Category Archives: books…

yay or nay on stuff

Anurag Kashyap Explains His Stand – On Rape, Feminism, His Short Film and more

Yup, yup, yup! Need I say more? Thanks to Ramblinginthecity for bringing this to my notice…

F.i.g.h.t C.l.u.b

anurag--300x300Dear All,

When I am not making movies – which is thankfully rarely – my favourite pastime is to get fundamentally quoted without the context. Blame the lack of space in newspapers today with all those advertisements accounting for most of it. It helps to keep our conversation going, you see. And it has happened again. My whole conversation has been reduced to one line that’s being knocked around, “rape is a bad accident says anurag kashyap”

Fun though it is, I think it’s time I speak for myself and not let some out-of-context quote in a paper, or an edited version of a half-an-hour conversation do the talking.

Sitting here in Karlovy Vary I have been inundated with texts and mails about an interview of mine, that has of course, as always, been completely misread.  It does not help that a long conversation has been reduced to a paragraph…

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Weiss works, miracles indeed!

I don’t know what got into me but a few weeks ago I picked up books by Dr. Brian Weiss. A spate of weird dreams and chance suggestions from acquaintainces regarding “there are no coincidences” drew me to his books. Now, spoiler alert: the abiding message in all his books – which basically deal with past-life regressions and progressions and how these techniques help with healing – is love, forgiveness, belief in karmic accounts and as such reincarnation, etc. The message is beautiful. The stories are heart-rending. Each one better then the one before.

These are real case stories with real subjects who recount their experiences with hypnotism, past life regressions and progressions and discover a link to their present life, the issues they are facing here regarding their personality, relationships, health, etc. According to Dr. Weiss, some of the stories have even been factually validated in history books. It is truly amazing and I felt liberated really, almost overcome with a sense of awe and natural justice at times. Karma is indeed a beautiful concept.

But, as with my present life, I am naturally predisposed to think critically. And, when that happened, I had a few questions. Why do all the stories coming from the subjects only highlight their victimhood, or to use a more neutral and less judgemental term, only focused on their problems caused by x, y, or z; even if x, y, and z are natural calamities. I have not yet read a single account of someone who was in some past life the perpetrator of a certain crime, atrocity, etc. Someone may offer the explanation, “such people wouldn’t probably be reincarnated” (at least not in human forms). But then, you do have victims saying their abuser in an earlier life is now in their present life in a such and such role. So, of course they reincarnated.

So, in the end, it just made me wonder if our souls have selective retention bias. 🙂 I have a lot of respect for Dr weiss’ work since it looks like he has a huge fan following and his work has helped so many people in so many ways. I just hope I am not being a cynic and if I am, I hope that by the time I reincarnate it will be gone!

How many women would dare to say this?

Very good Havells. Now find a better way to sell your appliances to women. Know why? Respect for women is not just about using your appliances to accomplish the work that traditionally falls to women’s lot. Men need to respect themselves. Every individual MUST know how to cook regardless of how often he/she needs to do it in life; In fact, every individual should take his own responsibility and work on being the least burden he can on others. That way, it would mean that you flush after use (women’s public toilets are dirty as hell, as far as I can say), you clean up after you eat, you fold your own clothes and pack your own bags, etc. And of course, cook your own food. Having said that, a division of labour in running a household is an amazing thing to carry forward but at the same time, watching TV while your wife cooks, lays out the table – just waiting for that invite when she has filled your plate and poured your glass of water, lounging around in the bed until late while your wife fills in for the domestic help who hasn’t turned up… that is shameful. What I find most ridiculous is when women claim to be the Goddess of their kitchens, men down them saying that world’s most famous chefs are men, while if you ask them to learn to cook, at least make a cup of tea, they say they cannot do it “because we’ve never learnt”. And the argument continues…

The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

How many women would dare to express their displeasure like this young woman did? Or even think about it? Why or why not?

Not many, I think. Because the idea of a young Indian woman (and that too a Prospective Bride!) forgetting her place and disagreeing (with anybody, but most specially with the Ladke Wale) is more horrifying for most, than the idea of women being seen as objects or appliances (whose sole purpose in life is to Get Married and ensure that the lives of their spouse and his family are made comfortable).

Also, because traditionally the young, specially young women, have less right to respect than everybody else. (Although they are expected to earn, live and die for it)

But I wonder if maybe the Prospective Mother in law and the Prospective Groom (with their sense of entitlement) are victims too. Maybe they have never really wondered if…

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When I first picked up Asura – Tale of the Vanquished by Anand Neelkantan, I was moved by the title. This was because I have always found Ramayana to be very uninteresting compared to the Mahabharata. It’s all black or white; Gods are Gods, demons are demons. Rama the dutiful ideal son, ideal king, ideal husband (some would say otherwise and I stand with these)… Ravana the evil unrepentent Rakshasa (demon). The fight versus good and evil; and of course, evil doesn’t stand a chance. Strictly for the books, but there it is. It felt good overall, save for the ending that has been made popular – the thing about Sita being asked to prove her chastity, Rama abandoning his pregnant wife, asking his younger brother Lakshmana to take her away. Unsavoury, of course, and untrue, as many say. Well, true or not, the story does take forward the morals and societal norms prevalent in those times and endorses  the same. Which is why I was drawn to Asura.

Some hope tingled somewhere of finding an alternative to Valmiki’s story, fiction or not. You must have already guessed that I have no particular affection for Rama the good and no particular disaffection or judgment for Ravana the evil. It was all a story to me and I do identify with Sita’s plight after the ordeal she went through as every modern woman would but I understand that the book is a product of a man’s world and that I am living too, in a man’s world. And therefore, picking up Asura was not an exercise in being biased on either side. Ramayana is a good read the first time, and I was hoping something along those lines from Asura as well. That’s all. Basic expectations of a general reader.

I can’t say how historically accurate and faithful the Ramayana is, so there was no such expectation from a work of fiction based on the Ramayana either. But, I did expect some logic, excuse me, for that expectation proved unreasonable as I went along with the book. This book is 600 pages of class apathy, wallowing in self-pity, denial, guilt, and worse, poor prose, terrible grammar, little or no drama, pathetic imagination, and basically inflated book reviews everywhere! It made me realise that maybe when VS Naipaul made a certain comment about Indian writers, he had a point; a part of that point might go to this work. Although I’d rather die than side with the man. He still has a point!

Now, spoiler alert**: Anand Neelkantan, I doubt, is an author with logical scruples. You see, according to Asura, Rama’s wife Sita is actually an Asura princess, the daughter of the high and mighty Ravana. Yes, read carefully: Sita is Ravana’s daughter. And this Ravana, who killed his sister Soorpanakha’s husband because he was conspiring a rebellion in his kingdom, slapped his own mother in front of his courtiers, absolutely humiliated his own father, a learned Brahmin, always trampled upon a commoner Bhadra who was instrumental in helping Ravana every step of the way… that Ravana who abducted a Deva widow on one of his military exploits, that Ravana who raped a maid in his palace while his wife was next door, fathered an illegitimate son he never cared for or properly acknowledged… always humiliated his own Prime Minister and other senior ministers, he made a concession for his one daughter Sita. The daughter whom he had left behind when she was a baby, overcome by the thirst for power and lusting afte a Deva widow Vedvathi. This daughter he suddenly thinks of when time has come for her to be married. He wants to bring her back because he thinks Devas are backward people, treating women like lowly animals, while instead Sita should have the riches of the world and should live as an Asura princess, choose her own mate rather than be handed over to a prince as if she were some prize money in a contest where men had to string Shiva’s bow.

This, while we read about Ravana’s own contempt for his widowed sister (widowed also thanks to his overreach), who is said to take men as suited her whim and fancy. So much for talking about uncultured Devas when Ravana himself treats women like shit. Shit is the word my friends, for he hits his mother, insults her, insults his sister, rapes a maid when his wife Queen Mandodari refuses sexual access, rapes his maid and fathers child with her, never caring about her fate. There are references to the debauched lifestyle of all Asuras all over his kingdom and somehow every Asura fears being taken over by the Devas, losing their great culture to a civilisation that veils its women, that uses and abuses its women. I simply don’t ever get the sense that Asura kingdom was any different from a Deva kingdom. And this Ravana abducts his daughter Sita to save her from Rama, when he knows nothing about the man! He is concerned she has to spend a life of exile in the forest – coming from the man who left this baby daughter unattended in the Asura military camp when he was busy running after a widow?

There are unending laments against the Devas’ Brahmanical culture seeping into Lanka, with their rules on untouchability and class segregation. But then, Bhadra, an Asura commoner, to whom would go the credit of helping Ravana dethrone his cousin Kubera in order to usurp the kingdom of Lanka, cries time and again, often tears of blood and sheer despondency, of the class war. He was treated as a cur and so were people belonging to his class by the ruling class of Asuras who held all the power. I wonder how was this any different from the Brahmanical cult in the Northern plains of India. What exactly were the Asuras so proud of!?

I did not encounter one single character who had even the most basic wit, intelligence, competence, knowledge, basically any aspect of personality other than selfishness, greed, fear, pity. Not even Ravana. Of course not Rama. There’s hardly 4-5 paragraphs dedicated to Rama, the opponent who vanquished the protagonist. The writing style is bereft of any imagination whatsoever.

Ravana as we know from stories so far, was a great devotee of Lord Shiva, who had bestowed upon him many boons; Ravana was a learned man, he was a great musical exponent, he was extremely knowledgeable. He was shrewd and was good at administration. None of these qualities come out in the story. In Asura, Ravana’s world was full of anger and resentment when he was growing up, he was an angry and irreverent student in adolescence, he was an angry and desperate leader of his band of Asuras seeking to seize power from Kubera, an angry, stupid, misguided, ruler wallowing in self-pity and seriously lacking in self-esteem, an egotist who took decisions not to impart justice but to humiliate his senior ministers by overturning their decisions and by undermining his council of ministers at the first opportunity, a selfish, lowly-minded brother, son, and husband, basically a sorry, ungrateful leader whose attitude made him deserving of the fall he took thanks to Rama and his band of monkeys.

Asura basically turns into the story of Bhadra, a common Asura man. A farmer who loses his family to a babaric horde of a Deva conqueror, vows revenge and grovels in front of the despicable Asura start-up, Ravana, despite hating him from the very beginning. The story is interspersed with comments that may have come from simple opinion pieces of any modern day newspaper, all standing by the commoner whose face is Bhadra. All sad, depressing harangues with not a modicum of linguistic or dramatic flair.

Logic, passion, skill, is all wanting. Now suddenly even that fantastical version of Ramayana where the earth opens up miraculously to reclaim its daughter Sita, is rendered far more interesting. Asura is for me 15 days of my life I’ll never get back!