Saturday, 9 July 2016

Mohenjo Daro and the Intellectual Push

Picked up my laptop to write another blog post after a long time today. The last I wrote on the blog was the review of The Curse of Damini which doesnt actually count as a blog post. So, before I start, I want to set the premise by stating four points upfront.

1.) I am not a fan of Hrithik Roshan. I really like him as an actor, but not that crazy of a fan. Same goes for Ashutosh Gowarikar.
2.) Hrithik's next movie Mohenjo-daro is stated as a "26th century fiction" in Wikipedia. Its a commercial movie, and not a documentary for History Channel. 
3.) All Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code did was pick up a popular theory of his times, and create a fiction around it. There are proofs both for and against that theory, but till this date the theory remains mostly a rumour.
4.) My first book Finders, Keepers involved a mythical society of the Nine Unknown Men by Asoka, and the historical conflict between Shaivas and Vaishnavas as the premise.

Now, since the time the first trailer of the movie Mohenjo-Daro was out, followed by a song, forums, blogs, tweets and comments are buzzing around the movie, the costumes, the sets, the settings, etc. Mostly by the look and feel of it, this seems like another blockbuster in making and that thought is aided by the Page views, likes, overall social media buzz and various trade analysts. This blog post however is not about the commercial expectations of the movie. It has been seen that a lot many people have raised serious objections, doubts and even jokes on how funny and light-hearted effort the movie is inspite of trying hard to be taken seriously. While I agree with a couple of them, (come on, every movie has mistakes), I find others a very hurried and desperate push to sound intelligent and bring the movie down somehow. 
So, lets talk about those points. All the points mentioned here are collected from various posts, comments, blogs, tweets that I have found against the movie.
Here is the trailer to the movie

Mistakes that I agree with:

1.) The first and foremost, how could the script writers miss it. Mohenjo-Daro literally means "The Mound of the Dead". The ancient city was termed so in not before 1922 by the excavators, and the term "Mohenjo-Daro" is a Sindhi term. Surely, this would not be called by that name back in that age and we still see Hrithik calling it by this name a number of times. Bad bad mistake, that

2.)The pronunciation of the name is itself wrong. It is pronounced differently in Sindhi dialect, however, Hrithik says how it would be called in English.

3.)Stitched clothes in 2016 BC: Many traditions still believe that stitched clothes restrict energy and to expect it in 2016 BC is not correct. But, here comes the limitation and I am pro-this mistake. This statue was unearthed in the excavations, and is titled "The Dancing Girl". Can you suggest one actress who would do this role? I mean this mistake had to happen and could be deliberate

Now, lets focus on mistakes that over-enthusiasts are pointing and to me sound nothing less than funny and over-reactions to criticize the movie. Mins you, some utterly laughable, but have been mentioned all over social media and I have merely compiled them.

Mistakes I dont agree with

1.)Why are they in a French kiss in 2016 BC.
Anyone who points that mistake should go to his bathroom, look into the mirror and ask "Seriously? You passed your high school?" I mean that type of kiss was given a name much later, but didnt ancient Indians kiss? Or they really did not, because they didnt know its name. A piece of trivia for you guys. Vatsyayan wrote Kamasutra not by theory but by visiting households, brothels and other places and depicting the actions of the male and the female on his text while they were at it. Its not that before Kamasutra they didnt know how to conceive.

2.) Why are they fair skinned when Aryans hadnt arrived.
Like seriously? Thats your "historical mistake" you are talking about? But, lets get to the point. This is one of those theories which have a lot of counter arguements as well, and lately those counter arguements have been much more heavy and well documented than those pro to the Aryan Dravidian theory. Read this post to read the counter-narrative. Its like Priory of Sion. Two theories against each other, one documented and much more famous. But, thats the point. Whats wrong in weaving some popular theory in your "fictional" movie. I think thats a smart move.

3.)Horses were domesticated during Vedic Age. Much after the Mohenjo Daro
Because Hrithik is seen riding a horse in the movie. In his book, Mohenjo-Daro and the ancient civilization, 1931, John Marshall has stated historians found seals of horses and statues of domesticated horses. Now, the popular theory against it is, there were no horse bones found, but come on, what about the statues and the seals that were found? This is one pro-horse theory blog. Anyways, not taking any sides, this is in addition to above point. Whats wrong in flirting with a popular counter narrative.

4.)Use of spears and axes:
In the 2000 published book International Symposium on History of Machines and MechanismsProceedings HMM, it is clearly mentioned that Harappans knew hot to make spears, axes out of bronze-copper metals. The excavations have found weapons made out of those metals. Iron was still not known to be used. 

5.)Disparity with history.
These are the ruins of the city structure of Mohenjo Daro as per Wikipedia(credit Comrogues

This is from their trailer

I think the movie depicts a perfect visual representation of how the city would be. I am not sure why some people disagree to this as well.

5.) The plot itself looks cliched
I may not have the intellectual capability to comment on that because honestly, one can think of any plot for a fictional movie. The narrative and execution is more important. However, with such a plot some people are having so many problems, God knows if they would have chosen a more complex plot, those guys would have gone bonkers.

6.)The first video song
And now, my most favorite part. How people are so desperate to pull it down. There is one 3-miunte song that has been released recently and there have been funny comments. Here is the song

i.)Why are they with horns?
That looks stupid? Out of place? Lets see, have you noticed why there eyes are colored red as well? The male dancers? Its for a reason.
The above is the image representation of Lord Pashupati, and the above seal is found in excavations of the Indus Valley. Pashupati is known as the lord of the animals. So, in the song, they play animals, and the horns symbolize praying to Lord Pashupati himself. Notice how Kabir Bedi wears horns on his head? He is depicting himself as a God to his citizens. Pooja Hegde, in all probability, is symbolizing a Goddess among all of them.
Notice how in the seal above the animals are bowing to Lord Pashupati, much akin to how is it in the song

ii)Bollywood Dance Moves

On the same lines as the "French kiss" point above. There have been male and female statues found where they are shown as dancing in their posture. So, dance was not alien to them. In addition to that, it has often been rumoured that Harappans knew about Nataraja and his dancing stance. The postures that they are taking up are certainly not "Bollywood" anyways.

iii)Blue, chlorinated Swimming Pool
This comment makes me laugh and cry at the same time. I mean that much of cherry-picking in a movie? Just to prove a point? Such scrutiny?
Anyways, here is an image of "The Great Bath" from Wikipedia by Saqib Qayyum

Historians claim The Great Bath at the ruins of the Harappan civilization to be ancient world's first water tank. A side-by -side pic of both courtesy India Today

The blue tiles? They could very well be symbolic reflection of sky or even added color to make it look divine. But, I think making fun of some brilliant attempt is easier than attempting something similar.
And chlorinated water? The city had world's first sewage system, and you are talking about water treatment? Just for the curious minds, water purification is even prescribed n Ayurveda. This may date further back, but historians claim Harappans knew about sanitation and treatment of water. Thats why it may be clean. And did you smell chlorine?

Do you know that in the 1995 historical movie Braveheart, the fruit thrown at the protagonist includes tomato, which werent even discovered by the era that movie is set in? In 2010 movie RobinHood, the French king is told they would land on English Coast in 40 minutes. The period the movie is set in, minutes werent used to measure time. Coins were used to cover eyes of dead in 2004 hit Troy, when the coins werent clearly invented by that time.

I wont talk about how tacky you think the VFX crocodile was in the trailer, or if the plot sounds cliched to you. the battles dont appeal or whatever. The point is these days with the ease of access of a click and a share, people jump to conclusions way too often. Didnt like the trailer, saw a few comments, read a few blogs, and lo! You get an opinion! The moment someone tries to bring a really interested and difficult topic on celluloid, the intellectuals start pointing what all could have been corrected. I know a few of them and have seen cheering Jason Statham when he was chasing a car on his cycle in Transporter 3 or when Salman Khan enters the villain's den alone in Wanted.
Some of them even called it a "Hindutva" movie. I mean someone give them a life! The move hasnt even released.

Hold your horses, folks. This is definitely an interesting and innovative attempt. Enjoy the movie for what it is and not what you want it to be. Stitching theories and rumors into fiction is a very popular mechanism and highly entertaining and I am sure you loved Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons.

Ending the post with a spoof song which I think relates very heavily to his blog post

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Book Review- The Curse of Damini by Debajani Mohanty

The moment I picked up Debajani Mohanty's debut novel "The Curse of Damini", and read the back cover blob which talked of a historic pre-Independence setting, I was sure of two things. One, an extensive detailing of the Bengali culture and the rustic rural settings, and two, a definite inspiration from Tagore's works and stories. So, that part didnt come as a surprise or a novelty factor to me.
Yet, I will give full credits to Debajani, its very tough to recreate and reinterpret what Tagore has already done so perfectly. Even a director of the stature of Anurag Basu wasnt so perfect in capturing the maestro's stories and the vibrant atmosphere he built up in them. But where everyone mostly fails, Debajani succeeds. So, +1 for that.

The book is feminist to the core, a topic which I appreciate and find a lot of interest in reading. Debjani has very smartly kept away from pseudo feminist ideas and her protagonist Renuka fights with the system and the society surrounding her, keeping her identity and valor intact. I was aware that the setting being pre-Independence rural Bengal, a small town of Medinipur, the problems a strong willed girl would face and fight would be the very problems we have grown up reading about . I wasnt exatcly disappointed to see the same problems surfacing in Debajani's book. However, I expected more clever solutions to those problems, more imagination from Renuka. I was a bit disappointed in Debajani using the same old methods to fight those problems, same old theatricals and approaches. So, -1 for that.

The book begins on a very high pitch and strong grounds. Debajani has very cleverly arched out the characters of Renuka and her strong willed husband. Its always a pleasure to read books where demure spouses gradually rise above the stature of their level headed partners. I mean thats a character arch, where the protagonists make an impression isnpite of the risk of getting overshadowed. And for most of the part Debajani succeeds in the same. But then, all of a sudden you cannot make the same level headed character say something totally out of his league, just to make a point.

The first half is splendid, the reader completely gets lost in the aura of the Havelis and the pompousness of the zamindars of those times and the little neatly explained detailing of the Bengali culture. The terror of communal violence is beautifully explained not via those who got killed, but by those who lived and that deserves a special mention.
The story begins to falter in the second half a bit. Introductions of certain characters and re-introduction of a few break the momentum and all of a sudden there is another feminist character who is confused yet determined.

Overall, I enjoyed reading the book, specifically for the detailed explanations by Debajani of the scenic beauty of Medinipur, the villagers, their antics, their customs and rituals. The character of Damini is the spice of the story as Debajani has very intelligently used her character.
I would give 3.5/5 stars for the book. Its a must read.

You can buy the book from Amazon