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‘Black Panther’ Review: A Bomb Cast, Powerful Script And Compelling Music

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What started with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the 1960s, came to fruition last week with Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther”, hitting the theaters and breaking records.

According to Forbes, “Black Panther” broke all box office records with its $235 million debut so far. The movie has taken the world by storm, and no one is complaining.

“Black Panther” documents the journey of T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) while he takes on the challenge of succeeding his father as the King of Wakanda (the fictional Marvel African nation). After the death of his father, T’Challa must step into T’Chaka’s shoes and serve his nation and protect not just Wakanda, but the fate of the entire world.

Although, I believe the story largely depicts what it’s like to be an African in today’s world. And to top it off, the picturesque representation of African identity and culture is beyond beautiful.

The film’s ground-breaking work of art characterises the white people as the ‘other’, ‘coloniser’ and the ‘enemy’.

These contrasts and ironies were not lost in the imagery of a technologically advanced and well developed third-world Wakanda. The depiction of ‘white crime’ in a socio-cultural status quo of the city of Africa also works to the movie’s advantage.

All Vibranium, Errthing!

The heart-shaped herb, growing naturally in Wakanda, grants superpowers and makes Black Panther god-like. Along with the wish-granting purple liquid herb, T’Challa was also expected to take on a lifetime of training and combat. This highlights the symbiosis between tradition and technology.

Depicting a traditional Africa which is much advanced than its first-world counterparts may be a mythological thought, but has managed to comfortably deliver the message of an emerging Africa.

Mythology met technology and black culture reigned in the Wakandan territory. The ending saw this reign being placed in the centre stage of the global community with Wakanda opening its doors to international trade and alliance.

Black Panther Women

No doubt, the women in “Black Panther” took the centre stage. T’Challa’s immediate army and entourage saw the strongest of females in the lead, guiding and automating him through his conquests.

The movie empowers young, badass black women who fight with spears and vibranium.

The all-women army of Dora Milaje warriors embodies the soul of  the 19th century Dahomey Amazons. The female influences who make T’Challa’s immediate council including the queen mother (Ramonda a.k.a Angela Bassett), his scientist sister (Shuri a.k.a Letitia Wright), his humanitarian and badass love interest (Nakia a.k.a Lupita Nyong’o), and of course the front fighter of the crew (Okoye a.k.a Danai Gurira), cannot be understated. The depiction of empowered African women in the movie alone is commendable.

After all, representation in cinema is half the battle won.

All Hail King Killmonger

“Everybody dies, it’s just life around here,” says Eric Killmonger.

Killmonger wanted to usurp T’Challa’s power and hold on Wakanda. He advocates a more radical outlook towards liberation. He wanted to extract Wakanda’s wealth and place it beyond its border, into the hands of the less resourceful who were willing to overthrow authorities all over the world.

The grey shades to Killmonger’s character signals a cultural conflict. The ‘outsider’ label that came to his claim to the throne leads him into challenging T’Challa in combat, stripping him of all his panther powers.

The ending of “Black Panther” is an integration of Killmonger and T’Challa’s ideological take on the implementation of Wakanda’s resources. While Killmonger wanted to empower the oppressed to rage war, T’Challa decided to engage in diplomacy and international trade to share Wakanda’s resources with the world.

The Album Takes The Cake

Kendrick Lamar’s latest album, combines subdued plots of the movie. Some of the hottest names in the industry can be seen collaborating with the king of rap including The Weeknd, Jay Rock, Future, James Blake, SZA, Travis Scott,  Zacari, 2Chains, Jorja Smith, Vince Staples and Yugen Blakrok, among others. 

The album  brilliantly complements the political undertone of Coogler’s script. Starting from the scene where Klause is being chased while “Opps plays in the background. The aggressive “You’re dead to me” throughout the chase of things sets the tone for the rest of the movie.

The album commences with Kendrick rapping T’Challa’s “Black Panther” theme song hailing him as the king.

“Because the king don’t cry, king don’t die
King don’t lie, king give heart, king get by, king don’t fall
Kingdom come, when I come, you know why
King, king, king, king
I am T’Challa”

Whereas the track “King’s Dead” has been performed from Killmonger’s perspective, especially the one minute solo rap in the song.

“Fuck your moral, fuck your family, fuck your tribe
Fuck your land, fuck your children, fuck your wives
Who am I? Not your father, not your brother
Not your reason, not your future
Not your comfort, not your reverence, not your glory
Not your heaven, not your angel, not your spirit
Not your message, not your freedom
Not your people, not your neighbor
Not your baby, not your equal
Not the title y’all want me under
All hail King Killmonger”

Kendrick’s shapeshifting soul embodiment of the protagonist and the antagonist is commendable.

And especially, if we talk about the end credits song and the video for “All the Stars” feat. SZA, one can draw parallels from the plot.

The first and the last scenes of the video specifically signal parallels to the Wakandan culture. The video starts with Kendrick’s entrance in a messiah sort of way, and ends with him looking up to large black women, chin up.

The “Pray for me” collab with The Weekend also highlights the conflict and war-like situation that looms Wakanda.
“I’m always ready for a war again
Go down that road again
It’s all the same.
Mass destruction and mass corruption
The souls of sufferin’ men
Clutchin’ on deaf ears again, rapture is comin
It’s all prophecy and if I gotta be sacrificed for the greater good
Then that’s what it gotta be”

Wakanda Forever: The Revolution

In an interview with the New York Times, the cast discusses how being chosen for Black Panther was a revolutionary, once-in-a-lifetime moment. Michael B. Jordan believes the movie has set the trend for others to tell bold stories in Hollywood, while Boseman believes Black Panther will change the stereotype that “movies with black cast do not perform well internationally.”

On the other hand, Ryan Coogler identifies the most with Killmonger’s character and claims that writing and making “Black Panther” has finally made him a complete and whole human being as opposed to living with a Killmonger fracture all his life.

The narrative of an unknown, secretive Africa which is not the underdog, but a protector of the rest of the civilization, has resonated well with the audiences. Watching one of the oldest civilizations take mainstage in the world of cinema with a bomb cast, great performances, powerful script and even powerful music is what holistic cinema is all about.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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