Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The ball is stuck in Bolly's court

Hindi film industry never ceases to surprise us. While at some point we feel that it has moved ahead with leaps and bounds, at certain other points it feels like it is rapidly regressing. We have some wish list for Bollywood to help it squirm out of the shackles of ghisa pita formulae and take some risky steps forward…

NURTURE INDIE ATTEMPTS: Throughout the calendar year, we barely notice any independent work hitting the theatre. This situation can change if big movie banners throw their weight behind these small-budget filmmakers without interfering much in the creative process.

GO RURAL: Since the majority of India resides in villages, Hindi cinema can always tap this part of the country for stories. A fully rural- based work like Lagaan, Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, Swades, Welcome to Sajjanpur, I am Kalam happens far and between. With Peepli Live, Aamir Khan proved that marketing skills makes all the difference at the Box Office.

DESI ANIMATION SOMEONE?: A majority of the animation we consider worth watching are imported from Hollywood studios. The reason behind this trend is pretty naïve: Our industry can’t match their standards nor wish to catch up with them. Intriguingly, Japan’s anime industry doesn’t ape the West in this regard as they created a niche for themselves with indigenous work like Ponyo, Spirited Away and Akira.

WHERE ARE THE DOCUS?: We have issues. Lots of them in fact. The reality is that there are documentary- makers out there whose work never hit the theatre due to absence of financial backing. This is precisely where Bollywood stars can step in. They can take a leaf from Leonardo DiCaprio who produced and narrated The 11th Hour. George Clooney did the same with Sand and Sorrow. Matt Damon asked all the grinding questions in the muchacclaimed The Inside Job.

BACK TO BLACK AND WHITE: We aren’t tired of colours but what’s the harm in churning out reels in monochrome or sepia for a change? The world cinema, if not just Hollywood, have done exceptionally well by reliving the good old charm. To boost this argument, flicks like The White Ribbon, Sin City, Good Night, and Good Luck and most recently, The Artist, were appreciated.

SAY AYE TO GAY: In the last few years, there have been commendable attempts by some filmmakers to bring homosexual characters to the forefront of screenplay. This trend is worth encouraging. So superstars, drop your inhibitions and say yes to a gay role.

RECLAIM THE ERA OF SILENCE: Silent cinema was considered to be passé. Until The Artist took place. With the kind of reviews it is earning and the number of awards it’s picking up, one can safely say that perhaps we need to think twice before calling this genre passé. If our memory serves us well, Pushpak ( starring Kamal Hassan) set the tone right for modern silent movies in India but unfortunately nobody followed the trail. Maybe it’s time.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Western cinema adheres to a concept yet adopted by ours — suggestions from peers during production phase. The producers there conduct trial shows the movies they’re working to get a better perspective from experts. Why not take off blinkers and ask an outsider’s honest point of view before release?

Bollywood could reach greater heights if only it stepped out of its safe cocoon more often. Everything said and done, as beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, cinema too lies in the eyes of the viewer. Ideally, Bollywood will surprise us. Hopefully, Bollywood won't disappoint us.

PS: MiD DAY puts the on in office when it publishes a hypothetical article such as this.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A letter without an address

Dear Soulmate,
I’m penning this missive with warm discontent against you and the circumstances that surround us. You may not be aware of me but I’ve been looking for you since I came to know of your existence. You simply couldn’t be found though. There is something about you that’s been cruelly invisible. Perhaps it’s your face. If not, then it’s my mind. In any case, I wonder about the lack of ‘us’ in the foreseeable future. Not a day goes by I don’t wish we were known to each other. It seems as if you just aren’t anywhere close. Most probably, I am searching in all the wrong directions. That must be one of the reasons why we are still strangers. Out of desperation, sometimes, I fancy you on social media; but then common sense prevails and I pray hard this isn’t the case! The only positive outcome of this excruciating delay is that with every passing day, we are only getting older and a bit wiser (if you may). So the experience accumulated in the meantime will tend to enrich our soul. Speaking of which, I worry about you. I admit it’s almost bizarre to do so especially when the person in question is incognito. But still, that’s true. Every once in a while I think about your well-being. I do strongly hope you are healthy, optimistic and all the blah associated with Viva la Vida. But as long as I don’t get to see you, I can only speculate. Trust me, I ain't good at it – I always guess wrong. And right now, I’m guessing that you’ve found your soulmate and are happy with him/her.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Princess Who Got Charmed

In a faraway land (no, not the planets Mormons believe in), there once dwelled a vain Princess who had nothing to do except look forward to her Prince Charming. She was hypnotized to do so by some creepy writer who thought it was übercool to dictate a lady whose only claim to distinction was her fair smooth skin and long golden locks.

As scripted, she patiently waited by the French window day in and day out. She hoped PC would arrive someday on a white horse (which aptly makes her a bit racist!) and help escape her moribund existence. Of course, she wasn’t sure what kind of life PC might provide her once she hops on to sidesaddle him. But the fact that she didn’t know how to clean or cook kept her confidence high and expectations low. More or less, the future was bound to be better out there on the wrong side of window.

Holding all these reasons in her empty head safe, she persisted. In the meantime, PC took a lengthy detour and got killed in the ensuing freak accident which involved his horse and a mare.

End result: He didn’t show up.

The poor Princess, unaware of this bone-breaking news, kept her faith. While she was at it, she lost some weight too. No one bothered though as she wasn’t suffering from anorexia. Besides, the worst that could happen was some modeling agency landing up at her doorstep and window-shopping her. It didn’t matter who rescued her as long as she was loved by the idea of freedom. Whatever that means.

Meanwhile, weeks grew into months and months got substituted by years and eventually time lost track of itself. Neverthemore, the frail Princess was still lonely with no Twitter timeline to pour her frustration on nor Facebook friends to photoshop her emotions with. It was advisable to learn something new like cooking, gardening or knitting but she simply wasn’t interested. Her thoughts were with PC (who should have been alive had he respected equine privacy) and prayed the feeling was mutual.

One afternoon, a frog gatecrashed this story and startled her. He croaked, “Sweetheart, this is me – the one you’ve been waiting for all these years.” On witnessing a frog that spoke fluent English, the Princess turned pale and was about to faint before she blurted out, “Are you my PC?”

This abbreviated question knotted frog’s long tongue and infuriated him, “Now who the fcuk is PC?” Having a pair of ears that weren’t subject to harsh words, she got scared and instantly replied, “Prince Charming!” The frog smiled like they aren’t supposed to on Animal Planet and was relieved to say, “Yeah! That dude’s me.”

There was a long silence and a longer staring contest between the two before the restless frog interrupted: “Well, this is the part where you kiss me and we live happily ever after.” Taking the cue, she lifted him up on her soft palm and closed her to eyes to oblige. At this very instance, the inevitable happened. She turned into a frogess and there was no way to go back other than live croakily ever after.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Bigotry: 1 India: -1

Since everyone’s talking about Salman Rushdie, let’s stick with him. The latest score indicates the bigots have won. Hands down. Once again. They generally do in our country but this time around the story’s a bit different. Legend has it that ultra-religious folks got furious at somebody who once wrote a humorous yet defiling book in 1989 that got banned across a majority of the Islamic world. (Why the so-called secular India decided to become the first nation to join the bandobast still haunts all non-political answers.)

Anyway this acclaimed writer was planning to attend an event in Jaipur which interestingly he had already been part of back in 2007 without the ongoing banfare. Now here’s the most intriguing facet: the ones who are enraged are Muslims and the one they are engraed at is also a Muslim. The only difference between them is that the latter has read the book by default.

So what gave rise to such a beautiful conundrum? Election. Yup. It’s around the corner so politicians got interested in a literature festival that they otherwise wouldn’t have. Vested interest and narrow vision has more to do with this hapless scenario than anything else. Whatever has happened, is happening and will happen is a lesson in progress for all. Human history has not only seen how religion makes people go crazy but also how bigotry makes them do worse. Add politics to the bonfire (or banfire, if you will) and try to imagine God praying heavily for our sanity.

The worst aspect about this current situation is we’ll never know who is right and who isn’t. At the end of the day, religion is a subscriber’s product and God, a belief system. One can join the party or not. It firmly depends on the given person’s sense of rumour. And as long as everybody is cool and nobody’s shouting “My imaginary God’s imaginary dick is bigger than your imaginary God’s imaginary dick!”, no one’s going to regret non-silence.

Excuse moi for digressing here but once upon a train, there was a little boy traveling with his granddad. He was pestering the elderly gentleman with ceaseless questions but with an unassuming innocence. One such query was related to the passing paddy the kid saw through the window. The wise old man was asked who created those green paddy fields. Instead of going into painstaking details, the former decided to snitch on God and stated, “God did.”

On hearing this, the zealous kid’s eyes got excited and started verifying everything they could set themselves on. “What about those trees?” to which the elaboration-free response “God did that too!” echoed. This enamoring charade went on for a long while. All of a sudden, God was the perfect answer to everything the boy had to ask. It didn’t even spare the non-living things either. With “And this train, grandpa?” getting “Who else? The almighty God!” on the conversational track.

It was at that very precise moment the idea of God was born in that child’s moulding mind. The very God who must be mighty pleased with those offended nincompoops’ ability to be well-versed in the tenets of Satanic blasphemy without even giving the godfatwa’d book a try.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Him Advising Her

Don’t listen to them, ignore what you hear

They’re just a crowd
They’ve got to talk
Don’t be selfish, give them something to gossip about
Your moves invite envy for a reason
Your gaze has a story of her own
What’s the point in staying coy
When there are gaits to be shown?
Beauty chose you while you were fast asleep
It’s beyond you – it’s beyond them, too
Live your life as per you wish
Like living-things are supposed to be
Grinless yet smiling
Strong yet fragile
Hold yourself high for the days are few and nights, dark
The memory will play with your youth no matter what
So better make it worthwhile
There’s no need to bow if your heart doesn’t ask you to
You are wonderful as you are
Far more than just what the word ‘unique’ has to say
Your wicked chortle shall echo in the minds of your loved ones
Waiting for their eyes to be flooded again
Akin to the wind that carries the weather wherever it wants
Stay yourself
If sad, write some painful verses
For you are a part of something bigger than anything else
And wilder than the universe’s imagination
Nothing ends with you except your thoughts
As well as your laughs
They know you are used to forgiving
As a question mark at the end of a meaningless sentence
You are nature personified
You'll stay unbeknownst to them yet seen.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Biography se bioscope tak

It’s an ongoing trend in Hollywood to make biographical films. A Beautiful Mind, Alexander, The Aviator, The Queen, Frost/ Nixon, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, Moneyball, J. Edgar and The Iron Lady are some recent examples. Bollywood hasn’t replicated this fad. Yet.

Interestingly, India’s first feature film Raja Harishchandra was a biopic. But the Hindi film industry continues to shy away from this genre for commercial reasons. Audience’s lack of zest for history is also to be blamed. Asoka, Rang De Basanti, Mangal Pandey — The Rising, Jodhaa Akbar, Guru, Bose: The Forgotten Hero and No One Killed Jessica were a handful of brave aberrations.

There is certainly no dearth of characters from our history to inspire film writers.

Here are some personalities who could inspire an interesting watch and the actors who might do justice to their role.

Sardar Patel (Aamir Khan): For a man who drew our map as we know it today, we barely know anything about him. After all, he was not called the Iron Man for nothing.

Dara Shikoh (Ranbir Kapoor): He was the rightful heir to Shah Jahan’s throne and a cheerful hedonist but a political fool. A Sufi liberal whose advocacy of Hindu- Muslim unity proved to be his undoing.

Sanjay Gandhi (Saif Ali Khan): Not only a Nehru scion and an apparent heir to the political dynasty, he was also someone who was a rebel and was drawn towards commotion. His magnetic demeanour mixed with hyperactivity and an eventual premature death makes his life quite cinematic.

The Emergency (Multiple Cast): A proper mainstream film on the 21- month long blemish on the face of Indian democracy is prone to drama… and dramatic characters.

Premchand (Irrfan Khan): The discoverer of the soul in rural India — the unsung Tolstoy of India. He influenced both Hindi as well as Urdu prose. Fortunately, we are aware of his beautiful stories. Unfortunately, we aren’t aware of his story.

Jyotirao-Savitribai Phule (Pavan Malhotra-Shahana Goswami) This Maharashtrian couple with their modern mindset faced huge opposition from the society but made long strides in the field of education and the upliftment of women and untouchables. Jyotirao was labelled the Mahatma long before Gandhiji and Savitribai set up India’s first female school.

Dhyan Chand (Shah Rukh Khan): The very symbol of Indian sportsmanship and the undisputed wizard of our national sport. His successful legacy stays surprisingly humble. He is party to awe- inspiring anecdotes that involve Bradman as well as Hitler.

Swami Vivekanand (R Madhavan): He died young, leaving behind a legacy of spirituality and the idea of a global Indian. The monk who made the West buy the eternal philosophy of Upanishads ought to make a wonderful script.

Bahadur Shah Zafar (Victor Banerjee): The last emperor of India and his melancholic final days in the country before being deported to Burma merits attention — not to mention his mental vagaries and poetic indulgences.

Budhia Singh (Irfan Khan of Chillar Party): The world’s youngest marathon runner who made the media wonder whether he was a victim of torture. They’ve already made a documentary on him. A movie would be going a mile further.

PT Usha (Poorna Jagannathan): Her journey towards becoming the fastest Indian woman wasn’t an easy one. Coming from a humble village, her life story has what it takes to make an enthralling sports flick.

JRD Tata (Naseeruddin Shah): A humane capitalist who provided a better meaning to the word enterprise in free India. Though we are familiar with the brand Tata, we don’t have much clue about his life.

Birbal (Kay Kay Menon): Arguably the wittiest person from the Mughal era. Apart from his brainy exploits in Akbar’s court, very little is known of him. This allows the writers to complement fiction with legends.

(NB: This over-imaginative article appeared on MiD DAY's Hitlist today.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Strawberry Tale

Since he secretly liked her a lot, he always desired a casual conversation. His head rattled with millions of flop ideas. Finally a plan stuck his mind and his ears almost bled. Well, not really, but it’s always fun to inject exaggeration into matters pertaining to heart, love, mind and ear. Anyway, he went ahead with his stratagem and didn’t want to wait no longer. It was 2012 already and there was no point in leaving things to a destiny that followed the Mayan calendar.

So he decided to confront her in the office canteen. Accordingly, he walked straight up to her table where she was having lunch alone. He leaned forward and looked straight into her bespectacled eyes and asked, “Do you like strawberries?” Needless to say she was startled and could barely manage a perplexing “o_O” in reply.

But for him, it was as if every sound dropped mute. Time froze back to Ice Age. Life seemed meaningful after an interval of a lifetime. He just stood there like an idiot which he was and witnessed her beauty create a never-imagined-before frown. But being a true lover, he simply couldn’t quit admiring the art form that her face had turned into. All thanks to his one benign question. This episode must have carried on for about 189 seconds when suddenly she changed her stance and uttered, “Yes, I do.”

Sensing an incredible opportunity, he pulled the chair in front of her and started talking in his native tongue Gibberish. Within moments, the equation rolled down to status quo and things went f—ing downhill from then onwards.

Moral of the story: Strawberries are helpful for budding love-stories during winter but some languages ought to be banned for good.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Some days you are Calvin and some days, Hobbes

It's high time they made a movie on Calvin and Hobbes. But they won’t. Of all the animals on this planet Calvin chose a stuffed Indian tiger to be his imaginary friend. Or perhaps, it was the other way around. Any which case, it can’t be a mere coincidence though. There must have been multiple layers of metaphysical factors at work to make this event a reality. OK. Even if there weren’t, let’s believe otherwise.

The reason why we should do so is Calvin and Hobbes don’t happen everyday. They are not only unique but also unique. Their friendship is the ultimate paragon of a human being’s verbal interaction with another entity – real, imagined or both. Sadly, there is a limitation too. Both of them are characters from a comic strip illustrated by Bill Watterson. Like all cartoonists, Bill doesn't let Calvin learn anything from his misapprehensions lest wisdom corrupt his delightful eccentricity. And we are so grateful to him for that.

Being cartoons, they’ll never age. In a way, this is precisely what makes both of them adorable. The fact that Calvin might never grow up fills millions (like me) with hope. On the other hand, as much as Calvin’s parents might want him to mature, Hobbes would never let that happen. You see, he’s not an ideal friend. He might be a wise tiger who blabbers not as much as Calvin does but he rarely roars any sense into the li’l boy’s wicked head.

One can go a step further and state that Hobbes is an Indian tiger who happens to have a crazy American friend in Calvin. It’s all about multicultural perception. Talking of culture, Calvin's popularity and longevity owes a lot to his parents not being Indian. Had they been Indians (like mine do), the kind of stuff Calvin pulls off every other strip wouldn’t have been viable. Parents in India are, well, you know, quite un-American when it comes to parenting.

Anyway, let’s take this analogy one more step further: In Soviet Russia, Calvin would have been just another boy and Hobbes, just another toy. (Ahem. There was no need to add a communist tangent here but who gives a damn about Lenin-Stalin duo anyway?!) Speaking twitteratically, every tweep is a Calvin and every timeline, Hobbes. (At least no one can dispute this primarily because all the concerned parties are busy tweeting.)

By the way, the most interesting aspect however is we conveniently overlook the possibility that Calvin could well be suffering from a severe mental disorder. Children are meant to be delusional. It helps them in their development but abusing imagination is something else. Anyway the day everything comes to an end, Calvin and Hobbes might be the ones having the last laugh. With us.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

When in India, Occupy Caste

There are LOTS of social issues with respect to caste. Foremost of all is the general economic disparity — the usual ‘rich is getting richer and poor is getting poorer’ cliché. The huge chasm between the rural India and the urban India is facing us. The overwhelming urge of the former to merge with the latter is not only intriguing but also worrisome. The lack of opportunities is what’s driving this social disorder. There are many more ailments like failing infrastructure, lack of governance, civil disobedience when it comes to adherence of basic laws, poverty, illiteracy, corruption and growing Maoist threat. All these inimical elements blend perfectly with our turbulent society.
These are the social issues. Political terrain is quite different and bumpy.
Political issues pertain mostly to politicians. Democracy empowers us to vote, yes but what happens next is not guaranteed. Of course, that’s the case with almost all democracies across the world but here, things are a bit more skewed (or screwed, for lack of better word). Politicians are perceived as villains by the haves and saviors by the have-nots. But that doesn’t stop us from electing more of the unreliable kind. The reason behind this being the role caste plays a key role in the national arena.
Caste is like the most legal illegal substance in India. The Untouchability Act was passed in 1955. In that very year, the Protection of Civil Rights Act was passed. Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act took place in 1989 and Human Rights Protection Act in 1993. Since they are part of the constitution now, they are bona fide laws. Besides, the Hindu system has been casteist since time immemorial. It’s India’s version of apartheid. People like Buddha and Mahavir were the earliest proponents of ‘Chuck discrimination! Everybody is equal’ dictum. And if one observes closely, Buddha in particular was very successful too. It’s a different story though that his ideals are followed more religiously in South-East Asian countries than in India! Similarly, Gandhi took particular interest in the upliftment of the Harijans.
So reservation helps the case or not?
Reservation was a temporary solution crafted by our founding fathers who thought the under-privileged ones should get an upper hand when the nation kick-starts. Reservation was meant to go on for about 15 years. But it’s been almost 65 years now! When Morarji Desai founded Mandal Commission during his tenure as the PM, it was an honest step towards separating the privileged from the underprivileged ones. But with PM VP Singh’s shrewd decision to implement the reservation policy in 1990, caste, politics and reservation became inextricable bedfellows – ultimately giving new rise to new faces in politics who run the roost today.
Interestingly, the Dalits found a messiah in Mayawati when she became the Chief Minister of the largest non-nation entity on the planet (read: Uttar Pradesh) but as time went passed by, it became apparent that she’s just another narcissistic politician. For the record, the last Dalit leader whom no one has been able to emulate till date is Dr. Ambedkar (who is also considered the Father of Indian constitution). Every other Dalit leader carries his picture for approval from poor Dalits but barely anyone truly stand for what he did. Political solutions are most effective in a vast country like ours but it takes a lot of awareness and time. And patience is an expensive virtue in politics.
On the other hand, independent India saw some Dalit leaders making a mark too in the last two decades. Like RK Narayan becoming India’s first Dalit President and KMC Balayogi, first Dalit Lok Sabha speaker. KG Balakrishnan became the first Dalit Chief Justice of India in 2006.
So we can’t deny that thanks to such schemes, there has been a heck of an improvement for Dalits in the overall social order. In fact, a lot of progress has taken place over the years due to reservation mainly in the field of education and employment. But at the end of the day, reservation is self-defeating and anti-competition. And worst of all, people who are economically privileged and don’t even belong to the eligible caste try to leech benefits. There was a time when people didn’t know that caste was a major issue in independent India but now, thanks to widespread mass media, we get to know what happened where. People aren’t asleep anymore.
As a byproduct of these actions, we now have 27% reservation for OBC (Other Backward Class) and Muslims are eagerly anticipating a 4.5% reservation as a sub-quota with the OBC. Women are looking forward to 33% reservation. Math can’t get murkier than this. Even some new states like Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh were formed under the pretext of empowering the downtrodden communities. But what’s going on today is in stark contrast with what was supposedly intended. Or like Charlie Sheen would quip, upper caste politicians are #winning in these states.
So how does the non-political entity contribute to this cauldron? Well, there are effective personalities like Sudha Murthy (wife of Infosys founder NR Murthy) who is busy building schools in far-off villages. And there are selfless crusaders like Binayak Sen and many more who could have lived a charming life in cities if they wanted. These activists and campaigners try to work at the grass-root level. Most of them are of the opinion that education is what’s missing. And it’s very true. They believe that stringent legislation will empower the lower castes in the long run. Offering a helping hand by upgrading their living condition is the way to go.
Here again, political will portrays an important role. Like Indira Gandhi’s garibi hatao movement was effectively turning land laborers into landowners overnight!
After all, you won’t find pickets like “Occupy Caste” anywhere in India. Urbanites don’t care about it and that’s that. This is how it works (and doesn’t work) in India. Since rural areas are the ones where casteist discriminations takes place, most of the activists working there are nameless and faceless. Except when we read about their inspiring work in newspapers/magazines.
Caste doesn’t change but our perception towards it does… from place to place. If you are born a Hindu, it implies one surety – you are born in to a caste by default whether you like it or not. And in states like Gujarat and Rajasthan, caste transcends religion. Like the Muslims have castes belonging to mercantile communities and such. In South India, people usually don’t care much about caste in the society unless someone is getting married. YOU’VE GOT TO MARRY A PERSON FROM YOUR OWN CASTE – is the norm. Politically, it’s very Brahminically-oriented though. In North India, caste is more prominent and sometimes, brutal. But cities like Patna and Lucknow won’t witness discrimination based on caste the way forlorn villages are bound to.
Caste has also benefited proselytism. Christian Missionaries will generally target the forest-dwellers and the downtroddens. They offer education in exchange of faith. Net-net, it’s a win-win situation. No one’s complaining. Except the radical Hindu groups who think it’s a conspiracy against their religion. Net-net, they are morons.
Development (read: capitalism) has what it takes to overshadow caste. Remnants of feudalism can still be found in villages where Dalits often suffer at the hands of cruel landlords. Everyone must have heard or seen Bandit Queen. It’s a hardcore movie about a real-life dacoit who took revenge on people from upper caste who wronged her when she was younger. Well, the story ended this way – she surrendered, served sentence and joined politics later and then one morning, got shot by a kin of whom she massacred!
The setting is quite different in cities as far as caste identification is concerned. Urban areas function like a neo-liberal. Hardly anyone cares to ask each other which caste one belongs to. Everyone share a common table in the office canteen without any hassle. However, religion, linguistic and regional identity rather plays a bigger role in metropolitans sometimes. Caste is not THAT visible in the vital status. People are way too busy chasing trains that often don’t run on time to bother with anything else.
Mass migration has a lot to do with the prevailing caste (mal)practices in rural areas. Loads of people migrate to Mumbai every single day. It goes without saying that a major bulk of this ‘Diaspora’ belongs to the lower caste. They enter the city with dreamy eyes. Everyone wants a new start and they are no different. Once they are within the city, their caste ceases to exist. Hard work and opportunities are what matters. The word is reinvent. In any case, they are better off in restless Delhi or Kolkata than in the bucolic pockets of India.
Talking of Mumbai, Bollywood is a shining example of how casteism can be thwarted. First of all, Bollywood is like the most secular thing in India. The very fact that the Punjabi Kapoors and Muslim Khans have dominated it over the years illustrates this point. A different and purer adaptation of caste-ing applies here — dynasty. It is pivotal. For example, Big B’s son becomes an actor even though he might not have an iota of actor in him. The same goes for Hema Malini’s daughter. A producer’s son becomes a producer (if he fails as an actor first!) and a director’s son will vie to get behind the camera like his father. So in a way, it’s a casteist from a professional point of view.
To understand why Bollywood doesn’t have a Dalit superstar yet, we’ll have to peek into its history. Bollywood happened in a Marathi-Gujarati Bombay but it thrived because of the Punjabi infusion. Bollywood’s first superstar post-independence was a Muslim who went about with a Hindu name: Dilip Kumar. And today, it’s a Muslim who proudly goes with his Pathan name: Shah Rukh Khan. Between them, there have been an array of superstars who came and went but none of them were Dalits.
Perhaps the future might belong to some Dalit superstar. Hopefully. It will definitely be a positive sign. There were Dalit poets and writers but how much of their work influenced Bollywood needs to be researched. There are Dalits in the production team who work behind the scene but they aren’t forced to display their ID cards.
In an ideal world, caste won’t exist. But we don’t live in an ideal world. So I believe affirmative actions with a pedantic approach is what’s needed. There will always be people who’ll be oppressed, especially farmers. After all, India is an agrarian country with nearly 70% of the economy depending on agriculture. And it’s a sorry state of affairs for farmers who commit suicide as if it’s a newborn trend. Hence reservation ought to be based on economic factors rather than one’s caste.
Just because a person is born of low caste doesn’t mean s/he should be addressed with provisions meant for the underprivileged. In simpler words, it’d be unfair. The same goes for the lower caste kids who are applying for colleges/universities. Why should they be given preferential treatment when a kid from a general category scores better marks but is denied the rightful seat?
Gumption is what’s lacking. And the worst scenario happens when casteist mentality becomes apparent in cities while applying for higher education or government jobs. LUCKILY, THERE ARE NO RESERVATIONS IN PRIVATE SECTOR THOUGH POLITICIANS ARE TRYING TO GATECRASH IN THERE TOO!
Anti-discrimination has to take place at the grass-root level like most the national activists keep on reiterating. What’s the point in allowing reservations in IITs and IIMs when the low-caste kids don’t even get to attend a proper school? Education, general awareness and a strong political go-to-ness is what’s required to tackle these issues. Society can change but a country as a whole needs politicians at the helm. And we aren’t blessed with such politicians. Yet.