The Common Man Speaks

11Feb/191

Amol Palekar’s fight for freedom of expression goes back to the Emergency

The country witnessed a brutal attack on freedom of expression yesterday when veteran actor and filmmaker Amol Palekar was interrupted from sharing his views at an event at the NGMA (National Gallery of Modern Art) in Mumbai.

The Chhoti Si Baat actor was politely voicing his dissent on the decision of the Ministry of Culture to scrap the advisory committees of local artists at the NGMA’s branches in Mumbai and Bengaluru.

However, he was repeatedly interrupted in his speech by the NGMA director Anita Rupavataram and the curator of the show and ex-chairman of the organization Suhas Bahulikar. They urged him to stick to the topic, which was about the work of the renowned artist Prabhakar Barwe. But Palekar stood firm and voiced his opinion as much as he could saying that his comments are related to the NGMA itself.

Read about the whole incident by clicking HERE.

Watch the whole incident in the video below:

The incident was enough to trigger continuous reactions of the citizens on social media. Palekar has been receiving support for his right to express himself while those who tried to supress his voice have been heavily condemned. The most common sentiment shared is that if a veteran artist can be supressed of freedom of expression, what to think of common people like us?

But amid this, Palekar is also accused of being ‘selectively’ against the current BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) government, as is evident from various comments on social media. These people seriously need to take a look at his past activism.

Amol Palekar

Palekar, like many other actors, started off with theatre in his younger days. Apart from honing his acting skills, he also used the medium to mark his protest against the Emergency imposed by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of the Congress party.

I had the good fortune of interviewing Palekar last year for the web portal Cinestaan.com where I currently work. He was speaking while remembering his friend and fellow actor Hemu Adhikari, who had passed away a day before.

Palekar and Adhikari were a part of the parallel theatre movement then. During the conversation, Palekar shared how they used to stage thespian Badal Sircar’s Juloos, which was their way of protesting against the Emergency.

“One of the most cherished moments of my career in theatre was when we did Badal Sircar’s Juloos. It was produced by Bahuroopi, which was Hemu’s group. And I was the guest director. It was during the Emergency that we thought of doing this. That was our little protest against the Emergency,” he had said.

In fact, Palekar, Adhikari and the rest of members even showed the guts of performing their anti-Emergency play in the drama competition held by the state government itself. “We used to get this kick by performing it in the annual state drama competition, which is organized and funded by the government. It was our personal kick that we wanted to perform it there. We were very clear in our minds,” he had said.

Palekar also added that their first performance of Juloos was also attended by underground opposition leaders like Mrinal Gore and others. “It was a proud moment for us that we were able to do this in theatre as our expression and fight against censorship and any kind of curtailment of freedom,” said Palekar.

This piece of information is also enough to create laughing stock of the Congress leaders who have come out in support of Palekar for their own political gains. They too are clearly unaware of their own history.

You can read the whole interview by clicking HERE.

By: Keyur Seta

27Jan/190

Does Thackeray hint at Shiv Sena’s changing relationship with Congress?

Director Abhijit Panse’s Thackeray, the biopic on the late Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, is garnering various reactions from the audience and critics. But here is an attempt to read between the lines of the film’s content with retrospect to the current political stand of Shiv Sena.

Thackeray shows the supremo’s journey from his early days as a cartoonist. From that time itself he was a staunch opponent of the Congress. As an artist and a politician, Thackeray was never known to mince his words or sketches against anyone, including Congress and its leaders.

But surprisingly, the movie doesn’t feature Thackeray’s hatred for Congress through any of his speeches or conversations. Of course, Shiv Sena’s protest against the then deputy Prime Minister Morarji Desai gets a good footage. But that was a key incident, so that couldn’t have been skipped. Other than that, Thackeray isn’t shown speaking or acting against Congress.

The 1995 Maharashtra Assembly Elections were the first time that Shiv Sena came to power through a coalition with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The mammoth task of the coalition was to defeat Congress for the first time. So, it is obvious that speaking against your main opponent becomes your important task.

But that is not shown in Thackeray. Surprisingly, Shiv Sena’s road to the 1995 State Elections, which was their first major success, is hardly given any importance. Without showing any moment of their journey till the results, we are abruptly shown a scene of Shiv Sena workers celebrating the victory.

One of the highlights of Thackeray’s career was his fiery speeches at Shivaji Park, which were keenly awaited by his supporters as well as opponents. But strangely, the film doesn’t feature any of his speeches. Most of his speeches always targeted Congress. Was this the reason to omit it?

One might argue that the makers wanted to play safe. But it is not possible to buy this argument for a film that openly speaks about the party’s role in the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992.

Now, let us see why such soft stand against Congress gets more interesting. Since recent times, senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut, who is also the film’s producer and story writer, has been showering praises at Congress, the Gandhi family and its President Rahul Gandhi, of all people.

Thackeray movie poster

Less than a week ago, Raut said, “Rahul Gandhi has always been mocked. But we cannot forget the sacrifices made by the Gandhi family for the country. If you do not agree with his policies, then criticise him, but do not make personal attacks. Personally, I am against this type of politics. He has never given false promises.” (Read the whole statement HERE)

Priyanka Gandhi’s decision to enter active politics few days ago met with sarcastic jibes from the opposition. But Raut had other views. Speaking about the decision, he said, “It’s a good decision by Rahul Gandhi. The people of India have always had a relationship with the Gandhi family. Indira Gandhi's legacy will always remain strong in this country, Congress will benefit from this.” (Read the whole statement HERE).

The praise for Rahul started last year when Congress lost the Gujarat state elections to BJP after giving a tough fight. Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece Saamna hailed Rahul for being ‘Baazigar’ (indicating that he lost elections but won hearts). These are just few examples though.

For those not in the know, Shiv Sena has been throwing a volley of attacks against BJP, their ally both in state and centre, in recent years. In words one would only use for the opponents.

I have come across people and articles claiming that it was Congress that provided massive secret support to Shiv Sena during its early days so that the latter would help wipe out communists from Mumbai (then Bombay). But Shiv Sena leaders have never been comfortable with this question.

However, Thackeray, the film, shows no qualms in showing this relationship between Shiv Sena and Congress.

So, is the party paying back to the Congress for their initial help going by the recent heavy praise? Or is it just to score brownie points against your ally-cum-enemy BJP? And did we see a glimpse of it in the movie?

By: Keyur Seta

14Jan/191

Hardik Pandya comments: We are channelizing our anger in the wrong direction

Let me get this straight. The motto of this article is not to defend Hardik Pandya or the comments made by him on Koffee With Karan. I personally found them not only disgusting but also worrying; thinking how many more people would be out there with such cheap mindset towards women.

But there are few things that I find too weird, which hardly have been pointed out ever since the controversy erupted.

1. K L Rahul is needlessly punished for no fault of his. It was Pandya who made all the misogynistic comments on the show. Rahul is no way responsible for what his partner on the show said. On a lighter note, he has become the Fardeen Khan of No Entry (2005).

2. If it is bad to make such comments, it should also be equally offensive to laugh and enjoy them. This is exactly what Karan Johar did as a host. But nobody is lashing out against him. How enjoying such comments is not offensive but just being a co-guest is?

3. Most importantly, some of our politicians and people from the government have openly verbally attacked women through the most disgusting statements you can come across. However, they are spared of such 24/7 hatred and innumerable articles.

Hardik Pandya on Koffee With Karan episode

Actually, they should receive more backslash since they have been given the responsibility to govern and protect us. How people don’t get so offended or worried when an elected representative makes such statements is beyond me.

Have a look at the following statements and decide for yourself:

“I am also a goonda. I will shoot you guys if a Trinamool Congress worker is ever attacked. If you have the guts, then stop me. If you insult the mothers and daughters of Trinamool workers, I won't spare you. I will let loose my boys in your homes and they will commit rape.” – TMC leader Tapas Pal slamming the CPI.

“If they (girls) want freedom, why don’t they just roam around naked?” – Haryana Chief Minister from BJP Manohar Lal Khattar

“Boys are boys. Mistakes happen.” – Samajwadi Party Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav on increasing number of rapes

“She is 100% ‘tunch maal.’” – Congress leader Digvijay Singh on a female party member

“Have you ever seen a girlfriend worth Rs 50 crore?”- India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi while describing the late Sunanda Pushkar

“These days it has become a fashion to have a girlfriend or boyfriend. A girl should go out only with her brother or husband.” – Samajwadi Party leader Abu Azmi  

Ask yourself, was there even 20% of outrage for any of these comments like it has been for Pandya’s? Are a cricketer's comments more worrying or the ones made by people who are responsible for women safety?

By: Keyur Seta

11Dec/180

When BJP leaders were so against EVMs that they wrote books on its ‘dangers’

The state election results in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and Chattisgarh have come as a blow to the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party). The party has suffered heavy defeat in the three states much against its run of play with the results in MP too not being in their favour. This has ensured that jokes and memes about the EVMs are being shared online.

The rivals of the BJP, especially the Congress party, has been vocal a number of times about their doubts in the EVM (Electronic Voting Machines) used in India’s elections whenever they have lost to the BJP in last few years. But all their doubts about the ‘dangers’ of EVMs have evaporated after they have won handsomely today in the three of the four states. Not a word against the EVMs now.

While it is hypocritical to change stand on the issue once you win the election, it would be wrong to assume that only BJP’s rivals have been crying the EVM song after defeats in elections. Not many would know that BJP itself was highly against the use of EVMs when they lost the Lok Sabha Elections in 2009.

BJP logo EVMs

In fact, two of its leaders also went about writing books harping the ‘dangers’ of EVMs.

BJP’s spokesperson G V L Narsimha Rao came up with a book against the EVM titled ‘Democracy At Risk! Can We Trust Our Electronic Voting Machines?’ in 2010. In the book he has gone onto explain how one shouldn’t trust the EVMs.

Here are the contents of the book:

An excerpt from the book read, “Holland and Ireland too have abandoned EVMs and have gone back to paper ballots. And developed and technologically advanced countries in our region like Japan and Singapore have so far stuck to paper ballot voting, owing to their simplicity, verifiability and voter confidence in the system. Today, reliability of Electronic Voting Machines and the integrity of electoral verdicts is a subject of intense political debate and media scrutiny across the world.”

Another significant excerpt read, “In our system of representative democracy, elections provide the only occasion when the people directly exercise their sovereign power. Immediately thereafter this power is ceded to the elected representatives. If this sacred power is vitiated by a voting system of dubious integrity open to insidious fraud, it is evident that our democracy is seriously endangered.”

In chapter four, Rao has explained how on numerous occasions the EVMs have malfunctioned and misbehaved. During the launch of the book, Rao gave a statement as strong as, “It is a blatant lie that EVMs are tamper-proof. I think the use of EVMs on a national scale is illegal.”

Veteran BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani aka L K Advani had not only launched the book but also wrote a foreword to it.

 

The PDF copy of the whole book can be found HERE.

 

In the same year, another senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy (who was then the chief of Janata Party), along with author S Kalyanaraman, also came out with another book against the EVMs with a strong title ‘Electronic Voting Machines: Unconstitutional And Tamperable.’ The title gives a clear idea of the contents of the book.

While any online or PDF copy of the book is not available, its description on Amazon reads, “EVMs have already been banned in many countries, including Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland and Italy, and the list is getting longer. Thus, there is a growing lack of confidence in EVMs the world over. Why should India persist with a failed system that has been abandoned worldwide? The risk of wholesale rigging inherent in EVMs, howsoever small, cannot be accepted in a democracy where the stakes in winning elections are so high.”

Both books are still available for buying HERE and HERE.

Surprisingly, the two books and BJPs strong stand against EVMs isn’t known much. It can be attributed to weak public memory or the lesser reach of the social media back then or both.

By: Keyur Seta

2Dec/180

5 reasons why the villain of 2.0 is the hero we need (Spoilers Alert!)

2.0 Akshay Kumar

During the digital poster launch of S Shankar’s 2.0, Rajinikanth had said that Akshay Kumar’s character in the film is way interesting than his. “I am telling you the truth. The hero of 2.0 is not Rajinikanth. Akshay Kumar is the hero. If I would have been given a choice, I would have selected that (Akshay’s) character,” he had said.

“It’s a brilliant character; brilliant role. I am telling you, the whole country will applaud Akshay after the release of this picture,” added Rajinikanth.

Spoilers ahead

At that time I felt that Rajini is just being large-hearted and generous. But after watching the film, I completely agree with him. Rajini has a double role in the film and he lives up to the expectations of his fans. But I can’t stop being in awe of the character Pakshi Rajan that Akshay played.

There have been reports that the character of Pakshi Rajan is inspired from the real birdman of India Salim Ali. Read more about him here.

2.0 Akshay Kumar

Pakshi Rajan is the villain of 2.0. However, he is no lesser than a hero. In fact, he is the hero we need today. Here are five reasons why:

(Note: These are his qualities while he was alive.)

Peace loving: You will hardly see a character as peace loving as Pakshi Rajan. The sight of a bird in pain would melt his heart like a mother. Healing it becomes his biggest motto. This, obviously, means that he is strictly against any form of violence.

Selfless: Pakshi Rajan spent his life for the welfare of birds. He became an ornithologist and professor to spread their knowledge and importance. He also went onto take the pain of writing books about different kind of birds.

Nature before everything: How many of us even think of the problems caused by mobile towers and mobile phone radiations on birds? Pakshi Rajan not only thought of that but refused to use mobile phone just because it harms the nature, including birds.

Pakshi Rajan

Fearless fighter: The character played by Akshay showed the guts of protesting against mobile companies and the government, even if it meant protesting alone. People would consider him mad but he would never give up. In fact, Pakshi Rajan even went to the extent of admonishing the Telecom Minister literally on his face inside his office.

Age-defying: Pakshi Rajan carried out the aforementioned tasks even after being in his 70s or so. Age was just a number for him.

Now, why would I consider him a villain here? Of course, he became evil after his death and went onto kill innocents, including officers from the Indian Army. However, neither these acts nor his menacing post-death VFX avatar are enough to wipe out the memories of his noble character while he was alive.

By: Keyur Seta

4Nov/180

When a statue is used to massage egos…

The sunrise at Mahishmati is no longer accompanied by the sweet chirping of the birds. Over the last few months, the construction work of our ruler Bhallaladeva’s gold statue is in full swing. The noise of the hammering emerge daily at the stroke of dawn and continue till sunset.

Never before have I ever been devoid of the pleasing early morning sounds in my 45 years of life. But I have to get on with my work. The vicinity of the gurukul where I teach is surrounded by dense green trees. This helps in keeping the sound at bay. But the quality of air is surely affected.

Along with the destruction of nature, what puts a huge question mark on the statue is the fact that an unthinkable amount is spent in making and erecting it. It pains to see such crazy spending on a mere statue when hundreds of its citizens are homeless. On top of that, the farmers and peasants too are going through the worse phase of poverty since last few years.

The rulers are, obviously, aware of this. But they, especially the father-son duo of Bijjaladeva and Bhallaladeva, are more concerned in flaunting their power. Proving their supremacy is their biggest priority even as a number of citizens struggle to survive.

Bhallaladeva statue

Protesting against the statue is out of question. Many tried it and suffered the consequences. Bhallaladeva used his force to crush every protest. He won’t do it directly. People lower in his rank carry out such tasks on his behalf.

Mahishmati has now reached a stage where even constructive criticism of the rulers is considered suicidal. Along with his highly paid workers, a large number of people from the general population have also started advocating for Bhallaladeva with all dedication.

Strong image building exercises coupled with his brilliant oratory skills have captured the minds and hearts of these citizens. For them, Bhallaladeva is the most powerful and the only person worth ruling Mahishmati. Even if you differ with them politely, you get branded the enemy of the land. Their blind worship has broken plenty of friendships over the years.

Their common justification for the statue is that it will provide employment to a lot of people who are engaged in building it. They fail to understand that the enormous amount of money will not only save the lives of hundreds of starving citizens but will also ensure that nobody gets into that condition in the near future.

The other day I got quite a jolt while I was teaching. A scuffle between two groups of kids took place. Further query brought to my notice that few students lost their temper when few other merely questioned the need for a statue. I was more disappointed than surprised. Since recent times I have come to realize that there is no definite link between common sense and education.

I wish building statues, even of great people, doesn’t continue in the future but I see little hope. Who knows? Centuries later some other ruler might play a trick by building a statue of a great ruler of the past just to massage his own ego.

14Oct/180

Why MeToo can be a long term solution for both genders across industries

Me Too

Tanushree Dutta’s sexual misconduct allegations against Nana Patekar last month made headlines for days and continue to do so. But we didn’t expect it to be the starting point of a major MeToo movement across India that would empower women to speak up against sexual harassment or rape they were subjected to by people in power.

It is, obviously, not logical to take sides in the Tanushree and Patekar case because we were not present at the spot where the incident allegedly took place. But we can’t deny that this allegation is solely responsible for starting the #MeToo movement.

Nothing is proved in the Tanushree’s case but there have been a number of instances since more than a week where the culprits have accepted their guilt and apologized. There are a couple of major recent cases where neither the allegations are proven nor the accused have accepted their guilt. But going by the inside information I have received, it is not possible to be neutral against them. However, that’s a different story.

It is astonishing how regularly allegations are coming up these days. In fact, in the last week we were on high alert as multiple allegations were popping up after, literally, every few hours.

The effect of the victims speaking up has been so strong that director Sajid Khan and Patekar had to step down from their ambitious project Housefull 4. It also compelled one of the biggest stars of India, Akshay Kumar, to take a stand and cancel the shoot of the film. In a latest update, Khan has been removed from the film and replaced by Farhad Samji.

MeToo

This is the extent to which the #MeToo has sent shockwaves across the film industry. This means that the predators would now think 10 or more times before committing any such acts. Who knows when their screenshots, pictures or videos would be out and their reputation tarnished.

The victims were able to speak up because of the effect of social media. Going by this and the fact that the victims have finally found the courage to speak up, it is not going to stop them from naming and shaming the perpetrators from here on. Social media also provides an option of exposing someone by being anonymous, as we have seen in recent cases. Hence, if the naming and shaming continues, it might change the scenario drastically.

#MeToo can also be used in incidents like casting couch. Asking sexual favours in return for a role is also sexual exploitation. A friend of mine, who was once a struggling actress in regional cinema, was told by a director on chat, “I can give you the role if you become my girlfriend for some time.” If the victims in such cases start sharing screenshots of such chats, it might well create fear in the minds of those who indulge in casting couch.

God forbid if the moment dies down in the coming weeks, there will always be this danger for the perpetrators of someone exposing their misdeeds any time in the future. After all, social media is here to stay.

The word ‘me’ is gender neutral. So, it can be used by men too who often get harassed or exploited. Also, it is not at all necessary for the movement to be restricted to the film industry alone. Harassment happens across industries and is not just limited to sexual. A boss targeting his subordinate by making him/ her work extra hours or verbally abusing him/ her also comes under harassment.

There is a lot that can come under #MeToo.

However, like many other things in the world, this initiative also has a flipside. One thing that can severely damage the movement is fake accusations; either to take some sort of a revenge or for any other reason. Fake claims can destroy whatever good the movement has done so far.

The last thing we need is political stooges using #MeToo to gain brownie points over their political opponents.

By: Keyur Seta

22Sep/180

Manto released in the week when freedom of expression succumbed to a new low

Nandita Das’ Manto, which is a biopic on the literary genius Saadat Hasan Manto, is based in the late 1940s and early 1950s. But after watching the Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Rasika Dugal starrer, it doesn’t come across as a period film.

No, this is not a criticism towards the production design or any creative side about the film. The situation of the protagonist wherein he is made to look like a criminal for merely showing the mirror to the society reminds us of the current times. This is unfortunate as it reflects how little has changed in these 70 years after Independence.

This is not the only aspect about the film that portrays today’s era in the imaginary parallel screen inside your mind. There is a moment when the editor of a newspaper advises Manto on writing something halka-phulka (light-hearted) this time around because truth hurts.

In one scene, Manto tries making an audience understand how past invaders are blamed every time we question the authorities about the current pressing issues. This appears right out of the silly comments made by quite a few ‘leaders’ who blame the Mughals, British or Pandit Nehru for the current mess they have created.

Manto elaborates his point by passionately telling the people, “Sab peechhe dekh rahe hain, lekin aaj ke kaatil lahu aur lohe se tareekh likhte ja rahe hain.”

But the audience doesn’t take him seriously. They symbolize those who have become puppets in the hands of loud-mouthed ‘news’ anchors who can create enemies of the nation at their will in order to hide the dark acts of some people.

Manto poster

Apart from the content, the time of the release of Manto turned out to be the most ironical one could imagine. The film arrived just in the week when suppression of freedom of expression succumbed to a new low.

Earlier this week, Salman Khan changed the name of his upcoming production from Loveratri to Loveyatri after a lawyer and fringe organizations objected to it for allegedly hurting ‘religious’ sentiments.

Soon after, the producers of Manmarziyaan made three cuts in the film because some Sikh organizations objected to it. As per the director of the film Anurag Kashyap, he was not even informed about it.

Abhishek Bachchan, who plays one of the leads in Manmarziyaan, justified the cuts yesterday at an event and went onto say that he has no problems with it (read more about it HERE).

What has come as a rude surprise is that the producers of both films readily agreed to the demands without trying to defend their rights as artists, leave alone showing any fight. More importantly, there were hardly any serious protests; nowhere near to what happened with Udta Punjab (2016) and Padmaavat (2018).

If the big names of the industry are ready to succumb even in front of minor protests, spare a thought for a low budget independent filmmaker who can be victimized even for an actor’s hairstyle. To say that they have set a dangerous precedent is a mild way of putting it.

They have ensured that Manto shall,  unfortunately, remain relevant even 70 years from now.

By: Keyur Seta

10Sep/180

Short Story: The Orange Garlands of Bharatpur

Marigold Garlands

The television set in the rich household of Bharatpur was showing an important development that took place in the town that evening. The news was shocking but it didn’t shake the family members. The effect of the cool breeze of their new expensive air conditioner and the delicious pizza was too much for them to be bothered about anything else.

Earlier in the day

Ramakant was obediently sprinkling water on the orange marigold garlands in his shop. The droplets shone like diamonds in the early morning sun. This has been a subconscious activity for him since long. It not only kept the flowers fresh but also spread the fragrance of the marigold.

The 55-year-old was passionate about his business, although it hasn’t made him rich. The fact that his garlands get a place around the neck of the idol in the adjacent temple, albeit for few minutes, was too fulfilling for him.

Bharatpur was the land of the extreme. The wealthy families of the town had to wonder where to spend their money. The poor, on the other hand, saved every penny to ensure they won’t stay hungry the other day. There are areas where the luxurious high-rises lie just besides slums. Two separate worlds exists just few metres away.

The abnormal gap does become a cause of concern for Ramakant, who lied somewhere between both extremes. He knows much more about Bharatpur than his calm face and joyous nature show. With his keen interest in history coupled with the fact that his father being the freedom fighter, he understands Bharatpur in and out.

But he sees little hope in the socio-political situation of the town. The new regiment, that had promised heaven, has been destroying the once ideal town brick by brick. Apart from economic collapse, the secular fabric of the town has been under serious threat since recent times. Atrocities on the marginalized were a regular electoral feature.

On top of that, anyone who criticizes the establishment or raises troubling questions was labelled either an enemy of the land. By the way, being an enemy of the land was equivalent to being an enemy of the majority religion.

Ramakant now concentrates only in his daily routine and service to God, more so after he lost his beloved wife Lakshmi to tuberculosis (TB). He finds solace in God. He believes the Kalki Avatar, the 10th avatar of Vishnu, is the only hope now.

Marigold Garlands

His daughter Damini, however, has the opposite mindset. The 25-year-old Political Science professor in Shaheed Bhagat Singh College is a fiery young woman. She has a strong heart of a revolutionary but, at the same time, is soft-spoken and compassionate.

It is this emotional side of hers that compels her to champion the causes of the marginalized. Protests and demonstrations are her regularly routine. Holding banners with her hair tied in a ponytail in her usual attire of a kurta and jeans is a familiar sight in Bharatpur. She is also known for her polite yet hard-hitting articles.

Damini’s transformation has been revolutionary to say the least. She was almost the opposite as a child and during her early teens. During her schooling period, she was a reserved student who hardly opened her mouth. But studying Sociology during her college days proved to be a turning point in her life.

The subject sowed the seed of transformation in her. Studying about the oppressed classes of the society, both in India and abroad, gave her a completely new perspective about the world. She realized that just earning money and living a luxurious lifestyle can never be her aim. Doing at least something about the oppression around her was necessary in order to live a life, instead of just surviving like blind consumerists.

Participating in inter-collegiate drama competition increased her confidence no ends. Soon, she was seen performing street plays as well on social issues. The person who was hesitant to speak even in front of handful of people now didn't care even if hundred pair of eyes were glued to her.

The passing away of her mother had a lasting impact on Damini, obviously. The incident made her more responsible at an early age. In other words, it further honed her skills as a leader ready to shoulder responsibilities. By the time she enrolled for post-graduation in Sociology, she was a different individual altogether.

Despite her father’s profession, Damini has never been sure about the existence of God. But she is more than sure that one shouldn’t expect Him to solve our problems.

Ramakant wasn't oblivious to the massive change in Damini. He knew she was walking the razor’s edge. But he always saw his late father in her and that ensured he never stopped her from walking her path.

Damini was teaching in her usual calm manner today. But deep inside, she was all looking forward to something after the lecture. As soon as the bell rang, she barged out of the college campus, travelled to the town hall area on her bike and marched in the protest rally against something serious.

Back at his shop, Ramakant wasn’t hoping of any major business that day as it wasn’t any festival or special religious day. So, it came as a pleasant surprise when a man came to buy around a dozen expensive thick marigold garlands.

But his joy was shortlived as his friend came running to give him the news about Damini’s arrest along with a number of other social workers, activists, journalists and professors for holding a powerful rally against the government.

Ramakant was sad to hear that but not worried and not at all surprised. He knew this was coming. Off late, the current situation has been reminding him of the days of the freedom struggle his father used to narrate.

The family in the rich household just besides Ramakant’s shop was watching the news about the important development in Bharatpur that day. The seriousness of the issue didn’t matter to them as they hogged on to the pizza slices in the cool breeze of the air conditioner.

The news anchor was heard saying, “The activists protesting against the release of those convicted in the gruesome lynching were arrested by the police. On the other end of the town, the convicts were welcomed by their party leader with thick marigold garlands.”

By: Keyur Seta

2Sep/180

10 Years of A Wednesday: A film that gave an identity to me and this blog

When I went to see Neeraj Pandey’s directorial debut A Wednesday in 2008 in Dadar’s Chitra Theatre, I was expecting to see a thriller about a terrorist’s plot of carrying out multiple blasts in Mumbai being foiled by a bunch of good guys. I expected it to be a regular formula thriller, but it turned out to be the experience of a lifetime personally.

The film, which starred Naseeruddin Shah, Anupam Kher, Jimmy Shergill, Aamir Bashir and Chetan Pandit starrer, completes 10 years on September 5, 2018.

During the interval point, I was convinced that I am in for some thrill. I was crazy for action or dramatic thrillers back then and used to watch every film in that genre including Acid Factory [2009] and Woodstock Villa [2008] (don’t judge me).

But when Shah’s character revealed his true intentions and identity as the 'Stupid Common Man,' I was not only thrilled but also pleasantly shocked and blown away. His long monologue with hard-hitting and moving dialogues mesmerized me like anything (I still watch that scene regularly).

There must be very few occasions when I must have rooted this much for any fictional character to survive. I heaved a sigh of relief when Kher’s character lets him go. There is no denying that apart from the brilliance of the film, the subject struck an emotional chord for the Indian or Mumbaikar in me.

A Wednesday poster

I also respect A Wednesday for subtly rubbishing religious and other such identities by not revealing the name of Shah’s character. “Insaan naam ke saath mazhab jod leta hai,” is what is said.

As a person, I have always been comfortable living a simple life and enjoying the simplest of joys without caring or needing any sort of luxuries. There has also been this desire to bring a change in the society, which I hardly ever express. But I didn’t know how to describe myself for following such an ideology. Well, A Wednesday helped me out with that. The Common Man it was!

Also read: Bhavesh Joshi Superhero: A film that forced me to go down memory lane.

Of course, it was the great R K Laxman that brought out the concept through his iconic cartoons. I was introduced to it much before I saw A Wednesday. But somehow it took this movie for me to latch onto the title. Maybe the power of the audio-visual medium turned out to be higher than cartoons.

Less than a year later, when I started this blog, its name came extremely easy to me.

But apart from giving me and my blog an identity, A Wednesday also made me realize the power of an ordinary man (read: humans). Normally one would expect a good looking, strong ‘hero’ with muscles to carry out the task of killing terrorists. But here was a man in his old age managing that even after his plan going haywire in between.

Not that I have been able to realize any such power till now. Maybe someday I might.

By: Keyur Seta