Film Reviews

Neha Banka

Department of Mass Communication and Video Production.

Semester V.

St.Xavier’s College, Kolkata.

‘In the Name of God’

N.B:

I have added a short explanation in the conclusion using the ‘first person speech’ to explain the reason for this paper.

The object of this paper is to explain the Documentary ‘Ram ke Nam’, my opinion of this documentary, and the effect it had on me, which propelled me to travel to the temple town of Ayodhya, to see the Ram Janambhoomi for my self. This is why this introduction and the conclusion are vital to the paper.

By writing this paper, I do not aim at criticism of any of the religious groups mentioned. I simply wish to explain how a piece of architectural heritage was used as propaganda to raise anti-religious feelings towards members of another faith by both parties involved. The paper highlights opinions of common people, which go unheard most of the time. Religious or communal violence is rare in places of pilgrimage in India. The documentary has affected me deeply and initiated a process of research to know more about the issue. As has a specific excerpt from the book, ‘Arrow of the Blue-Skinned God: Retracing the Ramayan Through India. – Jonah Blank.’[Pg: 13, 14]

The result of my research is produced in this paper.

‘In the Name of God’

Anand Patwardhan; Filmography:

Anand Patwardhan (born 1950) is an Indian documentary filmmaker, who is known for his social activism. The topics that Patwardhan chooses to deal with, through his social action documentaries range from corruption, slums dwellers, nuclear arms race, citizen activism to communalism. Amongst these documentaries, the most noted are ‘Ram ke Nam’ (‘In the Name of God’) (1992), ‘Pitr, Putr aur Dharmayuddha’ (‘Father, Son and Holy War’) (1995) and ‘Jang aur Aman’ (‘War and Peace’) (2002), which have won several National and International awards.

Mostly all of Patwardhan’s films have faced censorship-issues by the Central Board of Film Certification, India, but were finally cleared after long drawn legal action. Reports show that his film, ‘Bombay Our City’, was shown on TV, after a four year court case. ‘Father Son and the Holy war’ (1995), was shown on India’s National Television Network, Doordarshan only in the year 2006, eleven years after its making, after a prolonged court battle, which lasted 8 years. The Nation’s Supreme Court then ordered the state-owned media, to telecast the film without any cuts, opposed to its earlier suggestion. It was adjudged in 2004, as one of 50 most memorable international documentaries of all time, by DOX, Documentary film magazine as well.

Another one of his important films, ‘War and Peace’ made in 2002, brought him in the news once again, when the CBFC India (Central Board for Film Certification, or the Censor Board), refused to certify the film without making 21 cuts.  Patwardhan took the government to court, and ‘War and Peace’ was banned for two years.  However, after a court battle Patwardhan won the right to screen his film without a single cut. As with his previous films, Patwardhan successfully fought against the ban in court, which eventually forced an obviously reluctant national broadcaster, the Doordarshan, to broadcast his film on their national network through its ruling in June 2003.  It was later commercially released in multiplexes in 2005.

Documentary Overview:

The concept of this paper came about after a as reading an essay by Jonah Blank [former editor of Asahi Evening News in Tokyo; Extract from ‘Arrow of the Blue-Skinned God: Retracing the Ramayana through India.’]. Later after a semester screening of Patwardhan’s “Ram ke Naam” [‘In the Name of God’], the paper eventually began forming an outline.

On the surface, the film looks like a documentation of the Babri Masjid Controversy which occurred in the pilgrimage town of Ayodhya in the state of Uttar Pradesh, in December 1992. ‘In The Name of God’ focuses on a campaign waged by the militant Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) to destroy a 16th century mosque in Ayodhya which is said to have been built by Babar, the first Mughal Emperor of India.[1] According to the VHP, the mosque was built at the birth site of the Hindu god Ram. It was also contended by the VHP that the construction of the mosque occurred after Babar razed an existing temple devoted to Ram, believed to be the Holy birth site. The VHP and its group of Hindu Fundamentalists are determined to build a new temple to Ram on the same site, as a commemoration of the birth-place and destruction of the ‘offensive’ mosque. This is an obviously controversial issue, which successive governments have refused to resolve. The controversy led to religious riots which in turn cost thousands of civilians their lives. It ultimately culminated in the mosque’s destruction by Hindu fundamentalists in the December of 1992. The resulting religious violence spread throughout India and Pakistan, like wildfire leaving more than 5,000 dead, and causing thousands of Indian Muslims to flee their homes.                 [Page 1]

Patwardhan’s documentary was filmed prior to the demolition of the mosque.  The documentary aims at examining the motivations which would ultimately lead to the drastic actions of the Hindu militants. It also shows the efforts of secular Indians to combat the religious intolerance and hatred that prevails in India, all In the Name of God.’

The screening of Patwardhan’s documentary led to public furor, led by Hindu militants.

Reaction of Media:

‘The Express News Service’ in New Delhi featured an article in its daily on 10th March 1997, on the controversy following the film. The Doordarshan telecasting of the film, led to a heated debate in the Rajya Sabha, where the Bharatiya Janta Party [BJP] accused the judiciary of “overstepping” its jurisdiction and charged the government with jeopardising communal harmony in the country. Mr. K.R.Malkani of the BJP alleged that the “hero” of the film Mahant Laldas, who was the priest of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, was corrupt. He also accused the Mumbai High Court for forcing the National Network, Doordarshan authorities to telecast the documentary during Prime Time. When the film had been telecast 8 days prior to the 10th of March 1997, however, there were no reports of any form of communal violence, anywhere in the country.

Politics once again tried to use the tense situation to its advantage. “Left party members immediately sprang into vociferous support of the film. [2] Biplab Dasgupta (CPI-M) demanded an inquiry into the murder of Mahant Laldas. He condemned the murder because the priest “had preached Hindu-Muslim harmony”. “He argued that the film was a serious filmmaker’s interpretation of a historic event.”
Interestingly, Mr. S.S. Ahluwalia (Congress) rose to support K.R. Malkani’s contention that the film should not have been telecast. “Meanwhile, in Uttar Pradesh, over 25,000 devotees from neighbouring Nepal and Bihar will chant the name of Lord Rama at the Sitaram Naam Mahayagya at Ayodhya tomorrow.”

‘The Asian Age’ also featured an article on the 31 November 1997 issue. It said that the Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] had criticised the governments screening of Patwardhan’s documentary, ‘Ram ke Naam’, which it described as a “fabrication”, as reported by ‘The Asian Age’ correspondent. When the issue was raised in the Rajya Sabha, a then Member of Parliament of the BJP, Mr. K.R.Malkani went on to question why the documentary was screened in such “indecent haste”. He went on to attack the Mumbai High Court order which had lifted the earlier imposed ban on the film. He questioned why the government did not appeal the order in a higher court. “Heated exchanges ensued as the United Front MPs defended the screening while the BJP and some others alleged that the documentary would incite communal hatred, by hurting the religious sentiments of millions of Hindus.” [3] The Congress chose a divided front as Mr. S.S. Alhuwalia condemned the screening, while Mr. Sibte Razi praised it. The United Front Members of Parliament claimed that the film “exposed” the real culprits responsible for inciting communal affiliations and violence. Mr.K.R.Malkani also remarked that the previous government was “responsible” enough not to telecast it, whereas the then ruling government chose to telecast it, thereby hurting religious sentiments.

‘In the Name of God’, completed a year before the epochal event, lays bare the mechanics by which religion was politicized. Patwardhan records the march to Ayodhya, led by politician L.K.Advani in a Toyota done up like Ram’s sacred chariot. He records and conducts interviews that alternate between being comic (a self-important ideologue turns out to be drunk) and horrifying (a man endorses Gandhi’s assassination). Young men are shown to converge into avenging mobs who claim they know the exact location of Ram’s birthplace. Ironically however, when questioned, have no idea in which century He was born. It may be said that the film’s moral centre is represented by a Hindu priest in Ayodhya, who points out that the nationalists are “playing a political game.” [4]The priest was subsequently murdered soon after the release of the documentary. The site of the former mosque remains unused.

In one interview taken by Patwardhan of a Hindu militant en route to demolish the Babri Mosque, the militant tried to justify the murder of Mahatma Gandhi because according to him, Gandhi had apparently “betrayed the cause of the Hindu majority”, by lending sympathy and support to Muslims.

The film was made before the demolition of the Babri mosque and “should have alerted the nation to the hatred and carnage that would inevitably follow. But films like these remain grossly under-utilized in a nation divided by the politics of hate”, said Patwardhan, during his speech at the International Documentary Conference, 2004. [5]

Patwardhan also said that, “The 80’s and 90’s not only brought us religious violence. They also brought the dream of development. It was a dream that would carefully hide from everyone except its immediate victims, the price of this development. It was a dream that came wrapped in the flamboyant and seductive rhetoric of a world economy that was neither actually free nor actually democratic.”

The following is an extract from the blog of a 17 year old girl named Ayesha. [6]

10th July, 2009.

“Looking at it from the point of view of someone who aspires to be a journalist or reporter, I can understand how much courage and grit it must have taken for the people making the documentary to go through with it. The Babri demolition was and still is an extremely sensitive issue and making this documentary was a brilliant but risky move……”

“From the point of view of a 17 year old growing up in the 21st century, I am ashamed [about what happened]…. to think that when the people in and around Ayodhya had no problem with the masjid; its demolition seems utterly senseless. The Karsevaks [the faithful servants] weren’t…from the villages or [Uttar Pradesh]…but educated people from other cities out to cause unrest and strife. “
“The BJP’s yatra to Ayodhya; VHP’s insistence that the temple had to be built after destroying the mosque; the Bajrang Dal’s lack of hesitation at the mention of violence – all are examples of what greed and the hunger for power can do to a person. “

“Villagers understood the pointlessness of it all….and…are called uneducated……”
“I am neither naïve nor innocent and I know that the terrorism we are facing today is nothing but a slightly modified version of the same kind of misdirected anger and misguided ideals. The Karsevaks used axes, stone and hatred; the terrorists use bombs, planes and jihad.”

I am glad that today’s urban youth have more respect for religion and choice. I’m proud that there are winds of change blowing through the country.

The Holocaust will always remain as an albatross around the neck of Germans everywhere. The Babri Masjid demolition is our albatross.”

The extract was indeed an effective piece of writing by a 17 year girl. Incidentally, she also mentions in her blog that her “father is a Muslim, my mother is a Hindu and my grandmother lights a candle every Sunday”.

Conclusion:

For Anand Patwardhan, “Ram Ke Naam (In the Name of God)” celebrated the Left’s anti-communalism but also looked at the inclusive Hinduism of liberation theologian, Pujari Laldas and the rejection of communal politics by dalits and “backward” castes at the time.” He answered with determination and conviction, when questioned about  “the relation of class struggle to the issues [that he had] been dealing with…and also his opinions  on whether he could “ have given more importance to the other superficial issues which are born from class conflict.”, [7] reports Anirban Ghatak, editorial team member of ‘Pragoti’, a website which seeks to create a space for progressive and democratic minded persons who stand for Left and Democratic Alternatives in India and support progressive causes worldwide.  Patwardhan’s documentary film “War and Peace (Jung aur Aman)” was screened at IIT Bombay on 30th August 2009. The report was a part of an interview taken of Patwardhan by Ghatak.

It is clear that the Babri Masjid controversy was a result of anti-Muslim propaganda. Jonah Blank’s book retraces the controversy in Ayodhya itself, several months prior to L.K.Advani’s Rath Yatra and the destruction of the Babri Masjid. In an extract from ‘Arrow of the Blue-Skinned God: Retracing the Ramayana through India.’ Blank mentions a conversation with the secretary of the Ramjanam Bhumi Commitee of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad [VHP]. Mahesh Narayan Singh explains to the author that Ram is the most important God in the Hindu faith. Since the Janambhoomi was the ‘exact’ spot where He was born, how could they [the Hindus] not give Him his due honour? The new temple would be “a far more than a place to worship Rama. It would be a beacon to guide all Hindus back to their faith.” [8]

Was the Babri Masjid actually built by Babur after destroying an existing Ram Temple? Nobody knows. No historical facts support this contention. Babur had definitely destroyed other temples in India during his period of siege and establishment of the Mughal Dynasty. An oft-quoted and probably misinterpreted Quranic passage reads, “Slay the idolaters wherever you find them.”Islam has been known to tolerate monotheistic faiths and show a “definite disfavour” [9] towards polytheistic faiths. It is ironical that most sculptures dating back from the period of the Mughal Dynasty and the Sultanate of Delhi have traces of Indian influences, in the form of floral motifs, like that of the lotus, and the Tree of Life.

Today there are hardly any Muslims left in Ayodhya. Some are cloth merchants, some are maulvis [Muslim priests], and others are lower-castes, most of who live either on the outskirts of the town, or in certain parts of the town. Others breeze in and out of town if and when work or trade brings them to Ayodhya. The Muslims don’t feel threatened, but are tired of the constant struggle with the social ostracism now associated with their religion.  The Muslims have been the ruling minority for centuries as history explains, in the Indian sub-continent. Today however, they are more of a minority. “The desecration of a consecrated mosque is in their view, a sacrilege too horrible to contemplate.”[10] The Babri Masjid was a mosque with not any significant religious importance to the Muslims. It was just that it happened to rest on a site that was of extreme religious importance to Hindus, which “rightly or wrongly”, they cherished too dearly, to be passed off as just another piece of land.

Violence is rare in Ayodhya, as with most places of pilgrimage in India. The Babri Masjid case however, was able to generate communal fervours and passions across the country and even abroad.

The documentary by Anand Patwardhan and Jonah Blank’s extract on Ayodhya were two extremely influential pieces of work, in the conceptualisation of this paper. A personal visit to Ayodhya and Ram Janambhoomi in the October of 2007 was the first time that I was introduced to the existence of the Babri Masjid controversy.

Upon visiting the site, I am greeted by a security check, which seems almost out of place in a location marked as a pilgrimage spot, revered by Hindus. Security personnel guard the entrance to the Temple grounds, resembling the Border Security Forces, one often sees at state borders. It is almost as if one is walking through a tunnel, like a bird-cage made up of wire-meshes. The meshes of the wires are covered with sacred red thread and pieces of stones, which are symbols of faith, found in most temples and mosques in India. Devotees usually tie them on window grills and railings in the temples and mosques, as requests to the Gods, for wishes and desires to be fulfilled. It is a long walk through the wire-meshes to the actual spot of the Janambhoomi. Upon reaching the Holy spot, I see open ground. There is a small enclosure, which is adorned with framed pictures of Rama and his different Avatars, often repetitive in content. More sacred thread is tied all around the wire mesh. The priest offers “Prasad” to us as we pay respects to the Idol. My little brother is disappointed not to find a stone palace, as he has often seen in the re-enactments and reconstructions of the Ramayana on television. My grandmother explains that Rama’s stone palace went “underground” after Rama left for his heavenly abode. Besides, Rama lived in Ayodhya centuries ago. Very much like most other places in Ayodhya which have been marked as locations of significance in Rama’s life, are reconstructions, as the originals are “under” the surface of the Earth. Some money is pushed inside the donation box kept for the “upkeep” of the temple, and we move on. It is not overly crowded today. Very few people have come for a visit. Walking towards the exit, I see remains of the mosque. Huge slabs of granite have been dislocated from their original place and thrown around. I can still trace patterns on the granite slabs. They are samples of Islamic architecture, like those seen in New Delhi or other parts of India, where structures are more fortunate to still exist. They indicate of a piece of documented history lost forever. My father refuses to let me go close enough to the nearest slab, to touch it. He fears it may be considered to be some form of a communal issue if I do. I walk out of the grounds.

Just outside the grounds of the Janambhoomi, are a few ‘sadhus’ [sages]. Their bodies are wrapped in yards of orange cloth, their hair matted, with sandal wood paste smeared all over their body. The world and its innumerable worries and problems are of no importance to them. They know only the two names that they keep chanting, as if in a reverie. “Sita-Ram, Sita-Ram”. [Lord Rama and his consort, Goddess Sita.]

REFERENCES:

[1] Wikipedia; Anand Patwardhan Pages.

[2] www.patwardhan.com/films/RamkeNam.htm

[3] EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE, NEW DELHI, MARCH 10, 1997

[4] ‘The Asian Age.’ New Delhi. 31st November 1997.

[5] Film Review by Juliet Clark, EKTA- A South Asian Progressive Network

[6] International Documentary Conference held in conjunction with the Silverdocs Documentary Film Festival on June 16, 2004. The event was co-sponsored by the World Bank and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

[7] My Blog. Ayesha. ‘Ram Ke Naam’. 10th July 2009.

[8] www.pragoti.org ; “I Am Accused of Romanticising the Working Class- Anand Patwardhan”- an interview.

[8], [9], [10]. Arrow of the Blue-Skinned God: Retracing the Ramayan Through India. – Jonah Blank. Pg: 13, 14

Neha Banka

Department of Mass Communication and Video Production.

Semester V

The Color of Paradise (Majid Majidi, 1999)

It would be difficult, and to a certain extent, unfair to call ‘The Color of Paradise’, a product of the revolution against the serve theocratic and systematic censorship of art and culture prevalent in Iran, with regard to works of art.

To understand the appearance of any national cinema, it is vitally important to understand the reason for its emergence, in context to the socio-political situation prevailing at that particular time. Film critics observe that the emergence of any national cinema, usually occur during moments of national traumas- like major wars, a massive revolution or an anti-colonial uprising- which, in turn manifest themselves in cultural and aesthetic forms, like most other manners of cultural production. The context of Majidi’s film however, is of concern with regard to Post-Revolutionary Iranian Cinema.

Majidi’s film bears traces to a thread of commonality, often observed in works of other Post Revolutionary Iranian directors, like Abbas Kiarostami and Jafar Panahi, for instance. The commonality lies within contextualised social messages against oppressive socio-cultural institutions. It is known that Iranian films which do not get screened in the country are quite different from commercial Iranian films. Films made by directors like Majidi and Panahi, usually contain narratives which progress as social satires.

One may consider Iranian films to bear traces of documentary film-making. The cinematography, scripts etc, bear resemblance to Documentary film-making techniques. Perhaps it isn’t surprising that this is feature is common to most films made by Majidi’s contemporaries, considering their objective to speak about the socio-cultural situation in Iran. Most narratives have simple story lines. What makes it different is the treatment of film. It is the complexity of the situations, the protagonists find themselves in, and that constitutes the crux of the film. While some characters are victims of social constraints and situations, others are victims of their psychological turmoil.

Simple, everyday actions and situations are given importance. Not forgotten in the larger scheme of things, but given their space. The position of women with regard to films by Majidi and his contemporaries remains questionable, while institutions like patriarchy are definitely represented.

Majidi’s ‘… Color of Paradise’, is not simply a story of a blind child. It is more about the conflict within that the father of the boy faces. Majidi does not invoke dislike towards the father, and this is because of the representation of the conflict, which is made apparent to the viewer.

Without having explicitly state it, Majidi urges the viewer to accept the inability of a widower to look after a physically-disabled child. The father’s want for companionship cannot be held against him when he asks a local resident for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Whether it is Hashem’s inability to look after his son’s special needs, or the fact that his prospective bride’s family may have objections to Mohammed’s disability, Majidi leaves it to the audience to question the cause of Hashem’s conflicts.

Majidi emphasizes the emotion of tenderness in the way he uses instances that display the affection Mohammed craves to receive and in turn give. In a simple act of presenting his grandmother a hairclip, Mohammed underscores the importance of affection in his life, and lack there of from his own father. The question now is who the protagonist of the story is. Is it Hashem or his blind son? Both seem to be suppressed by physical and psychological obstacles, in their journey together. Mohammed however seems to overcome his, through the release that death provides. Anything else would simply underscore his permanent physical disfigurement.

Interestingly, the village children accept Mohammed with joy as he expresses desire to study with his sisters in the local school. Social ostracism here is hence not propelled by the society Mohammed lives in, but is embodied in the figure of his own father. Hashem’s lack of acceptance for the special needs of his child, speak of a larger society, where other children like Mohammed are not given their space to nurture. The presence of others like Mohammed’s teacher, the village children, his grandmother, represent the others, who are willing to give special children the chance at the growth they deserve.

The film, it may be said, carries an overture of surrealism towards the end of the film. The last scenes where Hashem finds his dead son’s body on the rocky beach are presented as almost surreal. Perhaps that was Majidi’s aim while constructing the film. The surreal construction of the Hashem and Mohammed’s body on the beach, perhaps emulate ‘the color of paradise’.  But what is this ‘Paradise’ that Majidi speaks about? Is it the final act of recognition of Hashem’s love for his son? Or is it the paradise that Mohammed constantly searches for, using his senses of touch and smell? It may be the ‘Paradise’ Hashem desired, which he believed he would obtain upon the absence of his son. Perhaps Majidi expresses Hashem’s anguish through the act of holding his son’s body. Mohammed’s death would have meant the ‘freedom’ to make the choices that Hashem desired. It would be the ‘paradise’ he craved for. However, is it still the case once the film ends? Majidi chooses to leave these questions unanswered, to give the viewer a chance to form her/his own conclusion.

Hence ‘The Color of Paradise’ is not simply a poignant tale about a father’s relationship with his blind son. Like in the case of most films by Majidi’s contemporaries, the viewer must look beyond the narrative’s construction, to understand the questions Majidi asks, or expects the viewers to ask themselves.

[The End]

To End the “Human War”: Montage in American Poetry of Protest by Langston Hughes and Allen Ginsberg

Torsa Ghosal

The American literary experience has been very closely interwoven with other forms of art, especially music and cinema. Afro-American literature, both thematically and structurally, can be fully comprehended with reference to jazz and blues. Similarly, Beats and rock music are closely related as are generic films and generic literature produced in America. Thus, American literature’s multidimensionality provides enough scope for interdisciplinary appreciation of texts.

The cinematic technique of montage was incorporated into the structure of American poetry, written especially for socio-political protest and rebellion, by Langston Hughes and Allen Ginsberg. It is important to note that montage here refers to the montage technique as used by Soviet film makers as opposed to that of Hollywood film makers. Hughes and Ginsberg consciously opposed the capitalist and consumer driven concerns of American industries.

Langston Hughes’ poetry attempted to uphold the dreams of black Americans deferred within the inequitable mainstream white American culture. Allen Ginsberg’s poetry, on the other hand, tried to depict that America had become a cultural wasteland post Second World War.

The montage technique is a prominent cinematic method first effectively implemented by Soviet filmmakers like Lev Kuleshov, Dziga Vertov, and Vsevolod Pudovkin. It was perfected by Sergei Eisenstein. Eisenstein observed, “montage is an idea that arises from the collision of independent shots” wherein “each sequential element is perceived not next to the other, but on top of the other”.

Sergei Eisenstein’s films implemented montage to get across specific ideas to his audience. The narrative of his films focused on ideas rather than on telling stories. The collisions of shots in Eisenstein’s montage could be based on conflicts of scale, volume, rhythm, motion, as well as more conceptual values such as class, religion and state. In October Eisenstein subverts the concept of an omnipotent divinity through montage. In this famous sequence Eisenstein starts with the shot of a deity taken from a lower angle, thus endowing divinity with authority. The moods in the clips are juxtaposed and finally, the last shot of this montage presents two figures without arms. The gradual transition is from a powerful image to a powerless one. The shots in Eisenstein’s montage are arranged such that thesis and antithesis alternate. The dialectical nature of montage brackets the central idea which is often based on a Marxian premise. Hence, Soviet montage is a consciously political technique. The montage from October is an intellectual montage harping on collision of ideas. Conflict and collision between shots is central to the montage method.

Langston Hughes had visited Russia and planned to collaborate with Eisenstein in 1932. Acquaintance with Eisenstein influenced Hughes’ poetry. He titled his anthology of poetry- Montage of a Dream Deferred (1951). In the volume Hughes deals with a wide range of issues like how to balance modernity and folk culture, how to achieve textual continuity while composing ninety one distinct poetic pieces and so on. Eisenstein’s montage hinges on class, Hughes’ hinges on race.

Hughes’s poem Harlem from the volume uses five images that are disjointed in themselves but connect to the central rhetoric of the poem. The rapidity with which the images flow intensifies their colliding effect creating a durable intellectual montage. Hughes writes in Island:

Between two rivers,

North of the park,

Like darker rivers

The streets are dark.

Black and white,

Gold and Brown-

Chocolate cluster

Pie of a town.

Dream within a dream

Our dream deferred.

Good morning, daddy!

Ain’t you heard?

The poem describes Harlem which is situated between two rivers at the centre of the White dominated New York City. The images that collide in the poem are pigmented black and white symbolizing the skin tones of the Black and White Americans. White America exerts state power and state control which represses the dreams of Black Americans. The rhetoric of equality had existed in America for a long time but was rarely implemented. The streams serve as metonyms for the parallel flow of the two cultural currents within America. The image of ‘Chocolate Cluster/Pie of a town’ is also to be realized in context of the image of food and drink in the poem Harlem. In Harlem Hughes writes:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over-

Like a syrupy sweet?

The crust formation over sweet is in conflict with the image of the gold and brown chocolate pie but beneath the apparent conflict is the idea of fermentation. The essence of decay and disintegration underlines Hughes’ volume.

Hughes’ method of constructing meaning from a series of images is reminiscent of the Imagist style but there are major differences between the montage and Imagist methods. The objective of Imagist poems is to evoke a third aspect from the given images but the shots or images in montage contain the meaning within themselves which are then juxtaposed. Imagist poems try to capture a moment of high intensity, often emotional but montage upholds dualities that manifest a sense of crisis, usually political.

Ginsberg’s poetry too uses the montage technique. However, whereas Hughes banks on short lines, Ginsberg’s style in poems like Howl and Sunflower Sutra is marked by excesses. At the core of both these poems lie two colliding ideas. In Howl the psychological space of the best minds of Ginsberg’s generation is juxtaposed with the decadent world around them. In Sunflower Sutra the image of the flower is located within the space of the tin can banana dock:

Look at the Sunflower, he said, there was a dead gray

shadow against the sky, big as a man, sitting

dry on top of a pile of ancient sawdust-

The warmth of the sunflower’s hue is subverted by the dead gray shadow that the poet visualizes. What follows is a reverie which is hyper-real. The ‘perfect beauty of the sunflower’ as described by Ginsberg is soon followed by the disillusioning picture of flies and rusty rail roads.

Howl offers an array of colliding ideas, antithetical to each other but compressed within the span of a single line. From Howl’s first section which comprises a seventy eight line sentence the following section can be analysed in this context:

streets of shuddering cloud and
lightning in the mind leaping toward poles of Canada & Paterson,
illuminating all the motionless world of Time between,
Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery
dawns
 
In the above passage the flow of supernatural time or eternity is delineated through paradoxical images. The state of timelessness is a static instant which Ginsberg portrays through dynamic images of lightning and shuddering.
Lightning within the mind is a sensation that suspends perceptive faculties while Peyote is a drug that leads to an illusion of timelessness. However, the very concept of America and the infinite possibilities it stands for are temporal. Ginsberg’s antipathy to America’s war tactics and involvement in the Vietnam War is articulated in the poem America where he writes:
I can't stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
The growth of America as super power is a temporary moment in the history of the universe. The spiritual decline, on the other hand, is permanent.
 
who lounged hungry and lonesome through Houston
seeking jazz or sex or soup, and followed the
brilliant Spaniard to converse about America
and Eternity, a hopeless task
The next section of the poem was written by Ginsberg under the influence of peyote. At the core of the first section is the protagonist Who, while the second section is built around the antagonist Moloch. Moloch is the dark side of a state of mind but Ginsberg also claims that everything is holy. Thus, Moloch too is not outside the realm of that holy sphere. The destructive time of Moloch is similarly contested by the time recorded by clocks in space that the hipsters follow.
The backbone of intellectual montage is logic. If a montage uses a dream-like illogicality the focus is on the erosion of sanity as in Howl.

Eisenstein’s montage pitted working class ethics against the upper class exploitation through shots. The idea of conflict within montage carries the impulse of protest and articulates the struggle within. Montages have, thereby, evolved as effective tools to voice anxiety and angst without being overtly didactic.

Ginsberg’s poetry meanders through issues presented in a pseudo-comic fashion while Hughes relies on putting forth his images with precision and lucidity. Both their poems are directed against the values of consumerism, capitalism, exploitation and cultural anarchy dictated by the state and manipulated by the media. Ginsberg specifically uses montage to build up momentum. Hughes does something similar when he writes about the impending explosion of dreams in the last line of Harlem. The rapid succession of images imposed one over the other allows the reader to get involved and extract the argument out of the text.

The multi dimensionality of these poems lie in the way they internalize the idiom of Soviet Cinema to produce texts that capture moments of crisis in American history.

Italian Neo Realism – Reality As It Is. Written by Jivraj Singh.

Reality only exists insofar as one is conscious. With consciousness comes perception. An awareness, which language labels “reality”, is generated by our sense-perception and our ideology. It follows that reality is a conceptual construct which exists only because we are sentient beings with systems of cognition, language and values with which to interpret and label our sense-perception. There is no single entity called reality but as many realities as there are people, motivations and contexts. Reality is value-based and subjective.

Therefore, a film-maker’s representation of reality in a film is definitely subjective as it is a second generation construct of an initial perception which is inherently ideological. The Neo Realist film movement began as a response to the hegemony over cultural artefacts in wartime Italy. “White Telephone” films made with Fascist approval portrayed a reality which was available only to an elite few. The Neo Realist filmic reality was supposedly the reality of the impoverished mass. However, this was a perceived reality of a conceptualized group of people. Also, the Neo Realist filmmakers must have had at least some privilege to have had access to filmmaking tools and technique in the first place.

The Neo Realist filmmakers used a “degree zero” approach which they claimed was devoid of style. What this really meant is that it was devoid of overtly extravagant or manipulative technique, such as the use of soundtracks and effects in Hollywood, disorienting montage in Soviet Cinema, or highly stylized mise-en-scene in German Expressionism. Nonetheless, degree zero was identifiable and reproducible as an approach meaning it was stylized, however subtly. Style is a product of values and ideology. So is reality. Therefore, the Neo Realist depiction of reality was a construct which was stylized and ideologically driven and not simplistically reality as it is.

Meghe Dhaka Tara -A study in multivariate patriarchy by Shahwar Kibria

Neeta as the cloud capped star, symbolizes in the movie, not just a part, but the entire constellation, the galaxy! Before being overawed by such an expansive term, we must trace out relevant sub textual interpretations which help instituting our stand!

Before we delve into a subjective analysis of the characters and the strains of narratorial individuality they represent, we shall at first try an attempt, for the ease of the readers, a strategic delineation of the various strains of patriarchy juxtaposing and scaffolding the narrative in the movie!

Patriarchy as an attitude

“a cerebrally infused, internal psychological manifestation”

What comes out fairly clearly through the movie, is the notion of patriarchy as an attitude, a mental disposition,(abstract) as a frame of mind, and not just denoted or represented by a particular sexual order, but as a mental disposition shared by both sexes alike! Thus in this movie we have Neeta’s mother, representing the attitudinal psyche of a repressive patriarchy, of exercising a dominant thrust over affairs in her household,(which some might argue as the due right of matriarchy as well), but here she not only wields the fulcrum of power, but also plays a decisive role in the articulating  decisions made by other characters, and thus she can be rightly claimed to be embodying  psychological patriarchy, the power to decide, crafting her apart and elevating her above her rights as the woman of the household(matriarchy)!

In this context we should also spare a thought for the father figure who quite ironically in the movie is the failed patriarch!(here we can co-relate Pride and Prejudice)

Thus flowing from it, the factual consequence, of a turbulent domestic scenario, which suffers, as the leash or the reign of power is man held or rather woman held by a pseudo or unnatural patriarch.

This might also lead some to contemplate, that this is a subtle insinuation of the fact that the natural order of things have been disrupted, the role of the patriarch reverses, also obliquely hinting Ritwik Ghatak’s personal turmoil of being displaced due to partition, his own confrontation with an unnatural patriarch, a stranger patriarch!

A divisional patriarch!

It would not be much of discretion, to discuss, in this context, Neeta’s younger sister, who comes only second to her mother in exercising effective dominance, and which also aids her in luring away her sister’s fiancé to be her own husband! Though not quite a patriarch, but still Neeta’s sister can be seen as the anti-heroine, with tremendous power, and manipulative charm, directorially insinuated in her opening scene, where she is placed in front of a disfigured mirror, which shows not one but a distorted double reflection of her, informing the reading audience of her motives and plan of action later on in the movie!

Patriarchy as an external manifestation:

as discussed in black and white…

The malevolent patriarch

The discussion can not however be triggered off but with a discussion of Neeta’s mother.

She besides exuding a crude attitudinal patriarchy also embodies the malevolent patriarch, deliberately pictured thus, following which, most of her shots are either fully or partially tainted in darkness. She as mentioned earlier is the pseudo patriarch because she is not directly shouldering any responsibility but nonetheless she heads all decisions and actions and also spearheads the life decisions of all major characters in the movie, except Geeta of course, who reigns her destiny, the only achiever in the movie(though in  her own subjective way)

The benevolent patriarch

Is no doubt the titular character of the movie Neeta, who like the unflinching tragedy queen sacrifices but to gain nothing at the end! Even nature fails to garner her peace or equilibrium as it stands as the mute observer of her being, though in a way empathizing in her woes as it reverberates her cries, echoes her grief, though back to her, and not transmitting it beyond it’s static barriers to carry it to those altars where they could be redeemed!

Neeta stands at the denouement as the one character to have gained nought, the one character who stands unredeemed or unpaid, the ultimate tragic entity, who gains nothing, even after the tantamount of failed expectations and broken dreams she has to endure…this is not the stereotypical run of the mill, melodramatic extravaganza various critics have blamed Ghatak to exercise discretion with, but a movie with an ending sealed with contentment, this is a movie of failed expectations, and life in general,…in some ways the predecessor of the realist faction spearheaded by Ray! This is not one’s usual staple melodrama, this is life moving in fiction!

Neeta is the star and also the galaxy which absorbs all to illuminate all,but at night is illuminated by stars which are but capped by clouds and thus it doesn’t get illuminated at all, thus double negative achieves no positive quotient for this character in the movie.

Leading us to close our discussion with the notion, of the rewarded and unrewarded patriarch, Neeta’s mother and Neeta, respectively.

Another poignant fragment of the movie is it’s denouement, when things come back on track for the family when the male re establishes itself as the rightful patriarch and turns things for the benefit of all, perhaps suggesting the pros and cons of the natural and unnatural patriarch, perhaps suggesting how the natural course of things should be, to steer the unnatural back to where it rightfully belongs!

To give back power to where it belongs, and also the fate of all Neeta’s alike, to walk but with a broken sandal, a life on crutches!

Y entonces hay el Che (And then there was Che) by Ananya Das

“…that the characters would change and you wouldn’t perceive immediately that they were changing – it’s as if you’re walking in a gentle rain and at the end of your walk you’re completely wet but you don’t know what happened to you…”[1]

No wonder the first shots of The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) directed by Walter Salles (funny first name for a Mexican; no offence meant!) are very home video stylish in context to the choice of framing; simply showing the mundane and necessary objects (especially the inhaler used by Ernesto); being packed for an otherwise epic journey into the unknown Latin America along with the beautiful background piece played with a guitar composed by Gustavo Sataolalla; and the highlighting precise voice-over of the role played by Rodrigo De la Serna as Alberto Granado. For Gael Garcia Bernal is not yet Che, but El Fuser, the rest is heavy asthmatic silence, calm yet firm and with compassionate eyes. And as for the inhaler, being privileged as the first object shown in the film comes later time and again with Ernesto trying to fight his asthmatic bouts, which could be imagined as emblematic to his fight against injustice and for freedom.

The frequent cuts and the steady cam maneuverings largely tries to de-mystify the characters as merely innocent, youthful and adventurous friends setting out on an exploration in their continent they themselves hardly knew. The documentary quality of the film especially depicting the ruins of Incan civilization, the indigenous populace, the little guide boy and Quechua women, can never go unnoticed. They were very much real, so much so that it helped Gael and Rodrigo behave as Ernesto and Alberto would, in response to the vivid texture of the continent, undoubtedly the photographic negative of North America, as Walter reveals in his interview about the film and Che himself revealed in his diary, though in different ways.

It was rather a challenge for screenplay writer José Rivera neither to over-amplify the already weighted, and to some, controversial personality of Che, the Revolutionary that we all know (or pretend to know) of, nor to deify the naïve, coming of age, consciousness and spirit of Ernesto, El Fuser. The whole film blooms in that fulcrum, revealing the third most important character of the film apart from Alberto and Ernesto – vast stretches of the Latin American continent. Rivera himself admits in his interview that certain details in the book itself could not be portrayed in the film to avoid misrepresentation. For example, while Ernesto has an asthmatic attack on the ship someone offers him a cigar; the book mentions it, but Rivera had to chop it off to evade viewers being distracted by such details that may tempt the viewer into thinking that say, in this case, that cigar being his first cigar! While portraying a character and personality such as Che, even in his early life as a rudimentary Che, trivial details carry a lot of meaning and must be dealt with very carefully, and dealt it was. This rudimentary Che in the film doesn’t were a beret and is never seen to be carrying a copy of Das Kapital.[2]

It is the third character (the landscape with its populace) that identifies and connects everyone and everything humane in the narrative, as originally depicted by Che in his book, which was rather impressionistic, elliptical and episodic, unlike the film itself. [3] The film has a proper beginning, climax and a revelation, in the order that any good story could be told in filmic language. In the book, the transformation is largely understood as Che’s diary entries change the addresses from ‘I’ to ‘we’. But the film could not afford to tread the same paths. In other words, it had to be close to real and not be too dramatic, one that of a docu-fiction quality and it was. [4] The fact remains that Rivera, Walter, Gael and Rodrigo transformed the diary entries into a close encounter with Ernesto and Alberto in 1952, so we could cherish, be moved by and dream of changing the world sitting in the comforts of late-capitalism inflicted 2004 or later. It is as if by time machine, albeit really through celluloid, we witness the case of the most complete human being according to Jean-Paul Sartre, while he was not so complete and on the verge of making a choice for the path to achieve that completeness.

The leit-motif trails essentially the journey, on the road, with nothing but only nature behind and beyond the two compaňeros. The rest of the film uses minimal music. The turning point is accentuated by the use of electric guitar and cajón (a kind of Afro-Peruvian musical instrument), when the two sail through the Amazon to visit the leper colony.

One of the most moving and ironic scenes according to me include the one where the two have a conversation with the landless couple looking for a job at the mining industry. That the two’s journey was that for journey’s sake, and theirs a forceful aberration from their roots, a reality that they didn’t at all fancy in the first place, provide the necessary conflict leading to the resolution of Ernesto constantly trying to derive meaning out of his existence in his journey with Alberto. The transformation into the Che avatar later comes as an obvious outcome. This film is only the prelude to Che, the revolutionary.

Lastly, the scene of Ernesto swimming across the Amazon on his birthday marks the climax, where to be or not to be Che is decided upon. I later learn from Walter’s interview (once again) that had it not been for Alberto Granado, the old man himself still alive, breathing and reminiscing, the entire episode would remain buried in the almost unnoticeable half a sentence mention in the diary itself. For it is such that Ernesto Guevara “had a certain timidity” [1] when it came to expressing about himself, a quality that continues fuelling the fervor, compassion and conviction of the great revolutionary icon.

Hasta Siempre Commandante. (Until Always Commander)

REFERENCES:

Walter Salles (2004 Interview). Accessed September 8, 2009

Website: http://www.thenitmustbetrue.com/salles/salles1.html

José Rivera (2004 Interview). Accessed September 8, 2009 Website:http://www.thenitmustbetrue.com/rivera/rivera1.html

Guevara, E. The Motorcycle Diaries. London and New York: Verso. 1995.

Salles, W. The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)