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2013 : The Year That Was!

Some experiences are terse through a decade while sometimes a year-long experience is prolix. To my mind, 2013 is one such year. Cramped across this time-space were events pregnant with pessimism & possibilities.
2013 has witnessed changes in the politico-social power apparatus in India and efforts of various groups this year will reflect in General Elections – 2014.
I seek to examine few broad trends at various levels that particularly interest me.
Rise of Social-media: With organized media organizations increasingly seen as propaganda vehicles for political parties or certain classes, common-man found his voice through social-media. Long dismissed as a urban-phenomenon with no ground influence, social-media sought redemption through AAP’s success in Delhi, largely credited to its effective social-media campaigning where volunteering efforts tipped the scale in its favor. This comes with a rider though - what appeals to masses needn’t necessary be good in long-term. Quick-informati…

Attarintiki Daaredi : Some Ramblings

I remember a cinema-crazy friend remarking almost a decade back, that all Indian movies can be reduced to a handful of basic storylines which when appropriately tweaked at suitable positions yield a wide spectrum of diverse stories. Telugu movies, since Gundamma Katha, have tinkered with the concept of protagonist(s) entering a household (mostly antagonist’s) in disguise to bring about a change in their hearts. In Hindi we have DDLJ in recent memory. It’s a time-tested storyline, which if executed deftly, with judicious mix of déjà vu and novel elements, has nearly always produced good results.
So what freshness does Trivikram-Pawan Kalyan’s latest flick “Attarintiki Daredi” bring to a much overused basic storyline? If its spectacular box-office performance is any indication, the movie has indeed struck a chord with the masses. Studying what makes a cinema click would bog down the best; any industry-observer’s speculation is probably only as scientific as modern day computer-empowered …

Yoga sects and their Hindu connection

Many quasi-Hindu sects abound in India that try to distance themselves from Hinduism to give their cult a more universal character [meditation, yoga, etc.]. Briefly such sects claim that they’ve discovered/invented a path that transcends religions and hence they cannot be pinned down a narrow categorization called Hinduism. In this post, we will endeavour to examine such claims and the historical precedents to set things in perspective.
Let’s understand the position of these cults on this issue:

They claim that their approach is universal – beyond bodily associations such as religion – and their method can be appreciated by people of all religions including Islam and Christianity.They’ve incorporated wisdom not only from Hinduism, but are open to receive whatever good the other religions have to offer. Being a good Muslim/Christian is same as being a good Hindu.They do not necessarily follow typical Hindu festivals with the same materialist fanfare and consumerism.
Understanding Abraham…

Difference between Hindutva & Hinduism

In India any form of Hindu assertion or defence is quickly labelled as being pro-Hindutva. Indeed, the term ‘Hindutva’ is clearly used in pejorative sense in media, and many youngsters who unquestioningly consume the left-liberal dominated media propaganda are prompt to affix this tag who anyone who attempts to defend Hinduism and criticize other religions.
What exactly is Hindutva?
Hindutva is Persian-cum-Sanskrit neologism meaning “Hinduness” or “Hindu identity”, born in late 19th century and credited to Savarkar. Hindutva is a political movement, which argues that India is the “homeland” of Hindus, and defines ‘Hindus’ as those who consider India as their motherland, fatherland and holyland. Note that the definition is purely in cultural terms which include Indic religions like Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. But this surely clashes with the two Abrahamic religions, Christianity and Islam, for whose followers, the holyland lies outside of India.
To put it rather bluntly, Hindutva state…

Chetan Bhagat : His Literary Style and Criticism

Chetan Bhagat’s (CB) recent column created a furore, chiefly because of his audacity to speak for Muslim community and what many people conflate with his support for Narendra Modi’s Prime Ministerial ambitions.  
But what interested me most - and what this post would focus on - is questioning of his literary merit (or lack of it). Many journalists ridicule CB’s style of writing and his oversimplistic portrayals of characters sans nuance or sophistication. But I suspect this has more to do with the fact that his readers alone far outnumber the combined readers of many journalists - a point that many don’t appear capable of digesting.
No takers for layman’s language!
When Tulsidas rewrote Ramayana in Avadhi (a local contemporary dialect then), many conservative sections of society came down heavily upon him for defiling the sanctity of a much revered epic (originally written in Sanskrit). When Quran was first translated in Urdu (by Shah Abdul Qadir in 1798), it faced intense opposition by …

India needs fresh national narrative, it needs Modi

In a debate the one who frames the rules wins it (atleast in public perception) irrespective of the merit in his argument. It’s probable that such a person has little logic to back him, yet by spinning the course in his favour, he has half-defeated his opponent as the latter has to play by rules set by him.
For example, if an interview with Bill Clinton focusses only on his extra-marital affair, any viewer cannot escape the impression that he is a sex-maniac. On the contrary, if he is interviewed on various policies during his tenure in office such as foreign affairs, corporate affairs etc the viewer gets a more wholesome perspective about his overall legacy.
This is why media plays a pivotal role in shaping public discourse. And the narrative is set by asking a particular set of questions, and not necessarily by providing their answers. We’ll get back to this a little later after discussing election strategies of various political parties.
Current Election Strategy
Over years, elections …

Rediscovering K Viswanath's Legacy

The popular cinema in India generally indulges in mindless plots punctuated by songs, action & comic sequences which cling to the narrative simply because they are put on.  Such movies, irrespective of their commercial outcome, lack the harmony and connection to forcefully create an impression among audience.
K. Viswanath, a pan-Indian filmmaker whose (major) works incidentally happen to be in Telugu, is among the handful of Indian directors whose works (less than 25 films) created memorable characters that would stand the test of time. Weaving stories centred on a passionate protagonist against the larger context of preserving Indian arts and culture, Viswanath churned out masterpieces year after year until, much like Sankara Sastry’s story, his era was eclipsed by rise of “commercial cinema”.
Born in generation that never saw his movies in theatres, my introduction to his movies was with explicit knowledge about his repute. But expectations notwithstanding, I was pleasantly surp…