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Wednesday, October 19, 2011


The judiciary’s license to kill is a hot topic in the country today. The fate of Afzal Guru, Ajmal Kasab and the three Sri Lankan Tamils charged for the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi hangs in the balance today. On one hand, there are people waiting to get rid of these averred murderers who have put scores of human lives in peril and on the other hand, we have people concerned about human rights, questioning the very logic of a civilized society carrying out an execution. I don’t belong to either of the categories though I’m inclined towards the latter. My allegiance grew a little stronger after I completed watching the Japanese anime series titled “Death note”. Death note not only put to rest a few doubts I had about the moral precision of capital punishment and a human being’s right to kill, but it also got me pondering about other movies that were judgmental about the power to carry out an execution.

Death note is about Light Yagami and his dream of creating a new world devoid of crime after he gets access to the death note, a notebook that could be used to kill people by writing their names on it. The turn of events as the series progressed clearly seemed to indicate the fact that it’s impossible to exterminate misuse for selfish gains when a consummate amount of power is rested on one’s shoulders and especially, when the power allows you to kill another person. It also left me wondering as to how I had appreciated a movie like Anniyan that not only advocated killing but also professed carrying it using the most gruesome methods one could imagine. I finally convinced myself by assuming that I had fallen for the literary genius of the late Sujatha, who had made myself and a million others accept something that would have garnered appreciation only in a Barbarian society.

The Brad Pitt-Morgan Freeman starrer “Seven” is another case in point. The antagonist orchestrates the last of a series of murders in such a way that the termination of his own life is almost impossible and a noble soul who had dedicated his life to saving lives is to carry out the execution which would eventually help spread the message and inspire mislead psychopaths. It’s an undeniable fact that terrorists are trained to be philistine and phlegmatic even in the most extreme conditions of emotional stress and aren’t afraid to sacrifice themselves in an attempt to accomplish their mission. And its also beyond doubt that the terrorists who die in pursuit will be idolised as martyrs in terrorist camps and for all you know, they could be the role-models of the next 16 year old terrorist. So what exactly are we trying to accomplish by killing people who don’t mind dying and in the process of dying, possibly inspire a million others to continue the heinous crimes they had been notorious for throughout their lifetime?

Kamal Haasan acted in two movies that pronounced opposite verdicts on the issue. If Virumaandi championed the cause of abolition of capital punishment, Unnaipol Oruvan, a remake of “Wednesday” seemed to lean towards eliminating terrorists from the face of the earth. As usual, he remained confused and confused other people by equivocating effectively and thus disguising his original opinion on the issue. But it was the mediocre “Payanam” that actually planted certain serious questions in my mind about the absence of too many options as far as this issue is concerned. If at all we are to progress towards the elimination of terrorism, we are expected to make investigative progress which involves questioning captured terrorists and hence detaining them in custody. But once the job is done, they become a financial liability besides the security concerns that are tagged to it. “Payanam” depicted a situation where in a plane is hijacked and the hijackers demand the release of a high-profile terrorist kept in police custody. In such a situation, the police and the government don’t have much of a choice but to release the captive, endangering millions of lives in the process. Plus, all the money spent on the security of the captive, the lives lost in a bid to capture the terrorist to further investigations comes down to nothing.

 This leaves us with a lot of food for thought though I think the idea that the death of thousands of people killed in a terrorist attack is to be avenged by executing the captive is flawed at the basic level as it thins the line that differentiates a civilised person and a terrorist with boorish ideals. The ability to think without emotional prejudice in times of mental stress is what separates a civilised person from a terrorist, who you would expect to bomb a city at the slightest provocation. The ability to forgive is the most appropriate representation of evolution of the human mind over time.  But do we have a choice when a question mark looms large over the survival of mankind?

The analysis of psyche of a terrorist makes the whole thought process a little more tortuous.  The conditions under which people resort to terrorism is definitely worth taking into account. The book “Mind of a terrorist” (forgot the author’s name) is a good way to start your analysis. The very reason why people oppose terrorists is reason enough to consider their clemency petitions: no human being has the right to kill another. Just like terrorism, the turn of events in life is arbitrary. And unlike terrorism, life deserves this arbitrariness. I think we ought to leave death to the cycle of arbitrariness that dictates life on this planet as far as we can.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Assorted thoughts, catch up time

It’s been quite some time since I have written something about movies. I have watched quite a few of them in the recent past but somehow, I haven’t found the motivation to write about them lately. This queer behaviour can be attributed to my newfound passion for world history, something I have found to be extraordinarily intriguing. But amidst fun filled hours of learning about the conquests of Napoleon, the diplomatic strategies of Charles Metternich and Bismarck, I have somehow managed to squeeze out time for the likes of Engeyum Eppodhum, Muran, Vellore Maavattam and Vedi. I have missed out on Vaagai Sooda Vaa and I don’t intend to watch it in spite of the positive reviews it’s been garnering ever since its release. I don’t think I’ll be able to come up with a rational explanation for that; I just don’t feel like watching it.

Firstly, I found Engeyum Eppodhum to be engrossing. The movie’s gotta great script and the screenplay could have been messed up by any typical newcomer but Saravanan(surprise surprise: Murugadoss’ apprentice) doesn’t come across as a typical newcomer. The first scene itself comes as a big surprise. Amidst sentimental directors who commence their respective films with the sound of a temple bell and a long shot of a temple, here’s a newbie who keeps all such illogical irrationalities apart and comes up with a killer of a first scene (literally). The shocking first scene gives way to an exquisite orchestration of visual poetry. The non-linear narrative isn’t a gimmick here and its justified usage creates the desired effect as the film races towards the climax. The director has received plentiful support from his young actors. Sarwanand’s casual and elegant portrayal seemed to be the best of the lot. He was a treat to watch on-screen and effortlessly went on to show that you don’t need six-packs and forced histrionics to prove your prowess. But acting, I guess, is subjective and popular opinion can be widely different from what I think. So please feel free to pick on my opinion.

 It’s just that I feel we give an actor due credit only when he plays a larger-than-life character. Plus, a bad performance muscled up with histrionics designed to bring out a star’s “acting talent” doesn’t get the criticism it so badly deserves whereas a casual performance by an unacknowledged star that deserves attention goes unnoticed. On the hindsight, the bad performance is passed off as a good one, an award winning one occasionally; in cases involving a star gifted with a huge adulatory fanatic fan base, like Vikram. A detailed justification can be found here

Coming back to Engeyum Eppodhum, the other performances also came in as a pleasant surprise. Anjali has already staked her claims as an actress with considerable level of acting talent and she has furthered her case in this movie. Her voice though, is irritating. But again, it’s a value addition to the realism, an integral part of all her renditions so far. After all, how many good-looking girls are blessed with vocal cords emanating euphonious voices? Ananya has come up with a cute portrayal and this is Jai’s best performance till date but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to conclude that it’s good enough. It definitely wasn’t a bad performance though.
The dialogues were witty and I loved the Yaettu-DIG exchange between Jai and Anjali. The scene where Jai, dressed up like a corporate honcho (new, branded clothing and all that), enters a communist meeting in a bid to locate a person also impressed me as subtle humour. The music actually seemed pretty ordinary but the visuals made up for it and I don’t believe the fact that I’m almost addicted to them now.

I also managed to catch up with Vedi and Vellore Maavattam; unfortunately, at that. Sample this scene: “Hero gets beaten black and blue by 20 men double his size and four times his muscle weight, is left to die. His ear drums have just the right amount of energy to imbibe a faint attenuated version of a loud high pitched cry from his sister and realising this, the sister screams “ANNNAAAAAA” and magically, like in a Glucon-d advertisement, the hero regains full energy, gets up and effortlessly bashes up the gang of 20, also ending up disproving the laws of gravity several times in the process.” This scene forms the climax of Vedi and I think the rest, is self-explanatory. The lesser said the better. Vivek, the comedian who used to be hilarious once upon a time deserves a graceful exit from Tamil cinema.
Vellore Maavatam is another worthless movie I ended up watching. It’s a new movie that’s straight out of the director’s recycle bin known for its abundance of cop stories festooned with spice. There’s not a single reason why you must watch this movie, even if you are as vetti as the author of this article.

I also happened to stumble upon Rahman’s new album “rockstar”. It’s got two tremendously engaging rock songs, two lilting instrumentals and a sufi number that sounds similar to his earlier trysts with Sufi. The album as whole doesn’t sound as impressive as “rock on” did, but “sadda haq” and “job hi main” are truly terrific.

But one man who never ceases to entertain completed a rather boring week for me. Wilbur Sargunaraj’s new video “first class bhangra” is a scorcher. This man is truly a rockstar. Ranbir Kapoor you idiot, learn!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Silly question?? I don’t know

This is not going to be a conventional blog post of mine, one that’s going to bludgeon its way past the 1000-word barrier I usually set for myself and end up breaking habitually. It’s about a thought, a question that breezed past my mind as I watched trains screech to a halt on both sides of the platform; as the sweepers waltzed to and fro delicately holding on to one of those brooms that are characterized by long handles; as I was subconsciously trying to steal the attention of the lovely lass sitting beside me though she had dug deep into that novel of hers; as I laughed deep within because she reminded me of this(she was lanky and had long legs as well) 

I have been reading a lot of history of late and as I sat there in my chair observing the surroundings, thinking about what I had read and also fantasizing about the girl beside me, this fellow PROUDHON’S famous assertion, “property is theft” struck my mind. This Proudhon fella is known to be quite a rebel and a controversial thinker. At this point, I won’t be able to conclude if this statement of his influenced my line of thinking, but I thought this post would be meaningless if I didn’t mention his name. After all, how can I afford to call a post about a thought process complete, without contemplating about the origin of the process?

I have always been fascinated by trains and train journeys. Check this . This time, a simple (silly?) question struck my mind. Why does the person who pays more enjoy greater benefits? How many cases of first generation AC passengers do we see today? People who travel by AC or first class compartments mostly do so only because they’ve been entitled to better resources right from their childhood. In other words, it’s pretty clear that they are not beneficiaries of their own Karma, especially students. So why is not possible to have a first-come first serve system where the person who books the ticket first gets to enjoy better benefits? Its implementation is obviously going to be an arduous process, close to impossible I guess. But it isn’t wrong to dream, is it? Whaddya think?