The Common Man Speaks

22Oct/170

Book Review: Dance Of The Spirits

Supernatural stories contain at least one of the following elements – ghosts, souls, miracles beyond human explanation and occultism. Some of these are also present in author Sanjai Velayudhan’s novel, Dance Of The Spirits.

But it follows the route of a normal, simple story. This makes it appealing and intriguing even for those who don’t believe in the supernatural and just wish to feast on a normal mystery book.

Dance Of The Spirits revolves around Krish, a consultant working in Dubai. He lives with his dominating wife Lakshmi and daughter. Circumstances compel him to visit his native place Kerala to write a book revolving around the dance form, Theyyam. Once home, he reunites with his school friend Ajay, a chauvinistic cassanova.

Krish comes across a foreign tourist Maria and gets fascinated by her. He finds himself drawn to the beautiful lady and slowly becomes her companion. She too is here to study Theyyam for her thesis. What is this association meant to be?

Dance Of The SpiritsThis is one book that makes an excellent use of flashback. Before the story goes back few months, we are told right at the start about a passionate extra-marital affair and who dies in the end. But instead of being a spoiler, this makes the narrative more interesting and gripping as you eagerly wait for the event.

Velayudhan ensures that the wait turns out to be a pleasant one. This well-structured story is developed smoothly with some well-etched characters. We are given lots of in-depth knowledge on the art of Theyyam along with the culture, history and socio-political situation of Kerala. In other words, Kerala becomes a familiar character even if you haven’t visited it. But nowhere does it make it sound like a documentary.

The author has achieved high standards in writing despite using simple language. Like I have said quite a few times before, the key is to make it friendly for anyone from a literary expert to someone hailing from vernacular medium. The editing too needs to be lauded here for no major errors.

But what takes the cake is the supernatural connection to the story. It is not something that is done in a straightforward manner. We are told a supernatural tale and are asked to draw conclusions on the incident in this story. But at the same time, this is a rare supernatural story that gives you an option of not believing it if you wish to.

However, regardless of you believing it or not, you would surely go back to the start and few other portions to join the dots. Doing this increases the effect.

The only kind of negative point here is that the narrative becomes too descriptive when it comes to describing a person or a place. Similarly, the entire chapter on the character of Lakshmi could have been shortened to get on with the story. These aren't major put offs though, thankfully.

Overall: Dance Of The Spirits is a fascinating novel that gives a new dimension to supernatural stories.

Rating: 4/5

Review by: Keyur Seta

Author: Sanjai Velayudhan

Publishers: Leadstart publishing

Cover: A picture of the Theyyam performer. The sight is pretty but at the same time gives a mysterious feel about the story.

Pages: 268

Price: Rs 299

13Sep/170

Book Review: Return Of The Trojan Horse

Author Amit Dubey’s Return Of The Trojan Horse is a crime novel consisting three stories – Return Of The Trojan Horse, Independence Day and That Little Girl. They all revolve around the character Amit, a young software engineer, and the senior cop Dilip.

The book is worth savoring for those who enjoy thrillers. Its biggest strong point is that it’s a fast paced page turner. There is some high and deep usage of technology. Thankfully, this part is simplified as much as possible.

More about the three stories:

Return Of The Trojan Horse: Amit suddenly gets a call from a CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) officer who knows everything about him. He urges him to help him and his colleagues learn hacking and other security techniques in order to safeguard the country against terrorists. After initial refusal, Amit agrees. But he has no idea that his rendezvous with terrorists can prove to be fatal for him.

What works the most here is the twist in the middle, which not only makes the tale interesting but also adds to the thrill. You do wonder about Amit’s naïve behavior at one point. But that was imperative for the twist and the author has managed to hide it well. Hence, it doesn’t bother you much.

The Return Of The Trojan HorseIndependence Day:

Balwant Singh, director of a well-known public sector company, gets kidnapped on August 14. The kidnappers demand a ransom of Rs 2 crore from his wife, who has no idea how she would manage such a huge amount. The government of India’s reputation is at stake since their own person has got kidnapped just when the security is so tight a day before Independence Day. Amit’s technical expertise is sought to solve the case.

This is the best of the three stories. We have been through too many kidnapping dramas in Hindi films. But this one doesn’t appear repetitive. This is largely because the investigation and the consequences in the end produce tremendous thrill and tension. The finale is very crucial in such kidnapping stories and this point is also taken care of well.

That Little Girl:

A rich fellow loses control of his car while being in a drunken state and crushes a group of homeless people. Some get killed and others get injured. One survivor is a little innocent girl who gets severely injured and loses her parents. Amit is heartbroken looking at her condition. He vows to help Dilip solve the case and punish the guilty.

The story follows the same fast-paced narration pattern. The investigation process with respect to trapping suspects is interesting. But the problem here is the climax. It not only makes you sad but is also not presented convincingly. Plus, the entire episode with the journalist at the start wasn’t necessary.

There are few issues that are noticed in all three stories. There should have been more depth in Amit’s character. In order to make it a fast read, the focus is too much on the dialogues instead of the narration of the tale.

But the biggest issue is the editing as one can regularly spot errors related to sentence framing and in the spelling of ‘Khyaam.’ Also, the use of sexism to create humor is questionable in stories that are otherwise modern and progressive.

Overall: The Return Of Trojan Horse is an interesting thriller book that makes for a fast read.

Rating: 3/5

Reviewed by: Keyur Seta

Author: Amit Dubey

Publishers: Leadstart Publishing

Pages: 258

Price: Rs 249

Cover: Artistic close-up of a keyboard along with an image of a Trojan horse

30Jul/172

Short Story: The Release Of My First Film

Yari Road in Andheri is a contradictory locality in Mumbai. On the one hand, you find some super-rich businessmen and senior-most employees living in their posh houses. At the same time, it is also home to some rank strugglers from the film industry. They arrive in the city from small towns in large numbers just to get that one big break in films. But only a handful of them get their dreams fulfilled.

Before they make it big, they live literally in poverty. Many stay in crowded rented flats; not knowing whether they would be able to pay next month’s rent. They don’t have meals. They only eat food. And this includes anything that’s cheaply available or easy to make.

But despite living in such conditions and facing rejection time and again, these strugglers never lose hope. This was the mantra for Sumeet also, who finally has a glimmer of hope for making it big in Hindi cinema or Bollywood, as they call it. After years of struggling as an AD (assistant director), he somehow got a chance of directing his first movie at the age of 27 last year.

Movie clapboardTitled Zameen, his film is based on the sad situation of farmers in Maharashtra and how they are forced to commit suicide due to drought, which increases their financial woes. With such a subject, naturally it was tough convince a producer. Shooting the film in Marathwada was a herculean task, especially with the shoestring budget provided to him since it was a ‘non-commercial’ subject.

After more than a year of making it, Zameen was just 10 days away from release. Even experienced director feel butterflies in their stomachs, so what to say about a debut filmmaker? Sumeet was someone who appeared calm from outside even if there was a storm inside him, like it was these days.

Such super low-budget films ensure that the makers are left with hardly any funds for proper marketing and promotions. At times, even a mere media screening proves to be harmful to the pockets. This burdens the director and the main cast to come up with cheap or no-cost promotional activities. Their situation is the same as those door-to-door salesmen, who are desperate to sell their product.

After continuously posting about his film on social media platforms, Sumeet somehow managed to organize a small promotional activity at a mall at Yari Road just two days before the release. It was the ideal place to attract the high society crowd, who could afford the abnormal ticket rates at multiplexes.

A handsome man who looked in his early 30s approached Sumeet out of nowhere along with his group of 5-6 friends. He displayed his status through his branded clothes, shoes and sun-glasses, which were tucked in his shirt. After introducing himself as Sunny, he told Sumeet how impressed he was with the trailer of his film.

“It is refreshing to see someone making a film on such important issues in today’s times,” added Sunny. Sumeet was obviously overjoyed. After an informal chat that lasted for few minutes, Sunny and his friends promised to see Zameen on the weekend. Sumeet urged them to share their honest view with him, to which they agreed.

The interaction with Sunny and his friends infused new hope in Sumeet. But on the day of the release, he became as anxious as he was before. Films falling in the parallel cinema genre with unknown actors hardly get an audience on the opening day. Sumeet knew this well, so he didn’t check the online booking scenario on Friday.

But he kept logging in to an online booking website on Saturday morning to know if there is any advance booking for his film. He checked a nearby multiplex and could see only 2-3 seats booked. He encouraged himself by thinking that Sunny and his friends would surely see the film in any of these two days. And hopefully, they would spread the word if they like it.

On Saturday night, Sunny and company did decide to see the film, as promised. Few minutes into the film, Sunny told his friend seated besides him, “Thanks to the digital era, we get such good quality picture in downloaded films.”

By: Keyur Seta

18Jun/170

Renee’s Treasure Book Review

Good children’s films are the ones that also appeal to the grown-ups. The same goes for children’s books too. Indrani Sinha’s Renee’s Treasure falls in this category. It is a novel that goes beyond the target audience. Apart from narrating an interesting tale, it is filled with nostalgic moments.

The story is set in 1960 and it revolves around the 11-year-old girl Renee. She is smart and adventurous. She stays with her mother, whom she fondly addresses as Mamoni, father, two younger brothers, Jatin and Sonu and grandfather. Renee’s father, who is a junior engineer with railways, has been recently transferred to Varanasi from Bareilly.

Renee's Treasure bookLike every child, Renee is excited for her upcoming birthday. But this year, it’s even special since her grandfather aka Dadaji has hidden a secret gift for her, which she needs to uncover. He has strictly urged her not to disclose this to anyone, including her parents. Unfortunately, Dadaji passes away on her birthday. Now, Renee is left all by herself to search the gift. She finds help in the form of her new friends, Anil aka Sacchu and his sister Anita.

The basic plot of Renee’s Treasure itself is exciting as well as intriguing. It keeps you guessing about the gift. This coupled with a free-flowing narration with regular twists make sure you are hooked. Sinha has also smartly women thriller elements. This makes you recall the method used by Satyajit Say in his Feluda series, where there is thrill but at the same time, the mood is completely light-hearted.

The most vital aspect in such stories is the uncovering of the treasure in the end. Sinha has thankfully kept this part simple, which goes with the nature of the entire book.

The author’s language and use of words plays a large role in making the book appealing to both kids and grown-ups. The little ones would enjoy the story and mystery. But adults would also find high doses of nostalgia. The children’s antics in school and home would surely bring back memories of their younger days. The book indirectly gives a message that life was indeed simple and more pleasurable for children back then.

There are few issues that limit the book’s greatness. The long bygone era of 1960 isn’t felt much. It rather looks like the book is based in the early 1990s. On few occasions, the narration gets too descriptive. There is a romantic angle between two teachers in the school. Although it is cute, we wonder about its relevance with the main story.

Overall: Renee’s Treasure is an intriguing as well as light-hearted nostalgic saga. It has the potential of impressing both children and grown-ups.

Author: Indrani Sinha

Rating: 3.5/5

Review by: Keyur Seta

Pages: 145

Publishers: Leadstart Publishing

Price: Rs 150

Cover: Beautiful painting that induces nostalgia and the joys of simple life

9Apr/170

Book Review: Beneath A Rougher Sea

Even in 2017, a person suffering from a psychological illness continues to face stigma from the society. This holds true even in the most urban city like Mumbai. Author Susmita Bagchi’s Beneath A Rougher Sea is a fine encouragement in speaking out about mental issues. But instead of being preachy, it puts forth its point while telling a compelling story.

The novel revolves around an experienced psychiatrist, Aditya. He has been practicing out of Bangalore since years. He treats all types of mental disorders; from simple depression to something as complex as schizophrenia. His wife, Prachi is a general doctor working in a hospital. Something new happens in Aditya’s routine life when he bumps into his old friend, Prakash.

Beneath A Rougher SeaThe two of them had met during their medical college days. After getting irritated by Prakash initially, Aditya became his best friend in no time. But later on, they went out of touch as both got busy with their respective lives. But the real twist comes in Aditya’s life when Deepa, his first love, resurfaces after 22 years.

As is evident from the above synopsis, Beneath A Rougher Sea has an interesting, dramatic storyline. But Bagchi has smartly weaved the issue of psychological illness into it. To provide awareness on mental disorders in such an emotional personal story is no easy task whatsoever.

But the biggest challenge was to present and explain the condition of individuals suffering from psychological disorders. And the author has succeeded here too. Thankfully, she has steered clear of making it sound technical. In other words, a layman or someone with no knowledge of the psychological world would find it easy to grasp.

The conversation between the psychiatrist and the patients was the means to it. The dialogue with every patient is interesting and insightful. And having witnessed the working of psychiatrists from close quarters, I can vouch that it is realistic too. The reality is seen in the numerous characters too. There is a good amount of relativity with them.

Moreover, the pace is crisp. The book is a fast read throughout. As far as the writing is concerned, it’s simple yet appealing. The author has maintained the balance between rich and easy language.

There are few issues that stop the book from being much more. There comes a period where the story doesn’t move much and a lot of footage is given to the discussion with patients. Tragedy with one of the characters should have at least been reduced. This is because the purpose of the character and its story was already achieved.

Overall: Beneath A Rougher Sea is an insightful and interesting novel. It carries out the much needed task of removing stigma from patients suffering from psychological problems.

Rating: 3.5/5

Reviewed by: Keyur Seta

Pages: 279

Publisher: Leadstart Publishing

Price: Rs 299

Cover: A sketch on blue perfectly depicting the storyline

11Oct/160

Dussehra short story: When will good destroy evil? She wondered…

By: Keyur Seta

Vidya’s final year in college was about to end. She was studying in Commerce in Symbiosis College in Pune for the last five years. Their tenure was supposed to end with the annual day function. Vidya was keenly looking forward to the day as she was supposed to enact a one-act play.

Her performance was met with a standing ovation. The play slammed the practice of forceful marriage of girls and that to at a tender age of early 20s. The subject and Vidya’s passion towards it deeply struck a chord with the audience. Not many from the audience knew that even in her personal life, she is like a silent rebel.

The act made Vidya’s final moments in college deeply memorable, along with loads of bagful of memories from five years. As she was on her way to her home in Mumbai, she had mixed feelings. While she was sad to see her college life ending, there was a sense of joy to reunite with her family – mother, father, elder brother and sister-in-law. While alighting from the train, she had a wide smile reading a text on her mobile phone.

It was joy indeed for her to be back home. She spent the first few days relaxing. There was a sense of contentment she experienced in Aamchi Mumbai, despite the late September heat and all other issues the city suffered from. After she realized she had enough of those restful days, she decided to hunt for a job.

Picture: fsquarefashion.com

Picture: fsquarefashion.com

Vidya’s father, Ramanlal, entered her room while she was busy doing something on her laptop. A single peep on her screen made him realize that she was surfing a job site. He gently sat down in front of her with a smile. Vidya adjusted herself as she became conscious of his presence. She had no idea that his father’s casual visit to her room will change her life forever.

Ramanlal calmly told her that there is no point in searching for a job. Vidya, obviously, was surprised. He elaborated himself saying that her marriage is fixed. Vidya got the shock of her life. As she showed signs of contempt, Ramamlal raised his voice and said that this is their family tradition; a girl is married off when she reaches her early 20s.

Ramamlal further said that the guy is from a good family and the son of their family friend. More importantly, he is from the same community, caste and sub-caste. And being a father, he cared for their status in their biraadri or samaaj. A teary-eyed Vidya explained that she plans to do MBA right now. Marriage can happen later.

But Ramanlal pointed out that girls from their community aren’t allowed to work. She will have to be a wife and her only concern should be to look after her husband. Despite being shocked, she tried protesting saying that she doesn’t even know the guy. But his father cut her short stating that the guy is from a rich family and runs a profitable business. What else does a girl need?

Ramamlal left the room in a hush and ordered his wife, who was witnessing the scene near the door, to make sure she gets ready for marriage. With tears flowing down her cheeks, she asked her mother why did they send her to college then. Her mother said without emotion, “A well-educated girl gets a good husband.” Vidya further asked frustratingly, “But what about my dreams?” Her mother replied coldly, “Your only dream should be to be a good wife and mother.”

Vidya was hell shocked! She just couldn’t believe what happened to her. In the days to come, her parents’ behavior changed towards her drastically. Vidya was numb. She couldn’t believe these are her own parents. She felt as if someone else is impersonating them. She came to know from her cousin that the same thing happened with her. She too experienced the same change in her parents’ behavior when she had refused marrying so early.

This made Vidya recall the disturbing conversation between her parents and brother when he refused to marry so early. Being just 16 during that time, she hadn’t thought much about that incident up till now.

Vidya was insulted by her parents and relatives even if she slightly protested against the marriage. She was trapped. There was just no way out. Finally, she had to give in. Yes, she extinguished all her dreams for, what her parents described as, a heavenly bond.

Picture: voc.org.my

Picture: voc.org.my

The engagement was fixed on the day after Dusshera. It was one day away. Vidya was sitting by her window overlooking the rapidly developing area of Kandivali east. Her phone beeped. Instantly she replied to the message with, “Yes, all set.”

The day arrived. On one hand, all the preparations were made for the engagement. At the same time, the city was gearing up to celebrate Dusshera. Various Ram Leela pandals were all set to ignite effigies of Ranava. The act symbolizes the victory of good over evil.

It was just an hour to go for her engagement. Vidya was seated comfortably by the window. She recalled the time when she read Vicky’s text while getting down to Mumbai from Pune. The message said that his parents had agreed for their marriage. She was then reminded of the traumatic times that followed. Her flashback ended when she had replied to his text with, “Yes, all set.”

Vidya took her eyes off from the window, turned towards her right and smiled. Vicky smiled back and they held each other’s hands warmly. Soon, the flight attended instructed the passengers to fasten their seat belts.

As the plane took off, Vidya’s eyes fell on the effigy of Ravana that was being burnt much below her. She had witnessed this sight numerous times before. But it was only during that moment that she truly understood the meaning of the phrase 'victory of good over evil.'

14Aug/162

Short story: The Anti-National

By: Keyur Seta

The early sunrise succeeded in making its way in an otherwise cloudy month of August. The day marked the arrival of India’s 69th Independence Day. It seemed that the energetic group of people at Shiv Shakti Society in Mumbai’s Shivaji Park area was just waiting for the first rays to commence preparations for the Independence Day celebrations.

The group consisted people from all age groups and both genders. The only common factor that united them was their traditional attire neatly worn.

The folded national flag was slowly getting tied on the pole amid the playing of patriotic songs like ‘Mere Desh Ki Dharti,’ ‘Jai Janani Jai Bharat Ma,’ ‘Mera Rang De Basanti Chola,’ ‘Aye Watan Aye Watan,’ etc.

A figure emerged from the building oblivious to the events around him. He was in his early 20s wearing three-fourths and a T-shirt. This, along with long hair and unshaven face easily made him the odd man out. He looked disinterested in the proceedings around him as he listened to ‘Kala Chashma’ in his earphones. This didn’t go down well with the crowd present, which gave him a look of contempt. Some were also offended by the absence of tricolor on his T-shirt.

Indian FlagAn uncle in his 50s emerged in front of him greeting him through a hand gesture. The boy removed his earphones and smiled. The man said, “Come, join us for the Independence Day celebrations. Almost everyone from the society is here.” The youngster simply said, “Sorry, but I need to go somewhere.”

A middle-aged woman added, “Come on beta, it’s our country’s independence day!” The boy, now uncomfortable, replied, “I know aunty. But I have some other plans.” A couple of people also tried convincing him but in vain. Finally, he walked away out of the compound plugging his earphones.

This enraged most of the people in the group as they started criticizing him among themselves. “Well, these are today’s youngsters. What else do you expect?” “No respect for the country.” “He must have gone to meet his girlfriend.” “Did you see how he was dressed?”

The uncle, who had stopped him, added thunderously, “Such people are anti-nationals!” Everyone present agreed with him wholeheartedly.

The atmosphere cooled down in few minutes and they got ready for flag hoisting. Everyone present passionately sung India’s national anthem after the eldest member of the society unfurled the flag. Chants of ‘Vande Mataram’ and ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ followed. They chit-chatted for some time after wishing ‘Happy Independence Day’ to each other.

Some 30 kilometers away at an orphanage in Andheri, a group of kids were eagerly awaiting Krishna bhaiya and his friends. They visited every August 15 and January 26 to serve them delicious meals and donate some amount to the trustees of the orphanage. The kids didn’t need to wait long as they could see Krishna, along with few others, crossing the road outside their gate. He was still listening to ‘Kala Chashma.’

Back at Shiv Shakti Society, the group of patriots retired to their respective flats after the function. They spent the rest of the day doing activities like watching TV, surfing the net, going for shopping, watching movies, eating at a nearby restaurants, meeting friends over drinks, etc.

Just before midnight, Krishna, the odd man from the society, smiled as he thought about the events of the day. As he closed his eyes satisfactorily, he remembered the words of his late father, “Never announce or publicize charity. If you do, it no longer remains charity.”

Do not stand on a high pedestal and take five cents in your hand and say, “Here, my poor man”; but be grateful that the poor man is there, so that by making a gift to him you are able to help yourself. It is not the receiver that is blessed, but it is the giver. Be thankful that you are allowed to exercise your power of benevolence and mercy in the world, and thus become pure and perfect.

- Swami Vivekananda

7Feb/160

Main Zinda Hoon (Hindi Poem)

By: Keyur Seta

Kuchh log kehte hain main kahin kho gayi hoon.
Kuchh ke anusaar meri kabki MAUT ho chuki hai.
Koi kehta hai main humesha se kewal ek BHRAM se zyada aur kuchh nahin rahi hoon.

Jabki sach yeh hai ki mera ASTITVA tha, hai aur rahega.
Kabhi main BOODHE vyakti ko sadak paar karvati hoon.
Kabhi kisi madhyam vargiya insaan ko DAAN dene ke liye prerna deti hoon.
Kabhi kisi ko durghatna mein ghayal hue ANJAAN aadmi ko aspataal pohochane ke liye tatpar karti hoon.

Agar NAKARATMAKTA ka chashma utaar kar dekho toh main har jagah maujood hoon.

Kal subah ugne wala SOORAJ bhi is baat ki gawahi dega ki...

...main ZINDA hoon.

- INSAANIYAT

 

Picture: Energyenhancement.org

Picture: Energyenhancement.org

12Dec/1511

Caste Away… (Short story)

By: Keyur Seta

“This is utterly shameful,” said Ashok with a disgusted look on his face. The 55-year-old bank employee was sitting with his gang of like-minded friends at their usual hangout place at Shivaji Park. Located in the Dadar locality of Mumbai, the place is thronged by people of all ages.

While teenagers and the ones in the 20s are either seen playing some sport or jogging, the elderly ones like Ashok and company usually, after a leisurely walk, gather around at their habitual spot to discuss and debate on various topics, mostly cricket or politics.

Today was the turn of politics. The reason for Ashok’s anger was a statement by an MLA from the opposition party in Uttar Pradesh. The state elections were due and the wily politician smartly played the caste card to woo voters belonging to his ‘caste’. Even in 2015, vote bank politics, especially with regards to religion and caste, was still prevalent in India.

Shivaji Park. (Picture by Sam Desai)

Shivaji Park. (Picture by Sam Desai)

“There are already various forces that are dividing the country on the basis of religion,” continued Ashok, “If this wasn’t enough, morons like him are stooping even lower by using something as shameful as casteism, even in 2015. How further backwards are we going? Only God knows when our late freedom fighters’ dream of a united India would come true.”

Normally, the gang would debate and, at times, argue like panelists on a news debate show. Over the last few years, people, who generally hated politics, have strong political opinions, so much so that any disagreement makes them aggressive. But as far as Ashok and gang are concerned, their debates or arguments always automatically ended with the rise of darkness as all disperse to their respective homes.

But today, that was not the case. The statement by the MLA found no takers. Agreeing with him would mean defending the indefensible. So, this time, each went to his respective home in a calm state. But Ashok was not only calm but also excited for what he had planned before dinner.

Swati, his 25-year-old daughter, was of marriageable age, he thought. Like every parent, he wanted her to have a life-partner, who would shower her with happiness and care. Ashok’s excitement knew no bounds as he braced himself to prepare a matrimonial advertisement for her. It took him 40 years back in time. The feeling was similar when he was filling his college admission form after passing 10th standard.

Despite the digital age, people from Ashok’s generation still couldn’t do without the morning newspaper. Daily he used to eagerly wait for the newspaper guy. But today, the excitement was uncontrollable. Unlike other days, Ashok didn’t even glance at the important front page news. He quickly turned to the matrimonial page. He couldn’t stop smiling as his eyes fell on Swati’s matrimonial ad that appeared…

… under the section of their ‘caste’.

30Oct/150

Why was Anupam Kher booed at Tata Literature festival?

By: Keyur Seta

Veteran actor Anupam Kher was booed quite a few times yesterday from a large crowd during a debate at Tata Literature Live festival. The topic of the debate was – Freedom of Expression is under imminent threat.

Sudheendra Kulkarni and Shobha De were for the motion while Anupam Kher and BJP’s Nalin Kohli were against. Kulkarni and De put forth their points related to recent incidents and statements by politicians. Kulkarni specially stressed on the statement against the protesting authors by Arun Jaitley. “If the government thinks this is a manufactured protest, they are mistaken.”

Kulkarni also condemned the act of Shiv Sena members who had inked his face for launching a book by Pakistani author Kasuri. He also appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi of making sure the atmosphere of intolerance is nullified.

“The PM and his colleagues should ask themselves why the President of India Pranab Mukherjee had to appeal for peace and remind India of its 5000 year old history of tolerance?”

Picture: itimes.com

Picture: itimes.com

Kulkarni was most vocal against the fringe elements demanding a Hindu Rashtra. “The idea of Hindu Rashtra violates the idea of secularism, which is against the Constitution of India. India never was and will never be a Hindu Rashtra.”

Kohli gave a clichéd government whataboutery response by citing incidents of the past. But his response was quite peaceful. But the arguments put forth by Anupam Kher draw huge outrage from the audience. He was booed regularly and rightly so.

Here is the gist of Kher’s arguments:-

- Firstly, he said he wasn’t told the debate would be in English and he is weak in it. Everybody knows such literature festivals are always in English. Plus, we have seen him debate in English on news channels regularly.

- He started going off track right away by personally attacking De for editing a gossip magazine decades ago and mentioning who slept with whom.

- Then went on to call her pseudo-intellectual, just like those Bhakts.

- He expressed his disappointment towards Kulkarni for agreeing to launch a book of a Pakistani by citing how our neighboring country has been executing terrorist attacks here. Once again, completely off topic. Somebody should remind Kher that he acted in Veer-Zaara where he preached harmony between both nations.

- He said, “People returning the awards have an agenda. They can’t handle a chaiwala becoming a PM.”

- Here comes the KILLER. Towards the end when he realized most people from the audience are against his views, he accused organizer Anil Dharker, a respected figure, of having a PAID AUDIENCE!!!

What else do you expect other than boos? Never expected this great artist to debate or argue like those Twitter trolls.

Other highlights of the debate:-

- Reacting on the point raised by Kher and Kohli as to why people didn’t protest against the atrocities in the past, an elderly person from the audience said, “You mean to say, just because we were quite earlier, we should continue to remain quite? How long shall we remain silent?”

- Kiron Kher, BJP member and wife of Anupam Kher, took the mic to defend her husband. However, her arrogant ways also garnered boos from the audience.

- Before the debate, most people from the audience voted for the motion. After the end, close to 90% took that stand.