Artivism In The Age Of Capitalism

May 31, 2012 at 9:15 PMMay (Activism, Media, Musings, Soliloquy)

In a recent article on Satyameva Jayate (SJ hereafter) one of our important film, TV and theater artist B. Suresha brought in the argument of the visible and invisible connection between commerce and art and on how the control of commerce over art can limit art and also corrupt and dilute it.

When the strings of art is in the hands of commerce, whichever art may it be, how much ever concerned the art is and has its heart in the right (rather left) place finally its concern and artivism will be playing within the framework of commerce (read capitalism) and all its concern will be, in one or the other way, benefiting the larger capitalist structure. Else why would the capitalist structure even bother to hold the strings of art in the name of artivism.

What actually makes such associations quite limiting and also dangerous is that the art, in the name of artivism, will not be able to survive of its own and the commercial interest becomes more important than the very artivism of such art.

With all respects to the concern of Amir Khan and all those who are watching the show, we should not let the question on how Amir Khan, with so much of advertising, Ambani and corporate interest intertwined with SJ will be able to raise some of the most inhumane issues of this country- say caste discrimination/oppression, demand for reservation, khap panchayat, communalism etc- in his show? One show on caste discrimination and a call for mass support for reservation will make Amir Khan a villain in the eyes of most of the viewers. One show on how monopoly of Reliance can ruin thisnation and the capital flow for the show will vanish- or make the show itself vanish. Or let Amir give us one show on NBA- a movement with which he has identified earlier- and speak of the problems associated with the popular model of development. Will he and his show have the same number of audience the following week? The point here is not whether Amir Khan is concerned or not but how these associations and negotiations chain one! He may not be able to speak of NBA, even while having his heart with the movement, because of the fear of losing TRPs.

This association between commerce and art, thus, lets art be concerned and speak about all those issues which, if spoken, doesn’t harm its commercial interest. So what happens as a result is that the structure of world, which in itself is very oppressive and needs to be fought, remains untouched. Moreover it keeps benefitting from such programmes too.

Have not people like Sainath, Kalpana Sharma, Harsh Mander, Arundati Roy, Anand Teltumbde spoken about burning issues to us? The fact that we require an Amir Khan- with an aura of being a star- to wake us up speaks about the thick skin we have developed. This is a sort of moral illness. May be the world which we have constructed for ourselves is not a thick skinned one and – to use a marketing word- “good packaging” is required to take the message. But it becomes important to see what is happening to the message itself when it is sealed in a plastic cover?

This moral illness of our times is something which artivism has to cure. We the people, with this moral illness, who are a part of this larger structure and also benefiting from this structure, amidst our busy life strengthening the status quo and this larger structure for our own benefits, feel satisfied about our ‘sensitivity’ about ‘burning issues’ of the world by watching and speaking of some socially relevant issues. This is like personal/ individual CSR. It is, forgive the language, a kind of moral masturbation.

One should remember the recent Idea and Samsung advertisements which showed that ‘like’ buttons on facebook can change the world, bring a revolution, and awaken a generation. It may be speaking about how facebook can help in raising questions and bring about awareness. But the bottom line is “buy idea 3G” and “buy samsung”. Worse it takes activism and artvism from the real to the virtual space. SJ is not very different from this because it again is playing within the framework of an oppressive system, with its close association with commerce, which surely is benefitting capitalism.

One problem with SJ (and also the column by Amir Khan in The Hindu) is that they sound very much like a moral science class. Bringing up issues and discussing them and thus opening the eyes of the people to the issues and also awakening them are fine. But what makes one turn skeptical about it is the moral high position that Amir Khan seem to assume for himself. One wouldn’t become so skeptical about it the research team of SJ was to come and narrate these stories.  When SJ becomes more of an Amir Khan show and not a programme which speaks of reality as it really is, there are all reasons for one to be skeptical about it as one has all reasons to be skeptical about all such works where an individual’s aura eclipses the work. In the narratives narrated by Sainath, Kalpana Sharma or Harsh Mander (for example) we do not see their individual personality casting its shadow on the issues they are raising.

It can be argued that Sainath, Kalpana Sharma or Harsh Mander has not been able to penetrate to the larger mass and mass consciousness the way Amir Khan has done. But how can we ignore the difference in the issues being raised by Sainath, Mander, Roy etc and Amir Khan? May be there is a need for the former to invent newer methods of speaking. Possible. But SJ doesnt become an alternative for the former.

That doesnt mean that SJ doesnt have any right for existence. To think that though within the framework of a capitalist system it is raising questions and trying to bring in a difference from within is to just have imaginations and not an imaginary. Like there is poverty of morality and poverty of sensitivity there exists also poverty of imagination. We have been tied by imagination and have not been able to imagine the imaginary to bring in a new form of activism and artivism.

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Ram Gopal Verma To Have Medical Partner To All His Films Hereafter

May 21, 2012 at 9:15 AMMay (Cinema, Media, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Following a series of complaints by innumerable film buffs of India about getting head ache watching the new film Department the director of the film Ram Gopal Verma has decided to have Amrutanjan as the medical partner of all his films hereafter.

Sources said that in a meeting held between the CEO of Amrutanjan and the Factory owner it was decided that with the tickets of all RGV films hereafter a small sachet of Amrutanjan will be given to the viewers so that head ache can be fought. It is also said, by sources, that initially the Factory owner had a meeting with a spectacle company asking them to produce new kind of spectacle which will make the other wise strainful visuals a bit bearable. The company is reported to have said that science has not gone as ahead as RGV and complimented him for being ahead of his times. This failed attempt to introduce new glasses- like 3D glasses- made RGV strike a deal with Amrutanjan.

The CEO of Amrutanjan reportedly said that out of curisoity he went to watch Department after the meeting with RGV, cancelling the plans of going to watch circus in the city with the family. By the end of the film the CEO said, “Watching Department was not just like watching a circus show but also like being a part of it for the kind of camera movements.” Informers say that the CEO has applied for a day’s leave giving ‘head ache’ as the reason for applying leave.

When going gets tougher, tougher gets going. Though RGV has solved the issue of head ache complaints, by having a medical partner, his problems seem not to end. There have been reports of dharnas being held by carpenters and masons in Mumbai saying the film Department insults their profession and their skills and credibility. They produced some fight scenes from the film as a proof to it. A cameraman from the Factory was beaten up in the midst of the dharna when the cameraman allegedly tried pushing a small camera through the mouth of a carpenter to capture the “breaking of heart and ego”. The cameraman is said to have produced the accidental capture, in his camera, of him being beaten up to the Factory owner saying it could be used in the next film’s fight sequence as a Point of View shot of the villain who is being beatn up.

At the same time a famous car company has also sent a mail to RGV saying they were offended by a part in the film where the hero of the film is shown to be pulling off the mirror like “plucking banana from a plant”. “This is negative publicity to our cars. Especially because the hero of the film looks too weak to be doing it so easily,” said the PRO of the car company and added, “We are also offended because every part of the car that we produce is as strong as the underworld about which the film is.” The PRO, speaking on the sidelines, said that the “personal complaint” he had with the film is that the night he watched the film the visuals in his dreams were “framed” and “structured” like the visuals of Department. “However bad the world is, I at least had beautiful dreams. This film was so visually traumatic that it has distorted the beautiful visuals of my dreams too,” he said wiping tears from his eyes. He said that he wanted to take legal actions for the same but did not know how to produce a proof for the same!

Some groups of feminists in Bombay, reportedly, cried slogans in front RGV’s house saying his portrayal of the lady rowdie was not acceptable to them and demanded that RGV apologized in public. Their complaint is that the lady rowdie who is supposedly a strong rowdie capable of killing people in the film ends up killing people outside the film- watching the film- by crying like “one of us” when her gang leader raises objection about having girls in the gang. The khadi-clad feminists also said that the dialogue of the gang leader raising objections needs to be cut from the film as it is chauvenistic. Demand from the feminist groups also said that the fight scene where the lady rowdie bites the hero, as a part of the fight, needs to be censored as it portrays women as a weaker sex who cannot fight and hence bites. A member of one of the feminist groups added to it saying, “it also plays to the sterotype that women indulge in cat fights,” which she thinks is “ridculous” and “rubbish.”

In between all these troubles there is some light in RGV’s life for him to rejoice. Several shoe companies have approached him wanting to have a tie-up with Factory. “There are so many close up shots of shoes in the film. I am sure he can make his actors wear the shoes of our company and also focus a bit on the brand name. These shots will at least benifit us if not the film or the viewers,” said the PRO of a leading shoe company. Following this, it is said, companies making tea cups, watches, underwear have also shown interest in having a tie-up with Factory.

It is not just the director RGV who is facing the trouble after the release of Department but also the star of the film- Amitabh Bachan. One his followers on twitter is now demanding a bunglow from Big B saying, “I warned the legend not to watch this film soon after the first show of the film on the first day. I have saved his life by asking him not to watch the film. So he should be gifting me a bunglow like, in the film, he gifts the hero for saving his life.”

(Disclaimer: This article is an attempted satire. The intention of this is not to bring disrepute to anyone even remotely related to anything related to this post.)

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A Lot Can Happen Over A Cup Of Tea…

May 19, 2012 at 9:15 AMMay (Friends, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Nearly a month ago Montek Singh Ahluwalia said that tea will be declared as the national drink of India. Well, what followed can be expected. Debates. Arguments. What is need to declare something as ‘National’? Does the whole of India drink tea for it to be declared as the national drink? Will declaring tea as the nation drink affect the coffe industry? and what not…

Such unnecessary ideas and such debates and arguments- leading to nowhere- can happen over a cup of tea!!! ‘We, The Nation’ being known for our unnecessary ideas and for our argumentative nature tea is the right national drink, it appears. But then it can happen over a cup of coffee too, one can argue like one can argue about the origin of tea in India as to whether it was the British who started the tea plantation first or was it already in India since the Ramayan times, the Sanjeevani plant that cured Laxman being a sibling of tea or if it is indigenious for it was Maniram Dewan who was the first tea planter in the recorded history of India.

Oops. I started off from the question if it was only tea that triggers and encourages arguments and debates or does coffee also do that and ended up talking about the origins of the tea in India. See, that is the beauty of it. When we order for a ‘cup of chai’ the argument is something else and when the chai arrives it has almost lost its focus and when the tea is being sipped the issue being spokena and debated is completely different. True, a lot can happen over a cup of tea!!!

I still remember once under our wisdom tree by the famous Press Cart in Manipal Vishnu and I had had 12 cups of chai each while arguing with Karen D’Souza about the existence of God. Only God knows what were we speaking when we met that evening but I guess by the time we ordered for the second cup of tea God had joined us and accompanied us till the twleth cup of chai.

We love to argue. We love to talk. We love to debate. Even if it takes us nowhere. But this drive, most of the times takes us to a tea shop. Tea and tea stalls are tailor made for we the people of this country. We love it. Especially a damn lazy fellow like me. The entire debate over ‘tea as the national drink’ is a great example for the argumentative nature of us.

If these unnecessary debates causes indigestion, for those who are not lazy and do not like to indulge in arguments that takes one nowhere, you should know that black tea has therepeutic values and cure problems related to indigestion.

Black tea, Assameese tea, Darjeling tea, Lime tea, Masala tea, Tulsi tea, Kashmiri tea, Jasmine tea, Cylone tea- So many types of tea! Montek ji declared that ‘Cha-Bar’ would be set up- of international quality- in Assam where over 50 types of tea will be available. How will these big players affect the small players in the tea industry? How will tea being declared as the national drink help the workers, who, as Montek Ji has rightly noticed, are women?

These questions make  good topics for discussions and debate over cups of chai and soon, without ourselves knowing about it, deviate to the topics like why does this beverage have two names- tea and chai? And continue with arguments on, if tea has something to do with sea trade and chai with trade overland, how chai is culturally rich and close to the idea of India as it, in its travel, as emraced many cultures, and how this reason- of chai being like India- justifies tea/chai being declared as the national drink…

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Desire and Fear

May 11, 2012 at 9:15 PMMay (Friends, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Reading my previous blog post a friend sent me an SMS saying he deactivated his birthday reminder on Facebook and none of his friends (including me), even the closet of friends, did not wish him for all forgot about it. He said, only some family members remembered his birthday and wished him.

This thought of deactivating the reminder had crossed my mind too. I gave it a lot of thought. But then I decided not to deactivate only for the reason that I was scared of a wish-less emptiness! I was scared that the realization of people forgetting me, even on my birthday, would make me feel an intense vacuum within me. But when I did not deactivate and people wished me after being reminded by Facebook, I felt disgusted by it. Not because it took a social networking site to remind people of me but for I felt that wishing when one doesn’t remember me for the whole of the year was reducing me to nothingness. And also because it was some social networking site which reminded them not of my birthday but my very existence which else was forgotten by them.

I am caught in the fear of nothingness and the disgust of an illusive presence. I am caught between this fear of wish-less, forgotten existence accompanied by an immortal loneliness and the desire to be in company and be remembered- affectionately- to keep me warm in this otherwise cold world. I am caught between desire and fear, longing for love and affection- an unwaxed one.

This weird coexistence (of desire and fear) in my existence within existential vacuum is because of what my longing is. The desire keeps me going, makes me hope. The fear keeps breaking me and slowing down my walk, searching for some unknown green fields.

Our greatest strengths are always our greatest weakness.

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Formalities Begin When Attachment Ends

May 9, 2012 at 9:15 PMMay (Friends, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Birthday feels good for one self-centric reason that one gets a little more of affection from dear ones. Some years ago it was a matter restricted only to dear ones when dear ones would remember the date of birth and wish. But now thanks to social networking sites and their reminders. Everyone in the network wishes and one can’t help but wonder if the person wishing really remembered the date or was reminded by the social networking site.

This year on my birthday something even the more stranger happened. I received calls, to my shock, from friends of the past. Friends for whom I just don’t matter now. Friends who chose to walk their way without caring for this once upon a time friend. These friends, who at a particular turn of life chose to leave me behind for I was not required any more, wished me on my birthday. Undoubtedly the social networking site reminded them. But even if reminded by social networking why did they choose to wish me, I wondered. What respect would the birthday wish get from me when the entire year the so called friend just did not care to know if I was alive or not!

When asked, one friend, answered me saying, “I think everyone should be wished good on their birthday.” When said that wishes should be a felt thing and not a thought of thing the friend said, “All I know is that everyone deserves to be wished good on their birthday.” I told my friend that the wish was of no use when the wishing person did not care for the entire year, to which the friend said nothing. Was it some sort of sin cleansing?- I asked myself. I don’t know. But it did appear more like a formality than anything because a real friend would not want a day to speak, to wish, to pray, to express the perpetually present affection. Formalities begin when attachment ends.

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