The Villain named Raavan

Dussehra or Vijaya-Dashmi is celebrated on the tenth day of Sharad Navratri, which begins with Ashvin Shukla Prathama and ends with Ashvin Shukla Navami.  Dussehra is celebrated every year as a testimony to the triumph of good over evil. The tradition of burning effigies of Raavan (Dashanan), his son Indrajeet (Meghnaad) and brother Kumbhakaran is being followed since ancient civilizations as an integral part of Sanaatan Dharma. But unfortunately, this tradition is losing its essence in our so-called “Modern” and “Liberal” times.

The liberals of today, who love bashing up Indian (read Hindu) culture to show themselves as modern; have killed the ethos of celebrating this festival. And my fight is against them. Those liberals, who write long articles depicting “how Raavan was a great brother who avenged his sister’s insult”; they circulate pictures on social media telling “how Raavan was a humble king who never touched Goddess Sita”; carry out discussions questioning “burning of effigies of Raavan”; and go to that a length saying that “Lord Ram distrusted his wife Goddess Sita even after Agni-Pareeksha and banised her”! Totally preposterous!

There is no iota of a doubt that Raavan was the greatest scholar of his time. The great-grandson of Brahma was a master of four Vedas and six shastras (symbolising his ten heads). He was deft in skills of statecraft and diplomacy. Infact, Raavan and his brother Kumbhkaran were actually Jaya and Vijaya, the gatekeepers of Vishnu, which made them a little arrogant. So much so that once when the four Kumaras, mind-born sons of Brahma showed up at the gates of Vaikunth (Vishnu’s abode), Jaya-Vijaya mistook them for naked children (a result of their tapasya). This enraged the sages so much, they cursed Jaya-Vijaya saying that they would be parted from their lord. When they asked for forgiveness, the sages said that they could either spent seven lifetimes on earth as Vishnu’s avatars’ allies or three lifetimes as their enemies. They chose the latter. In one of those three lifetimes, Jaya-Vijaya were born as Raavan and Kumbhkaran.

Raavan was thus doomed to live a cursed life, a life worthy of a villain. Ramayan depicts him as evil for he was supposed to live a sinful life.

Without even knowing the true meaning of Sage Valmiki’s Ramayan or reading a single verse of Goswami Tulsidas’ Ramcharitmanas, liberals have taken up on themselves to interpret the meanings of many  events in a way that suits them; and the worst part is that they are propagating the distorted version. So, through this article of mine, I will bust these myths.

1. Raavan was a great brother who avenged his sister’s insult

Surpanakha was married to the Asura Dushtabuddhi. Initially, Surpanakha’s husband enjoyed high favor with her brother Raavan, as a privileged member of Raavan’s court, but Raavan had Dushtabuddhi killed due to the latter’s growing ambition for more power. This act earned Raavan, his sister’s great displeasure.
Also, Raavan haven’t cared at all about Surpanakha when she told him that Laxman cut her nose. He only got excited once Surpanakha told him that he is in a forest with an extremely beautiful woman. His abduction of Goddess Sita was out of pure lust.

Thus, calling Raavan a “loving” and a caring brother is simply far-fetched.

2. Raavan never touched Sita in her captivity

Raavan once camped near the city of Kuber, with a mission to slay an ogre Madhu. After completing his mission, Raavan was resting in the vicinity of Kuber’s city. With a cloudless sky, a lovely atmosphere and the love-laden songs sung by Kinnaras and Vidhyadharas, he easily fell prey to his own lust.

Unfortunately, he was not accompanied by any of his favourites. It so happened by sheer accident that Rambha, the celestial nymph, passed by. She was married to Nalakubara, son of Kuber and therefore in all fairness, the daughter-in-law of Raavan. Of course, Raavan was unaware of this fact at first, when he grabbed her to him. Rambha pleaded with him to restrain himself informing that she actually belongs to Nalakubara and the relationship between her and Raavan was far above carnal appeasement (Valmiki Ramayana, Uttara Kanda, Canto XXVI, Sloka 29). “I could have agreed on that had you been the wife of my son Indrajeet. But you are the wife of my brother’s son! The plea which you have given in the words, ‘I am your daughter-in-law’ holds well in the case of those who have (only) one husband. Celestial nymphs have no husband nor are gods committed to a single wife such is the eternal law obtaining in the realm of gods” (Sloka 39). Raavan violated her that day, though she kept pleading with him not to do so. She was not for this kind of an illicit relationship. Raavan, appeased and satiated, left her alone. She went to her husband Nalakubara with folded hands and tears welling up her eyes and narrated him the entire episode.

The enraged Nalakubara poured a little water in his palms and pronounced this curse on Raavan, sprinkling the water:

“Since, O blessed lady, you stand violated by him perforce, unwilling as you were, he shall no longer be able to approach any other young woman who is unwilling to accept him. When (however) stricken with love, he will violate a woman who is unwilling to approach him, his head will actually be split into seven pieces that (very moment) (Sloka 55).

Raavan was shaken for the first time in his entire lifetime. “Hearing of the aforesaid execration, which caused his hair to stand on end, Raavan, (the ten-headed monster) felt inclined no more to copulate with women who were unwilling to approach him” (Sloka 59). And this gives relief to all women, who were devoted to their husbands and had been brought by him, says Valmiki.

Thus, Raavan’s act of not touching Goddess Sita was not because “goodness of his heart” or his “humbleness”, but out of fear of his own death.

3. Lord Ram wronged Goddess Sita

Lord Ram never banished mother Sita. Banishment implied being evicted out of the kingdom into the forest without any arrangements for food, clothing or shelter. That was what happened to Lord Ram when he was banished by his step-mother, Kaikeyi. But Lord Ram asked Lakshman to escort Goddess Sita to the hermitage of the sage Valmiki, where the venerable sage received her with a respectful aarti (worship) and the elderly lady-hermits lovingly cared for her. As the hermitage was in the kingdom of Lord Ram and under his protection, it is entirely incorrect to say that the Lord banished her, for the Lord indirectly arranged for her food, clothing, shelter and care.

For someone to understand the reason for doing so, we need to appreciate the values held sacred by the Vedic culture that the Ramayan demonstrates. The Vedic culture considers all relationships and all positions as opportunities for sacred service, service to God and to all his children. When Lord Ram heard the accusations being leveled against his consort, this situation constituted an ethical crisis. In an ethical crisis, one has two choices, both moral, unlike in a moral crisis, when one has two choices, one moral and the other, immoral. To resolve an ethical crisis, one needs profound wisdom to recognize the higher moral principle and adjust the lower moral principle accordingly. So, through this incident, Lord Ram, who was God incarnate playing the role of an ideal human being, taught us how to wisely resolve ethical crises. As an ideal husband, the Lord was duty-bound to protect his wife. But as the ideal king, he was also duty-bound to exemplify and teach his citizens, whom he loved like his own children, the path to spiritual advancement. Ordinarily, people are very attached materially to spouse, children, house and wealth. So, the king is duty-bound to demonstrate to his citizens the principle of detachment so that they become inspired toward detachment and thus make spiritual advancement. That’s why Lord Ram considered his duty as an ideal king more important than as the ideal husband and so sacrificed his love for his wife for the sake of his love for his children (citizens). But he didn’t abandon his duty as a husband; he thoughtfully did that duty by transferring Goddess Sita from his direct care in the palace to his indirect care in the hermitage. Mother Sita, understanding the heart of her Lord, gracefully accepted her part in his sacrifice.

Even at the time of their marriage, Lord Ram had promised Goddess Sita that he would take an ekapathni vrta (he would not accept any other wives). For the Ashwameda Yagna to be conducted, both husband and wife needed to be present. Instead of re-marrying a princess after he separated with her, he kept his fidelity to Sita intact and got a Gold statue substituted for her (Gold never tarnishes, just like Goddess Sita’s character).

Unfortunately, all of us, for whose sake he did this glorious sacrifice, fail to appreciate him.

4. Logic behind burning effigies of Raavan every Dussehra

We incorrectly consider burning of effigy of Raavan as burning “the Demon King Lankesh who abducted Goddess Sita”. The burning of effigy of Raavan is a symbolism, to burning the five vices of kaam (lust), krodh (rage), lobh (greed), moh (attachment) and ahankaar (conceit). These five vices were responsible for the downfall of the mighty demon king at the hands of a human; the king who was bestowed a boon that no god, demon, kinnar or gandharva could ever kill him.

CONCLUSION:

Ramayan is much more a mythological epic than the lessons to be learnt for life. Lord Ram’s life teaches us the value of principles, a principle that the king should be spotless, a principle that a son should be obedient, a principle that a brother should love to an extent that he can leave all worldly pleasures for his brother and a principle that a husband trusts & cares for his wife even in her physical absence. Goddess Sita’s life teaches us the morals of maintaining her honour despite all allurements, temptations and threats.

The Ramayan is a communication that even the Lord when he descends to the world to perform his duties has to suffer and he gracefully accepts this suffering.

Jai Shri Ram!

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A Befitting Reply to Pakistan

“Indian Army practices restraint. The day we lose our patience, we will answer Pakistan in their words, in their territory.”

-Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Prime Minister of India (1998-2004)

After Parliament attack in 2001

 

The nation was boiling with anger after four heavily armed terrorists attacked the army camp on 18 September 2016 near the town of Uri in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir. 19 soldiers were martyred, belonging to 10 Dogra and 6 Bihar Regiments, in this attack. What was more frustrating was that the soldiers were attacked in their sleep. Proofs regarding Pakistan’s involvement, submitted in the international community were once again refuted by them. Indians were now done condemning such cowardly attacks. The nation’s patience had run out due to Pakistan’s inaction in curbing the activities of terrorist organisations. It was a time for giving response to our neighbor; a response which could tell them as to why the Indian Army is amongst the strongest in the world. The Army Chief said that the reply will be given, but the army will reserve the right to respond “at the time and place of our own choosing”. And as Indian Army always remain true on its word, the response did not take a long-time to be given; and 11 days after this attack, Indian Army took revenge in their way.

The Indian Army planned a Surgical Strike inside Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) on 12.30am on 28-29 September. The strike went on for 4 hours and after 8 hours, the nation was informed about it by the Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) Lt. Gen. Ranbir Singh at 12pm. While this reply infused pride among soldiers and citizens, Pakistan was shocked and taken aback. The Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Shareef first accepted the strike, then condemned it and finally refused it (probably because of Army’s pressure). On a precautionary basis, villages along the Radcliffe Line were evacuated and the Army was ordered to stay on high alert. All the political parties have supported the government’s move.

The Commandos attacked the areas of Bhimbar, Tatapaani, Lipa and Kel at the same time, while the Army started firing along the LOC to divert the attention of Pakistan Army and terrorists. The Commandos were initially dropped by helicopters, in 5 teams (each with 20-25 commandos), who were wearing night-vision cameras for operation monitoring. Drones were used for video recording to be kept as a proof. Around 2.30am, after covering a swampy path of 2-3km consisting of landmines and rocks on foot, they reached the target area. The Commandos were equipped with back-up to help them securely reach the target spot. They had Tavor and M4 guns, Grenades, Smoke Grenades and Under Barrel Grenade Launcher (UBGL). These weapons are light and compact but are capable of heavy firing. The Commandos killed 38 terrorists, 9 soldiers from Pakistan Army, destroyed 7 militant training camps and returned to their camps after 2 hours at 4.30am.

Analysis:

  1. The strike was a well-planned mission. Sources report, that the strategy was being planned by the PM Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Army Chief Gen. Dalbir Singh Suhag in the PMO War-room, right after the Uri attacks. Intelligence details were collected, and analysis was done as to how Pakistan can retaliate to surgical strike. The process took 10 days to be planned.
  2. Though most people demand Indus Water Treaty to be scrapped, it is not an easy task. It is brokered by World Bank, so immediate scrapping is not possible for it may invite international ire. Moreover, building dams and reservoirs on the River Indus will take a minimum of 2-3 years, and thus is not a quick response.
  3. Nawaz Shareef is caught in a fix. If he does not retaliate, not only will he be overthrown by a military coup, but he would also face wrath of radicals and extremists. If he retaliates, it will start a full-scale war with India. Since, both India and Pakistan are Nuclear-powered nations, the UN and the US will pressurize Pakistan not to go with this option.
  4. India’s image of being a soft state has been broken. No one, not even Indian citizens expected the Army to cross LOC. This has given a clear message to the World; that besides diplomatic talks, India also has a military option open ahead of him.
  5. Surgical Operations have happened in past, but they have never been told to Indian citizens or the World. Through a press conference by the DGMO, India has told Pakistan, not to test its patience further. The World has been made aware of India’s military strength which was always considered a passive force.
  6. The Army is always aware of terror activities across the border. The attack is a part of its long-term strategy. Giving a free-hand to Army to take decisions has boosted the morale of soldiers.
  7. The strike has pacified the citizens, who always felt helpless when they saw soldiers being martyred. The need for a strong political leadership had always been wished by the citizens and PM Modi has responded affirmatively to it.

Way Ahead:

  1. India can reconsider its Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status and scrapping of Ceasefire terms along LOC.
  2. Civil war may break-out in Pakistan. Baloch activists are already demanding independence from Pakistan. Apart from their operations getting a boost, Sindh and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) may also demand freedom.

The global isolation of Pakistan has gained momentum now. Indian Army is aware of the fact that they are fighting against a Nuclear-powered nation, thus their preparation is also done on the same lines. Pakistan can no more threaten India with Nuclear attacks. While the Army is ready on the military front, the Government has to remain prepared on the diplomatic front. Never in its history has Pakistan been cornered on all three levels: Strategic, Diplomatic and Military. With SAARC summit being boycotted by all the member nations due to Pakistan, and India getting global support on this surgical strike, we may hope that Pakistan will learn a lesson to put a full-stop on its home grown terror.

Through the pages of History: Bollywood (Part-1)

“Aaj mere paas buildingey hai, property hai, bank balance hai, bungla hai, gaadi hai … tumhare pass kya hai?” “Mere paas Maa hai!”

“Bade-bade deshon mein aaisi choti-choti baatein hoti rehti hai Senorita!”

And the most recent one:

“Religion waale column mei hum Bold aur Capital mei Indian likhte hain!”

That is what defines the unique and unmatched identity of Bollywood. Drama, Comedy, Tragedy, Romance, Colors, Music and Dance; all rolled into a single movie. We have moved from the black and white silent films to 3D, but our cinema continues to retain its basic essence – to thrill. Even as internet downloads and television continue to cannibalize the theatrical revenues of Indian films, the lure of the 35 mm is something else altogether. It may be the Romantic arm gesture of Shahrukh or Up-down Belt movements of Salman or Aamir with his serious expressions; it is the Bollywood which drives us crazy! From the era of Dilip Kumar, Madhubala and RD burman to Ranbir Kapoor, Vidya Balan and Arijit Singh, Bollywood has travelled a long distance. And this blog is dedicated to Journey of the Hindi Film Cinema; how the Industry started, how the movies have evolved and how is it growing as an Industry.

Yeh Naam:

The name “Bollywood” is a formed by fusing in Bombay and Hollywood, the center of the American film industry. However, unlike Hollywood, Bollywood does not exist as a physical place.

Cinema ka Shri Ganesh:

The first films India watched were not made in Bollywood but cinema had indeed arrived on India’s shores. The year was 1896, and thanks to the country’s colonial rulers, it was the French Lumiere Brothers who introduced the art of cinema to the sub-continent.

But it was a portrait photographer called Harischandra Sakharam Bhatavdekar who made Indian ‘motion picture’ history. His short ‘reality’ film screened in 1899 was called The Wrestlers and was a simple recording of a local wrestling match.

Based on a mythological character, the film Raja Harishchandra released on 3 May 1913. Directed by Dadasaheb Phalke (who later went on to be known as the Father of Indian Cinema), it is known as the first silent, full-length feature film made in India. By the 1930s, the industry was producing over 200 films per annum. The first Indian sound film, Alam Ara, screened in Bombay in 1931 was a major commercial success. Finally, India’s actors had found a voice. They could talk, they could shout, they could even cry, and they could do one more thing – sing for their audiences! It was a gift that remains the signature of the quintessential Hindi film to date. In 1937, Ardeshir Irani, director of Alam Ara, made the first colour film in Hindi, Kisan Kanya.

Encouraged by the start of Hindi film Industry, film industries of South: Tamil (Kalidass) and Telugu (Bhakta Prahlad); and Bengali (Jumai Shasthi) also started.

The 1930s and 1940s were turbulent times: India was fighting the Great Depression, World War II, the movement for Independence and the pain & violence of the Partition. Most Bollywood filmmakers focused on highlighting tough social issues, religion, rural background or used the struggle for Indian independence as a backdrop for their plots. Films not only did provide entertainment, but also became a medium to educate the masses.

Swarna Yug:

After India’s Independence, it was the Golden Age – the period from early 1950s and 1960s – that produced some of India’s most critically acclaimed films and memorable actors of all time. Among those in Bollywood’s hall of fame are

  1. Guru Dutt: Pyaasa (1957), Kaagaz ke Phool (1959)
  2. Raj Kapoor: Awaara (1951), Shree 420 (1955)
  3. Dilip Kumar: Aan (1952)
  4. Mehboob Khan: Mother India (1957)
  5. Asif: Mughal-e-Azam (1960)
  6. Bimal Roy: Madhumati (1958)

Successful actors at the time included Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Guru Dutt; while successful actresses included Nargis, Vyjayanthimala, Meena Kumari, Nutan, Madhubala, Waheeda Rehman and Mala Sinha. Some of the classics of this era are Pather Panchali, Do Bheega Zameen, Mayabazar and Chemmeen.

The film, Mughal-e-Azam, kickstarted a trail of romantic movies all over India. While Indian commercial cinema enjoyed popularity among movie-goers, Indian art cinema did not go unnoticed. Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Ritwik Ghatak, Aravindan, Satyajit Ray, Shaji Karun, Shyam Benegal and several other art film directors were making movies that took India to international fame and glory.

Nav Yug:

The masala film – the quintessential Bollywood entertainer – burst onto the scene only in the late 1960s. And audiences were enthralled by the histrionics of actors such as Rajesh Khanna, Sanjeev Kumar, Rajendra Kumar, Sharmila Tagore, Mumtaz, Waheeda Rehman, Asha Parekh and Tanuja.

The 70s completely changed the way films were made, especially in Hindi film industry. Changing social norms and changing economies influenced movies and the companies that made them. The narrative style changed. The story structure changed. Characters changed. Content changed. The genre promised instant attraction and had great entertainment value. Actors like the “angry young man” Amitabh Bachchan, Mithun Chakraborty, Dharmendra, Shashi Kapoor and Anil Kapoor basked in glory of their successes. The film Bobby (1973) started a new era of teenage love, starring Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia. The year 1975 was the key to Bollywood’s future, with films like; Ramesh Sippy’s iconic Sholay, Vijay Sharma’s Jai Santoshi Ma and Yash Chopra’s Deewar; which went on to claim international fame. Actresses from this era became the heart throb of the nation, like Hema Malini, Jaya Bachchan and Rekha, who wooed audiences with her stunning performance in Umrao Jaan (1981).

Aadhunik Yug:

The late 1980s to late 1990s, brought a new generation of actors. The theme concentrated on family-centric romantic musicals with actors

  1. Aamir Khan: Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Dil
  2. Salman Khan: Maine Pyar Kiya, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun
  3. Shahrukh Khan: Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai
  4. Govinda: 1 series (Aunty No.1, Coolie No.1, Hero No.1)
  5. Akshay Kumar: Khiladi series (Khiladi, International Khiladi, Mr. and Mrs. Khiladi)

These films ushered in a mixed genre of romantic films, thrillers, action movies and comedy films. Gradually, the face of Indian cinema was changing once again. Technology now gave us Dolby digital sound effects, advanced special effects, choreography and international appeal. This brought investments from the corporate sector along with finer scripts and performances.

The focus was shifted to aesthetic appeal by brought the Khan triology of Aamir, Salman and Shahrukh, accompanied by Madhuri, Sridevi and Juhi Chawla; Comedy of Govinda and Action of Akshay Kumar, accompanied by Raveena Tandon and Karisma Kapoor. Furthermore, the last decade of the century marked the entry of new performers in art house and independent films, some of which succeeded commercially, the most influential example being Satya (1998) by Ram Gopal Varma and Anurag Kashyap. These films often featured actors like Nana Patekar, Manoj Bajpai, Manisha Koirala, Tabu and Urmila Matondkar, whose performances were usually critically acclaimed.

Naveentam Yug:

Indian cinema finally found global mass appeal at the turn of the 21st century. As the world became a global village, the industry reached out further to international audiences. This led the nation’s filmmaking to new heights in terms of production values, cinematography and innovative story lines as well as technical advances in areas such as special effects and animation. Some of the largest production houses, among them Yash Raj Films and Dharma Productions were the producers of new modern films.

Apart from regular screenings at major international film festivals, the overseas market contributes a sizeable chunk to Bollywood’s box office collections. Investments made by major global studios such as 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures, and Warner Bros was confirmation that Bollywood had etched itself on the global psyche. The movie Ra.One, made at an immense budget of Rs. 135 crores (roughly USD 27 million), is the most expensive movie ever produced in Bollywood.

Prominent Indian corporate firms such as Zee, UTV and Adlabs also jumped onto the Bollywood bandwagon, to both produce and distribute films. This coupled with the multiplex boom across India made fame and fortune soar to new heights.

In recent years, Hindi cinema has undergone a massive change due to the emergence of new age filmmakers like Anurag Kashyap, Rajkumar Hirani, Dibakar Banerjee and Vishal Bhardwaj. Such was the excitement in the industry that by 2003, as many as 30 film production companies had been listed on the National Stock Exchange.

The yesteryear actors consolidated their position with films like Kal Ho Naa Ho, Veer-Zaara, Mujhse Shaadi Karogi, Hum Tum, Salaam Namaste, Baghban, Lagaan, Rang de Basanti and Namaste London.

However, the mid-2000s also saw the rise of actresses like Rani Mukherjee, Preity Zinta, Aishwarya Rai, Kareena Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra and popular actors like

  1. Hrithik Roshan (Kaho Na Pyaar Hai, Koi Mil Gya, Dhoom 2, Krish)
  2. Shahid Kapoor (Jab We Met, Vivah, Kaminey)
  3. Abhishek Bachchan (Yuva, Bunty aur Babli, Guru)

While most stars from the 2000s continued their successful careers into the next decade, the 2010s also saw the rise of a new generation of actors like Ranbir Kapoor, Imran Khan, Ranveer Singh, Arjun Kapoor, Varun Dhawan, Siddharth Malhotra; as well as actresses like Vidya Balan, Katrina Kaif, Sonakshi Sinha, Deepika Padukone, Anushka Sharma, Parineeti Chopra, Alia Bhatt.

 

Awards:

  1. Filmfare Awards, started in 1954.
  2. The National Film Awards, started in 1954, awarded by the President of India.
  3. Screen Awards, started in 1995
  4. Stardust Awards, started in 2003
  5. International Indian Film Academy Awards-IIFA (overseas), since 2000
  6. Zee Cine Awards (overseas), since 1998

Conclusion:

Bollywood has become part and parcel of the ‘Indian story’. Cinema actually has been the most vibrant medium for telling India its own story, the story of its struggle for independence, its constant struggle to achieve national integration and to emerge as a global presence. Here’s hoping that Indian movies continue to entertain us the way they’ve been doing since 10 decades.

PART-2 of this article will contain Evolution of Cinema from 2000s. How the blockbuster-action-comedy era of 90s was succeeded by small budget movies like Khosla ka Ghosla, Bheja Fry, Dasvidaniya, DevD, Udaan etc. These movies exemplify intelligent cinema and a relief from the ‘hulla gulla’ that bollywood churns in the name of blockbusters.
I have mostly stated facts in Part-1, thus will put my opinions in Part-2. I will explain in detail the parallel art cinema; how it transformed from Shyam Benegal to Anurag Kashyap. I missed out on contribution of theater artists like Nawazzuddin Siddiqui, Vinay Pathak, Irrfan Khan and other names. In the next part where I’m explaining the challenges that Bollywood faces on a global platform, I’ll mention the non-commercial Cinema too.