The Tainted Fruits of Multiculturalism

Multiculturalism is overrated.

These are the words spoken by a Millennial.

A brown-skinned Millennial from Southeast Michigan.

Let me set the record straight. I love the fact that I live in a region of the world where a Thai restaurant, an Indian tea shop and a Lebanese bakery can coexist within the same strip mall. I have friends from numerous ethnic communities and I love learning about their respective heritages.

A few miles south of my home is the charming town of Dearborn, home to the largest Muslim community in North America. A few miles east is the bustling city of Detroit, a Black-dominated metropolis. One mile north of my humble abode is a Sai Baba Temple. Within my block are five churches of various denominations, one of them being a Maronite Catholic parish.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

However, here are some disadvantages of multicultural societies.

1) Lack of Trust

Robert Putnam, a sociologist from Harvard University, conducted a study of thirty thousand North Americans and concluded that residents of cosmopolitan metropolis’ display a profound lack of trust amongst each other, leading to loneliness despite living in a city with more than a million people.

When you have people of various ethnicities, adhering to a wide range of cultural values and beliefs, it’s incredibly difficult to inspire any sense of unity. It’s awkward to maintain a solid rapport with someone who doesn’t share your mother tongue. And I can’t imagine how conservative politicians appeal to their potential voters with the ‘family values’ rhetoric when the criteria for ‘family values’ is different for everyone.

No wonder civic involvement and volunteerism in America has declined since the end of World War II. We assert ‘One Nation, under God, indivisible’ yet we can’t even agree on whether God exists.

The only way you have boost trust is finding common ground. After all, that’s the purpose of company picnics, right? To maintain a healthy bond among coworkers to ensure functional teamwork at the office. But how do you establish common ground with people who don’t share the same complexion, the same heritage, the same language, nor the same religion.

2) Identity Politics

When you have a conglomeration of peoples who don’t share anything in common, the beast of identity politics always rears its ugly head.

Identity Politics is usually the result of one group of people protesting against discrimination and oppression. In the United States, this was evident among American Blacks, Hispanic immigrants and the indigenous tribes which lead to the Civil Rights Movement and other social justice demonstrations advocating for equality.

Unfortunately, separatists and nationalists movement have germinated from the garden of Identity Politics. Agitations invoking violence and intimidation, fueled by the ‘you’re either with us or against us’ mentality. Even today, we’re witnessing the weeds of identity politics through the Black Lives Matter movement. Originally started to protest police brutality, it has since adopted the ‘blame whitey’ and ‘fuck the police’ rhetoric which has done nothing but exasperated racial hostility.

Identity politics is more apparent in the Middle East. I could mention the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the volatile relations between the Shias and Sunnis in Iraq, the persecution of Chaldeans, Kurds and Yazidis, or even the dispute between the Turks and Greeks in Cyprus.

Identity Politics was the catalyst behind the name changes of major cities in India. Bombay to Mumbai. Calcutta to Kolkata. Madras to Chennai.

All to assert some bogus nationalistic pride.

3) You= Your Race

The more diverse a municipality is, the more people engulf themselves among their own kind. Although Southeast Michigan is heavily diverse, it is appallingly segregated. I live in a White-majority suburban city. Across the main road is a Black-majority town. Similarly, Jews, the Chinese, Indians, Arabs, Chaldeans, the Hmong etc. all have their own residential pockets.

In a multicultural setting, you’re practically obligated to wear your race on your sleeve. It’s as if your individuality dissolves and you become nothing more than a product of your ethnic community.

Being Asian Indian, or Indian-American, or South Asian, or Malayali, or American or Michigander or whatever etc etc. has very little to do with who I am as a person! My views, my tastes, my opinions, my hobbies, and my personality are shaped by a plethora of influences beyond my ethnicity, nationality and race.

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I want to reiterate again that I do not see multiculturalism as a scourge on modern society. There are numerous benefits to living within an ethnically diverse vicinity. However, we cannot sugercoat reality and pretend multiculturalism is the greatest thing ever (excludinh internet porn). Diverse community are bound to undergo a series of growing pains. Even when its residents eventually learn to get along with one another, it is hardly the rainbow paradise envisioned by hyper-idealistic liberals.

 

Let’s Talk About Death!

I recently read this heart-wrenching story in the Chicago Tribune about this woman who threw a ‘suicide party’ for her and her friends before relinquishing by taking a prescribed pill from her physician. 

Betty Davis was an artist from Ojai, Southern California, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2013. Earlier this year, California governor Jerry Brown implemented a very controversial measures allowing physician-assisted suicide throughout his state. Emotionally-charged debates have ensued since the passing of that measure. Obviously, the decision undertaken by Betty Davis has exasperated that controversy. 

I’m not writing this post to state whether I support or oppose Davis’ final decision. I don’t know her. I’ve never even met her. Therefore, I don’t feel the need to comment on her personal affairs. 

Death is a topic which our modern culture has frightenedly strayed from discussing. In fact, at the turn of the last century, the   parlour, where the corpse of a family member was displayed before proceeding to the burial site, was revamped into the modern ‘living room’ (subtle, right?). 

Our post-Victorian urban society is not at fault. We have been petrified by the very mention of death since the advent of our species. We’ve comforted our fears through fanciful tales of the ‘afterlife’. After all, despite all its destructive acts against humanity, why do you think religion continues to be an potent facet of our culture? 

Nonexistence is unfathonable for the human mind to comprehend. We can’t even began to imagine not being alive. Therefore, we’re stricken with chills to our bones at the very thought of our own deaths. We exist. We like existing. We want to exist forever. And yet death lurks as we grew older and greyer. 

Regardless of your opinion on Betty Davis’ final decision, her perspective on her situation is not only refreshing, but quite inspirational. Diagnosed with a terminal illness, she decided to undergo physician-assisted suicide with a smile. She embraced her inevitable end by inviting her family and friends to celebrate! She implemented a strict ‘no-crying’ rule at her party, as she laughed and reminisced with her loved ones. For her, her death day was not a time of sadness and heartache but an opportunity for fun and revelry. 

I think we’re been misguided to view death as a negation of life. As Mitch Albom articulated in his book, Five People You Will Meet In Heaven, death is a very intrinsic part of life. After all, every sentence ends with a punctuation mark. But you never hear of any writer affected by a peculiar phobia to punctuation. Well, we’re the author of our lives. And thus, we’re aware that death is a vital necessity to life. 

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating suicide, especially when you’r perfectly healthy. You should live your life to the fullest. But eventually, just like every story comes to a conclusion, so does life. Like it or not, we’re all going to be six-feet-under. So, we can either dread that inevitable day or we can lie on our caskets with a smile on our faces 

Book Review: Norwegian Wood

If you were asked to name a single novelist from Japan, your answer would, most likely, be Haruki Murakami.

Although he is heavily dismissed by his contemporaries for his ‘western sensibilities’ and apolitical tone, Haruki Murakami is Japan’s best-selling author. His 1987 work, Norwegian Wood, launched his writing career into international ‘stardom’.

Murakami’s works center themselves around themes of loneliness and alienation in a Kalkaesque world. Similar to his latest work, Colorless: Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, published in 2013, Norwegian Wood is a first-person narrative retold through the lens of a thirty-something year old nostalgically reminiscing his years as a college students.

Toru Watanabe is a Drama student in Tokyo, studying for a degree for which he has neither passion nor conviction. The unrequited love of his life, Naoko, traumatized by the suicides of both her boyfriend and her sister, takes an indefinite leave of absence, leaving Toru in an emotional void. Fill that void is the happy-go-lucky, vivacious Midori Kobayashi, who, herself, is secretly harbouring a dark past.

Midori is the early version for the archetypal ‘manic pixie dream girl’ complementing the quiet and emotionally-distraught Toru. I actually enjoyed the conversations they have with each other. Perhaps, I have a thing for whimsical girls. And unlike Natalie Portman’s character from Garden State, Midori somehow seemed more authentic and real. She reminds me of a number of my female friends (and borderline crushes) who’ve colored my world.

The political backdrop of the story was quite intriguing. As a news junkie and history buff, I’ve always been fascinated with the 1960’s Counterculture. Because I’ve fixated my attention on the events occurring in my own country, I didn’t realize the aura of rebellion had also overtaken the Japanese youth. Toru recalls the myriad of student protests within the halls and corridors of his university. He remembers how passionate his fellow students were in overthrowing the restrictive, bourgeoisie system. Romanticized rhetoric espousing ‘free love’ and ‘revolution’ were commonplace.

Yet, similarly in the United States, the revolutionary spirit quickly evaporated in Japan. Toru laments how weak-willed and fragile the student movements were. He frowns how quickly they abandoned their ideals and donned business suits to apply for corporate jobs, not unlike their contemporaries in the United States. In a way, this is Murakami’s indictment of utopian political agendas. Perhaps, this is his explanation for straying away from the political realm.

Individual thought and nonconformity are also recurring concept throughout the novel. Toru exemplifies the lone wolf. His idiosyncratic demeanor continuously entices Midori, who takes notice by saying phrases like ‘I like how you say….” and “I’ve never met anyone who does that”.

One of my favorite quotes from this novel is “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking”. Ironically, given this novel is a best-seller, I feel guilty for selecting it in the first place.

Eventually Midori and Toru lose touch as Toru reunites with his unrequited love in a mental asylum. Although Naoko is essential to Toru’s tale, I found his infatuation with her to be extremely aggravating. I suppose I’m always infuriated by a protagonist’s quest for a girl who can never love him. In addition, I never deciphered what attracted Toru to Naoko in the first place. Unlike Midori, Naoko never had much of a personality. She was always this fragile girl dishearted by the tragedies in her life. I could certainly sympathize with her but nothing more. Either way, the subsequent events from the mental asylum to the present day leads a frustratingly ambiguous conclusion.

Murakami’s novels are extremely different from books I’ve previously read. The recurring themes, the characters, and even the plot itself takes a considerable amount of time to digest. Despite being a best-seller, Norwegian Wood is an anthem for every pretentious hipster in Mile End, Montreal. Nevertheless, I’d recommend it. You’ll be set to ride in the tunnel of your own mind.

Tryst with Eternal Carnage

Yesterday (August 15th) marked the 69th anniversary of Indian independence. Characterized by parades, fireworks and the flying tricolor illuminated by the blazing Indian sunshine, August 15th is a day of boisterous revelry throughout the Deccan.

In his famous ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech, Jawaharlal Nehru declared that ‘at the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awaken to life and freedom’. Unsurprisingly, Nehru was blind to the events unfolding before his eyes.

India did not awake to life and freedom. Millions of innocent men, women and children awoke to a bloodbath, witnessing their loved ones savagely slaughtered by Hindus and Muslims. In the name of God, a innocent Hindu girl was gang-raped by a bloodthirsty Muslim mob. In the name of God, a Muslim boy was decapitated in front of his mother by a gang of vengeful Hindus. In the name of God, unassuming Sikh families helplessly watched their ancestral homes being burned to the ground. In the name of God, the soil  of Punjab, Rajasthan, Kashmir and Sindh were drenched with the crimson blood of the farmers who plowed and toiled on that same soil.

Unfortunately, the carnage has yet to cease. A few month ago, in Dadri, located in the North Indian province of Uttar Pradesh, a Muslim man was killed by a gang of Hindus for the ‘crime’ of purchasing beef. In the South Indian province of Kerala, a professor had his hand chopped off by Muslim fundamentalists for allegations of blasphemy against Islam. An anti-superstition activist from Pune was fatally shot for his advocacy. Another social activist, from Delhi, was forced to leave for Europe at the risk of arrest in accordance to some colonial-era penal measure. His sole crime was disproving a miracle occurring in a Bombay Catholic parish by pointing to bad plumbing.

Kashmiri Pundits risk losing their lives by residing in their native region. Hindu families from Kairana, in Uttar Pradesh, have also been coerced to depart from their homeland.

In the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination by her two Sikh bodyguards, Sikh families in Delhi and the surrounding regions endured the wrath of their fellow countrymen. Meager protections were granted from the Indian central administration. When anti-Muslim mob violence erupted in Gujarat, Modi’s government were also seemingly blind to the bloodbath.

In the midst of unjustifiable gore, instigated in the name of dogma and theology, India continues to pride itself as the hotbed of the world’s religions.

Incredible India. That’s the motto the Indian Ministry of Tourism has propagated to lure bored and naive Western visitors into the idyllic Shangri-La that is, allegedly, India. By spoiling these foreigners with the same top-notch amenities and accommodations denied to their own countrymen, the Indian tourism industry attempts to keep its guests ignorant of the deplorable poverty and eternal butchery occurring through the windows of their Oberoi hotel suites.

But yes, India is indeed the abode of spiritual truths. India are a land of countless Deepak Chopras enticing naive souls with their  ‘philosophical insight’. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Mata Amritanandamayi have promoted brands marketable enough to evoke the envy of Apple and Microsoft. Catholic bishops in Kerala have imparted their ‘wisdom’ to encourage ‘bigger families’ in a land of over one billion. And of course, we could never forget Zakir Naik, one of the most prominent Muslims speakers in India, who has yet to condemn ISIS and Osama Bin Laden.

On August 15th, 1947, India did not awake to life. Tell that to the victims of the religious massacres which occurred during that time. India did not awake to freedom. How could one forget the State of Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi (Nehru’s daughter, no less!) where the basic civic rights of Indians were suspended, habeas corpus was denied to prisoners, the free press was undermined, and poor, rural-dwelling women were forced to undergo sterilization? How can India be free when a colonial-era penal code continues to be enacted in the country? How can India be free when its own citizens fear death for their religious label? 

August 15th is the day India was liberated from British imperialism. Whoop-dee-do. Let’s not be reminded that Great Britain unexpectedly received a massive influx of South Asian immigrant families during the late 1940’s and early 1950’s!

August 15th should be a reminder of the brutality and savagery continuously spearheaded in the name of God. I hate to be a Debbie-Downer but August 15th should be a day of mourning, not a day of good cheer. The events of August 15th should motivate all of us, Indian or non-Indian, to discard the primitive beliefs and polarizing identity policies which have killed so many innocent people.

 

 

Why Women are not Funny

Now, before you accuse me of male chauvinism and organize a platoon of feminists for my castration, I beseech you to hear me out.

No no, I don’t think the entire female gender is genetically disinclined from cracking a witty joke. And yes, I am aware that there are successful female comedian like Sarah Silverman and Amy Schemer. In fact, one of my favorite comics is a lesser-known, Los Angeles-based comic named Monrok. Plus, I’m a huge fan of Garfunkel & Oates and…wait, I shouldn’t have to defend myself!!

Anyway, it’s no accident that comedy is a male-dominated profession. The reason for this phenomenon has nothing to do with the no-vagina policy implemented by 99% of comedy clubs around the country.

If you’ve read this blog long enough, you’re aware that I don’t trend the lines of political correctness. The truth is, on average, guys are funnier than chicks.

There have been several reasons proposed to explain this contradiction to biological egalitarianism.  Vanity Fair’s Christopher Hitchens suggested an evolutionary explanation in one of his column pieces. He explained that while women are already desirable to men by their physical attributes alone, men are pressured to boost their sexual capital. A man’s sense of humor elicits the impression of a good-natured mate who make the woman feel comfortable and at ease. Thus, men skilled in the art of stand-up comedy were undoubtedly more successful in procreating.

In other words, guys are horny to be funny!

Some have proposed a psychological explanation. When a woman feels emotionally overwhelmed, she breaks out and cries. Occasionally, she’ll even sob a river of tears. The more she cries, the more sympathy she’ll evoke from her peers. Men don’t have this option. If we shed a tear, we’re branded as ‘pussies’ by both genders. Men generally lack healthy methods of dealing with our emotional burdens, which explains the higher proportion of male suicides, in comparison to our female counterparts.

It makes sense. Comedy is often rooted in depressing topics. Beneath the layers of rib-tickling laughter is the inner core of melancholy and anguish.

Humour is therapeutic. In fact, for many, it’s the only effective form of therapy. Rather than laying on a leather couch, pouring out one’s burdens and insecurities to an paid stranger, some find it more helpful to revamp their inner distress into a light-hearted, amusing story. The resulting laughter from their peers (or audiences) is a practical alternative to a 90mg dose of Prozac.

I’m certain more theories have been introduced to explain the gender humor gap. Of course, at the end of the day, humour is genderless. What’s funny is funny whether the joke is uttered by a guy or a girl.

 

 

The Hookup Culture

Religious clerics and conservative media pundits have warned us of this impending social trend. The ‘Hookup Culture’ has devoured an entire generation! In college campuses across the globe, students attend their lectures and study groups during the day. Yet, when the sun sets, these young minds are transformed into depraved hedonists, lurking through the dorm halls for that electrifying orgasm! Courtships and emotional commitments be damned! We drink and be merry for we know not what tomorrow brings.

And can you blame those impressionable co-eds. After all, their worldviews have been shaped by the media. And look at the filth on TV. Scantily-clad young women. Provocative dialogues. Explicit sex-charged music videos. Whatever happened to those good ol’ days, when the only programs on TV were ‘family-friendly’ shows like The Cosby Show and 7th Heaven and all those other nauseatingly-sanctimonious after-schools specials? Whatever happened to those poorly contrived episodes of Full House and Saved by The Bell pontificating regressive messages? I miss the 1980’s cringefest!

Catholic apologist Jason Evert is one of the few gallant crusaders vigorously combating this moral crisis by holding talks with high-school students and youth groups about the virtues of ‘chastity’, while unhesitatingly spouting bigoted (and often refutable) diatribes against homosexuals!

Conservative commentators like Bill O’Reilly and Pat Buchanan speak of this ‘cultural war’ in which the godly must take up arms against the evil liberals and their diabolical plans of promoting promiscuity and ‘alternative lifestyles’!

Indeed this country is changing. Donald Trump is right! We must make America great again! We must take our country back!!!!

Of course, we should not give any credence to that study from San Diego State University revealing that ‘millennials’ (the most popular term the media uses to designated twenty-somethings) are astonishing less promiscuous than previous generations.

Those conclusions shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, where is our ‘Summer of Love’? What’s the ‘millennial’ equivalent of Woodstock? Our Baby-Boomer predecessors rebelled against the ‘Leave-it-to-Beaver’ social norms of post-WWII America by embracing free love. In contrast, growing up in an already sexually-liberated society, we, Millennial, didn’t have any prudish attitudes to counteract.

Instead, we chose an alternative route by repudiating the Gen X values of Gordon Gekko and becoming minimalist, inner-city-dwelling, Tumblr-blogging hipsters!  Oooh…look how Edgy we are!

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It shouldn’t be news to anyone that Millennials are less promiscuous. We don’t have time for sex. We’re too busy playing Pokemon Go! Where’s the fun in achieving a two-minute orgasm when you can invest six hours galloping around the city, searching for the elusive Ditto?!

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Yes, we Millennials may be less promiscuous than the previous generations. However, most of us are far from being reclusive hikikimoris. Twenty-something year olds do have sex. However, because it lacks the rebellious flair from which our parents indulged in a sexually-repressed culture, sex just doesn’t have that same countercultural appeal. Sex is a biological imperative and we, as a species, aren’t going to give up sex anytime soon. However, for our generation, sex is less of a priority.

 

 

Film Review: Waiting

What if we had the power to prophesize? What if we could predict the future? What if we could foresee everything that will happen to us and our loved ones.

If we knew that we will eventually live happily-ever-after, we could sigh in optimistic relief. If we’re destined towards ill fate, we could mentally prepare ourselves and accept the tragedy with peace of mind.

Unfortunately we don’t have that luxury. So we wait. Trapped in a seemingly never-ending state of emotional limbo, we anxiously await our predestined fate.

Waiting is about the emotional roller-coaster ridden by a TaWaiting-Hindi-Moviera Kapoor, a young model, and Shiv Natraj, a retired professor, as they cope with the pain of their respective spouses being in a coma. Despite their radically different personalities and contrasting worldviews, the two find solace in each other, as they are the only ones who can understand  what the other is feeling.

The relationship dynamic between Tara, portrayed by Kalki Koechlin, and Shiv, portrayed by Naseeruddin Shah, aligns with your typical cross-generational tropes. Tara is a social media fanatic while Shiv hasnt even heard of Twitter. Tara is an avowed atheist while Shiv seeks spirituality for comfort. Tara is blunt, while Shiv is more prudent with his words.

In fact, Shiv voices his criticism of the youth to his unresponsive wife, proclaiming “Of course, the young generation are more evolved than us. They’re more well-informed. But they lack grace and common sense…. After all, you can’t vomit out everything you’re thinking!”

However, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, cliches are not undesirable in themselves. They appeal to our yearning for familiarity. In Waiting, the cliched setup works well in touching on the grey texture of relationships and the deeper truths of life.

Our two protagonists candidly berate the preponderance of platitudes they’re forced to hear from friends and concerned acquaintances. From the surgeon’s standard ‘the next forty-eight hours will be crucial’ dialogue to Tara’s sister pontificating on ‘positive energy’, we’re practically programmed to assure distressed loved ones that ‘everything will be okay’ and ‘our thoughts and prayers are with you’. We don’t realize that this rehearsed string of rhetoric causes unintentioned resentment, exemplified by Tara’s single-sentence line, “I fucking hate people”.

Most married couples never anticipate a situation when one of them succumbs to a coma. We always assume it happens to other people, never ourselves. If your spouse was trapped in an unresponsive state for a long duration of time, would you consent to pulling the plug or not? And regardless of your decision, do you think your spouse would agree?

I suppose the ‘Would you pull the plug on me?’ discussion is not the effective way of setting the mood!

Zara-Zara-Lyrics-WaitingNaseeruddin Shah, as a veteran of Arthouse cinema, was perfect for his role. Kalki Koechlin also did remarkably well. She successfully managed to convey the distress of a woman who practically lost her husband without being excessively melodramatic. The supporting cast, including Rajat Kapoor as the physician, also did exceptional.

The cinematography was superb in capturing the charm of Cochin. I was pleasantly surprised to see the story unfold in one of my favorite cities in India. Those amusing snippets of our North Indian protagonists enunciating rudimentary Malayalam phrases were also a real treat!

Although the plot is slightly formulaic, this film offers some food for thought. The tone throughout the film was gentle and softhearted. This movie will make you count your blessings, allowing you to be more appreciative of your loved ones.

Film Review: Udta Punjab

The Golden Temple, the Khalsa, colorful turbans, embroidered shalwar kameezes, dazzling mehndi decorations , Sardarji humor, Bhangra hits, Qawwali ballads.

All of these come to mind when we envision the Land of Five Rivers. Known for its abundance of farming land, Punjab never fails to live up to its reputation adownload (2)s the ‘breadbasket of the Indian subcontinent’.

However, despite its feat in feeding a country of one billion, the fertile soil of this idyllic agricultural paradise also breeds a substantial yield of a venomous species of crops. Behind the veneer of this picturesque wonderland is a drug-infested black hole, suffocating anyone who voluntarily jumps in. Even Siraj ud-Daulah would have cringed, flabbergasted as such an inhumane sight.

udta-punjab-trailer-0001The film opens with a concert featuring the heartthrob sensation Tommy Singh, an unsubtle allusion to Yo Yo Honey Singh. His unkempt hair and devil-may-care demeanor never fails to entice his impressionable young audience. His lyrics allude to his own indulgence of the devil’s dust, which, as he lamented in a later scene, is the only thing he knows. His intoxication habits push him into a downward spiral, forcing him to acknowledge the negative influence he has on his fans. However, when he attempts to reform his image, his efforts backfire.

Alia Bhatt plays a nameless Bihari migrant seeking employment in Punjab’s farm land. She unassumingly stumbles upon kilos of drugs tucked away in bags. She retrieves these drugs and becomes a distributor, earning herself extra cash to survive in a foreign region. However, her naivety and inexperience in the underground  business leads to an unintentioned encounter with a drug gang.

Sartaj is a turban-clad one-star police officer. Due to his father’s untimely death, he has taken on the role of the primary breadwinner for his family, which includes his wayward, sunglasses-wearing brother, Bali. The migrant girl encounters Bali near a cave in the outskirts of a town, injecting heroin with his friends. She proposes a business proposition, selling kilos of drugs to Bali. Sartaj finds himself petrified when he sees Bali on a hospital bed, overdosed on heroin. Bali’s life is saved by a compassionate physician named Preet Sahani, who proposes rehabilitation for Bali and firmly clarifies that only he has the willpower to cleanse himself.

udta-punjab-preet-and-sartajAfter initially scolding Sartaj for his department’s role in exacerbating the drug epidemic by accepting bribes, Preet Sahani, with Sartaj’s assistance, fearlessly embarks on a mission to uncover the key players behind the Punjab drug trade.

Political films have always been a source of controversy in any film industry. In India, this genre of cinema is consistently threatened with widespread bans by the Censor Board, despite India’s patriotic pride in its democratic ideals. Before its release, the producers of Udta Punjab had to endure the draconian imposition of the reigning Central Board for Film Certification, where Sanskar is favored over free speech and sensitivity is favored over truth. It seems left-wing academics and SJW tumblr bloggers do not have a monopoly over political correctness. Thankfully, the Central Board allowed the theatrical release of the film on June 17th.

With a blend of dark humor, heart-wrenching dialogues, and painstaking gore, Udta Punjab is a gloomy picture, depicting the often-ignored drug epidemic plaguing the Punjab region. The  central characters represent the different facets of comtemporary society affected by this epidemic. Internal conflicts ensue as these characters are confronted with the consequences of their lifestyle.

Tommy Singh, whose music exalted intoxication, comes face to face with his devotees, whose lives were ruined by those same intoxicants.

Sartaj, whose occupation in the police force techniquely makes him an accessory to the drug trade, is now burdened with an addicted brother.

The day-laboring migrant, in her quest to earn extra cash and a livelihood, finds herself locked in a room, deprived of even a shred of human dignity.

The acting was on-point for all the key protagonists. Alia Bhatt, especially, gave a mind-udta-punjab-the-looks-of-alia-bhatt-1blowing performance for a role normally outside her niche. As an actress, she’s come a long way from playing upper-class, narcissistic characters in cookie-cutter movies. I hope she opts for developed, nuanced roles, similar to her character in Udta Punjab, as her career progresses.

The story was astonishing, keeping you at the edge of your seat. However, I felt the first half of the film was stronger than the second half. I also think the trite romantic overtones that blossomed between Sartaj and Preet was nothing but a pointless distraction to the overall plot. I mean I know it’s “Bollywood”, but not every movie needs a romantic side plot. Besides, based on their new ‘working relationship’ as unofficial undercover spies, it would have been more suitable if they remained platonic.

Nevertheless, the film was informative, combining the intensity of ground-breaking immersion journalism with the ferocity of social activism. The movie is a call to action, imploring public officials to hound on the roots of ingrained political corruption fueling the drug trade.

However, there is one fundamental flaw with Udta Punjab. The film accurately indicted the politician’s role, and their unholy bandhan with the police force through bribery. Pop stars, known to propagate the so-called glamour of intoxication, are also equally accused. However, there is one other element which the film ignored.

Why are Punjab’s (and India’s) youth so enamored with the thrill of getting high? It’s easy for us to blame pop stars and celebrities for glorifying drug use. However, the problem is more deep-seated.

What would cause someone like Bali to drown in substance abuse?

Why do people do drugs at all?  To divorce themselves from reality. To indulge themselves in an escapist state of nirvana.

Why? Various reasons. Dysfunctional relationships, low-self esteem, the unbearable pressures of life and general angst.

CaptureThe problem with the screenplay is its disregard of Bali’s perspective. In the movie, he’s nothing more than a cardboard cutout who just stands there dazed in those bloody sunglasses. The film should have taken a glimpse into Bali’s life and highlighted the reasons he’s frantically looking for that next fix. This insight could revolutionize the way India approaches not only its drug policies but also its educational criteria.

Perhaps Indian schools should instruct their students on healthy behavior, sound decision making and effective ways of dealing with stress and academic pressures. With these skills at their disposal, they won’t feel the need to escape from reality. They’ll be equipped to function in the real world.

Although I hope they won’t adopt America’s 1980s-era ‘Just Say No’ campaign!

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I don’t think you could find a better spokesmen for an anti-drug campaign than Bill Cosby! 

If you’re in the mood for a crime thriller with unabashedly political overtones, I’d recommend this movie. It is as educational as it is entertaining. Pankaj Nihalini and his colleague of the Indian censor board should acquainted themselves with reality and realize that just because a movie has excessive swearing and portrays a particular province of India in a less-than-ideal light, doesn’t mean it’s somehow anti-national.

Film Review: Suicide Squad

Yesterday, my cousins and I had planned to catch the 4;45pm screening of Jason Bourne. Unfortunately, that movie sold out so we opted for the 5:30pm screening of Suicide Squad. 

Surprisingly, the film had exceeded my expectations. Although that’s not saying much, considering I was anticipating two hours of boredom and cringe.suicide-squad-movie-characters-calendar

Suicide Squad was not completely atrocious. But it was far from a cinematic masterpiece.

The writers of Suicide Squad employ an novel tactic, averting the conventional superhero tropes, steering our sympathy towards the archetypal ‘bad guys’.

Viola Davis, known for playing the sociopathic lawyer-professor on How to Get Away With Murder, takes on a similar role as Intelligence Operative Amanda Waller. Unapologetically manipulative, Waller proposes a strategy to her colleague that involve the recruitment of amoral mercenaries and psychologically-unstable criminals, currently locked under maximum security, as disposable assets for high-risks missions. She claims the nation is facing a dire threat akin to World War 3. This threat is never explicitly defined. And it’s not clear why an army of self-interested villains qualifies as the appropriate antidote .

This ill-conceived battalion includes mercenary hit-man Deadshot, played by Will Smith, whose only yearning is to rekindle the relationship with his estranged daughter; the deranged, yet sexually alluring Harley Quinn, whose love for a severely tame version of ‘The Joker’ knows no bounds; ‘El Diablo’, a pyrokinetic ex-cholo hesitant to join as he seeks to cleanse himself of his regrettable sins; Captain Boomarang, a notorious Australian thief, and the monstrous Killer Croc, who’s half-crocodile, half-Black stereotype. This newly-formed platoon is tasked with deadly mission. Hence, they are designated ‘The Suicide Squad. Amanda Waller firmly informs her soldiers that they had a small bomb implanted in their necks and if they disobey orders, the bomb will detonate.

Another intended recruit of Waller was Dr. June Moore, who is possessed by a witch-goddess known as ‘The Enchantress’. Unfortunately, The Enchantress went
rogue and summoned her brother, whose spirit was locked away in Waller’s bedroom for some reason. The sibling duo sought to take revenge on all of humanity. And that’s where our aforementioned troop of societal misfits and delinquents come in. They are assigned the nearly-impossible
mission of defeating The Enchantress.

The film’s formidable cast had compensated for    images (3)the rather poorly-written screenplay. Will Smith portrayal of Deadshot was exceptional. He exhibited the range of emotions of a man imprisoned in moral ambiguity,  conflicted between renewing his relationship with his daughter and his occupation as an opportunist hitman. Margot Robbie captured a frightening yet beguiling blend of magnetizing lust and manic psychosis. Viola Davis, as expected, perfectly depicted her Machiavellian alpha-female role with natural ease.

jared-leto-the-joker-b4aa25c3-4307-4b80-aca9-6bbfbe4a9aafHowever, Jared Leto’s portrayal of the Joker was gravely disappointing. First, he received very limited screen time. Second, Leto’s depiction was dull and unimaginative. Perhaps due to my nightmares from Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight, I was expecting Jared Leto have that similar effect. Instead, he came across as some sexually ambiguous gangster endowed with a lot of bling-bling.

The flow of the plot was awkwardly uneven, with a string of action sequences unnecessarily squished within a short span of time. Some of the dialogues were refreshingly comical. However, I wish the screenplay would have refrained from commenting on the irony of evil fighting evil.

“We’re bad guys”, the characters reiterate ad nauseum.

Yeah, yeah, we get it. You’re the bad guys and we’re rooting for you anyway. I mean, just becauseimages (2) the majority of the audience are DC Comics fanatics, doesn’t mean we’re all stupid!

Anyway the conclusion is uninspiringly predictable, which is expected for any superhero movie (even one revolving around supervillians). So whatever….

I wouldn’t watch Suicide Squad in theatres. Seriously, it’s not worth the money. You could rent/stream and watch it with a group of friends (especially, if you guys love watching terrible movies together). Personally, I’m amazed that a cast of well-respected, accomplished actors would agree to perform in such a sloppily-scripted movie

Patronizing Platitudes

I fucking hate platitudes.

You know, those meaningless expressions people say

Those meaningless expressions people feel obligated to say

They oversimplify life, conceptualizing one’s existence as nothing more than a box of chocolates. 

Every minor shortcoming is brushed off with a nonchalant c’est la vie

Anyway, here’s a list of platitudes we should retire

Follow Your Passion

Every coming-of-age flick seems to echo that pompous canard.

‘Pursue your dreams!’

‘YOLO!’

In those films, the main character is usually coerced into pursuing a conventional career while he/s desires something self-fulfilling and bohemian.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being idealistic. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with preferring  a degree in the fine arts over an MBA.

However, everything has an opportunity cost. Anyone can yearn to be an actor, an artist, a musician or a writer. However, anyone who has actually taken the road less traveled will assure you that it is a strenuous path that rarely guarantees stability in life.

Countless rejections. Constant bum licking (sometimes literally). Uncertain future prospects.

And behind the cloak of glamour and fame is a disfigured body, scarred by loneliness and internal agony.

You may be bored with your 9-5 routine at the office. However, just remember there are a myriad of entertainers and artists secretly envious of your mundane life.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

I’m not going to waste too much time with this ill-conceived quote. Yes, there are strategies one could utilize to effectively complete a task. Nevertheless, there is no substitute for hard work!!

You’re As Young As You Feel

Yet another symptom of our ‘self-identify’ culture. So apparently you can be ‘trans-age’?

We live in a society where there’s a negative correlation between age and societal value. Apparently life ends following your thirtieth birthday. We’re a youth-obsessed culture bombarded with advertisements for Botox, anti-aging cream and plastic surgery. Instead of embracing the perks of getting older (wisdom, life experience, senior discounts), we only dwell on the drawbacks (not looking as sexy in a bathing suit as you did twenty years ago).

Why don’t we take this time to celebrate old people. Sure, they may have quirky habits like eating dinner at 3:30pm and wearing their pants up to their shoulders. However, their limitless level of insight is severely underappreciated and their humorous perspective on life is undeservedly ignored.

The elderly shouldn’t be pressured to feel young. I personally think it’s more important for them to feel healthy and happy.

But that’s just me

Love Means Never Having To Say You’re Sorry

What? No! If you know you fucked up, you’re obligated to apologize. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve offended your boss or your wife. Admitting your fault and seeking remorse is bare minimum requirement in the universal criteria of being a fucking decent human being!!

Go With The Flow

Yay!!!! Conformity!! If people mindlessly went ‘with the flow’, we would still be serfs, toiling under the blazing sun. We would still be living in a segregated society. Women would be nothing more than sex dolls and baby factories.

I mean, forget about innovation. Fuck human progress. Just go with the flow and keep your bloody mouth shut!

God Never Gives Us More Than We Can Bear

I’m not trying to propagate anti-religious sentiments. I understand everyone has their own reasons for their beliefs or lack thereof. However, I just can’t help but find the above quote appallingly thoughtless.

God never gives us more than we can handle? So how do you account for every person who has ever….you know… died!!?? Whether it was cancer or a physical injury or mental torture, the decreased person was burdened with more than he/s could bear.

Having your home destroyed by a tsumani is more than you can handle. Witnessing your children being blown up into pieces for stepping on a land mine is definitely more than you can handle!

These are real-life situations people are forced to endure

I mean, I know you’re trying to be comforting but please! Just stop!

Just Think How Much Worse Other People Have It

I agree that we shouldn’t be self-absorbed. After all, we should count our blessings and appreciate the luxuries we take for granted. However, that quote is rooted in the fallacy of relative privation.

If A is bad but B is worse, than we assume that A is either justifiable or not important enough to be addressed. We see examples of this fallacy embodied in those ‘firstworldproblems’ hashtags. Just because we live in one of the few parts of the globe with running water and indoor plumbing, doesn’t mean we’re not stressed with our own problems and issues.

Yes, other people lead worse lives. Doesn’t mean my life is perfect. If I have something to rant about, I’m going to vent. And I’m not going to apologize for venting!