Koffee With A Bad Taste

Hardik Pandya and K.L.Rahul are out of the Indian cricket team for the time being because they are facing charges for inappropriate conversations in the recently aired television talk show, Koffee with Karan. This is not the first time that people have got into trouble through the show but this time, because it concerns members of the Indian cricket team, that the play has gone bad. Karan Johar eggs on his guests to reveal their worst side; he creates a strange competitive atmosphere in which the participants fall into the trap to gossip about their peers and make socially inappropriate conversations. Karan has carefully crafted an image of himself as the gatekeeper into an elite society where he poses as the judge of who gets to go into the inner circle of celebrityhood and who remain the pariahs. Young people with some measure of success often get drawn into a competitive game playing atmosphere and drop their social defenses and sometimes even play stupid in their eagerness to get included in the haloed portals of celebrityhood, a space which Karan pretends that he manages. Controversy is Karan Johar’s way of keeping people under his control.

In his characteristic manner, Karan Johar called upon Hardik Pandya and K.L.Rahul, two young cricketers of the Indian team and veered them over the ledge of socially appropriate behavior. He played upon their recently won successes and lured them entry into a world of entitlements and privileges, of the upper stall of the society. Inebriated by Karan’s acceptance of them as his inner circle, these men were eager to fall in line with what they imagined would be the culture of the more entitled. And in this they said what they said. Hardik Pandya spoke about his irreverence towards women as if success grants him the liberty to do so. Rahul too showed off profligacy as a measure of his success as he bragged about partying through the night. These comments do not merely reek in misogyny, but these shows how misogyny is intricately related to a feeling of power and how success in India has come to mean the liberty to disrespect and disregard all social norms and morals rather than hard work.

The punishment meted out to the two young men is the harshest of the available options. The BCCI is clear that it has taken these casual remarks in dead seriousness. Virat Kohli has issued a public statement distancing the cricket team from the offenders, Harbhajan Singh, a senior cricketer has gone as far as to say that he will never bring his wife and daughter in the company of these two men and the Mumbai Police has hailed the punishment as exemplary for such attitudes towards women. The probe headed by the retired captain of the Indian woman’s team, Diana Eduljee has called for a lifetime ban. Advertisers have moved away from the two brand prospects. In every which way, Hardik and Rahul suffer the death sentence, metaphorically being hanged by the neck until dead.

Hate for women seems to have emerged as a measure of masculine wellbeing. Recalling the episode of Nirbhaya murder, the offenders were in a state of feeling high after some good money came their way with which they had good food and celebratory alcohol, took out the bus on an unscheduled trip in order to “hunt” girls. Girl hunting becomes game hunting, a leisure sport, a mark of economic, social and cultural surplus. This too happens because of the way the society construes success. In India especially, success is looked upon as a product rather than as a process in which the individual becomes freer not of her immediate and material needs but of those social rules that bind her. This may be a fall out of the caste system in which rules of social behavior are tied to the hierarchy; you obey rules because you are supposed to be of a certain rank. Expectedly then emancipation means anomie and the Indian society has not been able to develop adequate rules of appropriate social behavior. We dirty our streets, we have pathetic sanitary habits, we hardly know how to behave in crowded spaces including the public transport and we have little manners when dealing with outsiders. In short, India does not have a well defined and comely public behavior. Misogyny is part of the lack of civic awareness and public behavior.

Why is it that when men feel powerful, they want to insult women? For this we must understand how the feeling of power works at the level of the body, social structure, economic power and even in the mind. Misogyny is an outcome of the combination of all the above. At the level of the body, the male who feels powerful wants to feel a sense of command over female bodies, at the level of money power he feels that he can “obtain” women by offering them fine dining and other fineries. At the level of the mind, he feels that he can do without women, he can be emotionally free of them. The sense of power brings in a sense of hierarchy in which women are constructed as the lesser and the dispensable entity of existence. To be nice to women, to need them and to seek their companionship is looked down upon as weakness. The moment the male achieves, he projects himself as one who can disregard women. Such thoughts are ubiquitous across the human society though not so openly profligate elsewhere with a higher level of civic culture than in India. In other words, misogyny is almost a social instinct of the human society. High culture often can mask this instinct and the fact that Hardik and Rahul did not mask theirs it clearly shows their station in the relatively lower echelons of the society.

Media was once reserved for people who were genuinely exceptional but today its proliferation as technology has led to a hunger for content. The content famine has created spaces for prejudices and ignorance to fill in the place for genuine inspiration. Misogyny, among others gets a new legitimacy as content of the media. The episode of the cricketers is not an isolated event but is a general trend of the media which seeks excitement through digging into privately held superstitions and biases and setting them forth as public discourses. Such is also the symptom of an ever-growing fascist trend of the society when all that which lie concealed within humans suppressed by discourses of reason and tolerance, universality and common good bursts forth with vengeance to establish the personal over the public. This is perhaps why misogyny is so closely associated with fascism. The rise of the personal over the public, the particular over the universal, identity politics over liberal public sphere within which lie embedded biases like misogyny.

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Sa Re Ga Ma Pa… 2018, Some Tips For Understanding Music

The present Sa Re Ga Ma of 2018 is indeed a delight and one of the very few television programme that Madhusree and I really look forward to. Santanu Moitra and Srikanta Acharya along with Monali Thakur are judges of this show. These are the things that I have learnt about music by listening to the comments by the judges.

  1. The difference between high brow classical music and pop music is that the former is sung by the singer to herself and pop music is “told” to an audience. Interesting because the domestic help in our homes, our only interaction with the non-elite segments of our society would always say “please tell a song” as if the song is a conversation or a story to be narrated. This is a part of that discourse which also refers to the cinema as a “book”, meaning the text.
  2. I also learnt that a song is sung using its lyrics; if a singer does not understand the song as poetry first, s/he is likely to fail in the music.
  3. The third thing is that the song is more important than the singer; it is the song which must be presented and not the singer.
  4. If lyrics contain the Indian alphabet, aa, the tune must be extended and rolled out and not reigned in.
  5. The relationship of the singer to the song is very important in the accurate rendition of the song. Sometimes, the singer scans the song in his/her head. This is not such a good idea; both the singer and the song should unfold together.
  6. Snigdhajit sang Ladki hai jaadu from DDLJ ad he got a Golden Guitar. But I was not happy with the song. He does not have to sing it like Udit Narayan I know, and no one expects him to do so either but there was something that Snigdhajit could not achieve and which is that the song is essentially sung at a woman, it was a catcall to a woman, devised to attract her attention. Snigdhajit sang it within himself, in admiration for the woman, and it was not important for her to know of it. In short, the song was for himself and not for her; there was self-absorption this time and no wonder that he stunned both the original singer of the song as well as its composer. I realized that there was no song around eve teasing in Bengali. No wonder then that Jatin found the atmosphere of the Bengali Sa Re Ga Ma to resemble a temple. There is worship and it is because of the self absorption rather than conversation that flavours Bengali singing both with a classical flavour as well as a kind of a sacred sublimity.
  7. As I listen to Mainul Nobel sing Pathe Ebar Namo Saathi I realize that no one can sing like him. The IPTA sang it like an assertion, in Independent India, social movements had become sectarian. Hemanta sang it like a song, the Bengali flavour of self-absorption. But Nobel sang it like as if he was immersing himself in his nation; songs of movement become the national movement in Bangladesh and since there is no category higher than that of the nation in secularism, he raised the bar of the song to its limits.
  8. No one could sing Amaro Parano Jaha Chay like Nobel. He moves towards martyrdom in dissolving himself in the great sublime of the nation. He dissolved himself in the sublimity of the song into that zone where nothing mattered except the song, the song itself having dissolved into the absolute boundaries of human cognition into that which we call the Divine.
  9. No one can sing like Suman. I have never heard the song Aage Ki Sundor Din Kataitam the way he sang it. This is because he sings without the inhibition of the song. He has so much command over his voice that he can easily overcome the pressures of having to excel in putting his voice into the notes of the music. His command over the song makes him free, he sings with this freedom.
  10. Sampa Biswas’s songs are sung with gusto, as catharsis of the pains she undergoes each day in the form of bad memories of her past. No one can sing Indubala the way she did. She has a way with notes; she sings each note of a song diligently, takes every breath, uses every pause with elegance, negotiates strongly each trough and peak and drives through the song with absolute control over the metre.
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Ghosts Are Descending..

In the misty and dreary evenings of Autumn, the universal categories of cognition of the human mind think of ghosts. There is something about the closing in of the season, when winter is about to set in and the sun goes weak in the sky, tilting towards the horizon more and more, the humans have felt vulnerable and without protection for let us not forget the Sun has been the prime God for many societies across the world. The Biharis rush to salute the setting sun as if in a dirge, immersing themselves in waters to imbibe the literal immersion of the sun in the sky. This is the chhat puja. The Halloween is the American Indians’ management of fear of ghosts and the Bengalis celebrate the choddo shaak, translated as fourteen kinds of leaves. They also light fourteen lamps, fourteen being the double of seven and seven being a number to describe limits, as in the seven heavens, seven generations and so on. Kali Pujo, which coincides with the dark moon of autumn is basically a worship of the not quite humans. The blood thirsty Goddess is associated with cremation grounds, dead bodies, killed lives and blood flows. The lamps are lit to scare the ghosts away and so are the noisy firecrackers. Light and noise are both intrinsic to Diwali and to Kali Pujo for both are instruments of driving out those who we do not want or fear harm from.

In the above context, Diwali seems to be a step ahead; here life gets celebrated. Great food, new clothes, new account books and ostentation seem to be in line of the Protestant Ethics; celebrate more of that which is threatened. I think that not Kali Pujo but Diwali is the anomaly with its overdoing of the life bit. The Goddess of Prosperity is worshipped and not the Goddess of Death notwithstanding that it is the dark moon of the autumn when the ghosts are the most powerful and considering that the season of the burning off of the stubble and waiting for yet another crop cycle to begin with the break out at the next spring whenever that comes.


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Clean Steel Through The Induction Furnace

The induction furnace is a contraption for melting steel scrap or directly reduced iron, or a combination of both through the use of electricity in order to produce steel ingots of sizes smaller than those produced in the Blast Furnace. The induction furnace comes in at a fraction of costs of the Blast Furnace and depending upon the quality of inputs, it can produce standard grades of steel. India is perhaps the only country in the world where the induction furnace has been able to produce nearly half of its 100 million tonnes of mild steel. In this sense India has been able to tweak and also stabilize this route of steel making. To my mind, this is the crux of innovation in Indian steel. It is on the shoulders of the induction furnaces and the innovations that it entailed that India has moved from being the 8th largest steel maker in the middle of the 1990s to being the third largest steel making country in the world today.

The bad press against the induction furnace is that it it has limited refining capabilities and due to the chemistry that emerges in its bath, it cannot, with any conviction remove sulfur and phosphorous from the iron feed. When it uses scrap, it can do little but to reproduce the very same pre-melting properties of the input. This is perhaps the reason why the induction furnaces are limited in their product mix; producing only rebars for house construction. Despite such limitations, induction furnaces can achieve higher productivity than the Blast Furnaces due to the greater capacity to control the processes of melting.

Despite it

The trials of the induction furnaces emanate neither from the raw materials nor from their emissions, neither from the process, which as mentioned above is well controlled, but from the changing consumer demand for steel mill products. It is not important to forecast volumes of steel demand but the value; the value of steel consists not more than 6 to 8% in residential construction but can go as high as 12 to 15% in construction of flyovers, bridges and airports. The latter needs heavier sections, clearly beyond the scope of the induction furnaces.

The induction furnace thrived and proliferated in India due to its economics; these were small and affordable investments by rerollers who moved backwards to ensure a supply of billets or pencil ingots. While many sponge iron producers move forward into the induction furnace industry, the induction furnace industry have used the cheaper sponge iron to heckle and bargain with scrap merchants. The induction furnace sector can single-handedly keep scrap prices at bay.

If the induction furnaces want to produce alloy steel then it has to redo its economics for its economics lie in its forward integration with rolling mills; alloy steel rolling mills are very different from the mild steel rolling.






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Nafisa Khatun’s Great Escape

It was on a Friday afternoon that the lady who works as a caregiver for my elderly parents fell violently ill and wanted to go home. It was now for quite sometime that this middle aged woman, a mother of two girls and a wife to a not so physically fit man had complained of chest pain, congestion and nausea. She also seemed to be too much on the phone, largely distracted and unmindful. We took notice because this was not her usual self. There was something definitely amiss. But she did not open her heart to us, kept her distance and then took leave on grounds of illness. Only on the following morning she did not report for work feigning illness and the need for rest. But I got a phone call from her on Saturday morning in which she confessed that she was in deep trouble because her older daughter, Nafisa had gone missing from home and that only me, because I lived and worked in Delhi and that too for the Central Government could help her in some way to help her find her daughter.

I of course said a firm no. Domestic helpers in Kolkata have a strange way of drawing you into their personal lives, burdening you with stories of their poverty and misery and constantly seeking your advice and then bad mouthing you for interfering in their personal matters. I am too familiar with such patterns. This is a way of their seeking power over you, overlaying you with guilt regarding your life style, your education, your freedom and above all your leisure; in all their woes they seem to be accusing you of being born fortunate. Sop stories are meant to destroy you, besseeching you to sort their matters out is a way of unsettling you; these strategies which Mr Scott missed out while writing his tome, Weapons of the Weak. So I stay away from being manipulated. But then eventually the guilt of my capabilities overwhelm me; I know that I can help and so I do. Whats the loss of peace of mind on a Saturday morning compared to the agony the family was going through, I thought.

On hind sight, I was more concerned about the safety of the girl; even if she left home on her own, would she join a terror outfit? would she be trafficked? These apprehensions crossed my mind. I asked her mother to provide me with the facts of the case. It was then that a young man came to the phone; he was, the mother introduced, the son of her older sister and betrothed to be married to Nafisa. Bengal, despite its claims to being modern and intelligent has the lowest age at marriage for girls . This is a convention that started way back some four centuries ago, why one knows not. Gauridaan, which means that giving away of an infant as soon as she was born seems to be a much preferred custom; the age of men can vary and the grooms, if they are of the right income class or caste status could even be dying of old age. It was in this custom, notwithstanding the fact that Nafisa’s was a Muslim family, but by being Bengalis first, her marriage was fixed with the preferred groom, the parallel cousin from the woman’s side. It was this boy, called Sayed who had come down from Mumbai ever since the Eid -ul-Fitr in the monsoons to stay on ever since in Nafisa’s house. Her escape from her home must have had something to do with the boy’s coming for it was since he arrived that our caregiver had started falling ill, most probably with worry.

It was once that Nafisa came to visit her mother and us in our house. I thought the girl to be greatly ambitious, desiring to break free of the trap of her social class. She was a good student, a diligent worker and was eager to do well in her examinations. Her mother would tell us that the daughter was a favourite with her teachers and that she was on stage for as many as three dances in her school’s celebration of Independence Day. But she was also that kind of a young person who thought that she knew everything. This happens with children who do far better than anyone in their family, do better than their peers, have friends among social classes above their own and go to schools where her cousins may never think of enrolling. Nafisa, was one such person, over confident, arrogant yet, unknown to herself, had a rather limited exposure to the world, if for nothing else, then at least for the social status of her birth.

Anyway, I go about collecting the “facts”of the case; yes, she called up through her own mobile number and said that she was on her way to an undisclosed location entirely on her volition. She had planned her escape long ago, had friends who helped her, no, there was no way that she could reveal their names, and that she would return after four years on her birthday. She was not eloping, nor joining the film industry, but she was going away to study so that she could make something of her own life. Any resentments? yes, she did have two of those. One was that she suffocated at home and the other was the mother was away most of the times. I visualize. Suffocated in an empty house? Cannot bear to be home because no one lives there? This was not right; you suffocate when there is too much, emptiness makes you lonely. A young girl with her handsome fiancee who showers presents on her should have been an attraction enough for her to stay at home; mother being away would give them privacy to make some love as well. Yet, she chooses to run away, and in what a way! to an undisclosed location !! Is it not obvious that she is running away from the fiancee? may be because she tried to sexually violate her? Nafisa, tells my mother had been steadfastly refusing gifts bestowed upon her by the fiancee. Among such gifts were some of her favourite aspirations, a tab and ornaments. All of these she refused to touch because she wanted to have nothing to do with the supposed to be fiance.

Bengal, I hear is the world’s capital of trafficked women. One of the main reasons for traffic is escape from home and escape into an imagined Eldorado of material comforts.  Arranged marriages, forced marriages, marriages of convenience and most importantly, underage marriages constitute the overwhelming reasons for girls to flee home. Girls are sent to school and educated, they are showered with affection, chaperoned and molly coddled with fine clothes and money is spent not only on education but on her cultural achievements as well. Most, irrespective of the social class, are not even allowed to go into the kitchen, or sow or knit or even to look after younger siblings. The girls, almost ubiquitously are brought up like princesses. But such an upbringing is like raising a lamb for the table, for marriage and not career is the grand finale of such parental efforts. For it is through marriage that a girl finally fetches for her parents the male child, the son-in-law. Few cultures have such complex arrangements for pampering the son-in-law as Bengal does. The overindulgence of the girl child is a way of creating her as a bait for a good catch”of a boy; there are dreams around the son-in-law among the Bengalis.

Nafisa’s mother thus dreamt of a son-in-law who she found in Sayed and Sayed was also the anuloma groom, or the preferred groom because he being a parallel cousin. But she saw Nafisa dragging her feet on consent because she wanted to be free of marriage before she eventually started earning on her own, the mother arranged for her to be molested and raped by the fiance. Unable to bear the agony of the unwanted sexual attempts on her, Nafisa fled. I sewed up this story through logical inference and instructed her mother to immediately send Sayed packing off back to Mumbai. The mother agreed to do so but all the following phones were made to me by Sayed. He simply ignored my instructions.

Soon the weekend was over and Sayed sent me on WhatsApp the details of the conversations with Nafisa and the phone numbers from which she called. These were international numbers diverted through Latvia, and the tower was discovered to be somewhere around Siliguri. The poorer families in India are far more tech savvy than we, the entrenched middle class are; digital technology seems to have created a new skill which is now almost exclusive to the hitherto less endowed sections of the society. With this new skill, I do see a welcome equalizing force in the society. Armed with the Internet, the smart phone, access to social media and exposure to the television, the apparent class markers have now become disguised into homogeneity. It is no longer possible to distinguish among the social classes through the way they look, speak, walk or even eat. But what the lower classes can neither imitate or internalize are the values that have marked the upper and the lower segments of the middle class.

Nafisa says that she wanted to be me because he mother admires me so much. I am not married, earn my own living, live in my own flat, drive my own car, take no money from my parents and yet support my family. Yet, her mother is willing to do nothing for Nafisa to be really be me. She is not allowed to focus on her career, and instead thrust into marriage and her will is sought be to curtailed through a sponsored rape. Her mother denies her the crucial stuff that my parents gave me, namely freedom and faith. Nafisa has appealed through her Latvian numbers that he parents need to repose faith on her, agree to believe her and above all, accept her desire not to enter into sex. But her mother wants her to have sex with the fiance because she fears that if not that boy then it will be some other boy. The thought that one can not have sex or not desire to have sex does not cross her mind. I, says the mother, am different, because she says that in my class I need not produce children but in their class, girls need to bear children. The unfreedom of women stems from the unfreedom of chosing not to have children. Then how come the mother admires me so much when I am wholly contrarian to her image of her daughter? Well, she accuses me of not seeing the point, because of my wealth I can “become”a man, but Nafisa has to become a “man”through marriage. The final aim is masculinity; I can achieve that because of the wealth of my family; Nafisa must do that by marriage and merge her identity into that of her husband’s. My job and her matrimony are steps for our respective entries to the masculine world, which is also the mainstream.

I write to Lalbazar and within an hour they take up the case; the family is called, mobiles are traced and emerges a Hindu boy in the story. The family throws a fit, the police does that as well. The family thinks that this is blasphemy but the police wants to be sure that this is not a case of trafficking. So they call the boy; Nafisa responds to the police because she does not want her friend to be harmed because of her. She calls me up as well to explain herself. I negotiate a deal. Nafisa is report to the police immediately, reveal her whereabouts to the investigating officer, ask for Sayed to be declared out of bounds and restrain her parents from forcing her into marriage. Her mother accepts the conditions, Nafisa returns. And then mayhem breaks out. The mother is annoyed because Nafisa has relished the food cooked by the Hindu boy’s mother. She fears that she might engage in sex with the Hindu boy; no not because he is a Hindu boy but because it will never be a groom arranged by her. The mother has no understanding that that a mind which is preoccupied with higher calling of education and culture, as is in this case of Nafisa, sex becomes irritating and even reprehensible.

They construe the Hindu boy to be the new boyfriend and assure that they will accept him in place of the Muslim boy. But Nafisa has no plans of marriage at all; the family has no cognitive category for friendship between a boy and a girl which may be asexual. The lower the class is, the greater the need for sex, the greater is the need for sexual realization for greater is the need for survival and hence of the reproduction of the species. Monasteries, asceticism, and even the Radha Krishna like apparently adulterous love relations were means of escape from sex, especially within marriage. I wonder why preoccupation with sex and marriage and the social class has not been more studied.

I get irate phone calls from the family asking me to ask Nafisa to stay back home. I am surprised because all the while her mother insisted that she had no one from the family to help her with her daughter and that only I could help her. Yet, now that the girl has been traced, members of the extended family were negotiating with me to help them force the girl back indoors. I remind them that it was clearly laid down in the terms of negotiation that Nafisa will not stay with the family. I had made Sayed record my voice which clearly says that Nafisa will declare him to be out of bounds, restrain parents and chose a residence of her choice.

I verbally thrash her mother by calling her a cheat and a liar who not only fibbed to me about her family but is now backtracking on assurances given to her daughter. It was she who said that Sayed will be driven away, it was she who said that Nafisa could choose to stay wherever she wanted to and it was now her, who went back on her words. I threaten to report her to the police for forcing her daughter to have sex with Sayed.

The family admires me because I live in my own flat but they will not allow their daughter to live independently. There is no conflict of values around education, clothing, use of mobile phones, freedom of movement, but there is a total lack of freedom where individual choice and personal freedom is concerned.

I am concerned about Nafisa now not because her parents will eventually get her but because she may not be safe. The Hindu boy may well be a trafficker and since he was routing the calls through a Latvian network, something which is used by the ISIS. It is also possible that the Hindu boy is himself a part of the ISIS. Besides, he is socially better off than Nafisa, educationally a few notches above her and it is likely and it is so that Nafisa abides by his words. This creates the apprehension that she may be wholly in his power. He may be a good citizen but then one never knows.

My mother has sacked the caregiver. She now has another lady in place of Nafisa’s mother. My mother wants to do nothing with a woman who has been an irresponsible mother to her daughter. I have nothing to do with that family because they imitate our ways but not adopt our values; they have no sense to realize that if they want the same outcomes as we have, they must put in similar efforts. There can be no genuine education without freedom of the learner. I refrain from the social aspirations which want to look like me but have no courage of the mind to have a mind like mine. I can see that the fascist politics of extremism and intolerance emanate from this kind of behaviour.









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Fire in The Cinema Hall

I live in Dover Lane whenever I am in Kolkata because that’s where my house is. Priya Cinema, therefore is part of my territory in the city. Convenient to just walk down, the theatre has been a part of my journey as a film viewer. But the hall was always shoddy despite the fact that the owners are fashionable and the cultural elite of the city. I rued over the fact that though they would keep a vintage car in the causeway each night, which we could see when we evacuated the theatre after a night show, why the windows in the staircase landings were always broken and the toilets were worse that the municipality washrooms. These, put my mind off the owners and had it not been for my mother, I would have really accosted the owners for what I thought was public misdemeanour because they kept public amenities in such a dirty state.

One could still tolerate the Priya cinema in the 1980’s and even the 1990’s but after the era of the multiplex, one would expect the owners to get their act together and emerge in a much corrected avatar. Alas, that was not to be, for their hairdos and cosmetics went up, so did their ostentation but the ladies toilet dropped from being dirty and shoddy to being a mere enclosure cordoned off from the public eye by a green curtain !! This is the way the Bengali cultural elite, celebrity wannabes so-called adapted to the new age of the multiplex!

I am not surprised that the inquiry, after the fire in the theatre, revealed not only poor maintenance but wilful miserliness in running airconditioners, elevators and what is worse, accessory utilities pertaining to fire control itself. The problem lies in the idea of culture; real social class would have looked at the inner organization of space, its aesthetics, its hygiene, its safety. Crass upstartism looks at media publicity, Page 3 and outward paraphernalia aimed at generating awe, but remains horribly hollow. Shame owners of Priya Cinema.

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I have not watched the film Sanju. Yasser Usman has already written about Sanjay Dutt, I am yet to read it. I have not followed Sanjay Dutt really though I wish I could. I know some of his fans and they share similar traits as the star. In cases of those fans who are deeply internalize their favourite stars, the star persona and the fan personality appear to converge. Expectedly so; for stars are world views and fans are social beings existentially located in their worlds. Sanjay Dutt fans are attached to their mothers, somewhat are resentful of fathers, have little attachment to siblings, are indisciplined and have poor self-control. They love being defiant, generous to a fault, enter bad ways to cultivate enduring loyalties. I have little luxury for such wastrels. I think that I have too much on my hands to do.
But what stunned me were some stills of Ranbir Kapoor playing the role of Sanjay Dutt. By no stretch of imagination these photos were but not of Sanjay Dutt. The complete immerse of Ranbir, the actor into Sanju the character is beyond words. How can an actor play another actor so closely? Ranbir took a while off from films and ads, from television shows and stage appearances. He let go of his relationships with women because he was wholly “becoming” Sanjay Dutt. He has been the quintessential actor who prepares. He has been gearing up towards this grand feat since long, playing a sleepyhead lazybum to a Sikh salesman, a struggling actor and then a spastic child and now as Sanju, this role may well be the role of his lifetime.
In all the above, I see Neetu Singh. A Sikhni from a middle class married into the royalty of the Kapoor khandan, struggling to stay slim and fit and raising a son as she wants him to be, away from the strong surround sound of the large, boisterous, self-certain family. In this effort of hers, she has had to contain her husband on the one hand and promote the son on the other. She was perhaps determined to raise an actor and not a star; for stars have their problems of ego and smashed ego, the latter when they are no longer in the reckoning. There were rumours of not so long ago of she is being subject to domestic violence when she has had to run to the police station. The love bird image that she portrays with the husband, Rishi Kapoor on the sets of Kapil Sharma Show, may be a front but likelier to have come to terms or even managed the husband rather well. Rishi continues to be ill-tempered and grumpy in the presence of his wife, but Neetu seems to have found peace; the peace which, probably is from her son’s rising to the standards of her expectations. I think that Ranbir is on the anvil of adding to the Kapoor story, a great actor, something which all their stardom seems to have ignored. Ranbir adds the quality quotient to the quantity of star appeal that packs the family hall of fame.
I also noticed that the film Sanju is produced by Vidhu Vinod Chopra and directed by Raju Hirani. This is the same combination of the Munnabhai series. This vindicates my position that films of stars are always their biopics, in one way or the other. Through the conjuring up of Munnabhai as a character on screen, the duo was exploring the persona of the star, Sanjay Dutt. Directors who work with stars essentially are interested in the person the star is and hence, films by a star become some way of exploring biographies.
Star biographies must be different from biographies which are of businessmen, or professionals, and perhaps even of sportsmen. Stars are successful people; there is no reason for us to recount their successes. Nor are we concerned with the stories of their struggles for in cinema, success means struggle though in real life success can mean privilege. What we look for in film stars can be well imagined through the Egyptian mythology of the Ka, Ba and Sahu. The Egyptians believe that every human has a physical body and a spiritual body called the Sahu. The film star may be a Sahu for many of his/her fans and the films and his/her biography may well be a struggle between the physical body or the lived-in realm and a spiritual body, which lies hidden within the physical body, which can only manifest when physical aberrations of this world are removed. Raj Kapoor is great at this continuous separation between the constraints of the world and a utopia that lay beyond its contradictions. He would say many times to his wife Krishna, that she was the mother of her children, a mortal, concrete and a finite existence but Nargis was the mother of his films, the spiritual alliance that lay beyond the concrete and would have been a reality were the constraints of the lived-in reality of Raj Kapoor not been there. Interestingly, films explore the film star’s Sahu, the utopia, that would eventually redeem her or him. Gossips are ways of imagining a Sahu, what if Amitabh and Rekha were to marry? What if Shah Rukh Khan was to have an affair? For most film stars, biographies are essentially gossip hunters, or Sahu trackers asking the question, what if?
Films go beyond into the Ba, or the Bai which is the highly abstracted and acutely resolved personality traits of the person. Ba is imagined in singular terms, the animal that represents you, or the flower, or the song or color. If you look carefully, costumes and backdrops of film stars are never random; it is rare to find Amitabh Bachchan in an idyllic setting just as it is difficult to imagine Rajesh Khanna in a crowded slum by the sea in Goa. We can never quite think of Hema Malini as a school girl nor can we imagine Jaya Bhaduri as the tongawalli of Sholay. The Ba limits the diversities of roles that stars can play.
The Ka is merely the body double, expressed often in films as double roles. Within ourselves, this is what I can also do were I in a different situation. Much of our fantasies around film stars revolve around his/her ka. We are so excited to see Ajay Devgan enter a Nalli store or jump in our skin when next to us in Barista, Ajay Jadeja orders coffee for his wife and him. These are instances of the ka, present as a body double because this is not the place where he/she should be present.
When a biography is written about the star, it requires the exploration not of his life events but his soul events, events in which the Sahu, or possibilities if the constraints were removed, the Bai, or the real hidden personality and the Ka, the existence in the form of one’s double, or the spaces in real life, the star abounds. Whether a film around a star, or the star biography, or in a gossip column we are eager to find out the life of the star which is beyond what merely meets the eye. It is not a history of events, nor a set of memoirs with meaning.
Lets see how Sanju does….

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