the characters in the movies, that is) is finding it without much difficulty.

But what happens when you are chasing a feeling which mass media is telling you is very important to find, but which may not really exist in the manner that you imagine it to be? You will become depressed and will feel bad about yourself.

And how to feel better about yourself, or to "be oneself" in this miasma of alienation? For that see the facing page of a woman's magazine article about love and "being yourself". Revlon.

Paulo Coelho and Cosmopolitan are saying the same thing. You just have to decipher their code.


Now, if we agree with the proposition that Fulfillment Through Love is a fiction created by propaganda (though the feeling of love certainly isn't a fiction), and that attraction between males and females is biologically driven and is intended to bring them together to have children, then the way out of this mess may become clear.

To be sure, this attraction can express itself in subtle ways, since we are undoubtedly more cognitively developed than other mammals. And this loving attraction is a great trigger to kick-start a relationship. But to mistake the initial spark of attraction with the stable warmth of a steady relationship is where the confusion reigns.

"Love" is a means, and provides strength, to a relationship. Limerence is a nice state, but not something that can be sustained, or something that should even be considered sustainable.

Men and Women need each other. Disregard the cultural programming that you can find happiness and fulfillment within yourself. That is not human nature. We are communal beings. Disregard even more vehemently the cultural message that the feeling of being loved is more important than the happiness of loving someone.

And believe at your peril the feminist rhetoric that gender roles are social constructions.