All posts by jdevika

A Circus, Some Laughter, A Film Festival

I would be very reluctant to call the recently – concluded Twelfth International Film Festival of Kerala (7-14 December) a ‘circus’, but well. When the CPM in Kerala wears Caesar-like accoutrements, one may have to call it just that! At the press conference organized a few days before the festival – actually the day on which Buddhadev admitted to his ‘mistake’ — M A Baby, CPM intellectual and Minister, Cultural Affairs, Government of Kerala spoke at length about how Lenin and other worthies of the Soviet Union had endorsed cinema as a medium to ‘educate and entertain’ the masses. However when he announced the name of the opening film after many such lofty words, ripples of laughter filled the hall.

hana makhmalbaf with baby

The opening film was Hana Makhmalbaf’s ‘Buddha Collapsed out of Shame’! Of course, the CPM intellectuals could not laugh; nor could they snap at back-benchers who asked whether it wasn’t ‘Buddhadev Collapsed out of Shame’. Thus it was clear, that despite the circuses, the spectre of the people continues to haunt the CPM, to borrow Partho Sarathi Ray’s words.

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Beaten — By a Woman!

[Below is a chapter from my translation of N P Muhammed’s wonderful retelling of folk tales about Malabar’s best-loved folk hero and one of the earliest songsters of the Mappillapattu song tradition of Malabar, Kunhaayan Musaliar. The book, Kunhaayante Kusritikal (Kunhaayan’s Capers), which won the Kerala Sahitya Akademi’s award for the best children’s writing in 1973, is almost forgotten now. In the stories of the Mappila Muslim community of north Kerala, Kunhaayan figures as the quintessential humble-born person who grows in stature through his wit and quick thinking, rising to eminence in royal courts of late 17th- early 18th century Malabar. In these times in which the Mappila traditions of Malabar are clearly under threat, I thought that it was necessary to reclaim this figure for our children and ourselves – and translating NP’s sensitive rendering of the tales, which reverberates with the folk wisdom of the Mappilas of Malabar, seemed the best way to do it. The best thing about Kunhaayan, who impresses all of Malabar, is that he is no saint. Thus he does get puffed up a bit with all the glory, and has to be brought down a peg or two – it is his young wife who fells him, finally. This chapter is about how she does it!]

There was time when she used to brim with joy, proud to be introduced as ‘Kunhaayan’s wife’.

Not anymore.

Tears welled up in Aisakutty’s eyes.

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The Trojan Horse of Neo-liberal Capital in Kerala

In mid-November, a pro-tribal outfit, the Adivasi Rehabilitation Council, demanded that the Kerala Government hand over to them, land leased to Hindustan Newsprint Ltd. The Adivasis had been given title deeds to this land in 2003, when A K Antony was chief minister, but it was never handed over. They dispersed after local revenue officials assured that this would be done.

But when nothing was done about it, the tribals regrouped and went into the land again, building little huts and vowing to start farming. Around November 26th, the 200-odd families were physically removed by truck-loads of CPM cadre.

J Devika on the need for a new perspective on Left politics:

When the CPM-led LDF coalition swept into power in the elections to the Kerala State Legislative Assembly in 2006, the victory was widely interpreted to be the individual triumph of V S Achuthanandan, who seemed to be nothing less than the personification of Principled-Opposition-to-the-State-and-Global-Capital. During the campaign, VS received the mantle of A K Gopalan, whose brilliant strategies of mass mobilization and militancy had made him the most admired and best-loved of all communists in Kerala. Throughout Kerala, life-size posters of a smiling VS proclaimed him Paavangalude Padatthalavan (NM – something like garibon ka masiha)

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