6 Comments

  1. This is a fascinating combination of Bangalore-South BJP bubble-and-squeak and posturing but ultimately empty feminism. You’ve obviously made no real journey in any direction in the last few years.

    For one thing, Fire is a rather stupidly earnest NRI film from a time that produced far more interesting films on the themes of gender and sexuality. Go watch Rudaali, Daayra, Aastha, and about two dozen others before you make ill-founded comments on films of that time. It’s not like films of this time are less patriarchal or patronising towards women.

    The use of mythic parallels is blasphemous for those who hold that religious narratives can have only one meaning. I can’t think of an idea that is more un-Indian than that. Every village that claims a Rama connection is also guilty of blasphemy then.

    The business of art, anyway, is to offend, not to make nice. People don’t think when you hold up comforting greeting-card representations of the world they live in. They do when you challenge their sense of what is true. Deepa Mehta, or Husain, for that matter, don’t need permission from anybody to use myth. It is available, and real, and therefore open to artistic use.

    If Mehta is blaspheming when she takes sacred names for ordinary people who happen to be lesbian, was Gandhi equally guilty when he used the term Harijan for Dalits?

    As for that long entertaining diatribe about minorities, perhaps you should compare Julie’s father’s comments with the scathing judgements of ‘their culture’ expressed by orthodox Maamis who find themselves stuck in the US. How moral are those rantings?

    Those who are powerless, those who are tossed around by the epic forces of history, should at least have the right to rave and rant, no?

    Who is this majority you represent anyway? Have you actually met them? Or have you simply taken the fact that you have never met people unlike yourself as proof for such a majority?

    Cow!

    • Jaydei

      I thought I recognised that tone! 🙂

      This is a fascinating combination of Bangalore-South BJP bubble-and-squeak and posturing but ultimately empty feminism. You’ve obviously made no real journey in any direction in the last few years.

      Possibly just not in the direction you approve of.

      For one thing, Fire is a rather stupidly earnest NRI film from a time that produced far more interesting films on the themes of gender and sexuality. Go watch Rudaali, Daayra, Aastha, and about two dozen others before you make ill-founded comments on films of that time. It’s not like films of this time are less patriarchal or patronising towards women.

      Yes, I compared Fire to more of the Tamil movies of those times. Why only Bollywood? But ya, perhaps further in the north women were getting stronger faster? I didn’t say todays movies are perfect. It may take many years before strong women are easily accepted. And it is better now than in the 90s- in Tamil. Thanks for the recommendations. I will put them on my to-watch list.

      The use of mythic parallels is blasphemous for those who hold that religious narratives can have only one meaning. I can’t think of an idea that is more un-Indian than that. Every village that claims a Rama connection is also guilty of blasphemy then.

      I thought I was quite clear about contexualising this statement. For those who have certain notions about their gods, reframing or reusing names from mythology can be offensive. Personally I don’t find it offensive at all. Did you even read the concluding note? I also mention that Hinduism is too broad, with too many versions to even have blasphemy in any real sense. In fact, I critisice this about their repeated Ramayan-Agnipariksha rantings; it makes it look like that is all there is which is central to Hinduism. Please reread.

      The business of art, anyway, is to offend, not to make nice. People don’t think when you hold up comforting greeting-card representations of the world they live in. They do when you challenge their sense of what is true. Deepa Mehta, or Husain, for that matter, don’t need permission from anybody to use myth. It is available, and real, and therefore open to artistic use.

      The role of art is to express. How people react, and what they see in it is a reflection of themselves. But the rest, I agree. No copyright violations here 🙂

      If Mehta is blaspheming when she takes sacred names for ordinary people who happen to be lesbian, was Gandhi equally guilty when he used the term Harijan for Dalits?

      Again, where do you get the idea that I think this is blasphemous? Just because I called it adhigaprasangithanam? I only say she could’ve easily made the same explorations into the issues without naming her characters two important goddess-avatars. And the concluding note puts a new spin on the names. It’s not blasphemy. It’s usage is fascinating at a different level. (read last paragraph).

      As for that long entertaining diatribe about minorities, perhaps you should compare Julie’s father’s comments with the scathing judgements of ‘their culture’ expressed by orthodox Maamis who find themselves stuck in the US. How moral are those rantings?

      The maamis are equally narrow minded. Just because they are maamis do you think I couldn’t see that? It’s all about context and understanding the intricacies of these big complex societies.

      Those who are powerless, those who are tossed around by the epic forces of history, should at least have the right to rave and rant, no?

      Now, who are we talking about? The maamis or the lesbians? Ranting is fine, but how effective is it in bringing about change?

      Who is this majority you represent anyway? Have you actually met them? Or have you simply taken the fact that you have never met people unlike yourself as proof for such a majority?

      I don’t represent any majority. I am a minority myself.

      Cow!
      Really? 🙂

      • Bunkum rebuttal. You call it sacrilege, and do general hand-waving through the piece, and then sing some feminist anthem for one moment towards the end. Make up your mind!

        As for that cute moment of Tamizh nationalism, it’s your lazy-ass safe-ticket out of that discussion. If indeed you were comparing Fire to Tamizh cinema, where does it say so in your piece? Also, how are these out-of-context comparisons justified? 90s Tamizh cinema and 90s Hindi cinema were two different worlds altogether. Mehta made an arthouse film with small commercial aspirations, and there are both Tamizh and Hindi films which articulate feminist concerns far more strongly. So that statement is still invalid.

        As for ‘ranting is fine but what’ etc., you are the one ranting about minorities and India:)

        If you’re a minority yourself, express that sense instead of standing around and providing methane-burps of approval in favour of those who do get offended by artistic device. If you were not offended, as others were, why does it take an insult-fest to force that statement out of you? Who is your debate with? With the comical offense-takers, or with the liberals who claim a secular distance from such offense? Make up your mind about that and you’ll sound less like a cow at the cross-roads.

        I don’t know who this person making predictions about secular response is–another Bangalore South burper perhaps?. The Mohammad riots of 1986 in Bangalore were fomented by a Congress politician trying to rappel his way back into the limelight and were uniformly condemned by those who understand secularism. His career as a serious politician ended there. The Congress, like the BJP, is a fascist party. What is surprising about that?

    • Jaydei

      My my, aren’t we feeling acidic!

      Here, let me spell it out for you. These were my exact words: “Which makes such naming as close to ‘sacrilege’ as possible within the broadness of Hinduism. It is no wonder there were objections to this movie when it was released. Those who are particularly fond of Rama-Sita or Radha-Krishna would surely be offended.”
      I don’t happen to be *particularly fond* of those two god couples. This statement is to acknowledge that there were some objections to this movie at this time and it was, by some significant number of people considered ‘sacrilege’. Also, the concept of sacrilege itself is a shaky one within Hinduism because there are simply too many philosophies that there needn’t all be in harmony. Contradiction is something which features richly in Hindu myth. (You could read my post on Ka for more evidence of this.) This is why the word is in quotes. I don’t believe sacrilege is possible in broadest sense of Hinduism.

      My personal opinion on the names is: “The namesakes of two goddesses/mythical women are shown as strong enough to leave their unsatisfactory, loveless marriages for something they believe and commit to. While both husbands are left in shock and slimy situations, these women break out of the moulds of their ‘support-role’ namesakes of the myths and become the victorious heros in the spotlight.”

      I hope this makes it clear for you now.

      Tamil nationalism? Just because I am not an ardent follower of Bollywood? As they speak in English, north Indianness is only implied in some rituals and aside dialogues, it does not automatically have more affiliation with Bollywood than any other movie industry in India. I have seen my share of Tamil movies and yes, some of them also have strong and complex women characters but this is certainly not the norm in movies of that time.

      This was a response to a movie, not a debate with either party you outlined, nor a political statement, and I am allowed to make off-hand statements about that Chinese gentleman’s dialogue if I so choose without explaining every corner of my own philosophy or stand point. If and when I write about minorities in India, I will express my position as a minority too in great detail.

  2. D

    Interesting comments and rebuttal. I have one comment on the names of goddess being used in this movie. I believe, names are just names and don’t reflect or affect any aspect of mythological characters or people’s beliefs. Having said that, we have seen that name of character being used in a fictional writing in a local newspaper [Bangalore] caused widespread riots and multiple deaths. Accepted norm in our enlightened democracy is, anyone criticizing deliberate abuse of Hindu Gods, symbols, is intolerant and against creative freedom, while abuse of other religious names are provocation for protests, violence and it is against secular India! I think the film makers deliberately use such names or references to evoke protests and media publicity, and hopefully people will be curious to see such movies which otherwise may have no value either in content or presentation.
    My understanding is that homosexuality is a natural inclination of certain individuals rather than response due to family problems. To that extent director seems to be misleading the audience.

  3. Vforce

    So i have a couple of things to say about the piece:
    1) You seem to have lost steam somewhere along the middle…probably when the story ended and you started with your opinions. The writing lost the force it seemed to have in the beginning.
    2) Please use some spell-checks. words like heros and acceptible draw attention away from the issues presented in the piece.
    3) Names apparently were a problem at the time: Sita was asked to be changed to Nita or something of the sort. But this shouldn’t really have been an issue: almost any Indian name used would then be an issue cause they’re all names of gods. what then?
    4) I also don’t think that the movie really offers any sort of advancement towards feminism or accepting lesbianism. As you said lesbianism isn’t about settling. If they’d had the attention of their husbands they’d have been perfectly happy. It also seems like they only question the absence of sex/finding it elsewhere. What about all the other issues? This totally negates feminism. If they wanted to take a stand, finding solace in each other was the cheapest, most demeaning way for them to do it.
    5) ‘sita is cooler than she looks’. seriously?
    6) as for the allowed sexuality in hinduism and the kashiyatra: hindu sexuality isn’t a blanket phenomenon. Depends what sect u belong to, which part of the country you come from, etc etc. So no point arguing about hinduism allowing you to be sexual. And the kashiyatra: it’s a skit these days as you said! So noone considers seriously the path towards moksha. Noone questions that and so this example MUST NOT be used to argue that he had an option to leave and he didn’t take it.
    7) i also strongly oppose anyone saying we should follow ‘tradition’ or feel some sort of ‘pride’ in being indian and anything along those lines. We are NOT living in the ages when these Stories were written (the stories themselves are filled with double standards and ridiculous notions) and should look at today’s issues in today’s context. I’m not saying there isn’t anything to be proud of, but there’s at least an equal amount to be ashamed of. Let’s not kid ourselves.

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