Two short film contests

1) The Bombay Sapphire imagination series and Tribeca Film Festival present a short film script contest where you are to write a short film script based on a template provided by Geoffrey Fletcher (scribe of ‘Precious’). Five winners will be chosen and the writers will get an opportunity to work on the production of these scripts. The link is here.

2) An initiative by LA India film council, the second short film promises contest winners 1000 dollars and opportunity to get work experience in a ‘major film production company.’ Open to film and media students in India and LA. The link is here.


The man vs the govt: the Anna Hazare redux

‘A great antagonist is some one who believes in the inherent goodness of his own intentions and a great drama is where everyone is an antagonist.’—Goldman

Some how I am getting a hang about the times of our freedom struggle (doesn’t mean that I think this is the ‘second freedom struggle’). All the hard facts about our freedom struggle aside, there are certain nuances and things about the atmosphere that becomes revealed to you in unique occasions like this… A politically shrewd person raising the right kind of issue with an immaculate sense of timing… The government which is exasperated by ‘this weird man’ with ‘eccentric ideas’ rigid in his own way… The other Indian parties and stake holders who don’t agree with him in most issues but still put up with him because he is effective… The public dictated more by pure emotions rather than nuances and subtext, ready to sacrifice for this total stranger… History does repeat in its own mysterious ways.

Alcohol, age limit and Imran Khan’s PIL: Are we overdoing ‘freedom?’

Maharashtra has raised the legal drinking age to 25. Reactions have ranged from ‘strange’ and ‘absurd’ to downright ‘challenge to individual freedom’. Are these things so black and white? Most countries have used a cut off for legal drinking at around 21. And the advantages and disadvantages of raising it from 21 to 25 needs to be studied and debated. But the current insistence of the critics to lower it to 18 does not have much basis from a public health perspective.

First of all, raising age limit to control alcohol use and the related hazards is a strategy that has strong ‘evidence basis’ to support it. I am not talking ‘what I feel strongly…’ or ‘probably we can infer’ kind of facts seen in columns but hard evidence from methodologically robust studies. What is the nature of hazards  we are talking about?

Alcohol use is the third leading risk factor for poor health globally. It has been estimated in India that while the gains in terms of revenue from alcohol sales are Rs 216 billion every year, losses from adverse effects of alcohol  are estimated to be Rs 244 billion, apart from the immeasurable losses due to multiple and rollover effects of alcohol use. Needless to say, the available estimates are merely the tip of the iceberg. Now coming to youngsters, it has been shown that some one initiating alcohol use after first two decades of life have much lesser chances of developing adverse consequences or pathological patterns of drinking than who starts before. In countries where it has been debated whether drinking age should be lowered from 21, considerable amount of evidence shows that it may not be a good idea (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8). Continue reading

Defiant Gods and indignant followers

Current uproar about Arundhati Roy’s comments on Kashmir and the ensuing reactions to it kept me thinking. Not much about the issues raised as much, but regarding our ways of responding to views which are in dissonance with that of ours. And its relation to the context and architect of the views.

Why is it that most of the reactions to Roy are so hostile? I am not talking only about the Sang Parivar, or the beaurocracy or the politicians. I am talking about the general public and media. Is it just that her diatribes against ‘the Nation state’ is something too abrasive for a patriotic Indian? May be so. One criticism that is consistently leveled against her is that she takes a bite in every fight, every affray against the Indian government while enjoying the freedom and space offered by the Indian state (Reminded me about similar indignation against Noam Chomsky in US).

But I don’t think that it is the only reason or the central problem. Why is it that Medha Patkar is not hated like Arundhati Roy? Why is that even with all the blood bath, the big Maoist leaders are still shadow figures for us? And look at the last straw. Azad Kashmir. Is Roy the first Indian to offer support for the independent Kashmir? What about all the Geelanis and Abdullahs before?

The difference is probably how Arundhati Roy is perceived in the overall scheme of things. She is viewed as a popular icon who is an outsider to all these issues. So the sentiment is that her swinging her weight into any argument gives an abnormal validity to certain groups in the dispute in an international arena. I think the indignation and fury against her is because she came out with ideological inclinations which were not only unacceptable but also blasphemous for the same general public who had taken her up in their shoulders as a ‘celebrity’ when she won Booker prize. Everyone feels being stabbed in the back after decorating her edifice. Continue reading

The iron curtain

Some questions hang around uneasily in the aftermath of the Mumbai mayhem. It doesn’t help that we are forced to swallow any information handed over by the officials. There is no option of cross checking.
1) Its said that an attempt of killing 5000 has been foiled. But what exactly has been the plan for the same? Shooting at the crowd and throwing grenades at multiple sites appears to be too wishy washy a plan for doing that.
2) Terrorists held the hotels for at least a day. They are said to have a roomful of RDX. What prevented them from using it?
3) From the account of military it was not a suicidal mission. There was an escape plan involving bargaining with the hostages. Consider the elaborate preparations that had gone in in the form of video coverage including the staff quarters inside the taj hotel. Didn’t a possibility of a military operation cross their minds? Didn’t they have a plan for that? What was the strategy employed by the military to foil such a plan? (Other than storming in disregarding the body count of hostages)
4) It was said at one point that around 6 hostages were killed out of 66 in one hotel during the military operation. What prevented the terrorists from causing a higher casualty among the hostages? That too considering that the military operation was going on for around 1-2 days? Is someone being too boastful regarding the casualties vs saved hostages?

This may not be the right time to be skeptical. But sometimes devil is in the details.