Thursday, March 31, 2011

Parliamentary System and the cure it needs...

Picture courtesy:
In India, the largest democracy of the world, there is a very curious development going on. The business is booming like never before, many new entrepreneurs are entering and reaping huge benefits by efficiently managing their firms. At same time, the governance is depreciating in an equal rate. Our government, that is of, by and for the people, is day by day sinking to lower levels. Corruption and mis-governance is deep rooted in the psyche of an average politician. Arun Shourie's book The Parliamentary System, tries to uncover the reasons behind this phenomenon. 

Arun Shourie is one of the leading political commentator India has seen. He had shown his mettle in independent and powerful write ups that rips apart the hypocrisy of politicians and bureaucrats alike.  He had shined as the disinvestment minister in Vajpayee led NDA government and did some good work by selling off non profitable white elephants like Maruti and VSNL. 

Last week I had written a post on the book by Tavleen Singh, Political and incorrect. Many questions are asked in it about the poor state our country finds itself in. This book tries to answer them by analyzing the working of our Parliamentary and electoral system. 

The biggest advantage our system has, as per the makers of it and the leaders who came to forefront through it, is that it gives mandate to those who are favored by the people. Majority of the people decides who has to rule them, and how to rule them. But Shourie shows us this is not the case! By analyzing the election results from several years, it is visible that 99% of our Legislatures are elected by less than 50% of voters, and majority of them commands the favor of just 7-10% of total votes polled. Shourie dissolves the myth of majority representation in our parliament. Precisely this character of our system has given rise to much of the problems surrounding us like increasing corruption (the travelling dacoit concept), minority/regional favoritism and criminalization of politics.    
Picture courtesy:

When the electorate is splintered, as is the case now, getting the favor of a minority of voters can turn an aspiring politician victorious. This leads to over dependence on minority and regional politics and ultimate weakening of national parties. The final result is collective bargaining, as can be seen from the case of Tamil Nadu, where regional parties are strong enough to have a hand in decision making in center, even leading to the collapse of the Central government in many issues!    

The book also deals with the attempt to make the judiciary powerless by amending the constitution by Legislative to their convenience. Detail description is given about the times of Indira Gandhi, the government considering itself sovereign and curbing the power of judiciary to interfere in its proceedings, when the seat of Indira was threatened by a ruling by Allahabad High court. This sabotaging of the power of Judiciary, showing the paper tiger of people power (the truth of which we already saw)  caused much harm to the system. 

The book is not just complaining or lamenting on the situation we have made ourselves in. Arun Shourie also prescribes a cure, by changing the system, without harming the basic principles of constitution. By ensuring that the candidates in an election has capabilities to perform their real role, governance, and the winning person has the support of majority of voters (>51%), the system can be made efficient to some extent. Increasing the power of Executive and Judiciary and by reducing the bargaining power of minorities and regional political parties, corruption will curb down. 

I would recommend this book to every Indian who always feels, why we are the way we are. It is a tedious read, but worth at the end of the day... 

Happy reading... 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A farewell to arms: Apolitically anti war

A farewell to arms by Ernest Hemingway is perhaps one of the most unromantic, unsentimental novel I have ever read. This does not make it dull or boring. On the contrary, this semi autobiographical work is a gritty, realistic portrayal of men and ladies serving in war, their struggles and cynicism. 

Image from the site: 

Basically a tragic love story, set during world war 1, this is a first person account of Frederic Henry, an American, working for the ambulance unit of Italian army. He falls in love with an English nurse, Catherine Berkley. He gets wounded and is moved to the same hospital where she works. By the time he is healed, she get pregnant. Henry is termed a deserter during one retreat and gets interrogated by battle police who wants to execute them. He escapes and gets to Catherine. Both of them escapes to Switzerland and spend some good time there. But during child birth, Catherine and newborn baby dies. Henry walks back to his hospital in rain.

The novel does not preach the devastations of war, nor does it portrays exaggerated sufferings of soldiers and civilians involved in it and is in no way a political statement. Even the major tragedy in the climax cannot be directly traced to the effect of war. Still this novel very subtly shows the anguish created by war, in the minds of those affected. The casual banter among soldiers, Henry's duologue with the priest, all are efforts to forget the dooming end the war can have on them. Even the love affair sometimes feels as a cover to remove the reality for some time from the minds of lovers. 

On other news, I watched these two delightful movies: Malayalam movie Pranchiyettan and the Saint and Tamil movie Adukalam. 

The first one is a satire, about the idiocies men will do to attain some fame and recognition. Mammotty stars as Francis, who is a wealthy business man, with only one sorrow. He don't get the recognition that other well educated members of his society enjoys. He tries to get it through many ways and all backfires. The format of the movie is very interesting. He meets St Francis in a church and he describes his story to him. Finally he realizes the fallacy of his attempts. Mammotty steals the show with his antics as Aripranchi (as Francis is called in his community). 

The second one belongs to that numerous Madurai movies hitting movie screen after the success of Paruthiveeran. Adukalam tells the story of cock fighting in interiors of Madurai. The main achievement of this movie is the blending of  artistic and commercial elements so beautifully. Dhanush and all the supporting cast does a good job. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Take Your Cross, Follow Me.. On Twitter!

After reading my last post on writing bestsellers, one blogger friend suggested writing about Tweet craze... and follows this one..

"This post is dedicated to all the leaders dethroned in Egypt and Tunisia, thanks (partly) to twitter campaigning and to one leader from India who ranted on twitter forgetting his position and got kicked out sometime back." 
Jesus had just 12 followers... whereas I have 1.2 million of them...- Charlie Sheen
Charlie Sheen holds the Guinness world record for reaching 1 million followers in record time... Charlie Sheen! Of all people.... Where the world is heading?  Sheen, who is considered the bad boy of Hollywood, who went on from acting in classics like Apocalypse Now and Platoon to B graders like Terminal Velocity to C graders like Hot Shots and Scary movie 4, (not even the first part, mind it!) entered televised serials and managed to get kicked out of even there, has more than a million followers. Not only that, he gets paid for tweeting.. and his followers earns him money reading his product endorsements... (These days I believe about apocalypse in 2012.) 

Followers used to be disciples who closely observe a teacher, living with him, learning from him, imbibing his philosophy into their life and using their life to spread his message. Like Vivekananda, 12 disciples of Jesus, (ottukodutha Yudasum, thallipparanja Pathrosum adakkam) and Asoka, they are special, dedicated individuals, hell bent on a cause. But in Tweet-world, (most of the) followers are peeping toms, getting Voyeuristic pleasure in observing the private life of celebrities and ogling. And tweet wisdom, as I had mentioned in an earlier post, is like a droplet on the leaves of an early morning... dies when sun shows up. Forgettable...

The only good thing about tweets is that fame seeking celebrities can use it as a platform to stay in limelight. When you don't have work to show tweet something outrageous. And it is splashed all over the next day. This  has made many a  gossip mongering journos virtually jobless. Previously stars did not have a platform to tell their part of the story. There was every possibility of whatever they say being convoluted to suit the requirement of press. Twitter is a swift blow for them.   

These days another bad trend is catching up- of Trending topics. Many people think trending topics are the pulse of thought of people all over the world. They makes their marketing strategies based on them, makes news stories out of them only to be fooled when the interest fades and they fall into oblivion. Last few days the leading trending topic is a 13 year old singer, Rebecca Black, who shot to some fame after posting songs on Youtube. then the parents planned to cut a video of the singing child and it backfired. The song was so bad and idiotic that tweets has not stopped flowing from all over the world condemning the poor child. Some even mentions killing her... Gross...

Friday, March 18, 2011

Incorrect Politics..

Tavleen Singh is a famous journalist who covers national politics for newspapers like Indian Express and India Today. Political And Incorrect: The real India Warts and All, is a collection of columns she had written in last two decades, from 1987 to 2007. As it is a collection of political essays written when the actions are unfolding, the reading becomes much interesting. The changes that our country went through in two decades, from inefficient Nehruvian socialism, with licence raj and all, to Rao and Manmohan Singh's brave opening of barriers causing the uplifting of economy, the failure of every successive governments to do their basic job, governing and the inefficiency in dealing and finding any solution for our major crisis, Kashmir and imported terrorism is elaborated... 

The views expressed by the writer are very much out of politics. Her major grievance towards most of the successive governments is their disinterest to govern and wasting valuable time in trivial political matters which in no way is useful to the public who elected them, in first place. But at the same time, she condemns the government's effort to find a solution to Kashmir, which is basically a political issue, by giving them better governance. There are articles about the pseudo secularism of Congress and Leftist parties, that the author feels, is the main reason for the rise of Hindu extremism. Another point she elaborates much in these essays is the dependence on dynasty politics and the adverse effects it had and even has now on Indian subcontinent. The book asks lots of questions to politicians, media and common men on the current state of affairs. 

I would strongly recommend this book to every Indian (especially to our leaders) to know where we have faulted in past and how we can improve. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

How to write a bestseller with minimal effort...

Recently I happened to read a wonderful blog post by my blogger friend, in which, after getting inspired by a German bestseller, she was planning to write a book on the life of a cleaning lady. After reading this one, I too felt a sudden urge to be an author of a best seller.

There are many advantages of being a best selling author. You can give your valuable (?) opinion on any matter below the sky- politics, terrorism, fashion, movies- you name it!... Whatever stupidity that you say will have a seal of authenticity. Press wallas will be anxiously waiting for any thing that falls from your lips, that can be put on front page and made a controversy of. Only skill you should have is to tell things that are shocking at face value and by which at least the sentiment of one national party or religion should get wounded. There will be much revolt and bashing against you on media and public, but there is no need to panic, because you will be safe behind the veil of "Freedom of Speech". 

Another best thing is that you can have your book made into a movie. Your celebrity status will touch the sky if it happens. And definitely that low-head who ventures to rewrite your master piece on to celluloid will take some liberties and you can sue him and his producer. Like, in your story, the hero will be riding a vintage Rolls Royce through the streets of Norwegia, but producer, unsuccessful to get hold of the former and unable to locate the latter on an atlas, decides to change it to a Volkswagen in Switzerland.  You can shout on the roof tops that your story is compromised and it is totally butchered. Even if this does not give you an immediate financial gain, because you will surely lose the verdict, as, any judge, who has at least a naya paisa worth grey  cells inside his head (and who is definitely not an avid reader of yours, like millions of like minded public with a sound intelligence), can see through your claim, it can give you much coverage in media and you can always don that victim look. 

But writing a book is not an easy task. It needs at least some minimum effort. From finding a topic, to finally getting a publisher, (this issue does not come if you have a best seller in your name already.) the energy, money and time to spent is huge. You can rent a ghost writer, but shouldering the weight of a ghost throughout your life is not an easy task. What if he blackmails later? (Most probably this will not happen, because if any one claims that he is behind that "obnoxious weed" of a novel, public will take care of him.)

Then I came upon this news story.  A professor in Britain, wrote this book titled, " What Every Man Thinks About Apart From Sex (Blank Inside)", which is 200 pages long, but totally blank! You are not surprised? OK, I know what you are thinking. You are thinking about Lajja (Shame)by Taslima Nasreen. To make record straight, let me clarify. It is not blank as that novel. This one is actually, totally white. Not even an ink stain in any of those 200 pages! The professor painstakingly researched for decades and finally came to the conclusion that men thinks of nothing apart from sex. So he went ahead and "wrote" this masterpiece, which became an instant hit through 

Now the easiest way to make some quick bucks is to translate this book into 56 other languages (like the advertisement for Paulo Coelho's Alchemist). But there is no scope here, because the author is translating the book himself to 56 other languages, with the help of Google translator and he says it is far more difficult than his research of two decades. (When the last update came he is working on 56th translation and plans to google search and find any other language is left.)

But I have certain topics that can be used for writing best sellers like this in an Indian context. "What politicians think, apart from Corruption" will be good for a start. Another one can be  "Harish's Mammoth list of sincere politicians". Equally profitable titles will be 
"Intelligent thoughts of Rakhi Sawant", 
"Aiswarya's Thought worthy quotes", 
"Acting techniques from Fardeen Khan"
"Success story of Piyush Chawla"
"Safe ways of travelling in Bangalore"
.... so on and so forth... 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Ip man: A Martial Arts Biopic (Updated post)

Ip man or Yip man as he is some times known, was a master martial artist who taught Wing Chun to public for the first time. He was the teacher of several well known martial artists, the most famous being Bruce Lee. I happened to watch this Chinese martial art movie Ip man, partially based on the life of legentary master. I love the genre from a long time. Actually before watching Hollywood flicks, I had been a regular viewer of Hong Kong action flicks, especially that of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li. Movies like Big Boss, Operation Condor, Shaolin Temple, Iron Monkey and Drunken Master used to amaze me with the lightning fast, gravity defying action.

Donnie Yen in the movie
Ip man, although a biopic, follows the regular Kung fu movie pattern. The fights and drama are a bit restricted, but the overall style is like a Wong Fei Hung legend.

 Ip man leads a peaceful life in Fushan with his wife and kid. Though many adverseries come to test his talent, he is reluctant to exhibit his skills, as his wife does not like it. But everyone acknowledges that he is the best. And then bad times strike. Japanese invade China, and Ip man becomes homeless like thousands of fellow Chinese. He works as a laborer. A Japanese general is hell bent on arranging fights with his soldiers and Chinese, and many Chinese masters take up the oppertunity to kick some Jap ass. The death of his good friend and another fellow master on the hands of Jap soldiers causes Ip to retaliate. General wants him to teach martial arts to Jap soldiers when he saw him singlehadedly bashing 10 soldiers. He declines causing the wrath from General and subsequently goes into hiding with family. He also starts coaching common people to defend themselves. Finally Ip is cornered and forced for a final showdown with the general. 

The story drags in certain parts and the treatment forces us not to take the story as a serious biopic, atleast in the initial scenes. The acting part is wonderful. Donnie Yen impresses with his restrained acting style and peaceful looks. The supporting cast is also good although there is nothing much for them to do other that getting kicked by Yen for most of the time. Sammo Hung (remember My lucky stars?) is the action director and action is nothing short of awesome. In the initial part of the movie, action is mellow and mostly comic, showing Ip's disinterest in exhibiting his skills. He just blocks the punches and defends most of the time and when feels that things are getting out of control, finishes the fight abruptly. But on latter part, when he is out for revenge, the action turns violent and totally offensive. The scene were he beats up tn Jap soldiers is the most surprising part. Too good. 

Seems they have made a sequel where Ip goes to Hong Kong and establishes a school there and eventually meets Bruce Lee. Waiting for a chance to watch it...

On other news, last week I happened to watch a Kannada adaptation of a play by Tagore, one that criticises the politics of the land. Although interspersed with contemporary politics, I was not much impressed, I should confess.


Ipman 2 happens to be as good as the first part. The movie chronicles his life in Hong Kong where he starts his Kung Fu school. Action and acting is as good as the first part and along with Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung does a very good role. Nice movie...     

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Bruises

All of us get wounded in our life, physical and psychological. The world that we live on is a place having special expertise on inflicting them. People don't behave the way we want to, incidences happen that we feel are unjust to us. But we just lets them and walk off. Very few people care to record them and last week I happen to read a memoir of wounds inflicted by society on him by an extraordinary person.

It is a long time since I have read a Malayalam book. And I am happy to return back by reading Murivukal (The Bruises) by Soorya Krishnamurthy. He is the person behind Soorya Stage and Film Society, which organises the longest and most prestigious art show in India, the Soorya Festival. In this book, Krishnamurthy narrates many incidences from his illustrious life, many of which leaves a lump in the throat of the reader.

What leaves behind in mind after reading these snippets of memories are an array of human characters, each performing acts that shocks you in varied degrees. Artists who have no problem in performing for an empty audience for a whole night, an artist who want to abort her child if her performance is scheduled that year, the son who abuses his mother and the mother who defends him telling he is a puritan, a naked saint who demands more money when photographed and the photographer who does not click the pictures of kids whose parents did not pay him in a prize distribution function... It is a must read.

Friday, March 4, 2011

On laughter and forgetting

Decades before, in Bohemia, a communist general, Gottwald, took over the power. Standing near to him when he was addressing the nation for the first time, on a balcony when snow flakes were falling, was Vladimir Clementis. To protect the leader from snow, Clementis keeps his fur cap on Gottwald's head. The photograph of Gottwald, fur cap and Clementis on the balcony with snow falling around them became popular. Years later when Clementis was executed, charged with treason, the propaganda department deleted him from the history, and also from the photograph, leaving his fur cap on the head of Gottwald the only spot of him in history.
In "The Book of Laughter and Forgetting", Czech writer Milan Kundera elaborates on two of the biggest enigmas of post modern world, laughter and forgetting. This is not a conventional kind of novel. It consists of seven totally different narratives, but altogether bound by the themes of laughter and forgetting. In between the stories there are snippets of memories, political satire and philosophical banter. Novel analyses variations of forgetting and laughter. Natural forgetting, like the wife after her husband's death trying unsuccessfully to remake him in every man whom she meets, and induced forgetting, like the one were Clementis is totally made to remain forgotten from public minds. Induced laughter, the one made by humor or jokes, and natural laughter, the angel's laughter, or serious laughter that comes by itself. 

This is Kundera's third book that I read. The effect of  "Life is elsewhere", the novel about the life of a poet, a novel that I read during my teens, is getting worn. Think its time for a re-read. "Testaments Betrayed" that I read last year, is a collection of essays. In this one Kundera makes a parallel between the history of Novel and European classical music. The part about music went above my head. But the part about novels were fascinating. Ultimately the discussion reaches Kafka and betrayed testaments are that of Kafka, whose works were published posthumously, although his instruction to his friends was to destroy all his notebooks.