Archive for December, 2009

Remember That Face

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

Dec 26, 2009

It is hard to forget those who think they can get away with the very worst that humans are capable of.

Rathore got just six months in jail for driving an innocent girl to suicide. (Photo: KAMLESHWAR SINGH / INDIAN EXPRESS)

By now, most of us would have heard the news of a verdict by a Special CBI Magistrate in Chandigarh on 21 December. Former Haryana Director General of Police SPS Rathore was sentenced to six months in prison and a fine of Rs 1,000 for the alleged molestation of 14-year-old Ruchika Girhotra in 1990. Rathore was immediately released on bail on a surety of Rs 10,000. Coming out of the court with his wife, Rathore, grinning widely, told the press: “I am relieved today. Thanks to my lovely wife who stood by me.”

Ruchika Girhotra had killed herself in 1993 by drinking insecticide.

Nineteen years for the resolution of a child molestation case which had an eyewitness willing to testify. The story of how the case unfolded should make us hang our heads in shame. Ruchika was a talented tennis player and had gone to meet Rathore, then Haryana Lawn Tennis Federation head honcho, at his office-cum-residence, with her friend Aradhana Gupta. Ruchika was alone in the room with Rathore, when Aradhana heard noises of a scuffle and entered to see Ruchika struggling to get out of Rathore’s arms. On seeing Aradhana, Rathore released Ruchika and the two girls ran.

At her home, Aradhana’s father Anand Parkash heard the two girls whispering and Ruchika sobbing. The girls told him what had happened. A police complaint was lodged. The then DGP called Rathore to his office. In response, Rathore apparently arranged for dozens of thugs to attack the Girhotra home shouting obscene slogans about the girl. Within weeks, the Haryana Tennis Federation suspended Ruchika. A month later, her school expelled her. Her brother Ashu had six cases of car theft slapped on him. In October 1993, he was arrested by the Crime Branch and tortured. Rathore apparently told him that if Ruchika did not take her complaint back, he would ruin the family. In December 1993, Ruchika committed suicide, blaming herself for all her family’s troubles.

That broke the Girhotra family’s back. They decided not to pursue the case. But one man would not give up, Anand Parkash, Aradhana’s father. He got Ruchika’s father to give him an affidavit that he could act on the Girhotra’s behalf. Parkash was a Haryana government employee. False disciplinary charges were brought against him. He was constantly transferred for no reason at all. He says hoodlums would stalk and threaten his daughter. Rathore offered him money. But Anand never gave up. Aradhana married and settled in Australia. When she came to India to testify, she had to wait for a month as her court dates kept getting mysteriously postponed. Finally, the day before she was supposed to fly back, she was allowed to appear as witness.

One of the charges against Rathore was abetment of suicide. He was acquitted on that one.

Six months in prison and a fine of Rs 1,000? For devastating the lives of so many people over nearly two decades? For driving a completely innocent girl to suicide? And one can be sure that Rathore will appeal, and may never even end up spending a night in jail. And after the verdict, the man says he is “relieved”!

Even after knowing how much evil a human heart can store, one is still surprised often by how much cruelty we are capable of. Even after knowing how slow and flawed the Indian judicial system is, one is still startled often by how poorly it works. I am no expert on the Indian Penal Code, so I am quite ready to accept that the magistrate did not have the option of ordering a stronger sentence. Then there is something so seriously wrong with our antiquated punishment norms that we should be sickened.

Look at the face of the man in the picture, perfectly happy with life, accompanied by his wife, who was also his defence counsel. We must remember that face.

Sick and Tired of Song and Dance

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

Dec 19, 2009

Moviemakers are blowing up money on stuff that gives me a headache.

All I am saying is that all these Rs 14 crore dance numbers look the same

I am sick and tired of these big Hindi film song-and-dance numbers. Sick and tired. Why can’t they make a decent-budget film anymore without the hero (and perhaps the heroine too, or some other female film star doing a special appearance) cavorting with a hundred blonde women from Ukraine (the blondefulness presumably to signal our swaggering arrival on the world stage, combined with some white skin-related inferiority complex)? We lost melody as an essential aspect of film songs a long time ago. Now we have this. Whenever you switch to a music channel, there is Akshay Kumar on a stage singing a Punjabi song with 16 dozen girls wearing skimpy shiny golden skirts. Each such song, of course, has been pre-dated by many plants in the media that it cost Rs 14 crore to shoot.

I have nothing against dance numbers, or Akshay Kumar; in fact, I have none of the other biases you may be suspecting me of. I accept song-and-dance as an integral part of Hindi cinema—though I do admit, as a young man, to stepping out of the theatre for a smoke when the flowers blossomed, or some weirdos with their bodies painted black descended on a stage with bestial screams, waiting for Helen to emerge in full glory from locations hitherto unsuspected as emergeable from.

All I am saying is that all these Rs 14 crore dance numbers look the same.  In fact, the bigger the budget, the worse the songs are shot. What is the point of having a massive item number? If I am correct, it’s to show (even celebrate) oomph, sexiness, and thus tickle the male audience’s imagination. Valid enough motive. After all, Francois Truffaut once said that cinema is “about showing beautiful women”. But if there are so many of them at the same time, you can’t see even one woman properly. It’s always either a long shot with scores of people in it, so you can make the audience trust that you actually spent Rs 14 crore, or some woman jerking her face aggressively at the camera and pouting. So even if all the dancers are dressed in near-nothing, there’s not much the audience can make out.

Just compare that to Sridevi dancing alone in the rain in Mr India, or Nagma dancing in her balcony in Yalgaar (though, yes, one did have Sanjay Dutt taking off his clothes and dancing in the rain below, while serenading her).

Also, if every heroine is wearing itsy-bitsy stuff, the clothes and bodies are indistinguishable from one another, and one heroine from the other. And there is no innovative choreography, just crowd management. Remember Madhuri Dixit’s Ek Do Teen steps in Tezaab, where she was moving forward on the stage, while her hips pretended to move backwards?

Of course, crowd management is tough, and many Hollywood technicians would be left in awe if they watched some of these dance sequences. Getting a hundred people standing often on several floors of the set, to move together, getting the lighting right so that they are all in focus even though they are at different distances from the camera; in fact, just thinking of the hard work that goes into it can make one feel fatigued.

But so much money, so much effort, so many man-days spent on this? When so many little things could have been done at so little expense to make the experience better for the audience, instead of hammering their heads withbhangra tunes played on a million synthesisers?

Recently I watched Blue, hyped as the biggest-budget Hindi film ever. Kylie Minogue did an item number, Akshay wrestled with a cute shark, colourful fish swam the depths of the ocean, many cars were blown up on a US city street. All this, while in many sequences, Sanjay Dutt’s hair length and colour keep changing between shots. Rs 70 crore (as claimed) blown and you can’t control a guy’s haircut? So careful and so careless at the same time. Some may even find it insulting.