Adapting to the Indulekha model

Indulekha is a brand that has been churning out so many TVCs recently for their product range. The first series of their advertisements featured popular mini and big screen actors, which was followed up by another series that had ‘reality TV’ sort of feel to it. Their latest series even has a theme and name – uLkkarutthu – and contrary to the direct selling strategy, they have adopted a model that is ‘seemingly’ progressive and feminist in the outset but is pushing certain politics which seems to be the trick of new age marketers and advertising gurus to keep them in business. More on this advt in Kafila and Nalamidam. And do watch the first video of their series here before you read further.

I was thinking what would happen if other businesses have started adopting the Indulekha model. Imagine a barber who cannot afford to have men who do not cut their hair. This will certainly threaten his regular business. So what he really needs to ask for is business but in the new age, he cannot be too direct with it so he has to push certain politics to market his service. And here is what happens when he adopts the Indulekha model.

Nel nome di Cristo

Everything is powerful as long as it is in the powerful hands. The powerless are deluded by the powerful to think they have the power when they actually don’t. That is why we remain happy with our version of democracy or the predictions of India becoming a super power in 20xx. That is also why when the clergy teaches us of the greatness and acceptance of our version of religion makes us happy that we are part of something great, while we actually do not have any role in it. The powerful plays it all – politics, religion, race, caste and what not. And the powerless are only meant to nod their heads and fooled to believe that by doing so, they are playing a larger role.  The powerful knows how to work their way though and that is what this news tells us of the fishermen, whose husband/brother were killed in cold blood by the Italian marines, forgiving the accused ‘in the name of Christ’.

There seems to have been a concentrated effort from day 1 to save the Italians of the murder charge. First it was Mar. George Alanchery, the newly crowned Cardinal of Syro Malabar Church, who told the Catholic news agency in Italy that he has instructed the Catholic ministers in Kerala to intervene in the matter. Then came two Italian priests to visit the families of the deceased, which the Church calls ‘a spiritual exercise‘ but believed by everyone else that it was for an out-of-court settlement (why else would two Italian priests come all the way from Italy to pray for the deceased, which doesn’t happen usually unless the deceased are rich and powerful, I wonder). Two Italian ministers followed with their visit to India to find a settlement. Later, the Central government claimed in Supreme Court that the Kerala police doesn’t have jurisdiction to probe the killing, which was slammed by the honorable court.

When all these ‘diplomacy’ through religion and state did not work, the Italians made an offer that the families of deceased could not deny. Even there the religion and faith had to be involved to work the powerful’s way through, so they worked with a couple of influential priests (good work, Fr. Churchill and Fr. Wilfred!) to come to an out-of-court settlement. So the settlement was that the families would state their forgiveness ‘in  the name of Christ’ duly signed in a stamp paper and in return they would get Rs. 1 crore each. One of the families’ counsel Jestin Poulose said they had no faith in the government, so the “next best available option” was to at least secure the compensation. Though it is said that the murder case would continue, it wouldn’t be difficult to guess what will happen to the case now with the families have applied to withdraw the petition.

At the end of it all, it seems that in Catholicism, some Christians – especially the white and Italian Christians – are holier than their Indian counterparts. I don’t see why otherwise would the Catholic clergy in Kerala work so hard to secure the two foreign marines accused of murdering their own community members. All these while Sr. Abhaya is still seeking justice.

(Photo courtesy: India Today)

From sculptures to idols

There is a hill called ‘Kalasa Mala‘ at Akathiyoor, a beautiful village near Kunnamkulam in Thrissur. Malayalees would know this place from the popular Malayalam movies such as “Thoovaanatthumpikal” and “Bhoothakkannaadi”. Kalasamala is a popular shooting location for movie industries outside the state also and I have heard an interesting story about the place when I was there.

Once a Telugu film production team came here for shooting and their art director created a temple set. The crew had left when the filming was over but the temple set they made for the film had stayed. A few days later appeared a kal viLakku (multi-layered lanterns made of stone) in front of this temple set and people started flocking to the temple and rituals were begun. Some youth in the village brought this to the attention of the Panchayath and it is said that the higher authorities had to interfere to remove the movie set.

Now on to the topic of this post. Something happened recently that reminded me of the movie set incident at Kalasamala. Almost an year back, I saw some sculptures made of plaster of paris lying on the road side at Jagathy, in Trivandrum. I walk through the place every morning and these sculptures seemed to have been discarded by somebody, probably a north Indian vendor who sells such plaster of paris sculptures from house to house (it is a common sight in Kerala). These sculptures were of Ganesha and Ayyappa. After a few days, I noticed that the sculptures have been put straight; now on a sitting posture. Few more days passed by and there was a garland of flowers on both the sculptures. Then one day I spotted a set of incense sticks with a fresh set of garlands. Clearly, somebody has been doing a pooja with the sculptures. This continued for many months and in the last week I noticed that somebody had erected a sheet roof on top of the sculptures. Now it has the shape of a small temple.

I see a scope for Kalasamala issue to repeat here and if it is not nipped in the bud, it is going to be a very sensitive issue in the future. This is right next to the road and is blocking the footpath already (as you can see in the pictures below). If there is going to be a complete temple erected in the name of these two sculptures, which was junk in the first place, it will create traffic blockade and misuse of the public property.

About watching movies

I’ve got to read an article by Roger Ebert through a Google group of movie buffs. Mr. Ebert’s article was titled “Why I’m so conservative“. Not in politics, he says, but in his thinking about movies. Basically he is saying that he likes watching movies in projection theaters than in digital format. That got me thinking about my experiences of watching movies in cinema halls and why I would prefer a home theater experience instead. (Disclaimer: This is about my experience in watching movies in theaters in India and I mention that particularly because somebody said that the theater experience in USA is different from that of here).

The experience of watching movies on a big screen is different. It leads you to a new world, an amazingly wider world of reality and fantasy. But watching a movie in cinema halls in India is just that – watching, and not enjoying. It depends a lot on the projector, it’s operator, the crowd, the atmosphere that the cinema halls gives you, the screen, sound and so on. If one of them fails, you would never be able to appreciate a movie for what it is.

In some theaters, they project a 70mm movie in 35mm on a 70mm screen. Sometimes it goes out of focus, scenes slightly blurred. When you watch a 3D movie, which is supposed to give you a more real cinema experience, you can see some folds and dirt marks on the screen and so you end up constantly reminded that you are ‘watching’ a movie. Sometimes our good old ‘film editors’ in the projection room do their own cuts and edits. So you abruptly jump between frames or scenes. Audio in some theaters, even the ‘good ones’, turns out to be just ‘noise’ sometimes. The ambiance that the movie halls provide also matters in enjoying a movie or giving your full attention to it. In some theaters, you’d wish they had a better cooling air conditioner and in some others you wish they had a heater. Then there is the crowd. Some would push you to the sides of your chairs and some would play games to win the space for arm rest of the chair.

You think multiplexes are good, but they are a vast abode of bored people. Some of the problems mentioned above apply to multiplexes too (or at least the ones I went to, in Bangalore). And if you are watching a Hollywood movie, you are doomed. People would laugh out aloud even at the silliest joke in an English movie which does not usually happen when they watch regional language movies. You would be left wondering if the joke was something that you did not understand because of the language. I’ve felt it as if the multiplex audience, while watching English movies, wants to convince others that they do understand the language (which is – understanding English language – considered as a sign of education and intellect in India). So you would end up hearing laughter outbursts every now and then with a semi-loud chatter. As an aside, it is largely in two types of places that I have seen people trying to convince others, mostly strangers to them, that they do understand the language and appreciate cinema – in multiplexes and film festivals.

When I watch a movie in my laptop or at home theater, none of these problems affect me. The only thing I really miss is the screen size. There are many advantages to watching a movie at home. I can adjust the light and sound as I like it. That gives me a feeling that I am also being a part of the movie presentation. Ebert says, ‘projected’ is good. I think it is eery. It gives me a feeling that somebody is hiding behind me to control what I see. That doesn’t feel free. When I was a child, I used to look behind to the source of light that came to the screen (I admit that I was just curious back then, than being frightened). When the movie originates on screen, it is like a gift that somebody’s offering you, from right in front of you. It’s a call, that says, ‘come, let’s take this trip together‘. And when I am at home, and have the freedom to control the presentation of a movie, I’m also being a part of the movie. That makes me feel good.

When I watch a movie at home, I don’t have to control or hide my feelings. I don’t have to be socially conscious. I can weep if I want to or laugh out loud when I want to. I don’t have to wipe my tears before people see it. I don’t have to worry about people seeing me weep like a baby. If it is a DVD, I can read the sub-titles at places where I did not understand the spoken language (even if it is English). I don’t see pause and rewind as an advantage though; I think it’s a distraction. When it’s just me and the movie, the line of distance between us is blurred. Sometimes I can touch a character. Or can just stroke them to console.

I’m not saying that all cinema hall experiences are bad. It’s definitely worth experiencing to watch a commercial masala movie in a full house packed with people laughing and clapping and passing on comments. But there cinema doesn’t go beyond the level of being a medium for entertainment.

The ‘traditional’ attire of Keralam

The photo above is from the inaugural function of the International Theatre Festival of Keralam (ITFoK). There was a heated debate in Facebook about the scene highlighted in this photo. The debate was about how settu mundu is being touted as the traditional attire of Keralam when it represents only the upper-caste traditional attire. The discussion was initiated by someone called Abdul Kareem and I got to see it when Sudeep Ben re-shared the photo in his FB page. After following up on the debate in the FB pages of Sudeep, Abdul Kareem and BRP Bhaskar, I posted my thoughts in one of the posts. Here it goes:

1) It is important that we ask questions about what is being celebrated as ‘traditional Kerala attire’. Every community/caste/tribe has had a different attire so it is impossible to define what is traditional and what is not. And just because one of them is being commonly celebrated as ‘traditional’ (which has happened long before the ‘disturbing’ questions about caste arose) does not mean that it must be accepted without a question.

2) Wikipedia says that ‘Mundum Neriyathum’ is “one of the remains of the pre-Hindu Buddhist-Jain culture that once flourished in Kerala and other parts of South India” (Ref: It is also said to be an adaptation of the Graeco-Roam costume called ‘Palmyrene’. So I am not sure how ‘Hindu’ it is. Upper-caste Hindus might have adopted the dress-code because they could afford it while the lower-caste being the working class couldn’t have afforded the attire.

3) The Sangeeta Nataka Academy function is a less harmful example if compared to the inaugural function of the TV programmes like Idea Star Singer which seem like a Hindu religious ceremony.

4) The remaining question is which identity we should use as a common cultural identity. Now it is dominantly upper-caste Hindu and not many have questioned this, so it continues. Whether we need to have a common pre-set cultural identity when it is projecting only one cultural identity is the next question. In this particular case, whether an ‘international’ theatre festival needs to have a local identity stamp on it is a third and more relevant question. I think it will be good to let people wear what they want to wear rather than giving a false notion of a common cultural identity.

Cardinal, Catholicism and Caste

When Mar George Alancherry was ordained a Cardinal, the newspapers wrote about how humble he is and how much he respects the Indian tradition with wearing a Syrian cross, that upholds the eastern tradition of Christianity, on a rudraksha chain around his neck. He is also said to be against the ‘Latinisation’ of the native Syro-Malar Church. But Mar Alancherry has ruined that reputation (of a native church trying to retain its identity while being part of a global Latinized Catholic church) by making an unwarranted intervention in a legal row between two countries, just a couple of days after his ordination in Rome.

When asked about the murder of two Indian fishermen by Italian marines, he said that he “immediately contacted the Catholic Ministers of Kerala urging the government not to act precipitately”. This has raised questions about his stand on justice and his allegiance to his country.

First of all, the Cardinal did not have to intervene in the legal dispute between the two countries because he was not asked for help by the Indian government to mediate. But he did, and it sets a wrong practice of religious leaders trying to influence an elected democratic government through it’s community members in the ministry. Suppose that he was asked for help to mediate and even then his priority should have been to ensure justice to the poor fishermen who were shot in cold blood by the Italian marines – as a fellow human being and a Christian. If he had to ‘urge’ the government about anything, it should have been to bring justice to the family members of the dead victims. But he failed to do that.

The Cardinal also said, “But the point is another: it seems that the opposition party wants to take advantage of the situation and exploit the case for electoral reasons, speaking of ‘Western powers’ or the ‘will of American dominance’“. Here also he is setting the wrong priorities. Political parties always look at the options to make political gains out of socio-political issues, especially during the elections. This is nothing new. And every single political party has done this. Congress party would do the same if they were on the opposition. So why is the Cardinal worried only about the Communists?

There is another side to the story which is about caste in Kerala Christianity. Though the Latin Catholic Church is part of the global catholic church, the Syrian Christians (Syro-Malabar Church) consider them as converted lower caste fishermen (and Syrian Christians consider themselves as Namboothiri descendants). The murdered fishermen are both Latin Christians. So you can assume why the Cardinal did not have any qualms to take sides. The Latin Catholic Church has reacted sharply to the comments of Cardinal Alancherry.

“They called it unfortunate and said it was against the interests and sentiments of the fisherfolk. The families of the victims also vehemently slammed the alleged statement. The Latin Catholics, mostly on the coastal belt of Kerala, are not likely to be happy with the reported statement from Alencherry, who is from the substantially more socio-politically influential Syro Malabar Church. This controversy is likely to amplify the socio-political divide between the two communities, although both are Catholics.” [via]

The story is reflecting badly on the Syrian Christian community. Sangh Parivar has begun to sharpen their weapons claiming that the Catholics have their allegiance to Rome than India. And we will have to wait and see how this dangerous precedence set by Mar Alencherry would help the soft terror strategies of Sangh Parivar and how it will affect the Christian community in the long run. And as long as we have such people in the clergy, who had declared Communism a greater threat than Hindutva while Christians were being persecuted in Mangalore and North Kerala by Sangh Parivar, it does not need much imagination.

Photo courtesy: Reuters/

Being an outcast, for being raped

How do you judge a society’s morale and progress? Is it possible to judge them by taking a look at how the society treats it’s women and children? If so, Keralam has shown an example of it’s morale and progressiveness by the incident of a minor girl being sexually abused. The incident took place in the coastal village Mangalam in Alappuzha district. A 12 year old girl was sexually abused by her neighbor who is a father of two children. The girl did not feel well after the incident and was afraid she could get pregnant so she shared it with her friend in the school.The friend shared it with her family.

The friend’s parent went to school the next day with other parents but here is the shocker. The friend’s family did not go to school to ask for justice to the abused girl but to threaten that if the sexually abused girl continued to study in that school, they would not send their children there. Some of the lady teachers in the school also said that they wouldn’t take lessons in the class if the girl continued. The headmaster then sent the girl out with a transfer certificate.

The story doesn’t stop there. The girl joined a Sanskrit school nearby but the school administration received a phone call saying that it is better for them to show the door out to the girl. The girl was put out again on the same day. The next option for the girl’s parents was another school in Punaloor, but again the moral police in the area intervened and the girl was out again.

This news story is an example of why women are still not daring to come up to the forefront to report domestic/sexual abuse or rape. The society treats the hunted as the culprits and the hunter walks scot-free. “Why didn’t she protest” is the question we always hear. “She could have resisted”, “looks like she asked for it”, “she might have enjoyed it” are the brutal comment we pass on such incidents. And not a comment on the ‘family man’ who took advantage of a young girl of 12 years for his perversion.

Wondering what happened to the man who sexually abused a minor girl? The people, police and media have no intention to question the injustice because he is a ‘family man’.

(Go to to read the full story in Malayalam)

Image: graur razvan ionut /

Still living in the old times

I have high regard to Perumbadavam Sreedharan, a writer of Malayalam literature who is now donning the role of Kerala Sahitya Academy President. His celebrated novel, Oru Sankeerthanam Pole, is one of my all time favorites in Malayalam literature and I have read it many times. And that is why I was so saddened to see him acting like an old royal court member trying to appease the king for a reward.

“Even though there is no royal ruling now, I am still a praja of the royal family”, the man declared his loyalty to the royalty while publishing a book written by Marthanda Varma of Travancore royal family. He added that he takes pride in saying that he is a praja of Travancore royalty. Mr. Sreedharan seems to have forgotten that he is living in the modern era where the dynasty ruling is a thing of past. His post as the president of academy was not a royal gift to him either. So when he declares that he is a praja of the dynasty, while living in and enjoying the fruits of democracy, he should at least stick to his word and step down from his position in the academy which is a cultural institution in this democratic country. But not a single word against him from the whole literary community! Not one, even from the so called Leftist writers.

So that leave me wondering, reading along the debates surfaced about the Padmanabha Swamy temple wealth, are we, by any chance, living in under the Trvancore dynasty rule?

(photo courtesy: Mathrubhumi online)

Love Jihad – the aftermath

The truth is officially out now. There was no Love Jihad and if there ever was one, it was a hate campaign organized by one Hindutva website called The cyber cell of Kerala Police has filed a case against the website owners for spreading religious hatred and false propaganda.

But the propaganda campaign had already made the damage. Young Muslim men were looked at with suspicion. Those of them boys who were in love or flirting with girls of other religion were tagged as terrorists and jehadists. Islamophobia rose to the core in the so-called educated society of Kerala. And they easily chose to forget the fact that in a male dominated society like ours, women are always converted to their husband’s religion, even in love marriages. Not just religion, say if a Roman Catholic girl is married to a Chaldean Syrian Christian boy, she would be converted to that denomination with marriage. And when a bunch of Hindutvavaadis called it jehad, just because it was Muslims at the other end, everybody bought the crap.

The curious case of Catholic church must be taken to notice in this case. The Syro Malabar Church had warned it’s community members of Love Jihad, without even checking the facts. A notice was posted in the website of Kerala Catholic Bishop’s Council. And they worked with VHP to tackle the issue. “We will work together to whatever extent possible“, K S Samson, an office-bearer of Kochi-based Christian Association for Social Action (CASA), a voluntary Christian association, told the Times of India. But is it surprising to hear it from the Church that was busy framing Communism as a greater threat to Christianity than Hindutva, while ordinary Christians were being slayed in Mangalore by Hindutva organizations? Now during a news hour at Reporter TV, the Church has admitted that it was wrong. Oh yes, our Church does that all the time. We commit/support crimes during one time and would apologize for it years later after it has made a larger damage.

But the Hindutvavaadis and their supporters would still not give up. You can see Rahul Eashwar, the bragging Hindutva poster boy of Kerala, trying to muscle through the debate in Reporter TV. Oh, and he very cleverly plays the ‘middle-man’ by blaming extremists of both sides (and his insistence on highlighting the extremism of ‘both sides’ happens only when ‘his side’ is attacked) and he is still saying that there must have been some substance to the idea of Love Jihad.

The interesting thing is that through out all these debates – all the for and against talks about the branding of Love Jihad – nobody has touched the greater issue that involves gender. No individual or TV channel has sought out why it is women who have to convert to their husband’s religion/denomination. Or why the husbands agree to their wives’ right to stay in her religion/denomination until the marriage ceremony is over and then convert them to their faith, forcefully or not.

Earlier on the topic: Love Jihad?

Responsible journalism – New Indian Express style

500 TN women workers rescued from Kerala border, said the news headlines of The New Indian Express daily on December 7th, 2011. Then it went on to say,

In one of the worst incidents of mob frenzy over the ongoing Mullaiperiyar dam safety row, nearly 500 women estate workers from Tamil Nadu were held hostage and some of them allegedly sexually harassed in Idukki district in Kerala on Monday. [link]

This is from the Tamil Nadu edition of the newspaper and reported by someone named Gokul Vannan. As expected, several attacks were followed and directed towards Malayalees in Chennai and Coimbatore. Many Malayalee shops were targeted including Joy Alukkas and K R Bakers in Chennai. Malayalee shop owners in Chennai and Coimbatore are feared for their lives. All because of the news that churned out from a rumor.

The ‘reporter’ obviously must be aware of the tension that exists between Kerala and Tamil Nadu in the name of Mullaperiyar dam. Water is a big issue for the neighbor and compared to an average Malayalee, an average Thamizhan has fairly good respect to women (this of course is valid as long as the women stick to the traditional norms – remember how actress Khushboo had a temple built in her name and then it was brought down to earth when she commented on pre-marital sex?). So any common man can assume the gravity of the issue when the news of Thamizh women being assaulted by Malayalees in the name of Mullaperiyar dam comes to the front. Then why can’t a ‘news reporter’ consider that aspect and treat the news right?

The funny bloody thing is that there was no such incident. There was no such report in the Thamizh and Malayalam regional TV channels. An activist online friend checked with several Malayalam and Thamizh news papers – including The Times of India, The Hindu, Dinamani, Dinakaran, Dinathanthi, Malayala Manorama and Mathrubhoomi – but couldn’t find any source that said so.

From his Google Plus page:

When I contacted Idukki Collector on this issue through a reliable source, I came to know that it was a full-length fabricated story. (Idukki Collector: E Devadasan, ph: 09447032252).

Later, I contacted a friend of mine who is the welfare officer of a tea plantation in Idukki. From his words, I could understand that about 95 percent of the people working in the plantations there were from Tamil Nadu who are still continuing their work.

When I asked about the report to my counterparts in Kerala, I understood that even the Kerala editions of The New Indian Express have not carried the mentioned report.

This is one person who took the effort to confirm the news using his contacts. But our national media houses, CNN-IBN and NDTV, did not take the pain to do a fact check and republished the story with crediting the source to Express News Service.

This is the sad state of affairs with our media. And not an apology, not a word, yet, from either The New Indian Express or from IBN Live and NDTV.