A visit to HUL factory is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get!
The little kid in me jumped in joy as I saw the long unbroken strips of vim bar move in perfect symmetry and synchronization. Even when somebody was busy explaining me the patented technology behind it, I was lost in the aesthetic marvel of it.
My visit to the factory at Dapada, Silvassa that makes Surf and Rin Bars and Powder was in many ways a deep dive into the seen and unseen. Even that very familiar smell of surf seemed unfamiliar when surrounded by giant enzyme processing machines. But that is not likely to stop anyone from appreciating the industrial marvel that is Dapada factory.
Kudos to all the brilliant chemical engineers, supply chain managers and HR managers we have a world-class detergent making facility at our disposal. Personally, my most memorable moment of the day was when the factory supply chain manager admitted the immense power of human resource. A factory that is fuelled by the power of people who have pledged their loyalty to an institution which has given so much back to them.
It’s yet another day of our lives. Traveling to our offices worrying about deadlines and appraisals. We look outside and may see some of them protesting. Fighting for their rights. Fighting for survival. The frenetic pace of our lives makes us forget or ignore the survival stories that are taking place around us and beyond our scope of imagination. ‘Beasts of No Nation’ is such a film that jolts us from our comfortable lives to look around and making us ponder for a brief period of time. We embrace the terror, squalor and struggle the people of Africa go through captured with the subtleties of an astute wildlife photographer. It opens up a world beyond our comprehension and disproves the simplified understanding of the world around us. It challenges the very tenants of our urban morality which might have taken shape through a continuous layering of umpteen social privileges.
In the film, we encounter a family which faces an imminent war, their forced estrangement for survival and the birth of a child soldier. We hear him whisper the sins he has committed and it terrifies us that he already knows the rules of survival. We find that laws of the unkind have strangled his mind and body the way an African python would’ve had its prey when it was least expecting it. We may jump from our seats in shock when we see those little hands chop a human head off but we again console ourselves when we see him carry his fellow soldier to eventually find his mate to have succumbed to the bullet wound.
The film offers us a plateful of cognitive dissonance experience as we find ourselves feeling numb and helpless despite our faith in justice administration systems of this world. If this film was to be converted as a painting, it’s colouring would have been replaced by strokes of black combining with bright red, portraying the blood which is spilled and the unspilled running through the living dead. But nevertheless, the eternal optimist in us will be searching for that very speck of white colour in the canvas, searching for a reason to jump back to our world of deadlines.
How would you feel if you are trapped in a room full of suspicious looking men and woman who wouldn’t blink an eye before taking your life?
Hateful eight thrives on that paranoia created in the minds of the audience created using an abundance of gore, blood, violence and abusive language.
A western spaghetti bloodbath narrated in a way that is unique to Quentin Tarantino. The film starts off slowly, capturing the snow clad mountains and the blizzard in its wildest best. As it progresses, we are introduced to the characters one by one, intentions of whom remain ever doubtful throughout the movie. It is this same lack of trust between characters that makes this film an interesting watch. The majority of the film is set in a creeky old restaurant that adds on to the macabre atmosphere so much so that you start to smell blood around you.The possibility that anyone can betray anyone anytime for their selfish needs brings in that uncertainty that keeps the audience interested in the storyline.
It also has subplots on the way blacks are treated in America at time of Lincoln’s presidency as well the animalistic justice system in the outskirts of towns. The existence of a bounty system creates a Hobbesian environment where life is brutish, nasty and short. In many ways, it makes us feel thankful for our criminal administration and justice system which tirelessly prevent a situation where every man or women had to fend for themselves. The film ends on a positive note as the black man and renegade white man, who earlier carried a lot of black hatred join hands to end the life of an absconding criminal. A clever study of how the justice system itself perpetuates crime, watch this movie as it becomes a journey through the minds of eight different dimensions of hatred.
Directed by cinematographer Venu, based on a screenplay by the short story writer Unni.R, this 2014 Malayalam movie explores the intricacies surrounding the human mind in perceiving the ideas of freedom, crime, and punishment. Through the life events of the protagonist C R Raghavan (played by Mammootty) and a junior freelancer Anjali Arakkal (Aparna Gopinath), the movie steadily unfolds itself to question subjective interpretations regarding ‘real freedom’ and nihilistic tendencies set within the modern capitalist framework.
The movie begins with Anjali, as a struggling new entrant to journalism agrees to ghostwrite the autobiography of a retiring jail superintend, Ramamoorthy (played by Nedumudi Venu). On a visit to the jail to meet the superintendent, she comes across Raghavan, who despite having finished his official term for the double homicide of his wife and female boss, continue to live in the jail. The first chord of curiosity is struck in Anjali with Raghavan’s constant but calm denial of him being a killer even after having served 20 odd years in jail. For the young journalist, the mysteriousness surrounding the protagonist accelerates after she gets access to his writings. Through probings like “Are there bulbs which can be switched on to bring darkness in a room filled with light just like how you turn a bulb on in a dark room to bring light?” and “Light and truth are alike, just because we don’t acknowledge it at times doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist”, Raghavan presents his view of the world, only to further arouse the inquisitiveness in Anjali.
Eventually, Anjali writes a feature about him in a popular magazine, which she titles ‘Brain behind the Bars’. The article gains applaud for her as a freelancer along with proposals from publishing houses to launch a book on Raghavan’s biography. The good money came with these offers from corporate houses with Anjali finally being content about having received her first big career break. For the purposes of the same, Anjali proactively takes initiatives to release Raghavan from the jail and asks him to write more about his life events and own interpretations which would, in turn, form the flesh of the biography. The movie proceeds with various desperate efforts from Anjali’s side to make Raghavan write, which he relentlessly fails in doing. As a last resort, Anjali moves Raghavan to an undisclosed, secluded area so as to infuse some creativity in him. Finally, when Anjali realized that none of her tactics were working, she gives up her mission. She makes her mind up to settle the deal with the publishing house in the court of law. When she goes to meet Raghavan one last time, to release him from the house where she had confined him, Raghavan gives the full script of what he was asked to write. In a bewildered state, Anjali hurriedly goes through the manuscript that he had handed over to her and with every passing page, tinges of surprise, fear and panic start to overwhelm her. The film ends with Raghavan killing Anjali with a rod, in one swift blow, just when she finishes reading and looks at him with eyes of dismay and terror.
The questions that the film leaves through its open-ended closure are myriad. On a second watch, one understands how each scene right from the beginning was in fact cues thrown at the audience leading to the impending dark scenes that form the climax. The major themes emerging from the movie are as follows:
The protagonist in the movie is portrayed as having multiple layers, with his own rational explanations guiding his actions as opposed to the reasoning of others. While the mainstream sees him as being ‘abnormal’, ‘different’ or ‘too philosophical’ (in the words of Ramamurthy), he stays indifferent to such comments, and find bliss through his own understanding of the world. For when Anjali suggests that ‘he would be happy once he is out of jail’, Raghavan, as calm and composed as he replies, “But I am not unhappy in jail”. Raghavan thus doesn’t believe in values of freedom, loyalty, happiness, truth or reason in the sense as understood by others. He, therefore, exhibits traits of nihilism in believing in nothing, devoid of moral, or metaphysical convictions. He is quick to remove anything that comes in the way of his definitions, even if it meant the killing of the journalist who came in the way of him and his notion of ‘freedom’, which he enjoyed by being in jail. Throughout the movie there are subtle references to his extreme pessimism, a trait generally found among nihilists. For instance, when Anjali tells Raghavan about how happy he would be leading a new life post-jail, he is quick in replying that, there is nothing called ‘old’ or ‘new’ in life and proposes that life is nothing but a struggle unto reaching death.
The nihilist in him doesn’t consider his acts of killing three women, including Anjali as being wrong a deed as there is no existence of the concept of moral righteousness, loyalty or justice in his worldview. Perhaps this explains his constant denial of the crime he is convicted of since the beginning of the movie. In the beginning of the movie, there is an image of a dead lizard being moved by a group of ants. Although the ants might not be directly responsible for the death of the lizard, they are definitely participants in the act, as agents of destruction of its dead body. A parallel to this is drawn in the protagonist’s case, in his claim of innocence for not having killed his victims. Rather, the nihilist sees the death of the two females as being preordained and perceives himself as being a mere agent of implementing the already decided fate. This notion also perhaps explains the relevance of the title of the movie, Munnariyippu, meaning premonition in Malayalam.
Idea of Freedom
An overarching theme that is being questioned and countered throughout the movie is perhaps the subjective interpretations of freedom. While the general perception is to think of jail as a metaphor for isolation, or a correction cell for the ones transgressing justice and laws of the land, for Raghavan, it is bliss, his ultimate door to freedom, where he lives in at most joy, despite the end of his jail term. Towards, the end of the movie, to Anjali’s question of whether he decided where he wanted to be dropped, with his ever-so-innocent smile Raghavan calmly responds that it is to his cell room that he wished to go back, before hitting her head with the rod.
The reasons for his intolerance of the world outside of jail can be varied. The movie shifts the notion of ‘confining space’ from jail to the larger public spaces in modern settings. Perhaps it in the outside of jail, in the public sphere that Raghavan faces the more disciplinary control on his actions than in its inside. This can be understood through the Foucauldian notion of Panopticism, wherein disciplinary surveillance enables the observer to view the actions of the observed and keep the latter uninformed of them being observed. From jotting down whatever random thoughts that came to him, whenever he wanted to, to being subjected to Anjali’s constant surveillance on his day-to-day activities and pressures on meeting deadline the writer in Raghavan is suffocated, faces writer’s block and eventually loses the interest to write. There are repeated statements in the movie made by Anjali suggesting that the protagonist was ‘under her custody’. The movie uses metaphors such as the isolated house, Anjali forcefully locking Raghavan inside, dictating him on what he has to write etc. as instruments of surveillance imposed on him by the modern public space. Anjali, herself a representation of a generation cobwebbed in profit making pursuits, fails to respect the private space erstwhile enjoyed by the writer, as a consequence of which she pays dearly in the latter part of the movie.
Thus, the movie also throws light upon the capitalist mechanisms that commodify creativity and reaps profit out of it. While Anjali’s portrayal is one in affirmation to such a mentality as seen in instances like of her indulgence in ghostwriting with the pure aim of making money. At the other end of the spectrum, Raghavan as a writer loathes the public space, he is exposed to after 20 long years in jail for its overt and covert controls over behaviour. His writing is now being interrupted by external forces, trying to mold it into patterns of their choice, in an attempt to sell it for profits. The nihilist in Raghavan grows intolerant to these and ultimately chooses to return to his safe haven, where he enjoyed at-most liberty.
A crucial turn in the movie is when Anjali slowly begins to confide in Raghavan’s claim of not having killed anybody. Throughout the first half of the movie, there are little reasons as to why Anjali should not believe Raghavan’s words of not committing the crime. Elegantly poised and composed as he is, Raghavan portrays the demeanor of perhaps a well-read philosopher or author than that of a murderer. On the one hand, she develops a genuine sympathy for this man for having lost 20 years of his life as punishment for a crime that he did not commit. On the other, in her own pursuit of etching a name for herself in the field and make good money, she conveniently overlooks the possibility of Raghavan being a murderer, thus falling prey to his feigned innocence.
In conclusion, the most important message that Munnaryippu attempts to leave in the minds of its audience and for larger public debate is perhaps the credibility of the correction mechanisms imposed through jail imprisonments. Despite having spent close to twenty years in jail, the murderer in him doesn’t cease to exist, only to be aroused by another woman, whom he perceives as being an impeachment upon his personal liberty. The last scene sums up this attitude in its peak when Raghavan is seen to be enjoying a good night’s deep sleep beneath the trophies of his crimes that he treasures- photographs of all three of his victims.
More about the author of this blog post, Indu Poornima, an avid reader, imaginative photographer and a forced gym visitor could be found here: https://www.facebook.com/induandinduonly
(A recreation of Mridula Ravi‘s concept of ‘Home’, woven with intricacies of her for growing up years. An elegantly powerful writer herself, she is my inspiration behind this piece, as she is in many other things we do in our ever so wonderful college life.)
Born right into the middle of an extended family, I was always around a lot of people. The seed that was me sprout; slowly but steadily, amidst the warmth and love that was blanketed around me.
The cocoon that was etched around me was elegantly beautiful; I, the princess, in this safe haven, danced away my life to lees, quite oblivious to the world outside. As years rolled by, I grew up to be the lead warrior of a battalion of younger cousins as we went around playing at all possible hours of the day.
Of the numerous games that we laid hands on, role plays were my favourite. In those plays, I bossed around my younger ones, being their mother, teacher, doctor and what not!! Thus, within the four walls of the place that formed our home, I created another of my own.
Rains in Kerala are an ecstasy. On those nights where crickets would hum to the rhythm of drizzle, I would slip away into wildernesses of my own, traveling to all possible wonderlands of my story books. In the folds of those nights, I realized for the first time of the power of dreams I was capable of seeing. The aroma of mangoes, an omnipresent affair of the summer months used to greet us, smiling gleefully in the orchards. The Crimson evening sky would always coincide with savoring the last bite of mango, while at grandmother’s lap listening to her stories.
The hairpin roads of Wayanad unveiled itself to give a new dimension of a home in my life. The perpetual wrap of wool that braced those hills held a sense of inevitably; of life, death, and everything beyond. This new home to my undergrad college life revealed the shades of life beyond the black and white.
In this new home, my favourite room was the college library. I was thrown mercilessly, like a shuttle cork by a passionate player, to and fro, by the world of letters. The turbulence it created was an initiation ceremony- the maturing of a carefree girl to a young woman who started questioning everything around her.
It was amidst those book shelves that held magic, I let my body explore the same magic of its own, in an enigma unknown to its owner. The flutter of a male gaze, blood that rushed, fingers that fanatically followed and bodies that fused. It was all like another homecoming- only to a place I had never been before.
Life took me in its wings, only to be left alone to find a home in the city of dreams. Initially, Mumbai was nothing like home- in fact far from it. Slowly the nights I cried myself to sleep, gave way to ones of story tellings tucked cozily among the city lights of a land that never slept.
Before I knew it, the street food, local trains, new people and their stories had formed the concrete to the new home I had proudly built, all by myself. With windows of opportunity and doors to new experiences, garnished with cushions of hope and curtains of warmth- my home is an obsession.
In life, Only my addresses kept changing, home always stayed.
It is about time that we rethink the role played by social media in promoting global democratic ethos. The faulty filter system perpetuated by social media functions reassuring us of an open platform that facilitates a free exchange of ideas has taken a hit. This filter bubble that we live in, aggravates the situation by promoting content that conforms to one’s belief system and filtering out all opposing views from our feeds. The present state of social media is such that it allows uncurated fake content to be passed off as real which leads to misinformation of masses.
The Decline of Democracy and the Need for Meritocracy in Politics.
As a relatively young democracy filled with political intellectuals us, Indians need to give a lot of thought to the dialectics of our free speech and the logical acquisition of true knowledge. Our desire for easy answers can be will lead to the proliferation of political demagoguery, turning all of us into victims of misinformation. Right to vote should not be taken for granted and be ever vigilant not to exercise that choice unconsciously.
When Courts Become Propagandized Law Making Making Institutions.
Law of the land entrusts judiciary to go beyond merely scrutinizing the legal validity of a legislation or an executive order but also to explore the potential injustices arising out of the execution of the same. To quote Justice Brandeis, executive if given the free will to use the state as a laboratory of democracy, Jeremy Bentham‘s utilitarian principle which calls for providing maximum happiness to the maximum number must form the fundamental premise of its policies. Judicial populism manifested in the form of Justice Deepak Mishra’s and Justice Pratibha Rani’s judgments are only acting catalysts to encouraging xenophobic nationalism. It is time for the political and judicial class to show some civilisational confidence to set aside the tendencies to criminalize dissent.
I read a quote once when I was a kid “We live alone, We die alone. Everything else is just an illusion.” it used to keep me up at night.
I can’t exactly remember when the idea of life and death was fully understood, but I vividly remember that I was deeply troubled knowing the fact that one day, I will loose all that I held close to me. Little did I know back then, life in its replete avatar will offer me a melancholic masterpiece that death will always struggle to match. The protagonist goes through a similar situation at a much later stage in life than I did, but given the urbane setting of the story and the comfort enjoyed by virtue of being in a developed nation, reasons are quite clear as to why the realization came so late for him.
We’ve seen such self exploratory-deeply introspective films before. For most of the viewers, ‘The Art of Getting By’ probably would have nothing novel to offer which other films like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, 500 Days of Summer haven’t already did. One of the high points of this film is that it helps the viewers to calm themselves down. It brings your life’s tempo a notch down so that you can feel the wind playing with your hair and your heart leaking out love. Through the meaningful and resonating portrayal of its lead characters, it reminds us that it is okay to be confused in life as each of those confusing experiences will make sense later in life, when we put in perspective, the choices we made. We’ve all gone through those moments in our lives when we are unable to put names to our emotions towards people and situations and more often than people around us have blamed us for not having essential clarity of thought. If there is anything that this movie manages teach the audience, it is to own up to your feelings and give it time to make sense to you, bit by bit as you embark the journey towards self actualization.
The post is dedicated to all the misanthropes around, who are just waiting for that little magic nudge to come out of their cocoon. 🙂