Tuesday, 24 March 2009

The language of cinema...Slumdog speaks English

This is a short post which I know is my third post on Slumdog Millionaire. Still I thought I must put my two bits. And no, I don't make any money blogging yet, which means no commissions from Danny Boyle.

I just chanced upon an interview of Amir Khan where he said that Slumdog left him cold. One key reason for this was that he apparently wasn't used to seeing Indians speak English in films...especially slum kids or the cop.

I obviously won't even be foolish enough to question Aamir Khan's understanding of cinema. He positions himself as one of our cerebral stars after all. But I don't buy this argument for not liking the film.

The film was not a Hindi film! Do all films need to be in the language of the story/ context? I am sure a million examples can be cited to the contrary. And I am not talking of Tom Alter and Bob Christo.

By that logic, Devdas, a Bengali book shouldn't be made in Hindi especially with the odd atrocious Bengali in the Bhansali version. Didn't the Brits speak an abnormally high amount of Hindi in Aamir Khan's own Lagan? I am told that Khan's latest, Ghajni, was set in Tamil speaking Chennai but was a Hindi film (I have not seen the film).

And by that logic The Reader should be panned because it was in English and not in German!

Liking or disliking a film is a personal choice. But this seems to be a mighty stupid reason.

While on The Reader, I liked the way Kate Winslett switched accents to a more neutral, guttural one there, and an American one in her other fantastic performance in the Revolutionary Road. Remember that her natural accent is British. I think this is where she scored over Dev Patel in Slumdog as he was the only one in the film speaking English in a British accent. Would have been good if he worked on Indianising it

Unless Patel's English it was an intentional play on many of the young folks I hear speaking in a very pronounced American accent in coffee shops of Bandra. Still shouldn't have been British though.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Mr and Mrs Smith-wallas

I last wrote about my angst and alienation (I studied sociology in college) with the socio legal system. This was with specific reference to the housing society which wasn't allowing us to rent out our place.

That's when we decided to unleash our trump card - my in laws. Let me clarify before you get the wrong impression. They are not WMDs or something. Nor do they belong to the underground (don't get fooled by my pa in law's shaven head). But they, especially my mom in law, are every tenacious in getting things done. They don't give up that easily.

Their track record gave me a lot of confidence. The first time I saw my Mom in Law action was with a couple of insurance policies that were misselled to Kainaz and me. This was from one of the financial groups in India in whose hands we have often suffered. Their (the group's) service and efficiency levels are quite abominable. We have lost interest because we had started a fixed deposit with them but the cretin on the desk had not registered it. We lost serious money and (I) lost hair while buying our house as their agent had promised us the loan after seeing the papers, took the fees and then said that they wouldn't give the loans with the papers available.

So my Mom in law took things in her hand when we got third time unlucky with the insurance wing of this group - she sat on their head till they returned Kainaz's money and till they corrected the errors in my policy.

So we turned to my in laws with a lot of hope this time to resolve our society problem.

They made about five trips to the registrar at Bandra from Dadar. Unlike Kainaz and I who were frazzled after a couple of attempts. Again while we would wait tentatively there, they went up the food chain and met the peon, the deputy registrar, his clerk. They argued our case. Got promises of help. Persisted till they got specific commitments from the deputy registrar. Then enlisted the peon's help to track the elusive office clerk and finally did got the clerk to implement the Regirstrar's promise of help.

The end result? Yesterday, my in laws got us a stern letter written by the Deputy Registrar to our society secretary asking him to stop harassing us and to resolve issues within fifteen days and let us rent out our place. The Registrar also told the society folks that he did not want to get any further complaints from us about the society.

How cool is that? Now we can at least go and look for a tenant.

Thanks to all who wrote in with their support. Thanks Anaggh for your tips. Yes, the registrar is fairly effective IF, and its a big if, you are really persistent and have the time to go after them. My in laws are retired and are tenacious.

Talking of retirement, I am really, impressed with my Mom in law's skill in cracking first, one of India's largest and most slothful financial companies, and now, a typical bureaucratic, government office. She has a natural talent as what Kainaz calls a 'fixer'. Perhaps she can take up cases from people like us (working, not too worldly wise) for a fee. And all above board.

I am sure there will be quite a few takers. What say?

Saturday, 7 March 2009

The impotence of middle class morality

We studied George Bernard Shaw's 'Pygmalion' in school. I remember a character, Mr Dolittle (not sure of the spelling), who made a compelling argument against what he called middle class morality. The crux was that the rich can do whatever they want, the poor are desperate and therefore have no standards to match up to. It is the middle class who get screwed (I am paraphrasing heavily here) because they have to live up to certain norms of morality without the means to do so.

Closer home was this serial called 'Wagle ki duniya' which used to come on telly in the eighties . This was about a middle aged, middle class man, Mr Wagle, and his struggle for existence. There was an episode where he had to give a bribe to a government official. Nothing new about that. But the twist was that straight laced Mr Wagle had no idea about how to give a bribe!

I remember our then school principal, Mrs Kapper, gave that as an example of how all of us should be good, honest, law abiding human beings.

We learnt a lot of things in school - Shakespeare's favoured metre, the directive principles of the Constitution, the reproductive organs of a frog, the rise and fall of Napolean, Boolean algebra (what the hell was that now).... and so on.

Unfortunately what we didn't learn was how to deal with the real world. The world where there are no rules.

Look at us and our housing society problems for example. We have been held to ransom for about three months by the senile, obstinate, one foot in the grave, uncooperative secretary of our 'cooperative housing society'.

To quickly recap the issue - we wanted to rent out our house and rent a larger place. The secretary had said there was no problem. We went ahead and to took a larger place. Once we did so he said we could not rent out our OWN house! He cited a resolution to this effect which has been allegedly passed by the society. Since then he has refused to show us the resolution. Nor is he offering a solution. He says the 'committee' has to decide. And that committee apparently has not met for the three months since. He has even brought up ridiculous thing saying that the bank we have taken a loan will not allow us to rent out our house. I called my bank immediately, found that this was not true and told him to stop bluffing.

So this means that that we are now paying a sizable rent for new house and the EMI for the loan on our house. Without being able to rent out our own house.

We thought we will at least shift our loan to a bank with lower interest rates. We are stumped there too as they want a no objection certificate from the society.

Our only fault was that we played by the rules and were civil. We have tried everything. Put in proper applications. Been very courteous and polite with him. Then been curt with him. Yesterday I even lost my temper with him(tough as people who know me will find this to believe).

Some suggested going to the Registrar of Housing Society' office. That is a maze like all government offices - no timings, no accountability, be prepared to grovel. We went there a couple of times on an office day. The person wasn't there. We met the registrar on the third attempt and was told to come a week later. A week later they were busy. You get the gist.

The system is not geared for working couples like us and now my in laws will try their luck again.

The other suggestion was litigation. Again that's something people like us wouldn't want to get in for time and money constraints.

And for what? For being able to rent out our own flat? The flat which we have paid for by our hard earned money? Money for which we put our lives on hold for at least two years after we bought it by cutting down all expenses - eating out, movies, etc? The flat for which we have paid every possible tax and paid in white without resorting to any form of subterfuge?

What right does the society, the secretary and their ancestors have to put us in this position? In fact as I asked him yesterday, how does he sleep at night with a clear conscience?

The system is geared against one. You have a body like the housing society, with no accountability or use, calling the shots. You have a government body, the Registrar, which is a maze. And a litigation system which only fools rush in.

And the irony is that this system exists in Mumbai. The city which is supposed to be the one which is synonymous with freedom.

There are people who can get their way around to get their way. Bravado, muscle power, bribery, hit men, sweet talking, manipulative call it what you want but they get what they need through any means.

And then there is us.

We fret, we blog, we quitely stomach what's dished out to us and live out our life by the rules of middle class morality.