Monthly Archives: August 2011

Bollywood For Discerning Minds – Part Tres

Here then is my third installment of entertainers and truly outstanding productions from Bollywood.  Strictly speaking, these are not all Bollywood films but they are by Indian directors, wherever in the world they may be. Some of these films go back in time. But, I am convinced that in spite of that, they have survived the dating well and continue to be relevant, thought-provoking or simply entertaining. I think that it is because one has to search through a lot of chaff to find the true treasures, that I tend to appreciate them even more.

So, here goes –

    • Delhi Belly (2011) – This one is currently top of mind since it has not been long since I saw it. A non-stop laugh riot, this has to be the most audacious Bollywood movie I have ever seen. Deservedly rated “A” for Adults, this is a must-see. Released in both English and Hindi (dubbed), this is another gem from Aamir Khan. Who stars in it really doesn’t matter, it’s about the story, screenplay, dialog, music, the attention to detail and absolute creativity. A hilarious winner! Watch the trailer here, then go see it!!

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And here are some more movie recommendations for your discerning tastes –

    • I am Kalam (2011) – On the lines of Stanley Ka Dabba, this story is of two boys in the deserts of Rajasthan. One, an underprivileged and ambitious child laborer, the other a well-to-do boy with no friends. It’s about their bonding, the people and conditions they have to deal with it and how they overcome their individual challenges. The best thing about it is how natural and unassuming the boy actors are.
    • Fire (1996) – This Deepa Mehta film broke new ground, I would say not just in India, but globally. It is the first in her trilogy (the others follow immediately below). Spectacular performances by Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das, who play co-sister-in-laws, and have to turn to each other for love and compassion when neglected by their husbands. While it won some 14 international awards, it also sparked riots across India when it opened. Years before Brokeback Mountain hit the screens and caused strong emotions, dare I say it – this film broke new ground? What an understatement!
    • Earth (1998) –  The second in the trilogy by Deepa Mehta, this brilliant film showcases the time of India’s partition in 1947, the division between Hindus and Muslims, and the story of real people on the ground. Aamir Khan as never seen before, along with a stellar performances by Nandita Das and Rahul Khanna. This is one of those films that lingers on your mind long after you have watched it.
    • Water (2005) – Deepa Mehta ended her trilogy with this stirring film focused on the life of widows in Varanasi. As with the others, this issue-based film roused strong emotions as well as huge controversy in India. A moving story of very young, middle-aged and elderly widows and their second-class (or worse) status in society, this brought to light some of the injustices done to humans, women especially, in the name of religion.
    • Mississippi Masala (1991) – one of the better films of Mira Nair, juxtaposing the Indian and American approach to race and relationships. Shot in the deep south of US, and starring Denzel Washington, this movie gave desis in Amerias a reality check on their lives while giving Indians a peek into what it was like to live in the US. 
    • Kaminey (2009) – Who knew Shahid Kapoor could give such a glorious performance (or two)? One as a good twin who stutters, and the other the “bad” twin who can’t say the letter “s”. It obviously takes a director. Vishal Bhardwaj (again!) came out with this brilliant movie about identical twins born and raised in Mumbai’s slums.
    • The Blue Umbrella (2005) – Another jewel by Vishal Bhardwaj, this film is based on a novel by Ruskin Bond. With Shahid’s dad and actor extraordinaire Pankaj Kapur as the main character; the shopkeeper jealous of the blue umbrella that is gifted to a village girl by a Japanese tourist. This film is set in picturesque Himachal Pradesh and can be seen just for the beauty of the surroundings, but wait! This is a Vishal Bhardwaj film, so there’s so much more to delight in!
    • Arth (1982) – This goes way back in time; I probably saw it a few years after its initial release but the power-packed performances of Shabana Azmi and  the late Smita Patil are not easily forgotten even now. The allegedly true story of a Bollywood film maker and his extra-marital affair with an actress entailed all the drama you would expect. But the real winners were the soul-stirring performances by the wife (Shabana) and the high-strung actress (Smita). 

I end with this trailor for the Blue Umbrella.  Enjoy!


India – From Third World to Emerging Giant. Really?

As I look at modern India afresh, it is eye-opening to say the least, to witness the scope of change that has swept across the country over the past couple of decades. This is the case ever since the country opened its doors to international trade under the Rao administration in the early ’90s. So over the years of visiting India since that time, one could feel the transformation occurring. Today, what I see is really the accumulation of all that has happened in these intervening years and it’s remarkable and amazing. [In this post, I will try my best to stay away from some basic things that should have changed, but did not].

All in all, these economic reforms have made a profound and  colossal impact on the country – in how people live today and in how they think about the future and in its sheer economic potential.

Map showing India and Worldwide Foreign Relations

LEGEND: Grey:India; Dark Blue: Countries with key military, strategic and economic relations with India; Med Blue: Key strategic and economic relations; Lt Blue: Favorable Relations; Red: Border/Territory disputes with India

I recently came across an interview with an economist who put some numbers to my thoughts. As much as one may imagine they know about India’s future, these numbers were…well, mind-boggling.

The economist in question is Arvind Panagriyaa Professor of Economics & Jagdish Bhagwati Professor of Indian Political Economy at Columbia University and a Non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.  He is also author of a book, The Emerging Giant, which was published in 2008 and described by Fareed Zakaria as the ‘definitive book on the Indian economy’. 

Here are some of the points he made about India and the future of the nation in a recent interview (content of interview paraphrased below):

India will be a global Superpower in the next 15 yrs – by about 2025.

In the last eight years, India has grown about 8-9% in real rupees, which translates to about 13% in real dollars. Even if the growth is 10% a year, the economy will go from $1.7 trillion to $7.0 trillion by 2025 which will enable it to pass Germany, UK, France and Japan.  India will be the 3rd largest economy, behind only China (#1) and United States (#2).

“Browning” of the globe

In the next 15 years, the world (basically the developed countries and China other than India) will be less 100 million people. On the other hand, India will be adding 130 million people in the age group 20 to 49. This means that India will actually be supplying the global work force.

What about inflation and corruption?

Inflation and corruption are issues that have plagued this country even during this past time of growth. So, while they will always have a negative impact, the projected growth rate will not suffer. 

What might be some deterrents to meeting these projections?

The only real deterrent is if something unexpected happens to reverse the economic reforms that have been in place for the past two decades.

And, of course, there are innumerable things that the Government can do better.

Some of the needs of the country, according to Panagriya, include the following:

    • Better education policy and opportunities, particularly in higher education
    • Land reform
    • Redistribution of wealth to reduce poverty
    • Less government control of implementation of policies and services delivery – involving private sector more and more; the government of India simply does not have the capacity to carry out some of the more ambitious goals of the country.

Poster; Artist: Maurice Mellier, 1941-43 (Source: US Library of Congress)

Based on Panagriya’s opinions and his projections, India indeed appears to be an emerging giant. Its future appears assured and bright, whether looking at in isolation, or on the evolving global stage. And the realization of the scope of this country’s potential is only now penetrating and spreading around the world.  

Remember Japan?

But.  As bright as it looks in the future, the reality can differ from projections. And how! Does anyone remember Japan and the predicted glory days that ended in a crash that the country is yet to recover from? Some three decades ago, Japan was like China is today. It was a relentless growth story towards far-reaching economic progress. It was only going to be a matter of time before Japan became mightier than the US as the world’s largest economy.

Or the case of Southeast Asia – until 1997, Asia attracted almost half of the total capital inflow into developing countries. The economies of Southeast Asia attracted foreign investors looking for a high rate of return while the regional economies of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and South Korea experienced high growth rates, 8–12% GDP, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This was widely acclaimed and was known as part of the “Asian economic miracle”. Then came the Asian financial crisis which was a period of financial crisis that gripped much of Asia beginning in July 1997, and raised fears of a worldwide economic meltdown.

What about India?

This is not to say that the same will occur in India!  However,  it’s prudent to mix caution with high flying projections.

In addition, it is disheartening to see some of the endemic issues that plague this country being ignored by the government. Am I sounding like a broken record about this? Well, so be it.

For example, corruption is a top-of-the-mind issue and a mighty blight that needs to be eradicated.

Here is one of the most fundamental ways that it impacts this country: The way I see it, once it is less easy to be a corrupt politician, I feel that this country can count on getting real leaders to step forward – those who are there to be of service to the citizens and country, not just to fatten their bank balances. Isn’t it past time for Indian politicians to stop treating their work as a personal business?

Until such a time that the right leadership (which is not apparent where I look) is not part and parcel of India, I must be honest, it is very, very, very hard to believe in these numbers alone. 

With the right leadership, everything has a much better chance of falling into place.

As India is often touted as the largest democracy in the world, it will be up to the people to vote carefully – with a view to bringing in those leaders that can leverage potential into reality, assuring a bright future for them and their descendants.

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India Foreign Relations Map: By User:SpartianSpartian at en.wikipedia or Deepak Gupta at Wikimedia Commons.  User:Spartian with changes by User:Emperor Genius [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

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