Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Letter on Intelligent Design published in the Metro

This is the text of the letter written by me to the Philadelphia Metro magazine and published on Oct 4 2005:
This letter concerns Christine Flowers' column about
the Dover "Intelligent Design" trial(Metro -
Christians should realise that no other religion in
the world has problems with teaching evolution. Even
"fundamentalist" Islamic countries teach evolution.
Thus, the issue is not simply a separation of church
and state. It is about the separation of the Christian
church and state. Teaching intelligent design in
schools is thus not a matter of religious freedom, but
actually of religious discrimination against other
The same goes for the Pledge of Allegiance. I am a
Hindu and believe in a Goddess, and thus the pledge's
"Under God" statement is an infringement on my
religious beliefs. In fact, my religion lets me
believe in multiple gods and goddesses. To accomodate
the beliefs of all religions in this simple pledge
would be impossible.
Religious Christians should stop representing these
issues as a matter of religious freedom: It is their
usual zealotry to force their beliefs on others.

My letter to The Metro, Philadelphia

This is the text of the letter by me, published in the
Philadelphia Metro newspaper, dated Aug 5 2005
They removed the reference to Vietnam.
This letter is in response to the comparison between
Bush and Saddam Hussein that offended a reader(August
Americans seem to assume that being a democracy
assures that their perspective would be right in all
wars. In their perspective, Saddam was a psychotic mad
man killing Kurds and Shiites. But from an Iraqi
perspective Bush's attack on Fallujah was as psychotic
a overreaction. The difference was only in the number
of people killed. What Americans may assume is
"legitimate" collateral damage, would be mass murder
to Iraqis (and the rest of the world).
Lying to attack a country, killing 10000 innocent
people - most of them women and children, making sure
all rebuilding contracts go to American companies and
building 14 permanent bases in that country - these
are not acts of the "psychotic mad man"; they are the
actions of a democratically elected "leader of the
free world".
Being a democracy does provide immunity from mass
murder on own soil - it does not prevent crimes
against the rest of humanity.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Hindi movies - why do they suck so much?

Update: If you read this article, you may be interested in my latest take on Bollywood - http://ramsrants.blogspot.com/2010/06/bollywood-is-not-about-movies.html

After watching biological weapons stored in what looked like a janitor's closet in the Hindi movie "Qayamat", I decided I would wait for judgement day before I watch Hindi movies again.
I have made such resolutions before and broken them when I read the exciting promos for Hindi movies.
Nowadays every Hindi movie has a English tag name. Sometimes, these tags are just translations such as "Baaz - The Bird" or "Khel - The Game". Then they innovate. Here is one - "Fareb - Twisted Love". I don't know why they come up with these tag names. They are so cheesy.
Then there are interviews by "script" writers. For the movie "Khakee" (tag name- The Khakee) Sridhar Raghavan, who co-wrote the "script" gave an interview in rediff. I read the interview and was overwhelmed by Sridhar's words. Sridhar talked about the "premise" and other knowlegeable sounding words. Then I watch the movie - God, what a piece of crap. I renewed my vow.
Hindi movie "industry" is all about making someone watch the movies. Nobody in the industry is worried about providing good movies. I was convinced that the problem was with North Indians and NRIs - until "MunnaBhai" was released. This movie did NOT have a tag. Nobody knew about this movie until it hit the theaters and then what a huge hit it turned out to be! I would watch MunnaBhai (and Gracy Singh) over and over.
Then all the Bollywood fraternity turned out and pretended that it was their victory.
Here are a few things Bollywood needs to STOP doing now:
1. Stop talking about the "script". Stop saying how "taut" the script is and how it was a "bound script" and how good the script writer was. When I was growing up there were very good movies in Hindi (including Sholay, Arth and Mirch Masala) and nobody talked about the script so much. Stop pretending your movies are script-based. Munna Bhai was, Dil Chahta Hai was, Lagaan was - not any of these John Abraham, Dino Morea, Bipasha Basu starrers.
2. Stop having premieres. I mean, is it not enough for you to copy Hollywood "scripts"? Where did you come up with premieres and red carpets? The media dutifully covers these, and reports "world premieres" for what are basically soft-porn movies.
3. Stop pretending you are an "industry". If you are, you are in worse shape than government run industries. 9 out of 10 Hindi movies flop - in spite of premieres and bound scripts. Stop calling yourselves Dream Factory.
4. Stop starring star children. Amitabh Bachan says Abhishek has "succeeded" without his influence. Amitabh Saab, how many new comers to Bollywood can star in 6 consecutive flop movies - and still get acting offers? Stop the dynasty. Actors in your idolized Hollywood go to acting school. In Hindi India if you are a model or you are a star-child - you got yourselves a career. While there are hundreds of poor theater actors trying to get a break.
5. Stop showing an India and Indians that do not exist. Palatial buildings in which party-goers land on helicopters do not exist for ANY Indians - not even for the taxi drivers in NYC. The Indians we see in daily life are not people to be ashamed of. The India we live in can be shown in movies - as regional language movies so successfully do. Nothing wrong in showing a normal sized home or a poor person.
6. Stop talking about International attention. Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Subhash Ghai are big culprits in this. Bhansali's Black is full of cheesy, corny English dialogues that are plainly there so that Bhansali can "move on to the International stage". Where did realism go? What about an artist's honesty? Bhansali's Black is set amidst colonial mansions and snowfalls - so it would appeal to white people. Subash Ghai even said he is targeting his movies solely towards NRIs and foreign audiences. For that, his movies repeatedly flop.
7.Stop taking credit for the achievements of other Indians - Night Shyamalan in American. Gurinder Chadha is British. They are not part of Bollywood.
8. Stop making movies with New York City and stop talking about the "spirit" of NYC. You spent 2 hours in the airport - that does not make you an expert in the "spirit". There are other spirits in India to worry about.
9. Stop making movies about "relationships". These movies look like "Seventh Heaven" reruns.There are plenty of social messages to deliver.
10. Stop copying scenes from other movies and calling it a "a nod". You are not nodding - you are stealing.
Now, I don't think there is anybody really listening; the current situation is advantageous to talentless people and the star dynasties. It is an aristocracy in Bollywood. I am personally happy with Tamil movies - inspite of the fat actresses.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Crappy stories

I know nobody reads tamil magazines anymore unless they give free bottles of water, but has anybody noticed the really crappy stories they publish now?
One story called Masala Dosai (in Vikatan) was about a divorced woman who hooks officers at work to spend a night with her by offering Masala Dosai.
The Masala Dosai was supposed to be a very smart allegory of - you got it - SEX. Ignoring the implications about divorced women and their tendency to jump in with anyone, this story was the worst written ever! Here is Vikatan, after boosting the careers of the likes of JeyaKanthan - now publishing Masala Dosai.
Then there is Kalki - my magazine of choice - vastly improved, beacon for new writers. At least 5 pages in the magazine are gone to the teachings of different gurus. Kalki's short story competition last year awarded the second prize to a story about two former lovers who marry different people. The female marries a good guy, who understands her. The male marries a bad female. All the females in the story are unsure and talk a LOT. The men are either wise or harassed by their women. And this story was written by a woman!
Here is my problem: Writers in the whole wide world are good when they are liberal. Conservative comedians and conservative writers suck. But somehow tamil magazines (except for Kumudam) seem to publish stories with conservative values again and again. This is not just limited to story writers. Kalki's position on the dress code controversy in colleges and Kushboo's virginity comment was anti-women and anti-rights. None of the magazines come out and take a liberal position on any issue.
The field therefore is left to literary magazines like KalaChuvadu, Uyirmai and Theeranadhi. But how many people read these magazines?
Coming back to crappy stories, why is every story about bad sons and their sad parents?
There was this guy, Shankar Babu who wrote some really cool stories in Kalki. I wonder why he does not write anymore. One of his stories - Pinnorgal - is a comedy classic.
Anyway, I am not any closer to getting myself published. I guess I should write a story called Idli. Tamils like stories about food items. That is how you reel them in. Remind them of food and get them to read. Most ancient Tamil literary works are filled with references to good food, I think.
Anyway, Idli it shall be.
It will be about this old couple who always make Idli for their son. He eats them all. They would starve. Then he gets married. Ill-treats his parents. Then finally Idli somehow makes him come to his senses. I don't know how, but it will come to me.