Saturday, August 29, 2009

'Ritu' Film Review

Ritu, the new Malayalam movie by the acclaimed Director Shyamaprasad was a disappointment.

The film revolves around the past and present of three childhood friends, Sarath, Varsha and Sunny.

Sarath who left his friends high and dry for a lucrative career in USA is forcing his friends to come back to join him for a new venture. They join the venture out of their old sentiments towards him, but Sarath never gets back the old warmth he missed for so long in USA. He and the filmmaker seem surprised that his friends have changed.

Sarath the protagonist is depicted as a romantic idealist who clings on to his dreams.

Varsha and Sunny are portrayed as pragmatists who change according to seasons.

In between we hear the clich├ęd stories of failure of old revolutionaries [Sarath’s father and brother] and the hardships of the displaced people.

Varsha, is looked down upon because she slept with many even though she come to Sarath in the end with the realization of true love. Sarath in the style of a ‘true’ Indian hero rejects the ‘tainted’ Varsha. Varsha is finally depicted as ‘paying’ for her 'sins' by doing community work.

Sunny is the villain of the film and is said to be ‘gay’. The fact that he is ‘Gay’ is mentioned in a conspiratorial tone. Was there are an implication that his cunning and untrustworthy nature is because of his sexual orientation?

The film is slow and the intermission is long awaited for some refreshments. The point the filmmaker wanted to say seemed to be stretched beyond a point of redemption.

The actors, especially Asif Ali as Sunny did a good job. The cinematography by Shyamdat is good. The songs may not be remembered for too long.

After enjoying 'Ore Kadal', Ritu was a great let down. Still it is a film to be watched and talked about because very few Malayalam films that are released nowadays are worth talking about.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Manipur boils over fake encounters

On July 23,2009 at 10:30am , a team of Manipur Police Commando personnel were conducting frisking operations in Imphal’s Khwairamband Keithel market. They saw a suspicious youth coming from the direction of the Uripok locality. When asked to stop, the youth suddenly pulled out a gun and ran away, firing at the public in a bid to evade the police.The youth was finally cornered inside Maimu Pharmacy near Gambhir Singh Shopping Arcade. He was asked to surrender. Instead, he fired at the police. The police retaliated and the youth was killed. The account states that a 9mm Mauser pistol was “recovered”. The youth was identified from his driver’s license as Chongkham Sanjit, son of Chongkham Khelson of Kongpal Sajor Leikai, Manipur.

This is the official version of the event that took place resulting in death of Sanjith. But unfortunately for the Police a local photographer was clicking away pictures which told a different story. See here at the Tehelka website.[sorry that the Tehelka website link is currently showing security risk]

The photographs clearly reveal that, contrary to the official version, Sanjit was, in fact, standing calmly as the police commandos frisked him and spoke to him. He was escorted inside the storeroom of the pharmacy. He was shot point blank inside and his dead body was brought out.

Even if Sanjit was a former militant, he should not have have been killed in a false encounter. The photos show him talking to his killers, calmly, without offering any resistance. He was frisked moments before the shootout. He was not an insurgent on the run.

There is a grotesque and brutal history to the bullets that killed this young man. For years, decades even, security forces in Manipur have faced allegations of human rights violations and extrajudicial murders committed under cover of the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). In 2000, Irom Sharmila, stirred by the gunning down of 10 civilians, including an 18-year-old National Child Bravery Award winner, by the Assam Rifles, started a hunger fast — that lasts to this day — in protest against the AFSPA. In July 2004, the nation was rocked by the protests of a group of Manipuri women who marched to an Assam Rifles base in Imphal, stripped naked and raised a searing banner: “Indian Army Rape Us”. They were protesting the rape, torture and murder, a fortnight earlier, of Thangjam Manorama, 32, who was picked up from her home at night by the Assam Rifles.

Extra-judicial killings, and, in particular, fake encounters by the MPC have become common in Manipur. In 2008, there were 27 recorded cases of torture and killing attributed to the MPC. Where once they conducted ‘encounters’ in isolated places, they now do not think twice before operating in cities, in broad daylight, as they did on July 23. In several incidents, innocent civilians carrying money and valuables have been robbed and sometimes killed. In some cases official action has been taken against commandos for misconduct. For instance, in July 2009, five police commandos who had reportedly robbed three youths were suspended. But for the most part, their extra-judicial activity goes scot free.

Manipur is on the boil demanding resignation of the Congress Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh.Leaders of Manipur People's Party (MPP), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Manipur State Congress Party and CPI(M) separately called on Governor and urged him to intervene and stop killings of civilians.

Major social organisation Apunba Lup (AL), shut down Manipur by conducting a 48-hour general strike.. The organisation also took out torch rallies protesting the killing.In a statement, AL demanded immediate resignation of Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh and termination of services of the commandos involved in the July 23 incident.

Facing such intensified protests against the killing, Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh ordered a judicial probe into the incident and suspended six policemen in connection with it.Addressing a press conference, Singh said further action would depend on the report of the judicial inquiry.

When the law enforcing agencies have scant regard for law, the people will loose faith in the system and militants will thrive.

Text adapted from from The Hindu

Saturday, August 15, 2009

63rd Indian Independence Day

We are free from British rule for last 62 years.But how soon each and every citizen of India will be free from hunger and poverty?
Happy Independence day to all.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Novel H1N1 flu death in Pune.'Angel' Ministers and 'Villain' doctors

The tragedy of death of 14 year old girl in Pune,India's first death due to H1N1 flu['swine' flu] has created a media frenzy among our news hungry 24/7 tv channels.

The girl reported symptoms of sore throat, runny nose, headaches on July 21 and consulted a general practitioner. Since the symptoms improved, she attended school. But the fever returned and she was admitted to the Jehangir Hospital on July 27. Incidentally, the girl was admitted for treatment of suspected pneumonia.Her lung aspirate was sent to the National Institute of Virology on July 31 and she tested positive for swine flu. She had been put on Oseltamivir on July 30.“She had vague and non-specific symptoms,” Dr Prasad Muglikar, Medical Superintendent, Jehangir Hospital told The Indian Express. “After admission, her condition deteriorated rapidly and she had to be put on a ventilator. As part of investigations, we sent samples to the NIV. They confirmed she was infected with the H1N1 virus,” he said, pointing out “she had already visited two private practitioners and was in a breathless state when she was admitted on July 27.”

Who is to blame? That is the first question all news anchors and reporters are asking.The answer I thought is obvious. H1N1 virus must be the culprit. But the answers I heard was entirely different.
See these reports.
Terming the death of a swine-flu infected girl in Pune as "unfortunate", Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has said negligence on part of the private hospital which treated the 14-year-old was to blame for it."This incident is really unfortunate. I feel there was total negligence on part of those who admitted her to the hospital and negligence on part of the hospital,"

The life of the swine-flu affected teenaged girl in Pune could have been saved had she tested positive for the virus and taken Tamiflu, a drug against the disease, on time, the Health Minister said on Monday night.Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said the girl had first gone to a private hospital who treated her for "normal flu".When she did not recover, she got herself admitted to another private hospital where again she was treated not for H1N1 but for pneumonia, he said."So, after having treated her for two days, the private hospital realized that there is some more than pneumonia. But by that time, both her lungs were involved," the minister said.By the time, she was detected with the disease and given the medicine, "it was too late"."I feel that had she got the test done right in the beginning, it would have come out positive and then should would have been administered Tamiflu and her life could have been saved," Azad told NDTV.

These are not expert doctors talking. The Chief Minister and the Union Health Minister's statements had not come after an enquiry by an expert panel. They must have asked their local Party men and must have got information from them that it is better to blame the doctors and the hospital. That is the sorry state of affairs in India.

As of 31st July the World Health Organisation has reported 1154 confirmed deaths due to H1N1 flu out of 162380 confirmed cases. Highest number of deaths, 302 is from the United States of America and Mexico with 141 deaths comes second.Were all these deaths due to negligence of doctors?

Brazil had its first death due to H1N1 flu in late June.See how the health minister reacted there.
Brazil had its first death from the H1N1 influenza, or swine flu, on Sunday, after a 29-year-old man succumbed to the virus which he picked up in Argentina, Health Minister Jose Gomes Temporao said.He first showed symptoms on June 15 while on a trip to Argentina, which has had several deaths due to the flu. After returning to Brazil on June 19, he was admitted to a hospital the following day where he was confirmed to have the H1N1 virus.The ministry has in recent days warned Brazilians against traveling to Argentina and Chile. It also said the total confirmed cases of the deadly flu had reached 627 in Brazil.Officials expect further deaths as the virus spreads during the coming winter months, which began a week ago in Brazil.

All the Health authorities in the World have reacted in a sober manner like this except India. No Indian media reporter was smart enough to ask the Indian Health Minister on basis of what expert report he is commenting that the doctors are to blame.

In India most of the studies have shown that about 70 percent of people approach privately owned health care facilities for all their needs. Why is it so?
Among the countries of the World, Indian Government spend the least for Health. It is always around 1 percent of the GDP while most other countries spend between 5 to 10 percent of the GDP.That is why our ill-equipped Government run health care facilities are equally shunned by patients, doctors and politicians.
Instead of blaming with out any scientific or rational basis the doctors who treated the girl, will our politicians and Health policy makers try to revamp the tottering Health Care system?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Indian Art Summit once again shuns M.F.Husain?

"The curtains are set to go up on the second edition of the India Art Summit sans one of the best known faces of Indian art. The canvases of M F Husain, India's most celebrated painter who is living in exile, will be missing from the three-day fair that opens in the Capital on August 19."
says Times of India in this report.

"The organizers, who had drawn criticism for a similar decision last year, have cited security concerns. ‘‘We acknowledge the iconic stature of Husain but are unable to put all the people and artwork at risk,’’ said Neha Kirpal, associate summit director. However, Kirpal added that an assurance of complete police protection could prompt a rethink."

At the inaugural India Art Summit in 2008, controversy swirled around the organizers’ prohibition of the display of works by M.F. Husain , following threats from right-wing Hindu groups. The ban has been repeated for the 2009 edition, to the dismay of members of the Indian art community.

NDTV says:
M F Husain, often referred to as India's Picasso, is in many ways responsible for placing Indian art on the global map -- a contribution which cannot be forgotten.
Says artist Vivan Sundaram: "His contributions have been immense. In fact he has studied and understood Hindu mythology more than anyone of us."

But the artist himself appears to hold no grouse about his exclusion. In a communication to organizers of the art fair, Husain, who has been in self-imposed exile since 2006, promised his support to the event.
‘‘My struggle has been going on for last 15 years. There are over 800 cases against me and only one of them has reached some resolution in SC. I totally understand that without the support of the state and complete police protection, it is impossible to show my art in the fair,’’ Husain said.

Now the ball lies in the Home Ministry's court with the hope that the Government recognises its responsibility to protect India's artistic heritage. An important step that will not only allow India's very own International art fair to flourish but will also uphold freedom of expression which is the essence of art itself.

In September 2008,the Supreme Court of India had cleared charges of obscenity against M.F.Husain. Then the Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices P Sathasivam and J M Panchal termed M F Husain's painting 'Bharat Mata' a "work of art".
Husain, who fled the country three years ago fearing attacks from right-wing activists had explained earlier before the apex court that he had already apologised on behalf of the auctioneer for naming the painting 'Bharat Mata', something he had not chosen.

The New Indian Express in an editorial said:
"But what their capitulation to the threat of anti-socials implies is that the politically-inspired spirit of intolerance continues to be alive and well. The Hindutva brigade may have suffered an electoral setback, but its followers continue to pose a danger to any kind of art or artists of whom they do not approve. In the social sphere, therefore, they continue to hold the whip over a painter or writer or filmmaker who may transgress their perception of what is permissible.
But while the thuggish behaviour of these political activists is understandable, what is curious is the supine response of even those governments that claim to be secular and liberal-minded. The very fact that Husain is unable to return to his home country is in itself an indictment of the government at the Centre for its inability to offer him protection.
Such supine response we saw in the issue of Taslima Nasreen too.