The Zanjeer on Devdas

9 09 2008

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The idea for the present column first came to me after I watched (again) the 1975 Bollywood cult movie, Zanjeer.  As most would know, Zanjeer is the story of the angry-young-man-Amitabh Bachchan who is witness to the traumatic twin murders of his parents which orphans him as a child and how he takes revenge for that in his youth. Zanjeer established the hegemonic genre of “angry young man” films and put Amitabh Bachchan firmly on the road to superstardom. So domninating was this genre that it rapidly led to the eclipse of the romantic hero and forced everyone with “heroic” aspirations in Bollywood to enact “dhishoom – dhishoom” roles. In the post-Zanjeer era of Bollywood, only the angry-young-man character could deliver blockbuster hits. Exceptions like Love Story or Ram Teri Ganga Maili were precisely that – exceptions. Almost all other genres and characters were confined to niche audiences or forced to become supporting characters to the angry young man. Other hero-aspirants quickly learnt the new rules of the game and moulded themselves into similar screen personas. Read the rest of this entry »





A brief history of nagging

26 08 2008

The nagging wife is the universal villain of married life. From the earliest pages of human history there is perhaps no literature and folk tradition where the character of the nagging wife is not found widely. Along with the sacrificing mother, forsaken lover, tragic hero and evil lord, the nagging wife will be found in all societies and cultures at all times in history. Even in today’s world, irrespective of the differences of race, wealth, religion, culture, language and social reform, the character of the nagging wife is universal. She keeps popping up in jokes, films, songs, novels and other cultural cultural creations.

Socrates, the famous Greek philosopher, is supposed to have had a nagging wife who drove him to spend his time in the city squares and gymnasia, much to the benefit of philosophy. The figure of the nagging wife finds mention in the Bible, (indirectly) in the Quran and is a crucial moment in the story of the Ramayana. She is to be found in renassaince Italy, in medieval England, on the expanding border of America’s “wild west”, in the bedrooms of colonial India and in the sit-coms of post-modern Europe. Read the rest of this entry »





The Greatest Genocide in History (Part III): The Way Ahead

6 05 2008

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In the past two weeks, this column has tried to understand why is it that China and South Asia (historical India) account for a 92 million out of the 100 million “missing women” of the world. Patriarchy is common to all historical societies yet it is the civilisations of these two regions which have developed this ghastly tradition and not others. While the reasons may be numerous, it seems that there was something common in particular forms of feudal culture which developed in these two civilisations which have promoted this particularly vicious and murderous form of patriarchy. Read the rest of this entry »





The Greatest Genocide in History (part II): India, China and Femicide

29 04 2008

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Last week this column had spoken about the fact that there are about 100 million women less on this earth than there should be. Women who are “missing” since they are aborted, burnt, starved and neglected to death by families who prefer sons to daughters. This column had also identified the countries of South Asia, East Asia, West Asia and Saharan Africa as the main regions which were missing most of these women. The estimated number of women who are missing are 44 million in China, 39 million in India, 6 million in Pakistan and 3 billion in Bangladesh. This is the single largest genocide in human history. Ever. Some researchers have coined a word for this phenomenon: Femicide, or the killing of the human female because she is female.

Read the rest of this entry »





The Greatest Genocide in History (Part I)

22 04 2008

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It is estimated by historians that about 72 million people were killed during the second World War. Of this number 25 million died in combat, as much as 11 million were killed in the Nazi Holocaust and another 20 million perished in war induced famine. But this is not the single event with the largest killing of human beings in history.

Demographers and economists estimate that today over a 100 million women have been killed globally by societies which prefer sons over daughters. Read the rest of this entry »





The Strange Case of Patriarchal Feminism

5 03 2008

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Some months ago, during the Lal Masjid standoff in Islamabad, the world was treated to sights of burka-clad women with sticks coming out to impose their version of morality on the city streets as well as to defend the Masjid from the police. In neighbouring Iran, women have been in the security forces and participate in public activities, albeit under segregation from men. Over India, a significant number of women have come out to actively work in the public sphere for militant Hindu nationalist organisations like the Durga Vahini and other such organisations. Similar examples can be found in almost every country of the world where women have become active in the public sphere on an agenda that is conservative and celebrates the traditional roles assigned to women in society. Read the rest of this entry »





The Battle of Valentine’s Day

26 02 2008

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What is it about Valentine’s Day that gets so many people so riled?

The past decade and more has seen the growing popularity of Valentine’s Day in South Asian countries as a festival of romance, specially for the urban youth. And it has also attracted significant opposition, often violent, from religious groups and conservative opinion which have attacked it for destroying our religion(s) and culture with its Christian, Western and commercial character. Read the rest of this entry »