Sunday, February 3, 2013

Vishwaroopam, some dunces, and a dormant Indian volcano

I watched Vishwaroopam yesterday. For the uninitiated, it’s a movie starring Kamal Hassan, which has been banned in some parts of India, because it could create “law and order” problems. In a country where there is no law or order, I wondered how a movie could “create” such problems. Thankfully, it was screening in Bangalore and I watched it. Throughout the movie, I waited for the scenes that could burn theaters and buses, but there was nothing.

Photo @ VL Nagaraj!

Well let’s not mince words. A few fringe Muslim organizations wanted the movie banned, and it was actually banned in Tamil Nadu, a state that has a good chunk of Kamal Hassan’s fan base. Apparently, the movie would hurt Muslim sentiments. Tell you what? The only people whose feelings would be hurt are the Al Qaida and Bin Laden fans. Why? Osama appears for a minute or two in the movie and he looks like a clown. I thought that was really flawed - there’s enough footage of Laden available to make a decent depiction of him.

Other than that, it’s a tale of terrorism and counter-terrorism. A big part of the movie is set in Afghanistan in the early 2000s, and it shows terror training camps, American air raids, armed resistance, and some insights into militant family life. Training is an excuse for shooting at pictures of Bush. They actually have little time for training because they have to play volleyball and drive around in an SUV all over Afghanistan. The training in my office is more focused than that. Curiously enough, while in Afghanistan, the “dreaded terrorists” kill just two people (one was of their own kind).  American forces are in charge of the killing.

The other part of the movie is about a terror plot using a Caesium-based dirty bomb (ugly looking doohickey that needs a facelift) in New York.

Btw, the movie also portrays the Afghans as being caught in between a rock and a hard place (literally). Admit it, if your village is being bombed out of the planet by drones, and if there’s no institution to protect you, would you not pick up a gun? If your existence is threatened, wouldn’t you fight with whatever means you have? Squids do it, for crying out loud. 

A rocking first half (watch out for Kamal’s transmogrification), a dragging second half with a lot of footage that needed to be edited out, a whimper of a climax (without a suspense-pumping-countdown for the bomb), and the promise of a part 2. End of story. 

Seriously, why should there be a law and order problem? I just don’t get it. How do we portray terrorism in a movie? With guns, bombs, suicide strikes, and violence, duh? You cannot show terrorists snorting cocaine and having a blast (pun intended) at rave parties, can you? And if you show Afghanistan, you will have to show the Taliban and the Al Qaida, not the IRA or LTTE folks, correct? AND, since it’s the Al Qaida, chances are high that their war cries may just be in Arabic and may just have religious overtones, correct? How is that offensive to portray?

Ok folks, I have this movie idea that centers around Veluppillai Prabhakaran – I’m not a fan, but I believe there is a solid story to be told. Will it be banned because it portrays Sri Lankan Tamilians? Better still, would you expect Jewish characters in a Khalistan period movie?
Dangerous indeed, this ban is, like a lot of other things going on in India.

The movie bit is over. Rant begins.
Let’s revisit Akbaruddin Owaisi's hate speech. I watched the whole thing. Barring the few minutes that he threatens Hindus, all I could hear was some legitimate and some imagined problems of the Muslim community coming out of the mouth of a megalomaniac. The sad bit of it was similar to Varun Gandhi’s anti-Muslim diatribe in the last general election. Or the MNS chief’s rants against people from Bihar (or whoever he wishes to target at any point in time). All these guys need an enemy – imagined or otherwise.  

We talk about freedom of speech all the time, we allow nonsense like the ones listed above, and ban this movie? What about Digvijay Singh and his motor mouth? That’s the first thing that needs to be gagged in this country. Oh, I spoke too soon. I forgot about our honourable Home Minister, Shri. Shri. Sushil Kumar Shinde. What about his comments that the BJP and the RSS are running terror training camps in India? Those comments earned him accolades from terror chiefs in Pakistan, a first for any Indian politician. If the Home Minister of our nation has proof that the main opposition party in the country is a bonafide terror organization, then he should ban it. If that’s not the case, our PM should have the courage (even though at an all-time pathetic low) to come out and purge this scourge. Isn’t his silence deafening?

That brings us to BJP and RSS. In one of the most underplayed news items of the decade, this week they decided to go back to their Hindutva agenda. Apparently, Ram is going to be at the center of their scheme of things from 2013. 13 years into the 21st century!
@ link.
Watch out folks, a dormant volcano is becoming active. There are two things this ideology shift is going to do. First, it will gift five more years to the Congress, which theoretically wouldn’t have been bad considering the fact that we have no credible opposition. But there is one hitch – the UPA is the most corrupt, inept, and cockiest dispensations ever to rule India. This just cannot continue. Second, it will prevent something which we have been trying to do for some time: getting on with life, as a nation.

I understand some bit of Tamil though I cannot read it. During the movie, I was doing some translating on the side. But there was a problem - some of the dialogues were in Pashto and Arabic, with subtitles in (surprise) Tamil. All of us were trying to figure out what was going on. It was actually not that difficult. But it’s a whole lot difficult trying to figure out just what the hell is going on in this country. That’s why we need story tellers like Kamal. And we could use a lot less of all the others. 

Watch the movie, it’s good fun. Oh, and that microwave in your kitchen - that has some serious thrill issues. As for our country, pray. It helps people to get out of dangerous situations.


  1. Sajish,
    Well written. Think you have developed a very balanced view, since the time I closely interacted with you. (Which was obviously many many years ago)

    1. Hi Vijay,
      Let's catch up some time. As for developing the balanced view, the world and its a&*holes did a good job for 15 years. :)

  2. Nice post! well decribed.. Thanks for the post. Keep posting..
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