Writer's Clan

Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai

A Documentary by Nakul Singh Sawhney, ‘Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai’ recently aired on Netflix, belongs to genre of ‘controversial’ movies which are released after being banned in a number of states due to protests.

Based on the real events that led to the Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013 and the aftermath of it, the documentary attempts to tell a story through the eyes of the various stakeholders who were involved, whether they desired or not, in the communal violence that shook the roots of Hindu-Muslim unity which was prided amongst by the various villages of Western Uttar Pradesh districts.

The genius of the film lies in the slow progression it makes towards the major issue of communal violence. As an audience, there is not a moment where the filmmaker seems to be imposing his own ideas or belief as to what conspired. The narrator, while facilitates an easy interpretation of the story, nowhere seems to take a biased opinion except for stating the facts. It is the statements of the people involved, be it the small girl sketching her family’s figure and describing what happened or the elderly of the village who are shown to discussing the parties who they think were responsible and for whom they are going to vote. The documentary successfully builds a logical trajectory as it takes the audience with it in unravelling the layers and finally reach the tipping and the triggering point of the whole incident.

Not limiting itself to the incident, it further shows us the differences that exist in general amongst the people and the range of contrasting opinions that can exist because of the lack of education and awareness amongst the rural societies of India. If educated and aware, the lack of proper platforms to air their grievances on and the lack of proper institutions (read: legal aid), also serve as a detriment to performing the functions of responsible members of a society. The interviews of stakeholders ranging from the immediately affected to the ones that closely witnessed and anticipated the likelihood of such violence, including a special segment on women whose honour was used as a typical scapegoat for blaming the cause as well as the resultant violence, is applaudable.

An alumnus of FTII and a filmmaker who has had close connections with other political and social issues such as honour killing, Sawhney’s attempt is successful in the sense it strikes just-the-right chord with the audiences and the rest of the population of the country who might be completely unaware of the actual reasons leading to the incident. The instances in the story makes the audience realise the gravity of the riots which have almost become an everyday part of the news articles and headlines. A small boy of hardly 10 years old mumbling “Humari dukaan phunk di” because of the trauma that he suffered and going completely quiet after, the school headmaster who was completely ridiculed and made to leave, the change in slogans of the various farmer’s associations and the deplorable conditions of the various refugee camps set up in the aftermath etc.

Heartbreaking on one hand, the documentary endearingly captures the change that the riots inspired in the otherwise united and friendly community of religious differences. The movie concludes with Gorakh Pandey’s message that a day would dawn when the poor and the unarmed would stop getting scared and that is the day that the rich and the wicked should fear! Sawhney succeeds in portraying this message with utmost honesty and dignity making it a must-watch for every Indian, if not to discover the details Muzaffarnagar riots, but at least to understand the basic fabric of ‘us’ as a nation and never letting others use it to our disadvantage.

Writer's Clan

THE BOLD TYPE

If there was one really amazing thing that 2017 gave us, you have to count this Television Series which has brought back the enthusiastic life at the New York City from the goggle-eyes of three young yet ambitious women.

With only a season, the show revolves around Jan (writer), Kate (social-media manager) and Sutton (Secretary aspiring to break into fashion) who together work at the fashion-magazine-Scarlett, whose Chief Editor Jacqueline Carlyle is another woman known for her style and sense of magazine business which has made Scarlett what it is today. (read: Teen Vogue). Apart from it’s obvious resemblance to ‘Sex and The City’, what makes the show stand out is not just the bond shown between the characters but the way it deals with current issues and the way each character develops over the period of the 10 episodes.

Consider for instance, Jacqueline thrusts Jane to experience the process of being a writer, be it stalking her ex-boyfriend, undertaking the breast cancer examination or learning the secret behind fake orgasms! Kat, a young and smart woman who knows how to touch just the right tip of the young social media followers, not only grapples with the run-of-the-mill online abuse but also with her sexual identity on a different level combined with the political issue of homosexuality in the second world and third world countries to which she has never been to! (No character reference to avoid spoilers). The makers of the show further hit a jackpot when it comes to showcasing the diversity which New York or for that matter any international city reveals in, including the assorted range of ethnicity, religion, identities etc. and their evolving interaction with the traditional white straight catholic society who generally overshadow all the major events and characters in a show or a movie. Sutton’s character gives you an insight into the residual practical matters the youth grapples with everyday, the usual being love vs career, things you want to do vs things you have to do to pay those student loans, hence providing the much needed mature angle to the storyline of the trio.

The pleasant change this show offers is the cool and calm nature of the Chief Editor, a successful woman, yet in every way supportive and encouraging rather than the usual shrill, angry and bossy women. She is not tagged with difficulties of personal life to highlight the sanctity and seriousness of things she has achieved as the editor of Scarlett.

The show not only deals with lesser talked about issues but does so with style and effectiveness which is just enough to make you want to think. It has scenes as good as the railway platform scene and the moments as great and thrilling as the last episode of ‘Carry the Weight’. It wouldn’t be wrong to deny that the series has a female perspective and the male cast simply supplement the story, but then again, what’s wrong if it’s meant to be that way?!

Watson binds the episodes comfortably well in a storyline which is intriguing as well as makes you happy, giggle yet think and accept a lot of things we still would rather ignore.

The Bold Type is just the right series to enjoy a laid back weekend where you are not only going to be engaged but will be entertained and happy being so in the true sense.

Writer's Clan

Newton, India’s well deserved official entry for Oscars 2018

Seldom does a movie gets rated 8 on IMDB, sent as an Indian entry to Oscars without a star cast boasting of either experience, stardom or fame. Newton is one of those surprises that all movie lovers have been waiting to happen on the Indian Cinema’s front, for a long time now, and hear me well for Newton is here to give you just that! Newton is a political satire on the world’s largest democracy and how the Maoists affect the citizens there, and the lives of the people in the ‘red areas’. Don’t let the language or reviews fool you. The best part about the movie is that it gives the audience something to take home, be it an intellectual,  or a school-going kid who has been introduced to Civics.

The film begins with a Sudhir Chaudhary giving instructions about elections where the lead character ‘Nutan Kumar’ who changed his own name to ‘Newton’ is introduced. The conversations between Newton and his senior about how not being corrupt is not a favor rather a duty to the nation, and how gravity (science) is one of the hallmarks of equal status of humans are the mark of brilliance of the script and dialogues! The movie takes us on a day-long election to be conducted in one of the naxalite-affected villages of Chattisgarh which has recently been captured by the police, with 76 voters. We are taken through the larger issues of usual apathy of the administration (police and election authorities) in conducting a fair election and the discontent-apathy of the locals who remain unaffected irrespective of the public offices filled in and out by the various elected representatives, the neglect and bias towards natives and the fear of naxalism.
However, the movie wins where instead of making it all grim, it shows the reality for what it is through sarcasm and humour. Be it the scene where the Chief of Security Aatma Singh (Pankaj Tripathi) is describing the candidate’s elections’ symbols as mere fruits and vegetables, and the ballot box as a toy, or the scene where one of the guards is proposing an investing scheme to the Chief Election Officer, the innumerable hilarious takes on the system initially makes you laugh and then think.

The performances are brilliant and appreciating Rajkumar Rao one might easily fall short of words. Right from his continuous blinking onscreen to his child-like curiousity and his silence when he thinks, he makes us watch him and undergo the same dilemma. He is making the problem one of our own. Pankaj Tripathi, as Aatma Singh,  does justice to his corrupt security head’s role and Raghubir Yadav is another standing out as a senior Election officer, after Peepli Live.

The brilliance of Masurkar lies in the fact that he found the correct balance between making a humorous yet realistic movie, which hits you even without realising. The point where Rajkumar Rao is seen helpless about the apathy of the voters and their lack of knowledge might make you numb for a while and his consequent rebellious attack might give you an insight on the whole attitude and dynamic of naxalism existing in our country, a message you can receive only if you look closely.

Newton is not just a movie, it’s a message. And the response of the movie amongst the society assures us of one thing, the youth of the country cannot be considered ignorant anymore.