The film‘Phobia‘ begins with – at least, that’s when I entered the hall – a quotation of Franz Kafka. I had forgotten it by the time I left, but I did manage to find it online. I do not wish to discuss the quote and, therefore, my ignorance of Kafka. The key word in it is all we need to know – cage.
Cages are invoked in the film through imagery and set design, but also, and more importantly, as a metaphor. The taxi Mehak (Radhika Apte) gets molested in is a cage. That was a cage she wanted to get out of. The cages that follow – the house that she moves into, for example – are those that she wishes to be locked inside. The real cage, however, is the phobia she develops (agoraphobia according to the psychiatrist in the film). Mehak is afraid of stepping outside her house.
The film, as I saw it, is about the trauma that a ‘victim’ of sexual violence experiences. Mehak Deo recovers from it at the end. For those of us who roll our eyes at political correctness and the use of the term ‘survivor’, then, the film is a powerful eye-opener. One knows at the back of one’s head that there is no ghost/evil spirit, or even a murderer the reveal of whose identity would be the climax. We know it’s only her fear. But that doesn’t stop us from feeling uncomfortable until the entrance to her apartment is safely shut and bolted. The film doesn’t merely show us a scary situation, it literally makes us feel the fear in the protagonist’s mind.
The character of Mehak is that of a witty, strong, talented, and independent young woman in her early thirties. She’s a successful artist. She’s not afraid of travelling alone late at night. Her boyfriend (or, “just a good friend”) not only loves her but respects and admires her. Basically, the kind of woman that a section of populations across the world detests. She’s the ’21st-century girl’, the new species of the genus homo that Indian mass media began to present to us at the turn of the millennium. Whether this new species wipes out the old remains to be seen.
But there’s more. The most important thing about this girl’s boldness or independence is that it is unapologetic. Filmmakers and screenwriters have rarely been so bold as to allow female characters, even in women-centric films, to not have any redeeming qualities. ‘Mother India’ for example, had a strong female protagonist who was redeemed by her values and sacrifice. Priyanka Chopra’s boldness in ‘Fashion’ was redeemed by her character’s sincerity to her career. Even the epitome of boldness – the woman who had the audacity to tell Emperor Akbar, “Parda nahin jab koi khuda se, bandon se parda karna kya” – Anarkali, played by Madhubala, was redeemed by her undying love for Salim. To be bold and independent, women in Indian cinema appear to need redemption either by their devotion to their children or lover, or by sacrificing their dreams, or by their commitment to justice, and, if nothing else fits, it’s rather convenient to have them die at the end.
‘Phobia’, on the other hand, dispenses with the need for such redemption. Mehak is witty and makes good use of her wit. She is talented and unpredictable. She’s smart enough to know she needs treatment, but too stubborn to let others treat her like a child. She has slept with her good friend/boyfriend “ek bar,” and doesn’t feel guilty or ashamed for not being in a committed relationship. But she’s not a bad person. She’s like any normal person one might come across – full of imperfections.
The film opens with a painting by Mehak. A colourful ‘acrylic on canvas’ showing a hand reaching out towards several arms which, in turn, are reaching out towards it. The final scene of the film is framed in a similar manner. Mehak’s injured hand – which represents the fact that she is flawed, I guess – is reaching out to a number of others belonging to members of the ‘sabhya samaj’ who rush to help her. Perhaps it heralds the beginning of a new time when female characters in films, if not their real-life counterparts, will be celebrated for their imperfections, just as James Bond is for his promiscuity and disregard for authority. Finally, these fictional women can break out of the cages they’ve been kept in for so long.
When short films and advertisements starring Radhika Apte get such a positive response, it is natural that her latest feature film ‘Phobia’ released with a lot of expectations riding on it.
The film follows the life of Mehek, a young woman suffering from trauma which has led to agoraphobia (a type of anxiety disorder). She spends all her time indoors. But what do you do when inside is no longer safe either?
After a trailer that gave a lot of us chills, it would have been immensely disappointing if the movie didn’t live up to the hype.
Going by the response it is receiving on Twitter, the film seems to have hit a homerun. With largely positive reviews, and nothing but praise for Apte, this film seems to be a huge success.
So, if you love them thrills and heebie-jeebies, take out time this weekend to catch this film (your other option is RGV’s ‘Veerappan’).
Film critics seem like a happy bunch, for a change!
.@radhika_apte is such a class act. It's a joy to watch her in #Phobia. She's beautiful & brilliant & she owns every frame of the film.
Translated from English to Hindi by Sidharth Bhatt.
अगर रोहित वेमुला का एक दलित के रूप में उसके जीवन के संघर्ष को बयान करने वाला मर्मभेदी आखिरी पत्र सामने नहीं आता, तो उसकी मृत्यु को भी किसी आत्महत्या की आम घटना की तरह भुला दिया जाता। उसके आखिरी पत्र में लिखी बातों ने ना केवल देश भर में विशाल विरोध प्रदर्शनों की शुरुवात की, बल्कि राष्ट्रीय स्तर पर मीडिया जगत में उच्च शिक्षण संस्थानों में दलितों के साथ होने वाले भेदभाव पर बहसों की एक नयी श्रंखला को शुरू कर दिया।
पत्रकारिता की दुनिया के ऐसे परिदृश्य में जहाँ विभिन्न तबकों की भागीदारी को लेकर बहुत अधिक प्रयास नहीं किये गए हैं, एक लोकप्रिय पत्रिका में अभी हाल ही में आया एक विज्ञापन, सही दिशा में उठाया गया एक कदम लगता है।
पत्रकारिता के क्षेत्र में जहाँ पत्रकारों को लेने की प्रक्रिया बेहद अनौपचारिक है और बहुत कम प्रकाशक और टेलीविजन चैनल, पत्रकारों के लिए विज्ञप्ति निकालते हैं। ऐसे में कथित पत्रिका का “केवल दलित या आदिवासी पत्रकार” के लिए आया विज्ञापन विरले ही देखने को मिलता है।
समाचार जगत में दलितों/आदिवासियों की भागीदारी पर विश्वसनीय जानकारी का अभाव है, वहीं विशेषज्ञों के अनुसार यह आंकड़ा बेहद कम है। मीडिया आलोचकों का कहना है कि जाति, साम्प्रदायिकता और भेद-भाव जैसे विषयों पर आने वाली ख़बरों में कमी का कारण दलित, आदिवासी और अल्पसंख्यक तबके के लोगों की समाचार जगत में सीमित भागीदारी है।
लेखक और ‘डीएनए‘ तथा ‘दी न्यू इंडियन एक्सप्रेस‘ के पूर्व मुख्य संपादक आदित्य सिन्हा के अनुसार, “वर्तमान समय में शुरुवाती स्तर पर लिए जाने वाले पत्रकारों का चयन विभिन्न मीडिया स्कूलों से किया जाता है। दलितों/आदिवासियों की विषम आर्थिक परिस्थितियों की वजह से उनके लिए इन संस्थानों के भारी भरकम खर्चे उठाना संभव नहीं है। इस कारण बहुत कम दलित/आदिवासी युवा इस तरह के शिक्षण संस्थानों में पहुँचकर पत्रकार बन पाते हैं।”
मीडिया के सशक्तिकरण और स्वतंत्रता से सम्बंधित विषयों पर शोध करने वाली संस्था ‘दी हूट‘ की संपादक सेवंती निनन का कहना है कि उन्हें इस बात पर कोई शक नहीं है कि मीडिया के क्षेत्र में दलितों/आदिवासियों की संख्या बेहद सीमित है, लेकिन अब स्थितियां सुधर रही हैं। निनन आगे कहती हैं कि “दी एशियन कॉलेज ऑफ़ जर्नलिज्म (ACJ) में दलित पत्रकारों के लिए स्कॉलरशिप हैं। वहां से निकला एक दलित छात्र ‘दी हिन्दू’ में राज्य स्तर का संवाददाता है। उनके पास अन्य राज्यों (तमिलनाडु से बाहर) से भी आवेदन आये हैं, और जल्द ही वहां से और दलित छात्र निकलकर आएंगे। दी इंडियन इंस्टिट्यूट ऑफ़ मास कम्युनिकेशन (IIMC) में भी ऐसे ही छात्रों के लिए कुछ सीटें आरक्षित हैं। लेकिन दलित और आदिवासी युवाओं का रुझान पत्रकारिता की बजाय शिक्षा और अन्य सरकारी संस्थानों में उनके लिए आयोजित आरक्षण की तरफ ज्यादा है। पत्रकारिता का क्षेत्र उन्हें एक सुरक्षित भविष्य का विकल्प नहीं देता।”
२०१४ में काफिला में प्रकाशित एक रिपोर्ट के अनुसार “दी एशियन कॉलेज ऑफ़ जर्नलिज्म- एक गैर फायदेमंद शिक्षण संस्थान में आरक्षित सीटें नहीं हैं, लेकिन २०१३-१४ में यहाँ पिछले वर्ष की तरह ४ दलित/आदिवासी छात्रों को स्कॉलरशिप दी गयी। अगर स्कॉलरशिप को छोड़ दिया जाए तो दी एशियन कॉलेज ऑफ़ जर्नलिज्म में दलित/आदिवासी छात्रों की संख्या बेहद कम है- तीनो वर्षों के छात्रों में कुल मिलाकर मात्र १.५ प्रतिशत।” इसमें यह भी कहा गया है कि “इंडियन इंस्टिट्यूट ऑफ़ जर्नलिज्म एंड न्यू मीडिया, ज़ेवियर इंस्टिट्यूट ऑफ़ कम्युनिकेशन, टाइम्स स्कूल ऑफ़ जर्नलिज्म और सिम्बायोसिस इंस्टिट्यूट ऑफ़ मीडिया एंड कम्युनिकेशन में दलित/आदिवासी छात्रों के लिए किसी भी प्रकार की आरक्षित सीटों या स्कॉलरशिप का प्रावधान नहीं है।”
दलित इंडियन चैम्बर ऑफ़ कॉमर्स एंड इंडस्ट्री (DICCI) के परामर्शदाता और दलित लेखक चन्द्रभान प्रसाद के अनुसार “हमारे मीडिया जगत में बहुलवादी और उदारवादी प्रवृत्ति का अभाव है। अधिकांश पत्रकार और संपादक ऊँची जातियों और संपन्न परिवारों से आते हैं।”
उनका ये भी कहना है कि, “दलित/आदिवासी पत्रकारों की कमी, साफ़ तौर पर पिछड़े तबके से सम्बंधित ख़बरों को मीडिया द्वारा दी जाने वाली प्राथमिकता की कमी की ओर इशारा करती है।”
लेख के आरम्भ में वर्णित पत्रिका का विज्ञापन भी इस कमी की तरफ ही संकेत करता है।
वहीं जब इस पत्रिका के कार्यकारी संपादक से जब इस विज्ञप्ति के बाद की प्रतिक्रिया को जानने के लिए ईमेल भेजा गया तो उसका कोई जवाब नहीं मिल पाया।
प्रेस कॉउन्सिल ऑफ़ इंडिया (PCI) समेत किसी भी सक्षम एजेंसी द्वारा दलितों/आदिवासियों की समाचार जगत में सटीक संख्या या भागीदारी को लेकर आज तक किसी भी प्रकार का सर्वे नहीं किया गया है। और यह बेहद साफ़ है कि मीडिया की मुख्य धारा में इन सामाजिक वर्गों से बेहद कम लोग शामिल हैं।
प्रायः ‘योग्यता’ की कमी और दलित/आदिवासी ‘रुझान’ सरकारी संस्थानों में अधिक होने को पत्रकारिता के क्षेत्र में पिछड़े वर्ग के लोगों की कमी के मुख्य कारणों के रूप में बताया जाता है।
हालत अब भी बदलें नहीं हैं: कर्नाटक की स्थिति:
कर्नाटक राज्य में दलित/आदिवासियों की सामाजिक और आर्थिक स्थिति पर शोध करने वाले संस्थान डॉ. अम्बेडकर रिसर्च इंस्टिट्यूट के संचालक, लेखक, सामाजिक कार्यकर्ता और कर्नाटक सरकार के प्रशाशनिक अधिकारी बाला गुरुमूर्ति का कहना है कि, दलितों और आदिवासियों से जुड़े मुद्दों को तब तक प्रमुखता नहीं दी जाती तक कि इनकी प्रवृत्ति हिंसक ना हो, जैसे कि बलात्कार, हत्या या आत्महत्या से जड़े मुद्दे।
डॉ. अम्बेडकर रिसर्च इंस्टिट्यूट की स्थापना कर्नाटक सरकार द्वारा १९९४ में की गयी थी। इस संस्थान का संचालन सामाजिक कल्याण विभाग के निर्देशों के अनुसार किया जाता है। इस संस्थान का मुख्य उद्देश्य कर्नाटक राज्य में दलितों/आदिवासियों की सामाजिक और आर्थिक स्थिति पर अध्ययन करना है।
गुरुमूर्ति, बहुत कम पत्रकारों के, दलित/आदिवासी और अन्य उपेक्षित तबकों को लेकर संवेदनशीलता होने की बात पर जोर डालते हुए कहते हैं कि “सामाजिक बहिष्कार का क्या? एक दलित को कई अपमानजनक स्थितियों और संघर्ष से गुजरना पड़ता है। टीवी चैनलों पर दिखाई जाने वाली कितनी बहसों में इन विषयों पर चर्चा की जाती है।”
करीब दो दशक पहले दिल्ली के वरिष्ठ पत्रकार बी.एन. उनियाल ने एक विदेशी संवाददाता के कहने पर दिल्ली में एक दलित पत्रकार को खोजने का प्रयास किया, क्यूंकि वह संवाददाता बहुजन समाज पार्टी और पत्रकारों के बीच हुए विवाद पर एक “दलित” पत्रकार से चर्चा करना चाहता था। श्री उनियाल एक भी दलित पत्रकार नहीं खोज पाये, इस निराशाजनक खोज का नतीजा नवंबर १६, १९९६ को पायनियर में छपे उनके अग्रणी लेख “इन सर्च ऑफ़ अ दलित जर्नलिस्ट” के रूप में सामने आया।
१७ वर्ष बाद, २०१३ में, दिल्ली के एक अन्य पत्रकार और लेखक एजाज़ अशरफ नें अपने एक लेख में पूरे देश में मात्र २१ दलित पत्रकारों के होने की बात कही।
कर्नाटक में केवल तीन दलित पत्रकार:
आज श्री उनियाल की दलित पत्रकार की असफल खोज के २० वर्ष के बाद, इस रपोर्ट के लेखक कर्नाटक राज्य में केवल ३ दलित पत्रकार ही तलाश पाये। इनमे से दो, कन्नड़ समाचार पत्र और एक, अंग्रेजी समाचार पत्र में कार्यरत हैं।
उन्होंने अपनी जाति के बारे में बताते हुए समाचार जगत में दलित पत्रकार के साथ होने वाले भेदभाव की बात कही। अपने भविष्य को लेकर आशंकित, इनमे से दो ने नाम बताने पर असमर्थता जताई, केवल एक पत्रकार ही अपने नाम के खुलासे को लेकर सहज दिखे।
लोकप्रिय कन्नड़ दैनिक प्रजावनी में कार्यरत के.एस. गणेश कहते हैं कि, “हम लोगों कि संख्या बेहद कम है, मैं मेरे अलावा, कोलार जिले में दलित समुदाय से आने वाले केवल एक ही पत्रकार को जानता हूँ।”
गणेश पत्रकारिता के क्षेत्र में दलितों के साथ होने वाले भेदभाव को स्वीकार करते हुए कहा कि, “यह काफी जाना-माना रहस्य है। अगर हम इसके बारे में बात करें तो इसे हमारे खिलाफ लिया जाता है और हम पर पत्रकार जगत को जाति के आधार पर बांटने के आरोप लगाए जाते हैं।”
उन्होंने आगे कहा “अपने यहाँ रिक्तियां ना होने कि बात को अमूमन एक बहाने के रूप में प्रयोग किया जाता है। मेरे अखबार के कोलार संस्करण में नियमित रूप से प्रकाशित होने वाले दलित और पिछले समुदाय से जुड़े मुद्दों को, बंगलुरु के संस्करण में प्रकाशित नहीं किया जाता।”
अन्य दो पत्रकार जो अपने नाम के खुलासे को लेकर सहज नहीं थे, उनमे से एक वरिष्ठ पत्रकार जो कि एक प्रख्यात अंग्रेजी दैनिक में १० वर्ष से भी अधिक समय से कार्यरत हैं, के अनुसार, “अगर मैं पत्रकार जगत में दलित/आदिवासी पत्रकारों को लेकर गहरी पैठ बनाए पूर्वाग्रह की खुल कर बात करूँ तो इस क्षेत्र में मेरा भविष्य असुरक्षित हो जाएगा।”
वो आगे कहते हैं, “इस तरह के कई प्रकरण सामने आये हैं जब मीडिया कंपनियों में एक हर तरह से योग्य दलित पत्रकार की जगह, वरिष्ठ सम्पादकों के प्रभुत्व के कारण, उनके रिश्तेदारों को दे दी जाती है।”
एक कन्नड़ दैनिक में कार्यरत दूसरे दलित पत्रकार ने नाम ना बताने की शर्त पर कहा कि, ” ऊँची जाति के लोगों का कहना ये होता है कि दलित पत्रकारों में योग्यता की कमी है, और उनकी भाषा पर पकड़ भी कमजोर है।”
क्या हम भुलावे में जी रहे हैं:
बहुत अधिक, उच्च जाति के पत्रकार, मीडिया में जातिगत भेदभाव की बात स्वीकार नहीं करते। कोलकाता से एक ब्राह्मण महिला पत्रकार कहती हैं, “हम पत्रकारों की कोई जाति या कोई धर्म नहीं होता, जाति को मीडिया से बाहर रखिये।” वो आगे कहती हैं, “मैं जाति व्यवस्था को नहीं मानती और ना ही इसका अनुसरण करती हूँ। ऐसा किसने कहा है कि एक ब्राह्मण दलितों के बारे में नहीं लिख सकता। एक पत्रकार होने के लिए आपको संवेदनशीलता से अधिक किसी और गुण की जरुरत नहीं है।”
हालाँकि कुछ ऊँची जाति के पत्रकार, दलितों और उपेक्षित वर्ग के पत्रकारों के साथ होने वाले भेदभाव की बात को स्वीकार करते हैं। लेकिन वो इसके लिए मीडिया कंपनियों के मालिकों और सम्पादकों, जो इस फासले को कम करने में अक्षम रहे हैं को दोषी मानते हैं।
कोलकाता से एक अन्य वरिष्ठ पत्रकार समीर कार पुरकायस्थ कहते हैं, ” जाति की राजनीती के अस्तित्व पर बात करना आसान नहीं है। बहुत कम संपादक और मीडिया कंपनी मालिक, जाति जैसे मुदों पर चर्चा को प्रोत्साहित करते हैं।”
इस स्थिति को कैसे बदला जाए:
चन्द्रभान प्रसाद कहते हैं कि, “अमेरिकन सोसाइटी ऑफ़ न्यूज़पेपर एडिटर्स (asne.org) की तर्ज पर भारत में भी न्यूज़रूम एम्प्लॉयमेंट डाइवर्सिटी सर्वे की तरह का एक सर्वे कराया जा सकता है। भारतीय दलितों की स्थिति अमेरिका के अश्वेत नागरिकों की तरह है। अमेरिकी प्रेस ने अश्वेत पत्रकारों की संख्या को बढाकर स्थिति को सुधारा है। अमेरिकन सोसाइटी ऑफ़ न्यूज़पेपर एडिटर्स का सर्वे इस बात की पुष्टि करता है।”
१९७८ से अमेरिकी पत्रकारिता और समाचार जगत में विविधता को बढ़ाना, ऐ.एस.एन.इ. का प्रमुख लक्ष्य है। ऐ.एस.एन.इ. की वेबसाइट का कहना है कि वे समाचार और पत्रकारिता के क्षेत्र की संस्थाओं को विभिन्न समुदाय के लोगों को सम्मिलित करने के लिए प्रेरित कर रहें हैं ताकि समाज के अलग-अलग तबकों से ख़बरें सबके सामने आ सकें।
दलित/आदिवासी पत्रकारों का एक प्रमुख आरोप वेतन की अपारदर्शिता का भी है। हैदराबाद के दी न्यू इंडियन एक्सप्रेस के दलित लिपिक नागराजू कोप्पुला की कैंसर के कारण हुई मृत्यु के बाद उनके मित्रों ने इस समाचार पत्र पर जाति के आधार पर भेदभाव के कारण कम वेतन देने के आरोप लगाए।
लेकिन उनकी बातों को कोई ख़ास तवज्जो नहीं दी गयी, क्यूंकि किसी सशक्त संस्था ने भी इस मामले में कोई रूचि नहीं दिखाई। नागराजू के नियोक्ता की मुआवजे की मांग और राष्ट्रीय मानवाधिकार कमीशन के हस्तक्षेप के बावजूद भी कुछ ख़ास नहीं हो पाया।
लेकिन कई अन्य लोगो का कुछ और ही मानना है। पुरकायस्थ कहते हैं कि, “जाति या लिंग से अलग यह किसी भी पत्रकार के लिए सामान है। सामान पद पर कार्यरत पत्रकारों के वेतन का आधार उनका कार्यक्षेत्र निर्धारित करता है। अंग्रेजी पत्रकार उनके समानांतर पत्रकारों से अधिक ही वेतन प्राप्त करते हैं। पत्रकारों कि चयन प्रक्रिया की ही तरह उनके वेतन पर भी खुलकर चर्चाएं नहीं होती। ऐसे में दलित पत्रकारों के साथ वेतन को लेकर जाति के आधार पर होने वाले भेदभाव को लेकर कुछ कहना मुश्किल है।”
वहीँ निनन का कहना है कि इस विषय पर सार्वजनिक तौर पर अधिक जानकारी उपलब्ध नहीं है।
श्री उनियाल अपने लेख ” इन सर्च ऑफ़ ए दलित जर्नलिस्ट” के, मीडिया कंपनियों के मालिकों और सम्पादकों को इस विषय की गम्भीरता और पत्रकारिता तथा समाचार जगत में ब्राह्मणवादी सोच के प्रभुत्व को ना समझा पाने को लेकर बहुत निराश थे।
About the author: Maitreyee Boruah is a Bangalore-based freelance journalist and a senior member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters. Her reporting reflects issues of society at large and human rights in particular.
Recently, two journalists, Rajdeo Ranjan and Akhilesh Pratap, were shot dead in Bihar and Jharkhand. They are not the first and certainly will not be the last of India’s murdered journalists. In 2015 also, four journalists – Jagendar Singh, Sandeep Kothari, Sanjay Pathak and Hemant Yadav – were killed brutally.
Jagendar Singh used to run a Facebook page called Shahjahanpur Samachar where he wrote about corruption and illegal mining. On 22, May 2015 posted saying that he was being harassed by the police, other criminals and politicians and on June 1st he was dead.
Sandeep Kothari was a freelance investigating crime journalist who also was murdered because of exposing illegal mining and land grabbing. Before his murder, he told the police that he had received threats but didn’t receive any help. He was set on fire. A case was registered but nothing serious happened. One or two people were arrested and some police personnel were sacked. But the question that remains unanswered is, is this enough? Was there nothing more the government could do? And if not, then why do we need a government again?
A system that’s damaged at the core can’t be mended by auxiliaries no matter how hard journalists work, no matter how honest the police is and no matter how much we as individuals try to change matters. As long as the government continues to be corrupt there is nothing anyone can do. It’s so easy to squash out ‘unwanted’ people talking about things that make powerful people ‘uncomfortable’. For all we know, the government might as well ban serious journalism tomorrow and replace it with ‘entertainment’ and ‘sansani’ (not that they are too far away from doing that).
The media has the power of free speech but it seems they are controlled by powerful people (especially those with political connections). A journalist by his hard work tries to throw light on what’s going wrong in our society. They work really hard to collect evidence by talking to people, by chasing sources and then bringing their story(truth) to the public. Some are not even paid that well for what they do. And what do they get in return? Death, some condolence, and if they are lucky a couple of news stories causing a little bit of stir for a couple of days.
The journalists who died trying to reveal the truth to the public lived middle-class lives. They have no one to look after them. No godfather. Else they would still be alive one can guess. Naturally if no one looked after them then who we can’t expect anyone to look after their family once they are gone. Rajdeo Ranjan he left behind a 16-year-old son and an 8-year-old daughter. What about them now?
Media has always been the voice of the common man of India. But controlling such an organisation and by creating such paralysing circumstances for those who belong to this organisation, the government is trying its best to suppress our voice. It’s no longer about Rajdeo or Akhilesh or any one individual. This is our collective death. This is what affects all of us. If we don’t speak together then who will hear and who will heed?
“Butt out!” followed by the photograph of a girl who is literally standing in a ‘butt out’ position is what I chanced upon as I was walking down the road one night. this was a hoarding of the jeans brand ‘Jealous 21’ put up by a shop which sells ladies outfit in the city.
Our public and private spaces are encroached upon by advertisements like these. One can find them everywhere – on the rooftop, on buses, on walls. Through newspapers, internet and TVs they have infiltrated our private spaces too. And where not? The spaces around us are stifled and suffocated by these ads, which seem ‘harmless’ and to whose existence we do not give much attention. But are they as harmless as they seem to be?
Not many are aware of the unimaginable ways in which these ads act on our psyche. One is not aware of a secret spell they cast on us as we unsuspectingly walk down the road – consumerist spells that bewitch us very subtly. Advertisements do not just flaunt their products. No, they sell ideas instead, planting in our heads our aspirations, our desires and our dreams which we so dearly fight for. Perpetuating these ideas is what keeps consumerism going. It is these ideas which bewitch us; that creates a sense of deep dissatisfaction among us as we can never get the ‘ideal’ lifestyle these advertisements portray. Ideas of beauty, ideas of being healthy, ideas of being pretty, ideas of being sexy. As they say in V for Vendetta movie, “…behind this mask there is an idea. and ideas are bulletproof” and this is very true with advertisements. One must know the idea behind the mask of every advertisement to know how penetrating and profound these are in our social psyche.
Taking a closer look at the Jealous 21 advertisement: It was the image of a ‘sexy size-zero girl’ asking us to buy her jeans. One can ask what is wrong with being sexy? In fact, there is nothing wrong. But the idea that the advertisement sells can be harmful as it proclaims explicitly that being sexy is the ultimate thing to achieve in life. It is asking us to become jealous of that girl for her stunning looks. But the notion of being ‘sexy’ may not work out for every girl in the city. People are naturally endowed with different body shapes and tone, but these ads are forcing a stereotypical image upon us silently asking us to seek it, lust after it and be more like it. It spreads like wildfire among people like me and you, making us aspire to achieve what we see, with our subconscious telling us that our looks are not good enough, therefore, toppling the last traces of confidence from our minds. They make people perpetually obsessed with that notion of beauty and encourages them to do everything that would give them that look. To take care of one’s appearance, to want to look their best is one thing, but to want to be someone else, to look a different body type and different skin tone is another thing. It is ghastly to think that we have forgotten how to celebrate our own bodies, respect and cherish the way we are endowed naturally without feeling embarrassment or displeasure.
Right from a young age our minds are exposed to such ‘artful deception’ and such constant propaganda (as though everyone is out to sell something or the other) that these ideas get normalised in our minds and form a benchmark based on which we compare ourselves.
One can also see how patriarchy subtly operates in these fronts. Women are mostly featured as stereotypical figures of an ideal housewife who is confined to the kitchen. Most advertisements show women as a homemaker or as one waiting for the husband to come from work or worrying about feeding their children the right amount of nutrients. On the contrary, men are shown indulged in adventurous activities, or in the office meeting room, or returning home with a headache (if it’s a disprin ad). But these days we have a new age version of this. With women emerging as the economic decision makers, we have jewellery advertisements portraying the independent woman who doesn’t need the man to buy her the diamonds. Whatever works. If making women feel empowered is helping sell those products, then so be it. That same woman will sell pressure cooker in her next commercial but who cares.
One doesn’t need a degree in rocket science to figure out the mechanisms on which the advertisement industry thrives. Selling aspirations, making us dream of the ‘perfect dream life’, one can never find an advertisement which tries to instil confidence in us – telling us ‘Oh! You are good the way you are.’ No, you aren’t. If we are to believe these commercials we are way too dark, way too fat, way too short, way too poor and way too dumb to live happy lives. Thus, we must keep buying. Because that’s out only penance. Our only way out of a miserable life. Instead of celebrating the goodness of heart and the worth of people we celebrate the flaws, the shortcomings. However, these ideas are not only confined to ads anymore; they are sold to us by all forms of media and communication that reach people: movies, radio, viral videos etc. Everyone’s brainwashing us no matter what their agenda might be. Our world is suffocated by stereotypical portrayals and such skewed notions of beauty. It’s high time we learnt how to see through the bulletproof masks of such propaganda that we call advertisements.
Had it not been for Rohith Vemula’s heart-rending account of his early life as a Dalit in the note he left behind, it might have been just another suicide.
But the contents of the suicide note not only led to massive protests, it also triggered a series of debates in the media on the discrimination faced by Dalits in higher educational institutes.
In such a scenario, where newsrooms have never attempted to make their spaces diverse in nature, a recent advertisement by a popular magazine seems to be a step in the right direction.
In media houses, where the hiring process is largely informal, with very few publications and TV channels advertising positions for journalists, the said magazine’s advertisement seeking ‘a Dalit- or an Adivasi-only person’ for the post of a reporter is rare.
Reliable data is not available to establish the number of Dalit/Adivasi journalists in media; experts say it is minuscule. Media critics say coverage on issues of caste, communalism and discrimination lacks sensitivity because of the absence of journalists from these sections.
“These days, media houses scout for entry-level journalists from media schools. Most of the Dalits/Adivasis are poor. They can’t afford to pay the high fees charged by these institutes. Thus, very few young Dalits/Adivasis are getting trained as journalists,” says Aditya Sinha, author and former editor-in-chief of ‘DNA’ and ‘The New Indian Express’.
Sevanti Ninan, editor, ‘The Hoot’, which regularly conducts research pertaining to the media to strengthen its independence, says she had no doubt that the number is still minuscule, but the situation is changing.
“The Asian College of Journalism (ACJ), Chennai has scholarships for Dalit journalists. One of their graduates is a state correspondent of The Hindu. They have applicants from other states (outside Tamil Nadu) and there would be a dozen or more coming out of their course. The Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) has some reserved seats too. Dalits like tribal journalists are attracted to the reservation that exists for them in teaching and other jobs. Journalism does not offer them a secure future,” Ninan adds.
As per a report published in Kafila in 2014, “Though, the Asian College of Journalism—a not-for-profit school–does not have reserved seats, it accorded scholarship to four SC/ST students in 2012-13, as previous years. Notwithstanding scholarship, the percentage of Dalit students in ACJ to the total intake is woefully low: 1.5 percent of the total students for three-year combined.” It also cites how, “Some expensive private institutions such as Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, Xavier Institute of Communication, Times School of Journalism and Symbiosis Institute of Media & Communication have no scholarship or reserved seats for SC/ST students.”
“Our media houses are not pluralistic and liberal in nature. Most editors and journalists are from the upper castes and privileged sections,” says Chandra Bhan Prasad, Dalit author, and mentor to the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI).
“The near-absence of Dalit and Adivasi journalists reflects in the way news related to underprivileged sections is given scant importance by the press,” he adds.
Even the aforementioned magazine advertisement cites the same reason for the “diversity position” in its job posting.
E-mail queries sent to the executive editor of the magazine to find out the response received by them to their advertisement went unanswered.
To date no survey has been conducted by any competent authority, including the Press Council of India (PCI), to know the exact percentage of Dalit and Adivasi in Indian newsrooms. It is a fact though that very few from these sections of society are in mainstream media.
Lack of ‘merit’ and the Dalit ‘preference’ to work in the government sector are often cited as reasons for the absence of journalists from underprivileged sections in media houses.
Times Have Not Changed: The Case Of Karnataka
Bala Gurumurthy, author, activist and administrative officer at the Karnataka government run Dr. Ambedkar Research Institute which studies socio-economic status of SC/ST in the state, says Dalit issues make headlines only when they are violent in nature such as rape, murder, and suicide.
Dr. Ambedkar Research Institute was established by the government of Karnataka in 1994. The Institute functions under the administrative control of the Social Welfare Department. The main motto of the institute is to study the socio-economic status of the SC/ST population in Karnataka.
“What about social boycott? A Dalit endures various kinds of humiliation and struggle. How many times TV debates bring those questions to the fore?” Gurumurthy asks even as he insists that very few journalists are sensitive towards the cause of the Dalit and the marginalized.
Two decades ago, B.N. Uniyal, a veteran journalist from Delhi made an attempt to “find” a Dalit journalist in Delhi at the request of a foreign correspondent, who wanted to speak to a “Dalit” journalist on a tussle between Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leaders and journalists.
Uniyal could not find a single Dalit working journalist! The result of his frustrating search was a pioneering article“In Search Of A Dalit Journalist” published in The Pioneer on November 16, 1996.
17 years later, in 2013, Delhi-based journalist and author Ajaz Ashraf, for a story he wrote, could identify only 21 Dalit journalists across India.
Today, 20 years after Uniyal’s search for a Dalit journalist, the author of this report could zero in on only three Dalit working journalists in all of Karnataka— one in an English newspaper; two in Kannada newspapers.
They shared their caste details and spoke of the discrimination Dalit journalists faces in media houses. Of the three, while two did so on strict conditions of anonymity, fearing for their “careers,” only one was comfortable in using his name.
“We are very few in number. I know only one more person (apart from me) from the Dalit community who works as a reporter in Kolar district,” says K.S. Ganesh of the popular Kannada newspaper Prajavani.
Ganesh acknowledges to discrimination against Dalit journalists in newsrooms. “It is a well-known secret. If we talk about it, it would be taken against us. We would be accused of dividing the journalist fraternity on the basis of caste,” he says.
“They say they don’t have the space. That’s their best excuse. The Kolar edition of my newspaper regularly carries stories on the marginalised sections but they don’t get published in the Bengaluru edition,” says Ganesh.
Of the other two who chose to remain anonymous, one, a senior reporter of a prominent English daily who has been working for more than 10 years said, “If I openly discuss the deep-rooted prejudice against Dalit and Adivasi in media houses, my career would be in jeopardy.”
There are many instances of leading media houses giving jobs to relatives of senior editors as they dominate the newsroom but not to a qualified Dalit, the senior reported insists.
The second Bengaluru scribe who sought anonymity and works for a Kannada daily, says people from dominant castes say the Dalit lacks merit, that the Dalit has less command over the language.
“We are journalists, we don’t have any caste or religion. Keep caste away from the media,” says a Kolkata-based Brahmin woman journalist. “I don’t believe in the caste system. Neither do I practice caste-based discrimination. Who says a Brahmin can’t report and write on Dalits? A journalist has to be sensitive, that’s all that’s needed.”
However, a few ‘upper-caste’ journalists do admit to a dearth of scribes from marginalised sections. They blame the editors and media owners for not bridging the gap.
“It is not easy to talk about the existence of caste-based politics in newsrooms. (Only) few editors and owners of big media houses actively encourage diversity and discussion on it in newsrooms,” says Samir Kar Purkayastha, a Kolkata-based independent senior journalist.
How To Fix It
Media houses can take a cue from the US and conduct a survey on the lines of American Society of Newspaper Editors (asne.org) Newsroom Employment Diversity Survey, suggests Prasad. “The Indian Dalit is like the African-American in the US. The American press rectified the exclusion of Blacks by increasing their numbers in newsrooms. Surveys done by ASNE are a testimony to it,” he says.
Increasing the diversity in US newsrooms has been a primary mission of ASNE since 1978. The society has been an industry leader in helping news organisations better reflect their communities, states the ASNE website.
Then there’s the question of the Dalit journalist and allegations of disparity in pay. When cancer claimed the life of Nagaraju Koppula, a Dalit scribe working with The New Indian Express, Hyderabad, in 2015, his friends alleged underpayment and caste discrimination at his workplace.
The movement could not sustain for long as it was not backed by any prominent institution. Despite the demand for compensation from the employer of Nagaraju and the intervention of the National Human Rights Commission, however, not much has happened so far.
But there are those who beg to differ. “This applies to all (journalists), irrespective of caste or gender. Similarly designated journalists are paid differently depending on place of posting, English media journalists are paid better than their counterparts in the vernacular medium. Like hiring, pay packages of journalists are never openly discussed. So it would be difficult to say if Dalit journalists are further discriminated in terms of salary,” says Purkayastha.
Ninan says there simply isn’t enough information available on this issue in the public domain.
Uniyal was disappointed when “In Search Of A Dalit Journalist” failed to force editors and owners of media houses to seriously introspect and overthrow the “Brahminical” dominance of newsrooms.
About the author: Maitreyee Boruah is a Bangalore-based freelance journalist and a senior member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters. Her reporting reflects issues of society at large and human rights in particular.
When the world sleeps, they are awake; with their teardrops on fire and fearlessness in their breath. They travel, they capture, in the darkness, to enlighten us, to show us the unseen, experiencing the smell of corruption, injustice, compassion and what not. They hear the unheard mysteries, taste the abominable crimes and yet smile upon the hard truth and unveil the astonishing realities of the world. Journalism, we call it, the third eye to the present world. But there lies a distinct aberration in what it is and how people acknowledge it.
With power lies responsibility. The responsibility to be the watchdogs of society, to showcase the unusual and present it as white and not grey. Not because they are entitled to do so but because we trust them. We do. But should we blindly trust them?
There have been instances where Indian media has twisted facts to create a story that may instigate more people and hence increase their business and visibility. One day, a leading English newspaper published on its front page a photograph of Justice Gyan Sudha Misra of the Supreme Court with the caption: “Supreme Court Judge says that her daughters are liabilities.” This was a distorted and fallacious item of news, published on the front page. He was referring to the financial liabilities he had, and he then mentioned that he also has two daughters who are yet to be married. Though it was quite vague to mention something like that, it was still blown vastly out of proportion.
There are other methods as well like ‘paid news‘ that has become quite prominent these days. Bennett, Coleman and Co. Ltd, which owns the Times of India, is reported to have asked celebrities and the wealthy to pay for favorable coverage. They have offered a “private treaty” agreement, which accepts an equity stake in a company in return for favorable coverage.
Now this is something highly unacceptable. Also, the media often portray non-issues as real issues, while the real problems stay sidelined. For instance, the personal lives of celebrities are periodically targeted to divert and distract viewers from the issues of more importance. It is of eminent importance to remind the Indian media that ratings don’t last long, but good journalism does.
Commercialization has given us competition but it sometimes kills the essence of situations. Nothing proves this better than the current plight of journalism. Sometimes I feel this kind of competition has ruined it all, but then it has taught us the best ways to mesmerize.
Manipulation and diplomacy today have become synonymous to journalism. The incident of JNU where certain students were declared by reputed media men as terrorists was one such incident. Cooked up stories were sold at high prices. Journalism has hence turned into a conniving art of storytelling.
But does this storytelling entertain the youth of today? Not all. It is of utmost importance to rejuvenate the strategy to penetrate audience who desires quality content and unbiased news. For those who feel otherwise, I beg your pardon, but I don’t think journalism is a source of entertainment.
The onus for responsible journalism doesn’t just lie with the media houses but also with laymen citizens like you and me. The change can only be broadcast when the responsible citizens of India develop an urge and hunger for the truth instead of simply being consumers signing up for whatever is available.
“India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend and the great grandmother of tradition.” – Mark Twain
Art and culture of India have left several scholars and intellectuals spell bounded, may it be Mark Twain, Albert Einstein or Max Muller. India has preserved its culture through careful curation and encouragement of paintings, scriptures and art forms like Kalamkari, Bidri art, Jaipur stonework, Bandhini, etc. The credit of passing the culture from one generation to another goes to poets, artisans, craftsmen and to all those former kings who had great artistic sense and encouraged their craftsmen to practice their art. However, the ages of kings and emperors are long gone. Only the craftsmen and artisans are left behind to protect the rich art forms that India had nurtured from time immemorial.
The Indian Handicraft Industry generates one of the largest employment with over six million people and 67,000 export houses all across the country. Each state nurtures its own craft practice influenced by its geography and traditions. Although, Indian handicrafts have gained international recognition and have huge demand globally the craftsmen and artists lead an unfortunate life and are exploring other means of livelihood.
A recent interaction with the Varanasi artisans who produce unique wares with copper, wood, stone and clay, gave me a better picture of the current situation of the Indian crafts industry. All I heard was a sad story about the craftsmanship dying in their town. “Once upon a time there were fifty of us, and now, only two of us remain in the entire city of Varanasi who can join different colored stones seamlessly into an artifact like chess board,” says one of the stone crafts artist.
This seems to be the story of a majority of the old towns of India. The reason behind the loss of demand for these craftsmen’s unique products and their destitute condition is globalization and cheap Chinese goods flooding the market. Furthermore, they are either illiterate or poorly educated which makes them hard to upgrade their skills and to understand the market trends. Thus as a result of incompetence, they end up losing business and move to other professions.
Fortunately, all dark clouds have a silver lining and here is one too. While I was digging deeper to find a feasible solution, I came across Navodyami. This is an online platform for small, thriving artisans to reach out to customers directly. This website provides access to handmade, ethnic, tribal and regional products e.g. home decor, accessories, apparels and corporate gifts. They are currently working with 4,000 micro-entrepreneurs from Karnataka, Telangana, and Uttar Pradesh and are playing a significant role in improving the livelihoods of these artisans.
Navodyami initially began as a program of Deshpande Foundation in 2011. Its main intention was to support and create micro-entrepreneurs in rural and peri-urban cities of Northwest Karnataka. One such case is of Dinesh Devadiga, who used to be a helper in a hotel. Aspiring to be an entrepreneur, he started Annapurna Handicraft Industry in 2006. He joined the Navodyami Programme in 2011 and obtained bank loans for the expansion of business. He now produces 40 products and has a turnover of over 60 lakhs – a growth of 500%.
Along with mentorship and funding support, Navodyami also organizes exclusive exhibits bringing artisans and customers together and creates a greater awareness of the rich local arts. Most of the products at Navodyami are exclusive and rarely accessible otherwise, such as Bidri ware, embroidered Ilkal and hand-painted sarees, soft stone art from Mahoba and carved ethnic woodwork from Varanasi.
Navodyami is a platform that brings art lovers in direct contact with artisans who sell their handicrafts from various parts of India reaching the doorsteps of national and global customers thereby creating easy accessibility to handmade products at the most affordable price while generating a sense of appreciation for traditional Indian arts.
As an Indian kid, and a keen lover of popular culture, growing up in the late 1990s and 2000s was a perplexing time—because the pop culture I consumed gave me some warped ideas in terms of gender and sexuality. Historically, Indian cinema—and especially Hindi cinema—hasn’t had the best record in terms of gender and sexuality. From blatant sexual objectification to glorifying stalking and harassment, Bollywood has treated women abominably; but, it didn’t stop just at cis women. When it comes to the transgender or hijra communities, Bollywood has fared even worse.
Trans People In Bollywood—Terrifying Villains, Or Ridiculous Comic Relief
One of my most vivid memories surrounding Bollywood as a kid is being utterly terrified (to the point of nightmares) by the character of Lajja Shankar Pandey from the film ‘Sangharsh‘ (1999). The character, played by Ashutosh Rana, was a transwoman, who in the film was a Kali worshipper (Bollywood’s idea of ‘devil worship’) and abducted little children and sacrificed and cannibalised them at said Satan-adjacent Kali’s altar. Albeit watching the film at the tender age of 10, my horror obviously stemmed from the whole scary-child-murderer aspect of the character, but as I slowly grew up and watched a lot more Bollywood, I realised that this part of a larger problem; a larger systematic horror.
In almost every Bollywood film I have watched featuring even the slightest mention of a transgender person, I’ve noticed two (disturbing) polarities of representation—either the trans person is a demonised, horrifying villain (in dramatic films); or the worst kind of comic stereotype, with really offensive transphobic humour directed at them (in comedies). There is a sustained othering which takes place here, where the trans person is constantly seen as outside the bounds of ‘normal’ — as a sexual predator, a child molester, or someone who is out to prey on or deceive the unsuspecting (cis) hero or heroine.
Look at director Mahesh Bhatt’s critically celebrated film ‘Sadak‘ (1991) for instance; which has one of the most jarringly violent depictions of a transwoman in the character of Maharani (which means ‘queen’ in Hindi). Maharani’s function in the plot is, again, to be the villain—depicted here as an evil brothel owner who tortures and traffics young women. In a film where the trans character gets so much screentime, there is a constant reiteration of the worst kind of harmful myths and tropes associated with the trans community — ultimately creating a stereotype in Indian mainstream culture which became hard to shake off. Taking off from this, countless other films both big and small (most recent of which was 2011’s ‘Murder 2‘) played on this trope of the ‘evil-trans-brothel-owner-slash-villain’.
In Bollywood comedies, trans characters face similarly horrific treatment. Very often trans people are seen to be preying on the hero sexually (almost always, without their consent) or turned into exaggerated ‘effeminate’ caricatures who exist to elicit laughs. When they do rarely attract the attention of the hero, he is ultimately repulsed once he discovers that the trans woman in question is not an ‘actual woman’ and finds himself ‘deceived’ — a form of transphobic hate that trans people go through very often in their real lives.
While films like ‘Kya Kool Hain Hum‘, ‘Partner‘, ‘Style‘, and many more feature such horrific stereotypes of trans women as sexually predatory, the film ‘Masti‘ (2004) probably has the worst kind of portrayal—even though it’s in a 5-minute scene. In the film, one of the heroes is on a date with a woman and is seen to be enjoying it. But, moments later, he walks in on her in the bathroom, accidentally sees her genitalia, and finds that she is trans. What follows is him going into an immediate panic, and nearly fleeing the scene. As if the very sight of a trans woman was an anomaly; and the fact that she made him believe she was ‘a woman’ a terrible ‘betrayal’.
Trans People Are ‘Abnormal’, But Cis Men In Drag Aren’t?
Despite the rampant transphobia, one particular trope is extremely popular in Bollywood, even after so many years, and that is cross-dressing men. Celebrated, A-list actors have all dressed in drag one time or the other—whether it be Aamir Khan (in ‘Baazi’), Rishi Kapoor (in ‘Rafoo Chakkar’), Amitabh Bachchan (in ‘Laawaris’), Shah Rukh Khan (in ‘Duplicate’), Govinda (in ‘Aunty No 1’) and recently, Saif Ali Khan and Riteish Deshmukh (in ‘Humshakals’).
Crossdressing can be extremely subversive through its challenging of rigid gender norms and furthering of gender-fluidity. But the problem is, in Bollywood, that’s not what happens. Often, crossdressing becomes objectification and blatant stereotyping—of not just trans women, but also cis women. Men who dress in drag use it as a means of comic relief (almost in all the movies mentioned above) where the laughs are elicited from the fact that ‘oh look, it’s a man in a dress!’ This further stigmatises the act of gender nonconformant dressing. Why does a man dressing in drag have to be something funny? Why can’t it be normalised, and even, a means of empowerment?
Further, when men dress in drag in Bollywood films, the loss of their masculinity through that act is constantly highlighted, and to perform the more physically able roles, they have to transform back into their masculine selves. Think ‘Some Like It Hot‘—where Tony Curtis’ character has to change back from drag into his more masculine demeanour to woo and become desirable to Marilyn Monroe—only, in the case of Bollywood, the problems are magnified tenfold.
While the question of trans representation in Bollywood is indeed a concerning one, the situation is not entirely bleak. There are some positive representations, even if they are extremely few and far between. The 1997 film ‘Tamanna‘ had a complex portrayal of a transwoman, who finds an abandoned girl child and raises her as her own. Though heavy-handed in places, it deftly tackles both transgender issues (such as discrimination, misgendering, violence against the trans community) as well as female infanticide. ‘Daayra‘ (1996) is another film which deals with gender-fluidity in interesting ways. It depicts a transsexual character who forms a close relationship with a young girl who takes on a male identity (in other words, who is gender-fluid).
But, these films barely got any mainstream attention, while actually popular films continue to depict trans people in a negative light, even now. And not just Bollywood, regional Indian film industries also treat the transgender community in a similarly offensive manner. This year has already seen some positive LGBT representation in Bollywood, through films like ‘Aligarh‘ and ‘Kapoor and Sons‘, why then, is the trans community not getting it’s due? It’s high time for real trans voices to be represented, and for the negative stereotypes to end. It’s time for trans actors like Bobby Darling—who often appears in the aforementioned movies where trans people are stereotyped and ridiculed—to actually realise the grave injustice being committed to the trans community through Bollywood and to take on roles which actually tilt the power equation in favour of trans people.
This article was originally published here on Cake.
German film director Werner Herzog speaks during a meeting of film lovers in La Paz April 10, 2015. Herzog is in Bolivia to shoot a film in locations such as the Uyuni salt flat, according to local media. REUTERS/David Mercado - RTR4WVTF
Werner Herzog is one of the prolific filmmakers of our time. His films are usually set in distinct, distant landscapes, following characters that are often in conflict with nature. His films frequently feature characters or real people who attempt to change nature but are ultimately overwhelmed by it.
François Truffaut called Herzog as “the most important film director alive”, and rightly so. Herzog makes some of the most offbeat casting choices and often uses controversial techniques to elicit the desired performances.
Over the years, his process and narrative style have inspired thousands of filmmakers worldwide. ‘The Act of Killing‘ is one such example, directed by Joshua Oppenheimer. The Oscar-nominated documentary challenges former Indonesian death-squad leaders to reenact their mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish. The success of this 2013 documentary is a clear indication of how Herzog continues to influence new age documentary cinema.
Moreover, it’s impossible to ignore what Werner Herzog has to say about filmmaking. In the following video, he answers questions ranging from his reasons as to why he took up filmmaking, to who does he make films for.
The video was directed by Joseph Toth and was shot during Herzog’s visit to Indiana University.
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Editor’s Note: Before TV-loving little girls got schooled in one-dimensional femininity from movies rated PG13 and up, male-centric cartoons like ‘TaleSpin’, ‘Dexter’s Laboratory’, ‘Johnny Quest’, ‘Swat Kats’, had already pushed them (as viewers and as characters) to the periphery. But there were others who were turning the TV-tide for little girls everywhere.
And this monotony is where pigeon-holing begins, when girls weren’t left at home, they were the plucky side-kicks or the love interest. In narratives, it was always a bro at the helm of the comedy, mystery or adventure – the last of which being the most masculine genre. Think Indiana Jones. In 1996, Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft put a female face on ‘adventure’, but it’s pretty clear whose gaze she was designed for. So, were little girls left with no nuanced representations of characters their age? Not if the ’90s can help it!
Helga Pataki From ‘Hey Arnold!’
Even though she looks the part of that pink-pigtails-pinafores prototype, Helga G. Pataki was a character who didn’t care for your traditional femininity. Her take-no-prisoners attitude to life was something interesting to see in a nine-year-old. But even she had her moments of weakness. In the episode ‘Helga’s Makeover’, she succumbs to the pressure of embodying a femininity that just isn’t her. The first thing to go was her trademark unibrow, and it was almost harrowing to see the fourth-grader stuff her bra to look like the girls in the Preteen Miss magazines. The episode is likely to bring back a lot of your own difficult memories of body negativity if you watch it now, but I highly recommend you do, because eventually Helga ‘breaks character’ and calls out this stupid charade for what it is.
Helga’s trials with femininity don’t end there. We see her constantly pit against her classmate Lila, and her older sister Olga, both of whom are ‘ideal women’. Her beef with Lila is due in part to her feelings for the titular character Arnold, but the Olga dynamics are evidence of a well-written character. Olga possessed those stock female traits of beauty, amiability, and selflessness, as well as no instinct when it comes to creeps. In “Olga Gets Engaged”, she allows herself to be conned by her fiancé, but it’s Helga’s interventions that save her sister a world of trouble!
Eliza Thornberry From ‘The Wild Thornberrys’
Eliza was a new kind of adventurer. You’d think her bookishness meant she would only be summoned from her quiet corner when a male-lead needed answers. But Eliza was out there in the thick of things, coming face-to-face with Komodo Dragons, jaguars, and the dark of the Serengeti. Oh, and she can talk to animals. Everything about her life spent travelling across continents, in her filmmaker parents’ ComVee was simply fascinating.
It was also interesting that Eliza’s absolute idol was Dr. Jane Goodall, who makes an appearance on the show. The inter-generational depiction of women of science was a nice touch, and the environment has always been a main focus in the show. The wild was also an interesting backdrop for several conflicts. Whether it was accidentally throwing the whole ecosystem into chaos, or risking everything to catch a bunch of poachers, Eliza always had something big going on, and she always came out on top.
‘The Wild Thornberrys’ made a hero out of a rather ordinary little girl, and for other ordinary little girls watching, this was very important. With her mouth full of braces and soda-bottle glasses, Eliza didn’t trifle with high school popularity contests. No, she was more invested in ecological matters, wildlife conservation, and the value of friendship.
Reggie Rocket From ‘Rocket Power’
Regina ‘Reggie’ Rocket of Ocean Shores, California, was an incredible combination of wise-older-sister and extreme-sports-badass. This show about a ragtag group of kids, who spend their time at skate parks and shorelines, introduced me to the world of skateboarding, surfing, hockey, and rollerblading. More importantly, it introduced me to a girl who could shred half-pipes just as good as the guys she hung with.
And she was no token ‘exception’ to a ‘rule’ either. Reggie faced sexism in the sporting world and the writers had her respond to it too – like the time her father Ray was more invested in her brother Otto’s skills than her own equally excellent skills. In another instance, almost in Riot Grrrl style, she starts her own Zine when local publications fail to recognise Ocean City’s female talent. The show took the time to realistically depict the roadblocks in putting the Zine together, including the initial resistance from other female athletes – one of the surfers, Trish, even tells Reggie she just rides waves, she doesn’t make them. But instead of becoming immediately discouraged, Reggie only pushes harder, until the other girls come around, and the Zine is up and running.
Buttercup From ‘The Powerpuff Girls’
This classic Cartoon Network program focused on not one but three individual femininities in Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup. Oh, and there was a healthy sprinkling of others on the periphery, like Miss Keane, Sarah Bellum (literally the brains in the government) and even Sedusa (hey, even negative roles are important!) But it was the character of Buttercup that really broke new ground. Unlike her sisters, she had a lot of traditionally ‘masculine’ traits. She was brazen, impulsive, and liked settling things with her fists.
She was loud, blunt, and gave two hoots about grooming, and sometimes her ‘tough-guy’ attitude got her into a lot of trouble. Once she fell in with the wrong crowd – the Gangrene Gang. Once she ruined everybody’s day by refusing to shower. And she often picked on Bubbles for being a ‘cry-baby’ – evidence of her disdain for the image of woman as infantile and vulnerable? But it was wonderful to see this imperfect, rough-around-the-edges kid who was still a hero to Townsville. The show didn’t glorify the unsavoury parts of her personality, it simply recognised that they exist and that that was okay.
Girls who are kinda messy, and outspoken, and display a range of emotions, including anger, are still – surprise – girls. And cartoons have been doing justice to depictions for a while. Remember tomboy Ashley Spinelli from ‘Recess’? Or ‘♀’-shirt-wearing Betty DeVille and career-woman Charlotte Pickles from ‘Rugrats’? Even squirrel scientist Sandy Cheeks from ‘Spongebob Squarepants’. All of them contributed to the idea that femininity is best described as a mosaic, and they continue to do so for audiences today.
Given that women make up a much larger portion of audiences than we give credit for, having more characters to relate to is a constant requirement. Thankfully, those of us who were glued to our screens in the ’90s did have some pretty spiffing examples.
Were there other incredible female cartoons you enjoyed watching as a kid? Tell us in the comments!
To read more from ‘The ’90s Were Great Because’, click here.
This article was originally published here on Cake.
At the outset, let me clarify that I am nowhere as crazy as the eponymous character in the film. I have engaged in my fair share of brawls with SRK haters, pissed off many friends and acquaintances by conversing entirely in SRK dialogues, bunked enough classes back in college to watch the ‘first day, first shows’ of his films, and continue to have his face plastered across t-shirts, walls, and wallpapers. I would never, however, condone violence (obviously) to defend either your favorite actor or your god, and I’d like to believe that no one in their right mind would. In the case of the Khan, it’s all about spreading the love, “pyaar dosti hai” etc., not hostility. Except the occasional slap or stadium scuffle! In the case of religion, the less said the better because I am not in the mood to be guillotined today for being politically incorrect.
But I digress.
Like every third person in the country (because every third person in the country is an SRK fan, whether they accept it or not), I was a self-proclaimed ‘jabra fan’ until last week. The terrible song played on loop in my car, in my house, in my head, in various languages that morphed into an undecipherable jumble at times. On Friday morning, as we waited to enter the theatre, I suggested to my fellow #firstdayFan friend that we click the customary check-in photo in front of the nearest lightbox ‘Fan‘ poster. But she insisted on finding a bigger poster after the movie for said photo backdrop, so we deferred this important ritual until later.
Suffice it to say, neither of us had the stomach for the photo after the movie.
For those who’ve been living under a rock, here’s a quick summary. Gaurav Chandna (West Delhi vella SRK) is a devoted Aryan Khanna (superstar SRK) fan, who also happens to look like Aryan Khanna. He goes to Mumbai to meet the star, fails to do so (because not everyone lives in his fantasy bubble), kicks up some shit to attract attention, and manages to get told off for his antics by Aryan himself. Heartbroken, Gaurav goes off the edge and decides to make the star pay for this, because “tumne mere pacchees saal ka pyaar chheen liya (you took away my love of twenty-five years)”. The rest of the movie is a nerve-wracking cat and mouse game between Gaurav (alternately crafty and crazy) and the embittered but ever charming Aryan, punctuated with thrilling chase sequences, ‘oh, no he didn’t!’ moments and enough meta devices to delight the critics.
This is a story of the disillusioned acolyte turning on the false god. You sympathise with the former’s naiveté till a point when his actions challenge your moral code, and while this code differs for each of us, ‘Fan’ has moments when everyone – from the more devoted fans to the morally flexible – will squirm in their seats. There is a little bit of us in Gaurav Chandna irrespective of who or what our pacchees saal ka pyaar was. Most of us have had moments when we’ve done something irrational (or come close to it) for the sake of an idea that we believed in more than we did in ourselves, moments when an idea becomes larger than life and merges (with) or even takes over our own identity. In Gaurav’s case, this idea devours him, and it isn’t pretty.
John Hinckley Jr. attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in an effort to impress Jodie Foster, and termed it “the greatest love offering in the history of the world”. David Letterman’s stalker was arrested eight times for trespassing on his property and other related counts and went on to commit suicide under a train. Mark David Chapman, a Beatles fan himself, ended John Lennon’s life the same day that he took his autograph. They are the extreme end of a spectrum. The other end is made up of jilted lovers prank calling their objects of desire, keying their cars in retaliation, defacing their photos and maligning their names. After all, it is the same neurochemical that regulates the obsessive and addictive behavior that is characteristic of both love affairs and celebrity fixation.
Gaurav swiftly traverses the distance between the two ends of this spectrum, going from the overly-attached-girlfriend meme to ‘American Psycho’ with the raised axe. It isn’t much of a distance, because when you jump off a cliff, you are in free fall and destined to hit the ground within seconds. This is something we may not be able to usually consider or even fully understand; which is a possible reason why the second half of the film has received some flak. We fear what we do not understand, and there are moments when we fear Gaurav. And for those of us who came out of the theatre questioning the ‘fan’ in ourselves, this is a reality check, and reality checks are uncomfortable. Where on the Gaurav spectrum are you?
But that’s just half the story.
One of the standout scenes in the film for me was the Bhutiani wedding in Croatia, where Aryan Khanna, out on bail from London, has to perform for the guests while putting himself at risk. Like a switch, he must go back and forth between the roles of a superstar entertainer and the hounded man behind the mask. To make matters worse, Bhutiani Sr. treats him exactly how your shitty boss would treat you if you walked into office conspicuously late one morning after having partied all night. It strained my nerves just to watch him power through the moves, learning lines, changing costumes, chasing Gaurav’s ghost, dancing up a storm, checking in with his team, answering to the Bhutianis’ every beck and call, failing to catch Gaurav yet again, posing for photographs, the works.
Why does he go through with it? Because he refuses to let an obnoxious brat half his age disrupt his life or career, and because he’s getting paid for it. He is an entertainer, it’s what he does. I would dance at weddings too if I got paid for it, and it isn’t even my profession. It is his.
Like the actor portraying the character, Aryan also credits his fans for his immense success, and despite the authority with which he tells Gaurav, “tum nahi ho mere fan (you’re not my fan),” in the first half, you immediately realise that he has no control here. They have no control over the biggest part of their lives, their fandom, which can often be a difficult price to pay, even for the success and stardom it comes with. It is a deal with the devil and he who makes it must dance to the devil’s tune.
None of these realisations are meant to be very comfortable. But above all, the reason ‘Fan’ works while grabbing you by the scruff of your neck and dragging you into the light is because over the past several years, all of us had settled into a sort of conviction that no matter what film he does, Shah Rukh Khan, the persona, would always be bigger than the actor. Gaurav Chandna turns this notion on its head.
In his dazzling moments, Gaurav reminds us of Rahul Khanna with outstretched arms who serenaded his lady under the starlit skies at Wenlock Downs. But his best moments are those where he reminds us of the one goofy guy from high school or college or the neighborhood, who may or may not have been called Rahul Mehra, who we didn’t think much of until he started following one of our friends around, turning up outside her house at odd hours, blank calling her landline, and threatening her implicitly. “Gaurav hai toh Aryan hai, Gaurav nahi toh Aryan kuch nahi”. Replace the names and we’ve all heard that line before.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are currently touring India. During this visit, they were spotted paying their respect to the brave Indian soldiers who fought till death to defend their country. While they were paying tribute at the Amar Jawan Jyoti in India Gate, The Times of India was present to cover this sentimental moment. However, instead of the quiet, peaceful and somber tribute that the Royalty of Britain was extending, the Times of India decided to publish this as front-page news.
Kate’s dress was blowing all over due to the wind but the princess continued the tribute without awkwardness. This is what the Times of India chose to call Kate’s ‘Marilyn Monroe moment’!
In 1955, the famous Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe wore a white dress for the movie The Seven Year Itch and created one of the most iconic images of cinema – her dress billowing around her as the wind from a subway played cheekily with her ‘modesty’; the star looks at the camera with a million-dollar smile.
The difference between this cinematic moment and Kate Middleton paying tribute to the martyrs at India Gate is that the Duchess wasn’t staring into the camera or posing but was completing a diplomatic duty in India. But, hey, a journalist’s got to do what he’s got to do, right? So why not relate the unfortunate event captured on camera with a moment that was intentionally filmed by an actress? The Times of India is one of the most-read newspapers in the world and for it to publish such an article on the front page is not only disrespectful but also shameful.
It is sad to say that the Daily Mail also jumped in on this “issue”. They focused more on the ‘deformed’ feet of Kate rather than the real reason of the couple being at the venue: honoring 70,000 Indian soldiers who had died fighting for the British Army during the First World War!
Twitter was up in anger against this and unleashed its fury with some hilarious tweets mocking the leading national daily.
“I will not be shocked if Times Of India prints ‘Rain during Mayawati rally, she had a Raveena Tandon moment’.”said one user.
“The sexist & shabby reporting by TOI needs just one tweet from Kate Middleton – I am a woman. I have legs. You have a problem with that?”said another.
In this day and age where it has become important to discuss the ethics of photography, the Times of India just reiterated that a woman’s body is a canvas for stimulation and pleasure and is constantly under public scrutiny.
This was definitely not their first problematic headlines. Most of us still haven’t forgotten the ugly episode with Deepika Padukone and her cleavage. While Padukone was lauded for boldly stating these defiant words “YES, I’m a woman, I have breasts and a cleavage” – we will have to wait to hear what Kate Middleton makes of this.
However, a contradictory opinion was given by Indian Journalist Shekhar Gupta – “Objections to TOI on Kate’s Marilyn moment silly. Brits have grown up view of Royals as glamorous celebs. We’re trapped in “Convented” times.”
While we might consider this to be a shameful tactic on the part of the press but what if this is a reflection of what turns on the readers? People are now obsessed with celebrities and what they do. Readers want to know what a celebrity wears and does every day – no amount of masala must be missed. Is it due to this craze that news agencies cover such issues? Media only covers what sells, and sadly celebrity gossip has always been a hot cake. In this era, where women have started to shine and get away from the grasp of patriarchy, it is unfortunate to see people worshipping female idols in temples while disrobing them with their eyes. It isn’t surprising to see that a newspaper that covers such issues and posts such pictures is one of the leading dailies of the world!
Millions of Twitter users woke up to the hashtag #LoveTwitter trending at no. 1 today, marking the social networking site’s 10th anniversary. Twitter also put out a video commemorating some of its most memorable moments and thanking its users. Hundreds across the globe were wishing Twitter a happy birthday, citing reasons for why they love the platform and how it has helped in various ways.
From making politicians more accountable to giving everyday heroes a voice; from starting global conversations on critical issues and shutting down patriarchy, homophobia and other social realities we can’t ignore, indeed, Twitter has a unique place in a world where attention spans don’t last more than a few seconds. In recent times, some of the most iconic global campaigns and movements have also started or picked up steam because of Twitter. The platform has consistently created social change and raised a cry for equal rights.
To celebrate Twitter’s 10th birthday, we decided to put together some of the most iconic Twitter moments ever that not many people actually know about. Take a look – we’re sure you’ll be amazed!
1. Citizen journalism FTW: When 23-year-old Janis Krums tweeted a photo of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 that had “touched down” in the Hudson River, making it one of the most iconic instances of Twitter being used as a breaking news platform.
2. #LoveWins: When the US Supreme Court legalised same-sex marriage in all 50 states of America and Twitter users across the world celebrated. This was also one of the most retweeted Tweets of 2015.
Today is a big step in our march toward equality. Gay and lesbian couples now have the right to marry, just like anyone else. #LoveWins
5. ‘This Revolution Was Tweeted’: The Arab Spring became the first uprising to be aided extensively by social media, with millions raising their voice on Twitter. Internet activist Wael Ghonim sent this now-famous Tweet after his release from jail, and Hosni Mubarak’s resignation as President of Egypt.
6. When the Ferguson Protests garnered global support through the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, the first time a social media campaign broke the silence around violence against black people by law enforcement agencies.
8. #ShoutYourAbortion: When women across the world spoke about their experiences of getting an abortion, embracing their decision and publicly battling the stigma around abortion. Many faced slurs, online abuse and criticism but the movement only grew wider with more women reclaiming their rights on their body.
my abortion gave me my life back..started my healing from rape. no regrets ,not one.#ShoutYourAbortion
9. The Tiananmen Square protests, 25 years later: Twitter user Patrick Chovanec spent months researching the hushed event and finally revealed what exactly happened on June 4th, 1989, on 4th June 2014.
10. Transparency and accountability: In India, Twitter is being used by politicians and ministries to cut the back channeling, speak one-on-one with citizens and provide help in diverse forms.
Here are two iconic examples, in External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu.
No need for thanks @SabahShawesh. It is our duty towards our country and countrymen. God bless your child – our young citizen.
At the outset, let me state that I’m in favour of journalists like Arnab Goswami who’ve kept the ‘dummy’s guide to journalism’ aside and have persisted in their journalistic career with their own style and have had their fair share of applause for it.
I intend to put forward my idea about why the new era of Indian journalism – when shouting, the investigative approach and hyper-aggression is the only way to seek the truth. And for doing that, you can’t belittle someone’s contribution. Everyone has their own style and for those who criticise someone because he shouts every night at 9 o’clock, I’d say: you may hate him, you may like him, but you can’t ignore Arnab Goswami and the impact he has had.
To be fair, Indian journalism has never shied away from going after big politicians and bringing them down and on that front, Arnab Goswami isn’t the first. Journalists like N. Ram, Arun Shourie, Vinod Dua are all known for their approach towards bringing down politicians with their extremely blunt and straight forward questions.
However, Indian journalism has also seen it’s fair share of selling out due to corporate interests and the profit motive taking over the heart and soul of unbiased journalism. Ideally, journalism shouldn’t be favourable to big corporates or the lawmakers in the country and give them an easy way out by letting them dodge ‘hard talk’.
Coming to the Arnab Goswami style of journalism, it is to an extent surprising that in a country which lives amidst red-tapism, corruption, countless allegations and a shouting match in the parliament itself, a vast majority in Goswami’s own field are critical of his work. After all, the average Indian viewer appears to find some sense of truth prevailing between 9:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. as can be gauged from the TRPs. Well, his critics have a right to their own opinion. But, I, for one, judge him by the impact he has had on the Indian political establishment by breaking several scams in a matter of six or seven years. That is no mean feat.
Recall the year 2010. It was one of the most revolutionising years in the history of Indian journalism with Arnab being at the forefront in going after a powerful politician over alleged corruption during the Commonwealth Games. He was perhaps one of the first few journalists who raised the issue and went after it with all he had. Of course, when you’re going after someone as powerful as Suresh Kalmadi, there are bound to be counter allegations, which there were from Kalmadi’s side. But in the end, it was a victory of the truth and a victory for a journalist who had the courage to go after the powerful and challenge the political establishment for which he deserves credit.
The recent Vijay Mallya case is in itself an example of how the media can guide a nation to talk about an issue of national importance. However, it still is too early to judge and declare Mallya as a fraud or anything along those lines. It remains to be investigated and further enquiry is going on through various government agencies. So, let’s not go there but one has to agree that what Arnab has done successfully in this case is challenge Mallya and challenge his competitors in the media industry to go after Mallya. The whole Indian media has aggressively taken up the Mallya case and the nation is talking about it. Can there be a bigger proof of Indian media’s impact in today’s day and age?
For anyone who is pursuing Journalism or is a journalist, one of the first principles of journalism taught to them is that a journalist must not have preconceived notions about a topic because it may make him biased. However, Goswami does not believe in this and does take sides. You and I may not agree with this form of journalism and we may say that taking sides in a debate by a moderator is wrong. But after looking at the impact that Goswami has with his debates, one sure does consider rethinking whether it is, in fact, incorrect to take sides and build a strong bias against one side in a debate. This is, of course, subject to the fact that you’re on the right side because if you aren’t, the whole idea of just and truthful journalism takes a toll.
Further, Arnab Goswami does stress upon ‘letting the viewers decide’, which I believe is the best possible route towards justice in journalism. A nation must be allowed to decide who to trust and who not to trust in the political establishment or, for that matter, anyone with great power in society. These views may be greatly influenced by the side that the journalist on your screen takes. But, the last decision is and should always be left to you and me – the viewer. And if a journalist doesn’t do that then criticism is justified.
While I do want to point out that Arnab does strongly take sides, we as viewers always have the choice to listen to both sides and form our own opinion. What the journalist on the screen says does have an impact but it must not be accepted as the truth. That’s what it means to be an active viewer. One who is not blindly trusting the journalist on the screen. Arnab can’t be right always and the same applies to other journalists in the industry and, therefore, the view of the viewer shall always prevail, with due consideration to facts provided by the journalist. And if there’s one thing that I admire about Arnab Goswami, it is that his facts are often correct and to the point. And when he takes a stand contrary to mine, I don’t blindly trust him because he has his reasons, and I have mine.
It is also critical in a democracy that journalists be allowed their freedom to practise the form of journalism which they believe to be the most impactful. I, therefore, say that had it not been for Barkha Dutt, we wouldn’t have had so many women journalists coming forward because she truly has defined, in her own way, how journalism ought to be done in India. Before the Kargil War, it was unthinkable in Indian journalism for a woman to do war coverage. Hers was an act of extreme courage which deserves applause for redefining the way female journalists are perceived. Again, I’m equally a fan of Nalini Singh’s style of journalism and she may not have covered a war, but she’s one of the earliest female journalists who came to be greatly admired for her journalistic integrity and style by a large number of people.
Looking forward, the prospect of Indian journalism seems more bright than dim. News has shifted from reading newsbreaks from a teleprompter to investigating and going into the root cause of the issues. One step in the wrong direction from a bureaucrat, businessman, sportsman or for that matter anyone with any accountability to society is closely monitored by today’s ‘new age’ Indian journalism. Indian journalism has become a court of justice and it may not necessarily be right, but it is, I believe, a positive step to bring about a message of ‘intolerance’ against wrongdoing by powerful people. And in some cases, intolerance is for the better.
“If journalism is good, it is controversial, by its nature.”
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s Twitter timeline is always buzzing. The way she makes use of Twitter to help Indians across the world is no secret. In fact, even the Opposition has taken note with AAP’s Bhagwant Maan saying, “I want to thank Sushma Swaraj ji. She is doing an exceptionally good job to save our people abroad.” Maan said this in the Lok Sabha referring to how Swaraj rescued 13 members of his constituency who had been enslaved in Saudi Arabia.
Along with the Railway Ministry which is also doing some noteworthy work over Twitter, Swaraj’s presence online is also a good example of how citizens and the government can directly connect with each other.
From reuniting families to helping citizens recover their passport and travel home safe, every request for help, whether small or big, gets the minister’s attention. And in this spirit of accountability, check out what she has been able to achieve in the last few months.
1. When she rescued 168 Indians trapped in Iraq by acting on a video that was tweeted to her.
7. When Gopal Keshri tweeted to Swaraj about an Indian origin woman under house arrest in South Africa who may be physically hurt, the minister tweeted that the Indian High Commission in South Africa would get in touch and brought the woman back home safely.
Rahul – Your sister rescued from Johannesburg is reaching Kochi tomorrow (15th April) by flight EK 532 at 0255 hrs @gopalkeshri
10. And finally, when she pulled off one of the largest rescue operations in a short span of time in Operation Raahat, where 1,947 foreign nationals and 4,741 Indians were rescued by air and sea routes through war-torn Yemen.
The evacuation operation from Yemen is over. General V.K.Singh is returning tonight. We are closing our Embassy there.
Thomas Carlyle in his book ‘On Heroes And Hero Worship‘ said: “Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.” It’s only in the past month (or the past year) that I have come to see the influence of the Fourth Estate.
I abhor the current government, as much as I despised the governments before this. At the end of the day, they are all cut from the same cloth; they are all wolves in sheep’s clothing. I’m neither a ‘Modi toadie’, nor a ‘Khangressi’. I am not one of those who bestowed upon you the pejorative, the Presstitute. I haven’t forgotten how you exposed the Commonwealth Games scam, or the Vyapam. You brought justice to Jessica Lall. When you streamed live from Kargil, you were partly, if not entirely, responsible for instilling nationalism in the populace. You saved tigers, lit up villages, promoted the girl child. You even took on the VVIP culture.
What I reproach you for today is an offence that has been committed since the days of the Acta Diurna in Ancient Rome. Sensationalism in 24*7 news coverage has long ceased to be the monopoly of ill-informed vernacular channels. Night after night, prime-time after prime-time, news studios have turned into battlegrounds of dissent, discussion, debate and more often than not, pure cacophony.
10 years ago, you turned Prince Kashyap, the 5-year-old who fell into a tubewell, into an instant celebrity and today you have done it again with Kanhaiya Kumar. In less than a month he has been transformed from a student leader into an anti-national, a terrorist, a freedom hero, the next CM of Delhi, depending of course, on which channel you ‘trust’.
If it wasn’t the eagerness of some news channels for ‘Breaking News’, the 28-year-old would still be as anonymous as he has been for the rest of his life. None of the events in JNU during the week in question were unprecedented for JNU. Pray tell us, why must left-leaning sloganeering in a ‘communist citadel’ make national news? Why did certain sections of the media take it upon themselves to bring the ‘perpetrators’ into their studios to lecture them on patriotism? Is the administration at JNU incapable of conducting a disciplinary hearing? Are student politics across all universities in India reported with as much gusto?
Kanhaiya Kumar may not be anti-national (he’s out on interim bail, he hasn’t been acquitted). The youth from across the country that stood with Kanhaiya, did so only because they, like Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s Voltaire, “…disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. They marched in solidarity because they, like him, have faith in the constitution, and the freedom of speech it guarantees, and not because they endorse his political ideology. They understood that receiving subsidised education should not disqualify him from having an opinion.
Kanhaiya Kumar is a brilliant orator, one well-versed in the art of the rhetoric. Period. Nothing more, nothing less. And he most certainly isn’t a hero. His 3-week stint in jail is an accomplishment only in the sense that he gets to walk out free while over 10,000 other undertrials languish in Tihar. His speech upon release may be one of the best we have heard in the recent past, but what in his speech hasn’t been said before? Every 20-something has, at one point or another, overcome by idealism and passion for the country, echoed the very same thoughts. Which politically rally hasn’t reverberated with cries of freedom from capitalism, from casteism? Why must you put Kanhaiya alone on a pedestal?
Kanhaiya Kumar in his speech, the evening before his arrest, made a fiery proclamation, “Talk about caste system, bring reservation in every sector, bring reservation in the private sector.” In what coherent reasoning would the next step after denouncing the caste system be to introduce reservations in the private sector? His political ideology is a blatant antithesis to the party he pledges his allegiance to. To quote Shashi Tharoor, MP, from his blog on NDTV, “He speaks feelingly of democracy and freedom but belongs to a party that believes in dictatorship. He upholds a constitution his ideology deems bourgeois, and demands rights that would be denied to all Indians by the practitioners of the Gulag and Tiananmen Square. He rejects the power of the state but does so on behalf of a movement that has used violence, brutality and even murder to advance its cause in Kerala and elsewhere.” Is someone who is so passionate about this country unaware of the discrepancies in ideology and that of his party? Or does his speech, like those of countless others who have preceded him in politics, have little in common with his philosophy?
In the words of Amit Kalantri, “To assess the quality of thoughts of people, don’t listen to their words, but watch their actions.” What actions do Kanhaiya or any of his comrades have that speak for them? How does a ‘blistering’ speech make him worthy of being interviewed by the biggest journalists in the country, while those adopting villages, teaching children of sex workers do not even make it to the ticker? Is the adage, ‘actions speak louder than words’, just a thing of the past?
Oh, what I wouldn’t give for the news bulletin at 8 pm on DD National. Half hour of the news being read as is, in two different languages: no noisy debates, no hysterical anchors, and no exaggerated stories.
I cannot help but concur with Oscar Wilde:
“In old days men had the rack. Now they have the Press. That is an improvement certainly. But still it is very bad, and wrong, and demoralizing. Somebody — was it Burke? — called journalism the fourth estate. That was true at the time no doubt. But at the present moment it is the only estate. It has eaten up the other three. The Lords Temporal say nothing, the Lords Spiritual have nothing to say and the House of Commons has nothing to say and says it. We are dominated by Journalism.”
Reporting from rural or remote areas, which seldom get live coverage, can be dangerous for print or online media journalists, especially so when they challenge the local strongmen, administration, or government. Malini Subramaniam of Scroll.in faced a similar challenge recently when her house was attacked and she was forced to leave Jagdalpur. Subramaniam had been reporting from Bastar on several local issues highlighting atrocities by the police and security forces in the region as well as attacks on journalists in the region.
For those working for small publications, especially women, this seems, however, to be a regular norm. Reporters working for Khabar Lahariya, which describes itself as a “weekly rural newspaper written, edited, illustrated, produced and marketed by a group of women – most of them from marginalised Dalit, Kol and Muslim communities” and is published from five districts in Uttar Pradesh and one in Bihar, have shared some such experiences in the past.
Facing sexual advances and intimidation, the struggle of these women in a male-dominated public space is relentless and yet remains unnoticed. Unlike those working for larger publications, they do not have the option to leave their household either. In these two videos from Khabar Lahariya, they narrate the challenges that they face and the manner in which they overcome them, while regularly reporting for their local readership.
If the media reportage of the last few weeks has reinforced anything, it’s that the traditional, so-called “mainstream media” can no longer be relied upon for producing authentic news. Consumers are ill-advised to believe everything reported on TV news channels, newspapers and their corresponding online publications. After all, what was reported on the “JNU Issue” is far from the truth of what was really going on and what instigated events in the first place.
Not only is journalism being sensationalised, it is being completely fabricated for mercenary and political purposes, thus posing a serious threat to the peace and the well-being of society. In the light of these developments, Best Picture Oscar winner ‘Spotlight‘ reminds us of what journalism is really about.
It transports us back to 2002 when the systemic abuse of children by clergy in the Roman Catholic church was brought to light due to the sincerity and dedication of journalists from the Boston Globe’s investigative team ‘Spotlight’, under the leadership of the newspaper’s editor. So shocking were the revelations of this news report, that the Boston Globe’s original article began trending in 2016, post the release of the film. I too, read it with rapt interest and noticed that it was still trending in the top spot on February 29, as I wrote this piece.
If you haven’t already seen ‘Spotlight‘, here’s a trailer that might pique your interest:
The modus operandi of Spotlight journalists was to spend months and sometimes years, researching a story, gathering evidence and personal accounts, before doing an extensive exposé on the subject. Their article, published on January 6, 2002, opened the floodgates, and the newspaper began receiving phone calls from people around the world, wanting to share their own stories of abuse at the hands of the church. By December 2002, the head of the church in Boston resigned and several of the offenders were behind bars.
In the film, the Spotlight team has been portrayed as extremely sincere in their quest for the truth. From what I understand, this sincerity isn’t fabricated. As the reporters dug deeper, the more horrified they became, at the extent of the abuse, and the lengths to which senior clergy members, lawyers and others had gone to cover it up and maintain the status quo.
As consumers of media, we must assume just as much responsibility as those who produce it, because we read and share news on our social media timelines, on a daily basis, playing a role in what becomes gospel truth, tomorrow. Shouldn’t we, as consumers, then attempt to authenticate whether what we read is true, before being a conduit in promoting falsified news reports? If we would have done it in the case of the JNU protests, we would have been less gullible to sensationalised, fabricated and mindless reportage.
While there’s no sure-fire way of coming to the right conclusion, it’s advisable not to rely on just one news source. We’ll need to read multiple sources of news before rattling off the first thing that comes to mind on social media. We’ll need to keep an eye on alternative media platforms, which are attempting to look at things in different ways, bringing in a mix of reportage, opinion and data to the mix. We’ll need to watch out for the blogs and social media pages by non-profits and advocacy groups, which expose social evils and atrocities on man and the environment. We’ll need to watch documentary films that delve into subjects in detail.
In today’s day and age, even if we have zeroed in on a couple of news sources that we feel are authentic, it pays to keep reviewing and refining this list as we never know when the mercenary tide can turn.
It might sound tedious – this process of constantly questioning what is true and what is fiction, and then reading up a host of news reports before concluding what we think might be the truth. But it is, unfortunately, inevitable because they don’t make journalists like the Spotlight team, which by the way, went on to win the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
Red roses, candlelight dinners and elaborate proposals are a few of the many romantic clichés that are time and again used in pop culture, especially movies. From Bridget Jones’ Diary to Sleepless in Seattle—romantic love in cinema is often unrealistically portrayed and reinforces gender stereotypes. But real life is far different from such representations: it doesn’t adhere to pop culture’s skewed depiction of masculinity or femininity (thankfully) and seldom has a happily ever after. But still, it has love and the struggle between two people that comes with love.
So here are a few romantic movies that entertain whilst shattering sexist stereotypes!
Silver Linings Playbook
Academy Award Winning Silver Linings Playbook is a 2012 hit starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in the leading roles. Pat (Cooper), a bipolar patient who was institutionalised for eight months after beating up the man his wife was cheating on him with, desperately tries to communicate with his estranged wife, who has a restraining order, and in his quest to do so, bumps into Tiffany (Lawrence), a widowed and recovering sex addict—who promises to help him if he participates in a dance competition with her. Thematically, the movie deals with stigmatisation of two people with mental health conditions and how they find comfort in each other’s company. Often, conversations about psychiatric health are portrayed in a negative light in mainstream culture, but this film challenges that.
Frances Ha is the story of an adorably reckless, self-doubting, awkward 27-year-old struggling dancer. Wrecked by her parting with her best friend and roommate, Sophie, Frances moves from one place to another: from her friends’ place to her parents to a disastrous trip to Paris that leaves her broke to working as a waitress at her alma mater. The movie highlights the thin line between self-discovery and attempting to escape reality and brilliantly depicts the journey of a young woman trying to get her act together, with some important feminist messages.
Queen, the 2014 Bollywood blockbuster, proved that sometimes break ups are a good thing. The movie is about the introverted, conservative Rani (Kangana Ranaut), who battles rejection and a damaged self-esteem. When Rani’s ‘London-return’ fiancé ditches her two days before their wedding, she courageously decides to go on their pre-booked honeymoon trip to Paris and Amsterdam alone. Along the way, she befriends many who change her perspective on life and restore her confidence. The gradual transformation of a heartbroken, dependent girl to a liberated, self-assured and independent woman who refuses to let chauvinist men like her ex-fiancé push her around, makes Queen a landmark victory for feminist Indian cinema.
A divorced single mom and masseuse, Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), meets Albert (the late James Gandolfini in his last screen outing), another single parent, through a common friend at a party. Both bond over their kids going off to college and start seeing each other. The movie is a mature love story that challenges Hollywood’s rampant ageism and deals with sensitive issues such as divorce, single parenthood and ageing. It earned Julia Louis-Dreyfus a Golden Globe nomination.
This 2005 classic is a tragic tale of two cowboys falling in love in a society that represses any form of alternate sexuality, and tackles the struggles of being a closeted member of the LGBT+ community. Ennis (Heath Ledger) and Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal) meet and sleep together once on a shepherding job and subsequently have a fight and go their separate ways. As a result of repressing their feelings, both have failed marriages and unfulfilled lives, but their love transcends all bounds of society and survives the test of time, despite having tragic consequences.
Donna (Jenny Slate), a struggling stand-up comedian and bookstore clerk becomes pregnant after a one night stand with Max, a business student she finds at a bar. In most romcoms, an unplanned pregnancy leaves the protagonist with two options – decide to raise the child on your own and fall in love with the male protagonist, or mull over the idea of abortion for a bit, have a change of heart and raise the child with/without a partner. Donna’s immediate instinct is to get an abortion, an instinct she goes through with in spite of falling for her male counterpart. The movie destigmatises abortion, which is pretty revolutionary, since many mainstream films still refuse to take an openly pro-choice stance.
Blue Is The Warmest Color
Blue is the Warmest Colour is a French movie revolving around sexual exploration, first love and heartbreak. Attempting to figure out her sexual identity, Adèle, a 15-year-old girl ends up at a lesbian bar where she finds Emma, a blue-haired woman she once saw crossing the road and found attractive. Soon they begin seeing each other. Later, Adèle and Emma start living together and as their conflicts increase they realise they have nothing in common. The movie covers a host of sub-plots: their families’ contrasting reception of their sexuality, Adèle’s lack of self-confidence, her increased dependence on Emma, and so on. This is a never-before seen exploration of lesbian sexuality, and won great critical acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival.
Kissing Jessica Stein
Kissing Jessica Stein, a 2001 release, is the story of Jessica, a copy-editor who thought she’s straight all her life, only to find her ideal soulmate in a woman. What follows is confusion about her sexual identity – her reluctance regarding intimacy and the inability to distinguish between the hazy lines of friendship, infatuation and romance. It gives a fairly refreshing approach to the families’ reaction and is thematically focused on gender fluidity instead of bisexuality—a remarkable feat for a movie that came out in the early 2000s.
The standard structure of a romantic movie goes like this: cheesy wooing, typically after love at first sight, with two or more break-ups, and elaborate proposals, before a final union. Predictability is the norm and hence, one really yearns for movies that project love and romance that one can connect with–with less symbolism and more substance. Well, thankfully, we don’t draw a blank in this search with these trope-free romantic films–some with a minimal dose of red roses and chocolates but still, entirely relatable and refreshingly entertaining.
Featured Image: Still from ‘Queen’. Source: YouTube.
And queer twitter literally exploded – with responses ranging from biting, to intense, to rib-ticklingly hilarious. The hashtag was started to counter the bogus assumption that any form of childhood trauma or abuse leads to someone ‘turning gay’ or LGBTQ – which is surprisingly common amongst homophobes – and slowly evolved into a full-scale attack on common stereotypes associated with the LGBT+ community.
This question, posed at the beginning of I View World’s festival trailer, elicited many responses from actors, directors, academics, and activists. Among those were the words ‘Equality’, ‘Justice’, ‘Empathy’, and ‘Discrimination’, all of which point to our technical and legal understanding of it all. But when it comes to the vast and complex terrain of human rights, film and narratives are more compelling mediums than reports and conference proceedings. This is why the I View World film festival – bringing stories of early Suffragettes, the Arab Spring and other diverse contexts – is so essential to our recognition of the ‘human’ in Human Rights.
The festival, which had its start in New York several years ago, was conceived by the En Gendered, to “[bring] together contemporary South Asian cinema, visual arts and performance to explore the complex realities of gender and sexuality.” And the line-up of films, documentaries and shorts is as impressive as it is diverse.
Starting from March 2, more than a dozen new films will be screened over the course of six days. Hansal Mehta’s Aligarh, and a retrospective of Mira Nair’s award-winning films are also on the programme, as is her latest documentary, The Queen of Katwe.
Among other films to look forward to is B. S. Lingadevaru’s Naanu Avanalla…Avalu (‘I am not he, but a she’), based on the autobiography of Chennai-based trans activist and blogger Vidya. This intimate look at Vidya’s life reveals the daily struggle of being transgender in India where even progressive laws have not alleviated social stigma.
There are also some selections that look at cultural tensions, displacement and assimilation in the diaspora or refugee experience, such as Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan, and Serbian filmmaker Iva Radivojevic’s documentary Evaporating Borders.
And for those who like dramatic Bollywood action, the festival will feature Prakash Jha’s Jai Gangaajal, in which Priyanka Chopra makes the tough-cop role (the reserve of Salman Khans and Ajay Devgns) her own.
These and other critically acclaimed films – A Sinner in Mecca, The Backward Class, Manto – will be screened at multiple locations, as the festival travels between the American Center, the British Council, PVR cinemas, university campuses and other venues. In addition to this, the festival promises to be a colourful and engaging event with several actors and filmmakers as attendees, a series of panel discussions, art exhibitions, and performances.
So clear your calendars, folks. This is going to be special!
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