Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Man and His Ghaghra - MSG 2 Review (Guest Post)

Let's begin this movie review by the climax, and breaking the unbreakable rule of telling you what happens in a movie, I will. 

MSG 2's villain, a (what else!) corrupt politician approaches the hero (Pitaji) flanked by an army (a real army) battalion, a clutch of SUVs, and a phalanx of REAL ARMY TANKS. At this time, it seems sure that he will kill the man, once and for all. He also has an 'international drug mafia' man with him. 

This is what he proceeds to do- he has a mega phone in his hand, with which he literally speaks out everything that's happened in the past two hours, plus a couple of other things that happened in a parallel universe, where Pitaji managed to break his 'sex racket', his 'drug racket' and a few other things. Nice recap you'd think, because you went numb after the first 20 minutes. But no. He then proceeds to attack with the army, and the entire batallion is decimated, and basically disappears from the scene. Then he asks the tanks to nestonabood Ram Rahim Singh Insaan. On hearing his name, all the soldiers driving the tanks (are they called tank drivers in the army?) come out of their shells tortoise like. 

Soldier 1: I can't kill Ram Rahim Singh Insaan, meri thalassemia peedit maan ko inki wajah se khoon mila.
Soldier 2: I can't kill Ram Rahim Singh Insaan, meri pita ko inki wajah se aankhen mili.
​Soldier 3: I can't kill Ram Rahim Singh Insaan, mujhe border par injury ke time khoon mila.
​Soldier 3: I can't kill Ram Rahim Singh Insaan, Inhone meri behen ki shaadi karayi.
Soldier 4: I can't kill Ram Rahim Singh Insaan, inhone Saturn ko moon ke saamne lakar meri dasha theek ki. 

Okay, the last one was made up, but you get the gist now, don't you. 

If you've read part 1's review, you know MSG is a special kind of film franchise. The Hero, Director, Singer, Writer and many other things is Baba Ram Rahim Singh ji Insaan, the hairiest baby on the planet. And as with most sequels, this one takes it up a notch. 

The main trouble is with some adivasis, who are jaanwars, rendered through black body paint, shell jewellery (for a tribe in landlocked north India, how this happened is very interesting to me from an anthropology pov) and speaking random accents of Hindi, need to be reformed. Our baba is up to the mark. He does it through various shenanigans which make sense only if you have ingested crystal meth through shooting it up your arse. That much must already be pretty clear to you. 

Here's random snippets which should excite you:
- An adivasi man and woman fall in lust. To 'select' him, she says, 'Ho Jaye'?, to which he replies, 'Kya ho jaye?', to which she says 'Daaru peene ka mukabla'. Both of them get drunk on toddy, and then of course there is a love song, where they transform themselves into city bred folk in their fantasy, and sing this song.

This is perfect, because it shows all adivasis hold a secret wish to transform themselves into city folk, and because it is the best use of Green screens since Godzilla (the original version released in 1931).

- The man himself has a final showdown with Ajgar, the bete noire, which he attends in a pink ghagra, while Ajgar keeps imagining him in a golden bra and keeps calling him Maharana Pratap. By the end of the fight, you don't know who's won, who's lost and who's fighting. You don't care.

-In one absolutely inconsequential scene, Pitaji is walking around, talking to random government servant. The scene must have called for showing some of his lackeys cleaning and taking care of the place (A govt. district headquarters) they're all staying in. So they called in a few of them in their Babaji ki army dress to clean. And then some more, and then a few more. As a result, a frame which shows about a 100 sq.yards of space behind Babaji has three hundred people cleaning earnestly, mostly turning left and right around their feet, earnestly. 

Seriously, Kanan and Biswa have the title ready for this one- most extras ever.

I realise this review is more of a show and tell, and I haven't been able to put down on paper my exact feelings as I went through this. There's a reason for that- MSG is now getting to the place where it is exercising the very options it was to be banned for the first part- Ram Rahim is getting comfortable playing a god figure, doing miracles to make 13-year old girls give birth to babies, getting adivasis to become human beings, and mixing it up with the usual Bollywood buffoonery to show he's one harmless man. By extension, he calls himself Adiguru, Maharana Pratap, mixes his idioms with Muhammad, Isa Masih and all other prophets to show himself as one. As megaphone wielding villains, cowering tank drivers spell out his message to the illiterate man on the street, I can just shudder to think of the money, time and energy he will draw out of these crowds in the real world. And that there are many more like him, out and about. 
That said, MSG 3, in Baahubali style, has been announced within MSG2. So I'll see you soon. Tab tak Babaji ka Aashirwaad.

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Saturday, September 12, 2015

I'm Sorry that I'm Scared

Here’s something that I’ve wanted to write about for the past two years, but haven’t found the courage to. I have tried putting my thoughts to words on a number of occasions, but given up mid-way, fearing the backlash they may get; or the disbelief that any story of a man’s vulnerability may invite.

I think I am more scared of the women around me than they are of the men that surround them.

While I feel proud that the people of my country are now becoming brave enough to stand up for any kind of mistreatment or violence against women, I feel scared to know that a woman holds the power to falsely accuse me of a crime that I may have not committed. I am terrified of the idea that while on the one hand, my family could, some day, be making efforts to make a new member of the household feel welcomed and loved, the new lady of the house could be devising ways to cry wolf and threaten her in-laws with false accusations of domestic violence and dowry demands unless they give into her demands of share in moveable and immovable property.

The thought may seem silly to most, or to those more medically inclined, as a symptom of paranoia or mental imbalance. I mean, doesn’t this fear seem unjustified? It’s probably as silly as constantly living in the fear that you might get murdered some day.

However, would you say that it is silly when a woman confesses of her everyday fear of being raped, especially at a place like Delhi? You wouldn’t because you know that rape is a big problem in Delhi. We know that women fear going out alone at night. We know that rape happens, and it gets talked and written about. The crime has found a voice in the past few years when society has gradually progressed on the path away from victim shaming.

As we see India progress in support of the victim, strengthening laws for protection of women in the country, we probably don’t see the regression that is silently gnawing us under the covers. Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code provides protection to women from domestic violence. It pertains to a non-bailable and non-compoundable offence, whereby the accused and his family members are put behind bars even before they are proven guilty, only on the basis of a complaint. The law has been misused terribly in the past few years, taking more the form of a weapon than a shield.

The reason any such information does not carry with itself the potential to give goosebumps is because a vast majority is still unaware of this practice. Where any mistreatment of a man, when admitted to, is seen as emasculation in our society, how is this any different from victim shaming? Families that have faced these problems in the past few years sit silently, trying not to worsen the consequences of a false accusation that has already marred their reputation in society. They refuse to open up and talk about it because it would show how “less of a man” the son of the family was to have been taken for a ride by a “girl”. They further know that the media promotes stories of women fighting against injustice. And who would believe their innocence anyway? While stories of revolt against traditionally unspoken issues are glorified without checking for their authenticity, the rising concerns leading to another unspoken issue are pushed under the rug.

Out of the over 2.3 million people accused under Section 498A of the IPC since 1998, only about 0.26 million have been convicted. While those on one side may perceive it as an evidence of loss of faith in the functioning of the judiciary, which seems to have acquitted almost 85% of those accused; the other side may be yearning for a simpler look at the statistics, for sometimes, it is most objective to not over-analyze.

The Delhi Commission for Women has officially stated that 53% of all cases for domestic violence filed between April, 2013 and July, 2014 were false. The Delhi Commission for Women, mind you! There is no such official “Commission for Men” in the country because who thought men could be victims too.

In the case of Mr. Sushil Kumar Sharma v. Union of India, the Hon’ble Supreme Court observed, “Many instances have come to light where the complaints are not bona fide and have filed with oblique motive. In such cases acquittal of the accused does not in all cases wipe out the ignominy suffered during and prior to trial. Sometimes adverse media coverage adds to the misery. The question, therefore, is what remedial measures can be taken to prevent abuse of the well-intentioned provision. Merely because the provision is constitutional and intra vires, does not give a license to unscrupulous persons to wreck personal vendetta or unleash harassment. It may, therefore, become necessary for the legislature to find out ways how the makers of frivolous complaints or allegations can be appropriately dealt with. Till then the Courts have to take care of the situation within the existing framework. As noted, the object is to strike at the roots of dowry menace. But by misuse of the provision, a new legal terrorism can be unleashed. The provision is intended to be used a shield and not assassin’s weapon. If cry of ‘wolf’ is made too often as a prank, assistance and protection may not be available when the actual ‘wolf’ appears.

Being a Chartered Accountant in practice, I have clients coming to our firm to obtain certificates of income and net worth regularly. While these certificates were taken with the objective to contest in business bids till a few years ago, over 80% of such certificates issued now pertain to cases of domestic violence and dowry demands being contested in the courts of law. We have observed families, who my parents have personally known for over 30 years, break down before us. We have attended their weddings, been part of their celebrations and closely known their family dynamics as confidantes and well wishers for years. It pains us to see how such cases permeate beyond the boundaries of religion, social status and financial strength.

These cases and their first hand narration traumatize my parents, who are worried about having a son that they may have to get married in a few years. The same fear, I naturally inherit.

I fear being in a relationship, where the woman may hold the power to accuse me of rape in case the companionship may not progress as she may have planned. Or more simply, I fear giving a genuine compliment to a lady lest I may be accused of being a superficial prick, who has tried to “make a move” on her. I fear cracking a joke that may be labeled as “sexist”, and not an exaggeration of gender stereotypes that could be innocently intentioned to not be taken seriously. I also fear letting my fears known because they may “seem” to be against the interests of women.

I think of myself as a man respectful of women. But I may be wrong, for what is right or wrong still seems subjective in this age of online public shaming. A respectable and well intentioned lady like Charlotte Proudman may not agree with a respectable and well intentioned man like Alexander Carter-Silk. I probably have no right to comment on the matter. Neither do I have the right to comment on the Rohtak brave-hearts case or the recent Jasleen Kaur - Sarvjeet Singh episode. However, I think I may have the right to speak about a fear that I strongly feel.

I may not fully understand the terms “feminism” or “misogyny”. I may be uneducated in these areas and may be publicly shamed for being so. But I understand “fear”, a feeling that I do not need an education to feel, and an emotion that is not the prerogative of a specific gender.


Another version of this article has also been published on Youth Ki Awaaz. You can read it here.