All posts by Aditya Nigam

‘Kalbela’, Naxalbari and Radical Political Cinema

Gautam Ghose’s Kalbela is a film set against the background of the Naxalite movement. Based on a 1980s novel by Samaresh Majumdar, the film sets itself up, quite self-consciously, within a certain tradition of films, namely radical political Bengali cinema of the 1970s and 1980s. It thus establishes an intertextuality and a certain connection with them.

The casting sequences take us through a rapid tour of some of the more emblematic moments of that cinema and that time:

  • The shot from Mrinal Sen’s Calcutta 71 of the young man on the run jumping off a wall, running through the lanes, pursued by the police and finally shot in an open field. You can almost hear Akashvani’s signature tune as it begins its news bulletin to announce the discovery of yet another anonymous dead body in those troubled times.

You are barely through with it and in quick succession you see two, now somewhat iconic, scenes representing the 1970s angry young Bengal:

  • Ranjit Mallik in the final sequence of Interview, flinging a stone to break open the showcase of a shop. He would denude the mannequin and remove the suit it is wearing, and take it for his interview the next day. It is a stylized ‘trial’ of this character for the offence of disrobing the mannequin that becomes the opening sequence of Sen’s ‘Chorus’.
  • The other sequence is also equally iconic: Dhritiman Chatterjee ‘turning the tables’, literally, as it were, on his interviewers. This is a sequence from Ray’s Pratidwandi. Satyajit Ray, who has all too often been accused of ‘evading politics’, however captures, in this sequence, an important mood of rebellion that marked the 1970s.

Continue reading ‘Kalbela’, Naxalbari and Radical Political Cinema

Slavery Exists in the UK Today: Report

Urban Britain is heading for Victorian levels of inequality
“The chasm between rich and poor seen in London today resembles the Manchester that Engels described in the 1840s” – so run the headlines of an interesting story in The Guardian by Tristram Hunt. Hunt, who is working on a new biography of Engels, finds interesting parallels of contemporary London, its social segregation and inequality with the London described by Engels in his Conditions of the Working Class in England: The poverty and and exploitation side by side with the sharp increase in middle class power on the one hand and its concentration in the hands of the filthy rich – 1 percent of the population controlling 24 percent of the national wealth. So much for the ‘trickle down’ effect. Hunt’s story itself is based on a report released last Tuesday (17 July). Some Glimpses of the report:

As the UK marks the 200th anniversary of legislation for the abolition of the slave trade, a new report shows how modern forms of slavery occur in the UK. Written by leading experts in the field, this report is the first comprehensive review of evidence about the extent of slavery in the UK today.

Contemporary slavery in the UK, produced by a joint research team from the University of Hull and Anti-Slavery International for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), examines the nature of modern slavery and the conditions under which it occurs. It also contains detailed accounts of the circumstances being faced by those enslaved….

Slavery in contemporary Britain cannot be seen in isolation. Most of those working as slaves in the UK have come from elsewhere, often legally. This makes slavery an international issue. Many relationships of enslavement trap people by withdrawing their passports or ID documents, making escape unlikely. Evidence shows that those who protest about the appalling working conditions may be beaten, abused, raped, deported or even killed.

Peasant Capitalism and The Industrialization ‘Debate’

A recent report in the Indian Express makes for an interesting reading in the context of the debate on industrialization unleashed by the ‘Nandigram effect’. This is a somewhat novel story: In the village of Avasari Khurd, about 40 kilometres off Pune, about 1500 farmers passed a unanimous resolution seeking a SEZ (Special Economic Zone) status for their village. The resolution, approved by the gram sabha has been sent for further action to both the state and central governments. The peasant/farmers of the village have formed a company by the name of ‘Avasari Khurd Industrial Development Pvt Ltd’, using 3, 500 acres of land, while the remaining will be used for agribusiness and residential purposes. All the 1500 farmers will be shareholders of the company and each of them will contribute Rs 1 lakh as initial investment. The idea of course, is that rather than let the government acquire land from them or they be forced into some highly unequal bargain with corporate sharks like Reliance, the farmers themselves become shareholders of their land and take their destiny in their own hands.

However, because the initiative for this effort has come from the Mahratta Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture, the vision of this plan goes in a corporate capitalist direction, with land being earmarked for the automobile, the electronic, infotech and pharmaceutical sector. One can however, easily imagine such initiative being taken in such a way that these could become the basis of an interesting new type of common ownership, something akin to an agro-industrial cooperative, which could focus on industries less ecologically destructive than some planned here (e.g. automobiles). But for such a thing to happen, radicals and Leftists of various hues need to intervene in the flow of life that is being transformed every day, every minute, rather than merely issue shrill rhetorical speeches against some far off enemy – safely away in the United States or some such place.

Continue reading Peasant Capitalism and The Industrialization ‘Debate’

Art, Creativity and the Flow of Life – Radha R

[Radha R is an alumnus 1990 B.(Fine) Painting, Faculty of Fine Arts , MSU, Baroda. In the piece below, she reflects on important issues of art and life in the wake of the recent happenings in Baroda. AN]

When I last left the Faculty of Fine Arts in Baroda where I was a painting student between 1985 and 1990 my heart was already heavy with the image of the saffron neo -Hindutva flag fluttering over what was to be my last Navrathri Garbha in a long time to come…

Post Godhra , I once stayed awake in a train that passed by Baroda station at 2a.m just to see how it felt to see once more the platforms upon which I had spent many a day sketching …There was a gloom to the light, an eeriness in the pools of shadows that were insomniac people squatting there perhaps holding in zones of impenetrably dark memories …Beneath the clock, those huddled up and sleeping resembled the dead…

In the same trip just a couple of months since the killings I walked restlessly through the crowds in the Old City around the Ahmedabad railway station … The roads were crowded …the markets were crowded…people of communities that were the murdering and the murdered thronged the centres where goods were exchanged with a briskness that bewildered the imagination …

In the midst of all this, where was history?

…Tucked out of sight under which fold of skin?

Where were the wounds that hemorrhaged their ways into our hearts?

Who was the expert plastic surgeon? Who wielded the Airbrush of erasure to such frightening perfection?

The skin before the TV was after all always correctly fair, almost, blemishless and perfect …save for a small blue vein that dammed up and spilt over the edges within which it was sought to be held and that stubbornly showed itself up from within the layers of the skin… History now calls it the Narmada Bachao Andolan…

… I have never ever felt like going back to a landscape where the scars of personal trauma now mingled inextricably with the suppurating welts of collective suffering…

FOR THE STUDENTS OF FACULTY OF FINE ARTS AND THEIR ACTING DEAN-

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In the wake of Nandigram via Dhruva Narayan

A call by concerned citizens

The valiant struggle of the peasantry in Nandigram against the acquisition of their land and homesteads for the proposed chemical hub SEZ has drawn nationwide attention. Despite the massacre of March 14 and the continuing reign of terror unleashed by the police and hired killers of the ruling party in the state, Nandigram has refused to surrender. On the contrary, it has sparked unprecedented mass protests across West Bengal and elsewhere. People’s movements in various parts of the country against the forcible acquisition of farmlands, forests and other natural resource base of the poor in the name of SEZ and for the so-called industrial projects have also drawn inspiration and sustenance from Nandigram. No wonder, Nandigram has become a major focus of people’s resistance against the neo-liberal agenda that seeks to establish the hegemony of global corporate capitalism.

Time is now ripe to bring all the people’s resistance movements across the country together under one coordinating network. Towards this end, we are proposing a People’s Convention, followed by a huge rally, in Kolkata on 2-3 June 2007 (before the onset of monsoon). We call upon all our friends in the people’s movements and people’s organisations, irrespective of political or ideological moorings, to come forward and actively participate in this programme. May the convention/rally become the launching pad for a united nationwide struggle against the government’s land acquisition policy for SEZ and industrial projects.

Continue reading In the wake of Nandigram via Dhruva Narayan

Brinda Karat: The Paranoia of a Totalitarian Mind

While West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya adopted a misleadingly deceptive tone, apparently taking all the blame for the unfortunate events that took place in Nandigram (at the 29 March SFI-DYFI rally in Kolkata), the party’s lie-machine continues to overtime on its disinformation campaign. Bhattacharya’s plea for an end to violence and killings, virtually beseeching the ‘Opposition’ to stop killing Leftist (read CPM supporters), is meant to have a specific effect – that of making it appear as though it is really they who are the aggrieved party. It is a belated strategic move, aimed at the more gullible and the wider world outside, to convey the impression that they are at the receiving end. Suddenly all the belligerence seems to have disappeared and this reasonable man appears with folded hands to beg for the return of ‘normalcy’. But this is misleading because, at another level of discourse, this new pose is accompanied by continuous, ever new production of lies and insinuations, by other members and wings/ arms of his party.

The full article was first posted in sacredmediacow.

Sacrifice of Truth in Nandigram

The ‘logic’ of the CPIM and the (West Bengal) State police under its control for launching an all-out attack on the villagers of Nandigram who had totally cut themselves off from the State to counter its anticipated move to dispossess and displace them is extremely clear. The State cannot tolerate the refusal of the people to be ruled by it. That is precisely why it makes use of its sovereign power to demonstrate and establish its supremacy or hegemony. In this particular regard, the State presumably governed by Leftist ideology has acted no different – not at all. The main reason for worry here is that the CPIM has completely forgotten that it is not a wing of the State the way the police or any other administrative department is. One may, however, retort that hardly anywhere in the world wherever the Communist party has come to power has bothered to keep a distance between itself and the State. Rather it looks upon the State as an instrument for its own expansion.

Continue reading Sacrifice of Truth in Nandigram