Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Coaching industry – A parallel education system

I am sharing the link to my article that got published in The Tribune today. The whole page including the photograph, counter argument (by Poonam Soni) and the students' opinions has been compiled and edited by me. (But sadly, some of the lines in my article were removed by the Editors due to space constraints which makes the article a bit incoherent.)

You can read the article here  - Coaching industry – A parallel education system.

Image Courtesy:
My dad and his cellphone :)

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Ravanan Worth A Watch

A stellar performance by the lead actors and tip-top cinematography makes the otherwise tedious and drab “Ravanan” worth a watch.

Directed by the seasoned Mani Ratnam, the film, a modern day take on the timeless epic Ramayana, explores the age-old tussle between good and evil in a new light. The script, co-written by Mani and his wife Suhasini, attempts to flay the traditionally held notions about Ram and Ravanan. Set in a picturesque tribal village, the film narrates the exploits of the local don Veeraiyya who kidnaps Ragini, the wife of the Superintendent of Police Dev Prakash, to avenge the rape of his sister Vennila. Vikram and Pritivraj, who don the modern day avatars of Ram and Ravanan, display considerable histrionic talent playing the lead roles of Veeraiyya and Dev Prakash. The film depicts Ram as hard-hearted and opportunistic, while Ravanan is portrayed as a kindhearted and magnanimous man. The movie draws a parallel between Ragini (Aishwarya Rai) and goddess Sita, Venilla (Priyamani) and Surpanaka, Gnanaprakasham (Karthik) and Lord Hanuman, and Singham (Prabhu) and Kumbhakarna.

The scintillating camera- work by V.Manikandan and Santhosh Sivan has breathlessly taken the medium of cinema a notch higher. The use of natural lighting in cinematography has created pure magic. The breathtaking greenery of the forest and the ethereal beauty of the waterfalls captured on camera is a feast for the eye. The impressive picturisation is complemented by an appealing background score. Synergy is achieved in the songs, ‘Usure Pogadhey’, ‘Kattu sirukki’ and ‘Keda keda kare adupalla’, penned by Vairamuthu and tuned by A.R Rahman. The resplendent art work by Samir Chanda further enhances the cinematic experience.

Sreekar Prasad’s slipshod editing seems to be the only weak link in the movie, apart from the rehashed script and the drab dialogues. The mad rush of images and the constant tossing of sequences from the past and present confuse the viewer and induce tedium. Although “Ravanan” is a far cry from Mani Ratnam’s magnum opus, “Roja” and “Bombay”; it is one of his technically finest movies.

Death of an Era

On June 9, 2011 Maqbool Fida Hussain, one of India's consummate artists, bid farewell to the world and was buried in London far away from his homeland. The indomitable fighter, who was never deterred by the controversies he was mired in, finally bowed out at the age of 95, succumbing to a heart attack.

The painter from Pandharpur, Maharashtra, who was hailed as the 'Picasso of India’ by the Forbes Magazine was born on September 17, 1915 to a poor Muslim couple, Fida and Zunaib. After his mother died when he was an infant, his family moved to Indore where he studied at V.D Devlalikar's Art School. At the age of 20, a young ambitious, Husain moved to Bombay nurturing a dream to be an actor. But the wish did not materialize and he had to earn a living by painting cinema hoardings and designing and building toys. Husain joined the Sir JJ School of Art and came into contact with the Austrian expressionist Langheimer and art critic Rudy Von Leydon, who introduced him to 20th century Western art. In 1947, his painting 'Sunhera Sunsar' won an award at an exhibition held at the Bombay Art Society. In the following year he became the co-founder and secretary of the Progressive Artists Group, headed by Francis Newton Souza, which aimed to encourage an Indian avant-garde. Though M.F Husain gained international acclaim and fame with his solo exhibitions in Zurich and Prague in 1952, the crowning moment of his glittering career came in 1971 when he was sent a special invitation along with the legendary Pablo Picasso to attend the Sao Paulo Biennial.

Husain soon became the leading international face of modernist Indian art in the 20th century and was hailed for his multi-dimensional talents, creativity and cubist and abstract depiction of figures in Indian art. One of M. F Husain’s most famous paintings was ‘Between the Spider and the Lamp’, and his paintings were largely based on the Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, Indian culture, women, nature, horses and music.

M.F Husain made a foray into the world of cinema by directing his first film, ‘Through the Eyes of a Painter’, in 1967 which won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. Husain continued to use cinema as a medium to showcase his artistic ability by directing critically acclaimed films like ‘Gaja Gamini’ starring Madhuri Dixit in 2000 and 'Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities’, with Tabu playing the lead in 2004. Husain shared a close bond with the members of the Indian film fraternity and was especially charmed by Bollywood beauties. Incidentally, Husain considered Madhuri Dixit to be his muse and made her the subject of a number of his paintings titled 'Fida'.

Husain's invaluable contribution to art and cinema brought him laurels from far and wide and he became India's highest paid painter. He was honoured by the Indian government with the Padma Vibhushan. He became a member of the Rajya Sabha in 1986. In 2008, he was bestowed with the Raja Ravi Verma award by the government of Kerala and his name was included in the list of "500 Most Influential Muslims in the World' issued by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Jordan.

However, Husain’s splendid career was marred by controversies, court cases and hate campaigns. Unfortunately he ran into the saffron brigade who took offence on his depiction of Hindu goddesses in the nude. Husain hurt the sentiments of Hindus by painting goddesses like Durga, Lakshmi, Sita, Parvathy and Saraswati in an offensive manner. Although he apologized and withdrew paintings each time he outraged religious feelings, he was hounded out by Hindutva groups and his art exhibitions were vandalized. Husain who felt insecure within his own nation went into a self- imposed exile in 2006. In 2010 he accepted the citizenship of Qatar and died after a prolonged illness in London.

The iconic painter’s death was termed as a “national loss” by the Indian Prime Minister and the artistic fraternity mourned the demise of the “marathon man with no expiry date”. Anjolie Ela Menon recalling her long-time association with Husain said that she “always thought Husain as immortal” and that “his place in the Indian art world is secure forever”, while noted painter Satish Gujral, said that he considers Husain’s contribution to art as “unmatched and the most powerful” and that he “created a legacy”.

M. F Husain is survived by four sons and two daughters and his paintings continue to charm the world. Popularly known as the barefoot artist because for a number of years he discarded footwear, Husain was the epitome of simplicity and humility. Even though a few of the controversies he was embroiled in were self-created, the orchestrated violence he was subjected to was unwarranted. M.F Husain’s life and death are testimony to how artists are denied the right to freedom of expression and are at the receiving end of attacks by the so-called moral police. The death of India’s most charismatic and celebrated artist has brought the curtains down on a golden era.

Monday, 25 July 2011

from the pre-conscious

The city was new to me as it is to hundreds who pour into it every day from different parts of the country. In my school days I never dreamt of being in this city. Finally the time came when I did land in it. It was the monsoon season when I arrived. Monsoon was at its peak. Rain fell in torrents. Never before had I waded through the monsoon floods in a city like this. It had turned sultry and uncomfortable. Well, it is Mumbai, the city of limitless possibilities with its fast-paced lifestyle.
July 4, 1996: It was the first day of my college. In the morning I put on the best clothes which I had kept ready for the day. I tucked my shirt in, put on white shoes assured to survive the rain. I looked myself several times in the mirror and made sure that I looked just like a college student. For a student from Mumbai I would have looked more like someone working in our office.
Well, with a file folder and an umbrella [in my hand] I cautiously set out for the college. The streets were inundated by the incessant rain. In most places the path was not visible under the murky water. In some places weak branches from trees had fallen in the heavy rain obstructing traffic. Motorists who usually tried to push themselves through the traffic and others who tried to make their way through because they were running behind schedule only caused further traffic jam. I had to zigzag in order to protect myself from the two-wheeler riders who drove recklessly. Some pedestrians were soaked/splashed by two-wheeler riders who tore through the floods.
My worst fear was falling into an open manhole. I was nearing the college and for a moment I thought, “Ah, here am I; I have almost reached college.” No sooner had I said this to myself than disaster struck. My left leg had plunged down an open drain up to the thigh! By now I knew that I was not going to look my best on my first day at college. I knew that the shoe that hit the bottom of the gutter would be covered with dirt. But, when I actually pulled it out I was simply delighted to see that the shoe came out looking much brighter! This lifted my spirit and I was glad again!
I entered the college campus feeling happy, and my self-esteem had risen with the brighter shoe! All was fine until I reached the corridor of the college. Soon I began to hear a strange and clumsy sound. I hoped that it was not coming from me, but alas! It did indeed come from the shoe that had developed a hole in the sole during the inadvertent landing in the gutter! Every time I took steps to move about, the air was being sucked in and pushed out resulting in ‘beep’ sound. I tried cleaning the shoe but it did not help. I tried to walk lightly but that only added to the awkwardness. I wonder how I managed to spend the day in college. By now my only aim was to get back home and change. I promptly bought a new pair of shoes and discarded the old. I tried to forget the harrowing first day of my college but it only became one of the unforgettable days in my life!

while walking through...

The street is busy and it belongs to all. There is litter all over the street. People buy their vegetables at the market, located at the end of the street. Fruit shops are making a brisk business. A four-storied garments shop is bustling with shoppers. Kids’ specialist shops around the corner are lively with children checking their favourite outfits. The hawkers too have their field day. Some display pants, shirts and T-shirts as they woo the potential buyers. Others who have exhibited second-hand coats and jackets call the customers to buy them. Electrical and hardware shops make a slow but sure business. The electronic stores have the latest collection of CD/VCD/DVD players, and video and photo cameras. Youngsters throng the cell phone centres that have displayed the latest gadgets. Posters and cut-outs of popular politicians have ‘added colour’ to the street! Although the street belongs to all, everyone is in his/her own world!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Rang de Basanti - Review

Making realistic movies is not new to Bollywood. There have been a number of realistic movies based on the underworld, politics, freedom struggle and a variety of other subjects. But a movie that is fictional and realistic at the same time along with being linked to a real historic past is definitely rare. Rang de Basanti is what one could call an extra-ordinary imagination of Rakesh Omprakash Mehra.
Mehra tries to portray the general mentality of the Indian youth and the way it is molded into an altogether different sense of patriotism and responsibility is worth applauding. One amazing factor of the movie is the fact that it had imbibed a number of ideas and aspects into one synchronized story that touches the audience.
The story begins with a British documentary film maker Sue McKinley enacted by Alice Patten, wanting to film a documentary on a few Indian freedom fighters. Sue’s grandfather had held a post in the British Indian Army and had written an account of his experience in a diary which had enthralled Sue and inspired her to fly down to India to find a cast for her film. Soha Ali Khan, who plays Sue’s friend Sonia in the movie, helps her with the casting. Sue meets Sonia’s friends in the course, whom she thinks fit for playing the characters in her movie.
Daljiit, played by Aamir Khan, Aslam (Kunal Kapoor), Sukhi (Sharman Joshi) and Karan (Siddharth Narayan) are extremely reluctant about acting in the movie. They do not really have a sense of patriotism and don’t think highly about the freedom fighters Sue was asking them to enact. There is also Atul Kulkarni alias Laxman who is a political activist also plays a part in Sue’s movie.
Daljit plays the role of Chandrashekhar Azad, Aslam of Ashfaqullah Khan, Sukhi enacts Eajguru, Bhagat Singh is portrayed by Karan and Atul plays Ram Prasad Bismil for the documentary.
After a lot of toil, the team completes the shooting and just when they are basking in the glory of its successful completion, Flight Lieutenant Ajay Rathore, who is portrayed by R Madhavan and is Sonia’s fiancé, dies in a MiG 21 crash.
This disturbs everyone and when the government puts the blame on Ajay, all these friends decide to stand up for their friend. With the roles played for the documentary, all of them are absolutely motivated and work on the lines similar to their roles in the movie.
The movie is amazingly woven with innumerable concepts interlinked together. Rakesh Mehra has shown astounding imagination and vision in scripting the story. With the story of a few college friends, it shows a glimpse of our freedom struggle, the way the youth relates to it and the life of a young fighter pilot whose ideologies are far different from that of his friends.
Along with a unique storyline, the music given by A R Rehman and Prasoon Joshi’s lyrics fit in flawlessly. The kind of songs that play through the movie just gives it perfect meaning and interpretation. The youth can easily relate to the kind of language used in the movie. Although the story did not demand extraordinary locations and cinematography, the kind of set-ups chosen in the cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Rajasthan and Punjab does help the output look merrier.
An excellent acting effort by the cast, an incredible story, brilliant music and the playback of veteran Lata Mangeshkar, the movie is definitely a smash and rubbishes the failure of his previous movie, Aks.

- Vinaya Patil

Bhimsen Joshi – A Profile

The auspicious occasion of Ashadi Ekadashi reminds music lovers of the legendary vocalist Pandit Bhimsen Joshi. The name is synonymous with Music. It is usually a human mind and soul that likes or adores an art, but with Bhimsen Joshi it was vice-versa; with the kind of singing and the quality of music he produced, it almost felt as if Music revered him as much as he worshipped it. With a powerful voice and an amazing breath control he made a mark in Hindustani Khayal Music of the Kirana Gharana. Bhimsen’s “Majhe Maher Pandhari”, a song praising Lord Vitthal transmits the listeners into a different world of worship and entwines them with the Lord himself. A concert ‘Bolava Vitthal’ will be held on the occasion of Ekadashi and will be marked by the songs which were originally sung by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi.
As a child, Bhimsen found his love for music in the bhajans and aartis, in processions and in any kind of music that his young ears could hear. His parents first spotted this interest when he laid his hands on the tanpura that his father had tried hiding from him. His father, Gururaj Joshi, was a school teacher and wanted Bhimsen to get a sound education and grow up to become a doctor. However, Bhimsen ran away from home and began his search for a guru.
Bhimsen was born on the 4th of February, 1922 into a Brahmin family of Gadag in Karnataka district. His childhood was spent in Gadag until he ran away to Gwalior. He spent few years learning from various gurus in Gwalior, Rampur and Lucknow. His father, now knowing the capability and dedication of his son, brought Bhimsen back and arranged for him to learn under the guidance of Sawai Gandharwa of Kundol, Dharwad.
From there, he began his journey towards being an undisputed icon in the music industry guided by Sawai Gandharwa, his music guru, in a typical guru-shishya setting. Sawai Gandharwa was a disciple of Abdul Karim Khan, who along with his cousin Abdul Wahid Khan was the founder of the Kirana Gharana of Hindustani music. Gharana is a school of music in which Bhimsen achieved excellence. Just like his tutor, Bhimsen’s thirst for knowledge was tremendous and what we hear is the output of his dedication and consistency in learning.
A song like “Kannadathi thaye Baa” won him immense admiration in the state of Karnataka. Since his first live performance at the age of 19 in 1941 there was no looking back for him. He released his own album of Hindi and Kannada devotional songs. The turning point of his career came when he shifted to Mumbai; it wasn’t a cake walk though. He began to earn as a radio artist in Mumbai. It was his performance at the ceremony of Sawai Gandharva’s 60th birthday that won him many accolades and recognition among the music faculty. A festival dedicated to his guru, called the “Sawai Gandharwa festival” was initiated by Bhimsen and is held in Pune in the month of December every year. This festival is looked forward to by the masses and receives overwhelming response.
He was a singer of an era where many brilliant singers co-existed; few of them were Shreedhar Kulkarni, and Deelip Kulkarni. His colleagues often described light moments shared with him. It is also known that if time be, Bhimsen would not even mind sweeping the stage before a performance. Such was the innocence and courtesy of his character. Celebrated by masses and critics alike, Joshi made a mark – a unique and astonishing one. His music was spontaneous, dazzling, sometimes fast paced and sacred. The kind of music that came from him was beyond the reach of commoners and yet touched a chord with the masses. The magic of his music touched every soul who experienced it. It was this magic that led him to the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award conferred by the Government of India. He was the most celebrated exponent of the Kirana Gharana and his renditions of Hindustani Classical Music have left music lovers all over the world wanting for more every time they heard him sing.
There are many raagas composed by this stalwart and are now widely used in a number of compositions. Along with raagas and abhangas, another genre that reminds people of him is that of a couple of patriotic songs. Mile sur mera tumhara and vande mataram are the two songs that have received his playback along with many other accomplished singers. As he sings the famous Hindi song, “Piya ke milan ki aas”, for the ‘n’th time, his audiences are still captivated and amused with his unblemished singing.
What most well-known figures in the field of music have observed and tried to learn from him is his amazing breath control, the accurate grasp of fundamentals and the right sense of music. A few of his students are Anand Bhate, Pandit Upendra Bhat and a number of others.
Along with his undoubted passion for music, he also had a liking towards cars, along with an expertise in swimming, yoga and football in his younger years. Mr. Joshi had publicly admitted his weakness in alcohol which he later quit due to grave health problems. However, he succumbed to a heart disorder in January 2011, after leaving an everlasting mark on the entire portrait of Indian Music.
- Vinaya Patil

Saturday, 23 July 2011

My McHappy Day J

Beaming with excitement and curiosity, I finally reached my to-be wonderland everyone else called – McDonalds! I was welcomed by a very funny looking creature -- clown and McDonald Mascot by profession – that had the most contagious smile: Ronald McDonald. Everything was so red and yellow and bright, Aqua playing in the background -- it was perfect. Laughing and giggling I stood beside Ronald and got a picture clicked. I was ecstatic. I was pulled in by my mother and she asked me what I wanted to eat. I wanted what every ten-year old wants -- fried food! I was served the ‘happiest’ meal in the world. I got a little toy Ronald McDonald which had a sharpener attached to its belly, French fries and my favourite – The McChicken – yum! Munching on my burger, I looked around the room and I could see content faces, their mouths stuffed with fries and smeared with ketchup. I still remember how instantly I had fallen in love with the ketchup served there, the sweet, red concoction made me very happy. I even recall asking my dad if we could take some home. Delighted, my Dad asked me, “You like the place, don’t you, beta?’’. I jumped from my seat and yelled, “Yes daddy, I can live here, forever.”

-Zahra Zahid Khan


DSK - Rise & Fall.

DSK – Rise & Fall!
From being an economist, a lawyer, a politician, the M.D. of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to the most humiliated Frenchman in the world, Dominique Gaston André Strauss-Kahn (DSK) has come a long way! DSK was born to wealthy parents in a Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine. His father, Gilbert Strauss-Kahn, was a famous lawyer and mother, Jacqueline Fellus, was a journalist. DSK, described as a charmer by those who have studied and worked with him, has never been a stranger to scandal or controversy.
Until sometime ago, Strauss-Kahn was known as the most successful IMF chief and tried to remake the IMF into a doctor of global finance, rather than a policeman. Strauss-Kahn was appointed the IMF chief in 2007, just a year before the world moved into a global financial crisis, since then he has been highly credited with transforming the US-based IMF into the key player in unfolding the economic crisis back in Europe.
Though praised for his stewardship of global institutions he has been surrounded by allegations of sexual assault from the very beginning of his appointment as M.D. of the IMF.
Strauss-Kahn who has been married thrice with four kids was always notorious for being the ladies man.
Only a year after his appointment as the IMF chief, DSK was investigated for an affair with a junior colleague, Piroska Nagy, a Hungarian economist. Back then the IMF had stood by Strauss-Kahn, calling the relationship ‘consensual’. In May 2011, DSK who was expected to challenge French President Nicolas Sarkozy in elections next year was charged with criminal sexual act and attempted rape. The victim, a New York City hotel maid, said that a naked Strauss-Kahn had pounced on her, throwing her on the bed. On May 18th the 62 year old announced his resignation, saying that he would fight the allegations against him. Since then, his lawyers have scrutinized the woman’s character, background and have pitted her words against her. On June 30th law enforcement officials said investigators had uncovered major holes in the housekeeper's credibility and on 1st July DSK was released on grounds of ‘weakness in the case’. But, just three days later, a French writer named Tristane Banon claimed that she was sexually assaulted by Mr. Kahn in 2003 and that she would officially accuse him of attempted rape. DSK’s lawyers have asked him to file a counter complaint of slander.
Strauss-Kahn’s third wife, French television journalist Anne Sinclair, has stood by her husband’s side throughout the investigation and in a statement to a French Agency said, "I do not believe for one second the accusations brought against my husband. I have no doubt his innocence will be established."
Let’s hope the man once respected and admired for his economic acumen and political know-how bounces back from his biggest challenge yet – clearing his name.
By: Zahra Zahid Khan


Cast: Priyanka Chopra, Nassaruddin Shah, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Annu Kapoor, John Abraham, Irrfan Khan,Vivaan Shah
Director: Vishal Bharadwaj
When Vishal Bharadwaj makes a movie, it most assuredly reeks with dark humour. This film follows the same trend. Unlike most of his other movies, however, this one may not be appreciated by everyone.
The movie, adapted from Ruskin Bond’s short story, narrates the tale of the ‘black widow’ Susanna Anna-Marie Johannes( Priyanka Chopra), whose unending quest for love leads to her killing those men who are unfortunate enough to marry her and is both gory and gripping.
The movie starts with a young forensic doctor, who receives a suicide note addressed from Sussanah, which also wishes him luck on his recent wedding. He is also responsible for proving, through forensics, that the body found is indeed Sussanah’s . Overwhelmed, he begins narrating Sussnah’s story to his recently wedded wife, played by Konkana Sen Sharma.
Much of the credit goes to the actors. Bharadwaj’s movies have always been known to have a strong cast, whether it was Maqbool or Omkara or Kaminey. This movie is no exception. The performances by the actors are stunning; Priyanka Chopra portrays the merciless Sussannah with utmost conviction and proves, yet again, that she is one of the best actresses in the Indian cinema today. The scene in which she slaps herself several times as a preparation to kill husband number three is one of the high points of this movie.
Nassaruddin Shah in his role as the dependable doctor is just right; Niel Nitin Mukesh, who plays the jealous first husband, fits the role like a glove; Annu Kapoor, who plays the shrewd inspector Keemat Lal, simply lights up the screen with his sheer presence; Irrfan Khan, who plays the sadistic third husband is his usual brilliant self. Even John Abraham, who is generally not much of an actor, does justice to his role.
On the downside however, the movie can get monotonous after a certain point. The end of the movie is rather predictable, making the movie somewhat of an anti-climax.
This movie may not be a Maqbool or an Omkara or even a Kaminey, but it does have a certain charm to it. You can either love it or hate it, but this movie is incapable of stirring mild reactions from the audience.

The Bengal Tigress

Mamata Banerjee
“I entirely believe that this is a victory of democracy. This is a victory of 'Ma, Mati, Manush'. This is a victory against years of oppression, exploitation and extortion. This is a victory of helpless people, of the hills, forests, and my 'Ma Mati Manush'.” said Mamata Banerjee, to a huge gathering of supporters outside her house, in a historic speech on the day of counting of the votes, even before the results of the Trinamool Congress’s victory were officially declared.
Clad in a simple white sari, her ‘trademark’, this firebrand orator emerged as the unchallenged victor of the West Bengal Assembly elections of 2011, in which the Trinamool Congress(TMC) almost completely routed the Left in the state, with only four out of the twenty-eight ministers being elected into the assembly, thereby effectively ending a 34 year old dictatorial rule of the Left in the state and provided the state with it’s first: a woman chief Minister.
A woman of simple means, ‘Didi’, was born on 5th January 1995, to Promileshwar Banerjee, a Congress worker and Gayetri. This woman leader who emerged time and again as the defender of the weak had been a particularly vociferous opposition in her crusade against the Left government’s forceful land acquisition for Special Economic Zones.
She started her career as a Congress (I) worker in 1970 while studying for a degree in Law from the Calcutta university. She quickly rose in rank and was soon appointed as the General-Secretary of the Mahila Congress (I) of West Bengal. First noticed when she threw herself before Jayprakash Narayan’s in 1975 convoy, Mamata hasn’t looked back since.
Banerjee’s real break in mainstream Indian politics came in 1984, when she defeated Left heavyweight Somnath Chatterjee from the Jadhavpur constituency, thereby emerging as one of the youngest parliamentarians of all time. She then went on to become the General Secretary of the All India Youth Congress.
Didi suffered a setback in 1989 when the anti-incumbency wave against the Congress after the Bofors scandal rocked the nation that cost her seat, but she came back with a vengeance in 1991, when she was elected from the Calcutta South constituency. She has retained the seat since then, in the 1996, 1998,1999 2004 and the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.
In 1996, Banerjee accused the Congress of being at the mercy of the Left. As her differences with the Congress (I) grew, she finally broke away from the Congress and formed the Trinamool Congress, which became the primary opposition to the Left Front government. She joined the National democratic Alliance in 1999, where she was given the railway portfolio.
Differences between the Trinamool Congress and the other partners of the NDA, forced her to leave the alliance. However, she came back to the alliance in January 2004, where she was given the coal ministry until the 2004 general election.
It was the forceful land acquisitions by the left front for a chemical hub in special economic zones in Nandigram and the ruthless police crackdown on the protesting farmers that really brought the TMC to the front page. With her vehement campaign the acquisition and her protests against the brutal police action, she rose in the popularity charts in West Bengal.
It seemed Banerjee had endeared herself to lady luck, for, then on, this lady could do no wrong. First came the Panchayat elections, in which the TMC won two Zilla Parishads. Next, she made headlines when she successfully drove the Tatas out of Singur. Then came the 2009 general elections, where 19 candidates of the TMC got elected to the Lok Sabha. Then came another victory for Mamata, with the Trinamool Congress gaining a landslide victory at the Kolkata Municipal elections . And finally, the sweetest victory of them all was the 2011 assembly polls, in which the TMC formed a pre-poll alliance with the Congress(I) , bringing a landslide win for the Banerjee and sent the Left front packing after a long, unbroken reign of 34 years.
The ‘iron lady’ has achieved many feats since. The Assembly passed the Singur land Rehabilitation and Development bill, 2011 which ensures that ‘unwilling’ farmers get back the land acquired in the Tata Nano project, with an unbelievable haste. Next, within a month of assuming the office of the chief minister, she declared that long-standing Gorkhaland issue and signed an agreement with the Gorkha Janmukhti morcha (GJM), whence more autonomy will be given to the hill council of Darjeeling.
However, Mamata’s political journey was far from being a bed of roses. Her split with the NDA over the Eastern Railway issue portended the beginning of a long spell of bad luck for the TMC. First they lost the assembly elections of 2002. Then came the 2004 general elections where she emerged the only Trinamool leader to win a seat from West Bengal. Thereafter, came the Kolkata Municipal elections of 2004, where the party Lost control of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation. She has also, in the past, courted several controversies, and she has been accused of being soft on the Maoists, even to the extent of supporting them.
From her Mahila Congress days to the President of the Trinamool Congress, is an important ally at the centre, Banerjee has come a long way. Despite her success, Didi has been known for her simple living. “I am a simple man” she once said proudly. She still lives in her modest lower middle class home at Kalighat.
While praising Mamata, Partha Chaterjee, a Trinamool leader who has been with Didi since her college days, once said “Courage and conviction are two words very easy to pronounce, but very difficult to practise. She is a lady who never wore lipstick, never wore a sari that cost more than Rs 500,”
How the Trinamool Congress can change the battered and bruised West Bengal is yet to be seen. However, one thing is certain. Her fiery leadership, her skills as an orator, her ability to touch people’s hearts, and her simple living have made her one of the most popular leaders India has seen.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Bengal's 'I Do' to Kum. Mamata

Even as supporters thronged, the media frenzied and cries to paint Writer’s building green rent the air, Mamata Banerjee displayed uncharacteristic calm in her greatest moment of victory – very unlike her firebrand political persona which danced in anti-Emergency angst on the bonnet of Jayaprakash Narayan’s car. Ensconced in her modest Kalighat home with her mother and sister-in-law, Mamata waited to emerge till the last ballot was counted and the result declared in her favour. Not smug, simply smiling, her Bengal dream realized 25 years after her first electoral victory.
Born to a lower middle-class family, Mamata’s political exposure began while attending rallies with her father, a trader and Congress worker. She has since learnt the game bottom-up, working her way through the party’s student wing and then the Mahila Congress. With a background in Islamic studies and later Law, she became one of India’s youngest parliamentarians at 31, beating the mighty Somnath Chatterjee in Jadavpur, 1984.
Even as Mamata held down Cabinet and other ministries in successive Congress governments, her rather antic-ridden political career made Mamata the grand old party’s newest problem child. (Eyebrow-raising incidents include wearing a noose in protest of a petroleum price hike, grabbing MPs by their lapels and once, hurling her resignation papers at the Speaker.) Her frequent campaigns against the Congress, while part of the Congress, led to the creation of her independent regional outfit – the All India Trinamool Congress (TMC), focused solely on furthering Mamata’s interests in West Bengal. Her band of followers have remained faithful right through.
But TMC’s trajectory, much like its founder’s, flopped a few times before the coin could flip in its favour. The rocky alliance with the NDA in 1999 (which “permanently spoilt BJP’s chances in the state”, Uma Bharti recently claimed) ended in 2001. Her reconciliation with the Congress for the Assembly polls the same year, she hoped, would send the Commies packing.

It didn’t. Not even the second or third time. Mamata would have to wait for Nandigram and Singur for the tide to turn.

The anti-land acquisition agitations in the two farming districts in 2007 and ‘08 and the ruling Left’s unjustifiable use of force to crush them marked Mamata’s re-entry on the state’s political stage. She rallied, she protested, she was out in the streets with the rest of Bengal, giving them an alternative to the 34-year long Communist regime.
Their definitive acceptance of her has let her sweep the polls since – the panchayat elections in 2008, the Legislature in 2009, Kolkata’s municipal polls soon after, and now, Bengal itself.
Even if it’s her political strategy and flair for attention-grabbing that still defines the Banerjee brand, Mamata has no doubt mellowed over time. Now, while TV cameras record her 25-day fast or protests in pouring rain, they also lend airtime to her painting, music and frequent creative expressions. The conscious move to better PR has not gone unobserved.

This evolution could possibly be attributed to her early political success being tempered by a string of defeats. What started out as a lone woman’s stand for development in her state has expanded, magnanimously some would say, to include perspectives and opinions from across the socio-cultural spectrum. The TMC, a party which housed forgettable faces except for Banerjee the star, now includes several popular and respected Bengali names. Equally surprising is her recently-acquired gizmo consciousness. Could her conversion to Blackberry-ism indicate her openness to change, and possibly modernity? The rest of India was as amused when they learnt of the new goings-on in Bengal – unstarched white sari, unkempt look, Hawai chappals, and now, also an iPad.

But does this overwhelming mandate imply that the people trust Mamata to get the governance job done? Her past ministerial stints have been unremarkable. In fact, her most recent tenure as Union Railway Minister was driven with single-minded zeal to bless Bengal. Besides a new rail coach factory, a huge chunk of new trains and proposed new lines, nursing and medical colleges, and a decongestion plan for the Kolkata metro, about 58% of the stations identified for upgradation to Adarsh status in her 2009 Rail Budget were in her home state. And while this ‘Big Bong Budget’ as it’s been nicknamed is infinitely desirable to her slightly more narcissistic woman Chief Minister contemporaries, it still gives the observer nothing substantial to go by.
The whole country will be watching her every move as Chief Minister. How will she approach development works? What will her stand be on the Maoists and Gorkhas? Is the Bengali change of heart a knee-jerk reaction to the previous government’s antagonizing moves? Or can we tag this defection by the state’s farmers and intelligentsia – historically Leftist – permanent? It all depends, it would seem, on whether Didi can make ‘Ma Mati Manush’ a reality.

Before Sunrise (1995) - A review

While reading a movie review, what are the associative words and genres, you commonly encounter when you see the word romantic? It could be mushy or it could be comedy or it could even be thriller, for that matter; but how about an intellectually stimulating romantic movie?

A little paradoxical maybe but that is what ‘Before Sunrise’ exactly is – a movie that makes you contemplate on a variety of issues while you are involuntarily smiling at the romantic component throughout its 105 minutes runtime.

The plot is simple; an American guy, Jesse hurt from a break-up is travelling through Europe and meets a French maiden, Celine on the Euro Rail. He convinces her to get off the train and spend the time with him till he catches a flight back home the next morning. So they have a day and a night ‘before sunrise’ all to themselves.

Beyond this plot, the movie has no story per se. Director Richard Linklater along with his co-writer Kim Krizan has experimented on an interesting genre of film-making. The movie comprises of just free-flowing dialogues between the two characters, played convincingly by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, as they roam on the streets of the beautiful Austrian city, Vienna.

To compensate for the lack of motion in the movie, Linklater has very intelligently added symbolic motion to complement the dialogues. It could be the moving countryside through the train’s window, walking people on the streets, a moving gramophone record or even the throbbing metal ball inside a pinball machine; everything diverts the mind from speed of the movie and let audience concentrate on content of the dialogues. 

Even cinematographer Lee Daniels and sound department should be commended for not making the peripheral motions and sounds distracting in nature, rather adding to smooth flow of the movie.

Coming to the content of the dialogues, the writing duo have tried to say nothing phenomenal. The conversation between the two characters touch upon many day to day issues just as it would in reality. It ranges from discussions about upbringing, marriage and relationships to reincarnation, feminism and even impact of technology on our social lives; issues that make the audience contemplate and introspect at the same time.

The movie is filled with interesting anecdotes like when Celine claims that feminism has been invented by the men to fool around with women by associating liberation with lack of commitment. Some peculiar characters too keep popping up time to time like a palm reader and a roadside poet, whose interactions bring out the difference between a sceptic Jesse and a gullible Celine.

The highlight of the movie is those romantic moments which showcase an element of sweet innocence. For example, when sitting in a restaurant, Celine and Jesse make a fake phone call to each other, role-playing each other’s friends back home and express their feelings face to face; or when they enter a booth to listen to a record on gramophone inside a music shop and get embarrassed at the romantic lyrics, stealing a glance at each other but not seeing eye to eye.

So while all this is going on, the viewer is wondering what will happen in the end; will the two stay together or just part away? It is this mystery that keeps one hooked till the end and the director culminates the movie as intelligently as the rest it. The final shot before the credits traverses through all the places, as seen in the morning, where the two characters had spent their previous evening and creates a nice effect. Of course, to know what happens in the end and to indulge in all these brilliant moments, get a DVD and watch the movie.

I go with 4 ½ stars out of 5 for this daring experiment and a great rendition by Linklater.

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- Mukundh Vasu

This is a little something for a friend who was getting married. To be frank, I wouldn’t have written it if not for her uncle.

It’s called Celebration, inspired by the Lord Tennyson’s Vastness (c. 1892).

A storm-felt sculpture not to be read,
And a bough, upon its bosom a moulder’d nest,
Astride its weary form, stood stark by the dead;
And beyond him, hung low in the West,

With one thousand rays of shadow and light,
And many in colour but only one in form,
‘Twas a baleful orb that over the gates of night,
A sun, glaring at a coming storm.

Then glided a rapturous paragon forth,
That on the passage of time had thriven;
They call’d her ‘Beauty’ here upon earth,
And the mortal engines of life in heaven.

Behold! For she sang and the people turned,
And the beauty of her voice caught like a flame
From heart to heart it sprang, and on, it burned,
Till her nobility was her soul whence it came.

The voice that sung nae deserving an old sun set,
But a sun rising in the East, in his youth!
Great and noble—oh, yes—but yet—
A man, as men everywhere are, a lover of truth

And bound to follow, wherever she goes,
Hither, thither, and up or down,
Through high hill-passes of stainless snow,
Or the foulest sewer of the town!

Noble and great—oh, aye—but then,
And here a prophet just has earned his due,
For the man was noblier-fashion’d than other men!
Lo! Shall we see to it, then, I and you,

To help the love paving their pathway still,
Until it presses into ardour the evening’s din
Behold! They rise with togetherness, and will,
Now, each others’ hearts aspire to win.

Autumns and Winters, Springs and Summers,
And all old revolutions of this good earth;
Travails of our Empire—carpentered wonders—
What is all of it worth?

Treasures are they all, if we all of us stand
Here as one, in this finest of hours,
Swallowed in mirth, and hand in hand,
To thus bear witness to the celebration of lovers!

The Wachowski vendetta

V for Vendetta is an ideological tour de force, in intense depiction of the rigours of a totalitarian state that, apart from the occasional artistic indulgences characteristic of all movies with a strong plot, doesn’t offer much in the way of compromises.

The story follows a vigilante of sorts named V – played to perfection by Hugo Weaving – who seeks to topple a fascist party named Norsefire that has come to power in Great Britain in the 2020s, in a world that includes perpetual warring and a balkanized West. Even though V’s intentions seem straightforward at first, it is revealed toward the middle of the movie that, in an attempt to strengthen their rise to power, two ambitious politicians – Peter Creedy and Adam Sutler – engineered a disguised pogrom, deployed it against the people of Britain, and blamed the attack on terrorists, a move reminiscent of Big Brother from Orwell’s 1984.

The people unite in the face of adversity and turn to the most accessible solution, an organization promising security, named Norsefire. The pogrom involves a bioweapon in the form of a virus, a cure for which is developed and tested at the secluded Larkhill Detention Centre. The camp eventually succumbs to an accidental fire, leaving V, an inmate, alive because of his enhanced powers as a result of the medication.

Shortly after Norsefire’s ascension to power, the cure is marketed to generate exorbitant revenues to proliferate and sustain the party’s works. Inspector Finch, the detective assigned by Creedy to track down V, uncovers this truth of the party, and consequently, the intensity of his duty-bound efforts decline, but also because he becomes increasingly curious about V’s plan of action. Ultimately, V strikes a deal with Creedy: Sutler’s life for V’s surrender, which would place Creedy in line with his ambition to become High Chancellor. However, in spite of an ambush, Creedy and his men are killed, even though V is also left critically injured.

Evey Hammond, an accomplice of V’s who also provides for the occasional but just as necessary emotional component of the plot, embraces him for one last time as he dies in her arms, places his body in one of the trains of the London Underground that V has packed with explosives, and sends it on its way to blowing up the Houses of Parliament, fulfilling both V’s promise made a year earlier as well as giving him a Norse funeral.
James McTeigue, the director, seems to have played his part in the production, and he’s done well to keep the talents of Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, John Hurt, Weaving and Portman within the thin boundaries of a story easily capable of leading them astray. Weaving has done well to portray V as a man abused by his own government, a man still yet aware of his country’s necessities and determined to pursue them. His acting is crisp and spontaneous, although at times it seems to borrow from the labours of a skilful camerawork to dominate the scene.

Natalie Portman, though quite typical and unfortunately stiff with her body in the first half of the movie, goes on to justify her selection for the part of Evey. However, her acting continuously fails to convince the viewers of its capability to fill up the screen. Revelling in niches, though being a tricky trade, also imparts a sense of security, an insulation against failure, and that’s the niche within which Portman does excel.

On the other hand, however, there is not much choice availed to present-day production houses in terms of making it as an artistic as well as a commercial success. The nifty editing, aided by a packed storyline that contributes to the “something happening all the time” sensation, offers for a thrilling watch. Together with the linearly laid out narrative, they allow for the audience to decide between being more impressed by the screenplay or by the camerawork. In fact, it wouldn’t be amiss to conclude that both are true.

It is only unfortunate that Alan Moore, the creator of V in his original 10-issue comic, distanced himself from the adaptation. Comics and movies address different audiences in their entirety, which is also why the choice of the Wachowski siblings was appropriate. Their previous production, the Matrix trilogy, addressed a similar story of rebellion and conflict, albeit on planetary scales. Even more: their choice of imagery – neo-noir and dystopian – seems to have been chosen by them as a necessity, a trademark.

The score by Dario Marianelli is also quite appropriate. With its sizeable doses of European classical music, it imparts a formal aesthetic texture that plays its part in building up the intensity of each scene, instead of allowing for an easy deconstruction into metaphors that any other kind of music may have accomplished. Overall, the movie easily reaches a 4 on 5 but lacks on count of many small imperfections – such as the occasional dearth of intention to make some scenes more powerful, more exciting – to deserve the last point for a full score.

Orhan Pamuk: A profile

Perhaps it would be unjust to introduce the man against a backdrop of misguided nationalism, but Orhan Pamuk, by calling to attention Turkey’s guilt in orchestrating the Armenian genocide, had finally become the sort of activist that politicians despise: informed, romantic, and pre-approved. “Nobody else talks about it, so I do”, he says in a 2005 interview. After spending a year in self-imposed exile, in 2006, he was acquitted on a technicality. The international outcry following this episode did not quite focus on Turkey’s issues with the freedom of expression but on the country’s widest-read author having completed his rite of passage.
Born into a large bourgeoisie family in Istanbul’s Nisantasi sector, Pamuk was afforded a secular, Western-style education at the elite Robert College, going on to enrol with a technical university in architecture simply because “it had anything to do with [his] dream career: painting.”  He dropped out three years later to become a full-time writer, and graduated from the Institute of Journalism at the Istanbul University. By this time, the pages of his creative products were already piling up; in fact, before the completion of his education, Pamuk had co-won the Milliyet Press Novel Contest in 1979 for his debut, Darkness and Light, written by 1974.
In 1984 came The Silent House, followed by The White Castle (1985), The Black Book (1990) – which brought him popular success – and New Life (1995). All four books concerned themselves with storytelling as a tool with which to construct identities. Given that they were published across a decade, the books constitute a period of some separate literary significance. In 2000, he struck the killing blow with My Name Is Red, a scandalous love story set in 16th-century Constantinople that brought together Byzantine art and philosophical questions to birth a novel of enduring popularity amongst both critics and students. In fact, most authors before Pamuk who influenced him find representation – in style, subject, and exposition – including Mann, Joyce and Nabokov.
My Name Is Red has many characters,” said Pamuk in an interview with the Paris Review in 2005, “and to each character I assigned a certain number of chapters. When I was writing, sometimes I wanted to continue ‘being’ one of the characters,” an espousal he used to reflect on the unsettling attitude of cultural clashes he was beginning to see, and the discovery of one’s identity in a world where the East had just discovered the West. In fact, a marked difference became evident between New Life and My Name...: as his foundations deepened, so did his style move away from the security of naturalism to the whimsicality of postmodernism. "[Pamuk's] master here is Dostoevsky,” says John Buchan of The Guardian , “but amid the desperate students, cafés, small shopkeepers, gunshots and inky comedy are the trickeries familiar from modern continental fiction.” Orhan Pamuk, drawing upon the reserves of his rich Persian heritage, was now dictating terms in the English-speaking world.
In the books that followed after, a paradigmatic shift of genres could be noted: Pamuk, with the quelling of his gathering nationalistic opponents, finally was falling back to easier exercises, quite possibly to what was closest to his heart. Snow, published in the English in 2004, Istanbul: Memories and the City (2005), and then The Museum of Innocence (2006) – the first dwelling on the obsessive and unrequited love of a man and the last a semi-autobiographical, self-emancipatory endeavour – were all the voice of a man who seems to have found the world around him which he’d been seeking all this while, a world not quite extant in the stream-of-consciousness indulgence of Murakami, a world not yet falling apart under the weight of its own Rushdie-style promiscuity, but somewhere in between, a cautious Kafkaesque recreation. It is for this uniqueness of representation, bearing its own layers of certainty, that Orhan Pamuk was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006.
Many will remember his Banquet Speech at the Nobel Institute: “Literature is about happiness, I wanted to say, about preserving your childishness all your life, keeping the child in you alive,” a confession pregnant with some regret, some unhappiness, but much hope. I can still remember his face light up at the mention of these lines in an interview with Sarah Rainsford in 2005, a little jump of the eyebrows, a lighting up of his eyes, the small annotations of genuine naivety, the selfsame lack of hesitation in being lost just to find oneself... Orhan Pamuk is the summa of such pleasurable imperfections. As has been the case with every Nobel laureate, Pamuk’s day is now set to get busier, more packed with appointments, but it isn’t hard to imagine him clutching at a couple of books, walking down the streets of Istanbul in his tweed jacket, plotting his next adventure with words.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Indigestion: Eat Pray Love (2010) Review

Film: Eat Pray Love (2010)
Genre: Travel-drama
Director: Ryan Murphy
Cast: Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem, James Franco, Richard Jenkins, Billy Crudup
Screenplay: Ryan Murphy, Jennifer Salt (based on the book by Elizabeth Gilbert)
“I'm sick of people telling me that I need a man.”
I agree. What this post-divorce, emotionally-turmoiled, sobbing-in-the-toilet, broken woman needs instead is a scriptwriter. And one without Liz’s brand of writer’s block, please.
Eat Pray Love is a film with picturesque locations, empty words and characters who could have been, but aren’t. It’s not just a disappointing watch – it’s plain boring, where characters are caricatured, events stereotypical and ideas unrealistic. The film, made after the runaway success of the original Elizabeth Gilbert memoir and an Oprah recommendation, has Gilbert (Roberts) playing the victim of the big C.
Not that big C. Pfft! If only this movie could go that deep. The lone remotely traumatic event in its two hours is an unthawed turkey for the Thanksgiving dinner. The protagonist, I meant, is a commitment-phobe, though the movie would want you to believe it’s the men who run away. A self-important woman sobs for no apparent reason, then divorces her husband (Crudup), rushes in and out of a rebound romance (Franco), travels the world for pleasure (Rome, random Indian small town and Bali) and finally finds love in Felipe (Bardem). It’s worse than it sounds.
With a story the audience already liked, two Academy Award winning actors (Roberts and Bardem) and Brad Pitt (producer, but still!), the film had in fact a lot going for it before release. Robert’s comeback to the industry was hugely anticipated and her conversion to Hinduism while shooting upped the hype a great deal. But the end product falls flat on its face with the story’s lack of coherence. Gilbert bleats (incessantly) like a lost lamb who’s forgotten that she deserted the herd. And even if you would rather gaze at the picture perfect frames the movie is bursting at its seams with – gorgeous food in Rome, crowded streets in India and the quiet beauty of Bali – you really can’t cut out the bleating for long.
Storytelling 101? Conflict and resolution. This film’s climax happens so unexpectedly that you begin to doubt the existence of any conflict at all. Which is why the makers should probably pull out an old DVD of Under the Tuscan Sun (2003) based on Frances Mayes’ memoirs and starring Diane Lane. A story on almost identical plot lines, Lane’s poignant portrayal is of a woman who learns she can be right and wrong. Something Gilbert does not. While she does go through the motions of self discovery, her heart and soul are far away in the busy streets of New York, probably working out an advance on her soon-to-be bestseller.
Gilbert’s search “for everything in Italy, India and Indonesia” is eventually, just about the ‘I’. Eat Pray Love fails to even be a saccharine dripping love story. The worst kind of film at the end of which you want your money back.
So it’s both a thumbs down and up for one of the most awaited films of 2010. Down because it reinforces the notion of books making bad screenplays. And up because only a really bad film like this can make you appreciate a good one.

Friday, 15 July 2011

George Orwell – The King of Dystopia

Whenever I come across a news report about some new political scam or scandal which is pretty regular these days, I wonder if it is the ignorance of the masses that is allowing the political elite to indulge in such rampant corruption and malfeasance. Is India or even the world at large moving towards the dystopian society envisioned by George Orwell in his novel Nineteen Eighty Four?

In this novel, Orwell had described an Oligarchic dictatorship which borrows its stability from three basic tenets; one of these being - 'Ignorance is Strength'. Through pervasive government surveillance and incessant public mind control, the ruling ‘Party’ is able to subjugate the individual and manipulate humanity, hence strengthening its own domain.

It will be far-fetched to compare the present society with the society projected by Orwell; however the way things are going, the Orwellian conception remains still relevant and is a prism to the ill-fated consequences of a society that lacks democracy and free will.

Born in India as Eric Arthur Blair to a civil servant father in 1903, Orwell found the inspiration for his writings from his own life experiences. These included an early childhood in London, education in a missionary school, policing in Burma, his bohemian lifestyle in Paris, seeing the hardships of economically depressed North England, the participation in the Spanish Civil War and many other experiences which gradually developed in him a “natural hatred towards authority”.

He mentions in his essay Why I Write that “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it,” evidently triggered by the Spanish Civil War and the increasing influence of Nazism and Fascism.

However, even his debut novel, The Burmese Days which got published in 1934, talks of the travails of a British subject in Burma disillusioned by imperialism and white domination.

It was his political satire, Animal Farm published in 1945 that brought him into limelight and for the first time prosperity in a life, otherwise filled with hardships. In a compact piece of fiction, he targeted the Stalin brand of Communism and was well appreciated in the West. The story revolves around a farm where animals take over control under the leadership of pigs but the leader gradually corrupts the socialist ideals on which their revolution was based.

However, Orwell’s concept of free will was not in consonance with the philosophy of another contemporary author hailed by the West, Ayn Rand. Both are known for their belief in individualism; however, while Rand stands for libertarianism, essentially a capitalist model, Orwell stuck to democratic socialism, a model of the welfare state which can be compared to Gandhian and Nehruvian socialism.

Despite this, several critics, particularly from the Left, accused Orwell of exploiting the street-folk, calling him a wolf-in-sheep's-clothing upper class intellectual posing as a revolutionary. However, Orwell withstood these criticisms and remained true to his convictions till the end of his life.

In his seminal work, Nineteen Eighty Four, published just before his untimely demise in 1950 due to an artery burst in the lungs, he once again brought to the fore the struggle between totalitarianism and an individual’s yearning to break the shackles imposed by it. Like most of his other novels, it had an unhappy ending where the individual finally succumbs to the system.

For this reason, Nineteen Eighty Four is usually categorized as a novel portraying political pessimism. However, it will be wrong to term his writings as pessimistic because Orwell preferred to stick to his conceived dystopian structures in order to make his argument against them stronger. Moreover, to consider it Orwell’s forecast of the probable future will be naïve as the author clarified it in a post-publication statement.

Just like the instability portrayed in his writings, Orwell had a rather unstable life. Growing up in the absence of his father, lack of resources in the family, a bitter school life, initial struggle to get his due as a writer, contracting tuberculosis and the subsequent deteriorating health and an unhappy married life, marked the forty seven years of his life.

However, his life did a great service to the literary tradition of that era and continues to inspire even today. According to Orwell, there are four great motives for writing; sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse and political purpose. He was honest enough to mention the first motive though his way of writing and prose was by no means elitist. However, the other dimension of egoism is to be remembered for our work. Orwell’s legacy can be gauged from the simple fact that ‘Orwellian’ is now a byword for any oppressive or manipulative social phenomenon opposed to a free society.

As far as the last two motives go, his later works that in addition to his novels include a number of essays, literary reviews, linguistic articles, anti-war propaganda and other journalistic endeavours in BBC, the Tribune, the Observer and other journals ensured that they served the political purpose and facilitated the historical impulse.

In fact, many of his observations hold a lot of historical significance as they portray how some of the societal structures haven’t changed much in all these years. For example, in his autobiographical essay, "Such, Such Were the Joys" published after his death in 1952, Orwell describes the education he received as "a preparation for a sort of confidence trick," geared entirely towards maximizing his future performance in the admissions exams to leading English public schools such as Eton and Harrow, without any concern for actual knowledge or understanding. The education reforms in India today are also addressing similar problems in our system of education.

As for the final remaining motive, only the man of his genius could make a twelve line poem Romance written during his stay in Burma and based on the negotiations of a foreigner with a local prostitute, seem so aesthetic. Sample it for yourself.

When I was young and had no sense
In far-off Mandalay
I lost my heart to a Burmese girl
As lovely as the day.

Her skin was gold, her hair was jet,
Her teeth were ivory;
I said ‘For twenty silver pieces,
Maiden, sleep with me.’

She looked at me, so pure, so sad,
The loveliest thing alive,
And in her lisping, virgin voice,
Stood out for twenty-five.

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