June 28, 2016

Superheroes and the Dumb Down Concept

It was just one more weekend; but more importantly one more maddeningly frustrating date with a Superhero movie. Batman vs. Superman promised so much and yet it failed so miserably. And today as I was reading about heroes, I realized the importance they have in our lives.

One of the basic tenets of any story ever told in the world starts with a hero. And as the world around us become complex, we realize that heroes are rarely without flaws. Yet we struggle to find one who is incorruptible; who is steadfast and the one who will ultimately do the right thing. The question always remains what ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ mean to people who face off each other.

Superman is perhaps the best example of a superhero who can do no wrong and Batman is one who like us is full of self doubts, limitations and is above all, very very human. Superman therefore has always been a superhero who follows a straight path to glory and often martyrdom. Batman is a vigilante. Superman follows the law as only he can agree to follow laws set by others; Batman rarely has few such moral qualms. His is a more dangerous territory; that of an outcast whose sense of justice might not be something you can agree with.

When these two superheroes face off, you expect a moral dilemma; a cinematic masterpiece which shows how the world and its twisted truths pull apart both men who claim to be on the side of right. And what you are left behind with is a lot of CG and mind numbing action sequences.

It could have been a great treatise on the internal conflict of ones blessed (or cursed) with abilities to impact the lives of those around and yet that never forms the centre point of the narrative. Even movies like Eye in the Sky with a predictable end could showcase the conflicts that pull morals apart.

I think I feel more betrayed by the fact that this came after the outstanding Batman franchise reboot by Nolan. There was always a concern about Synder helming this but then Man of Steel again had to make do with the strait-laced characterization of Superman. And there was little that Marvel’s Civil War could do to fare any better. They typically have the most straight forward storyline you can ever imagine. But then, hope remained, solely because of Captain America. But then you make superhero movies to dumb down your audiences, rather than to question and to debate. And the final dumbing down happened with X Men Apocalypse.

Comic Book lovers know about the concept of alternate universes. I wished after the 3 movies that these universes had not collided. But more importantly I feel we need to demand for better cinema, if for nothing else but for the love of cinema.

June 26, 2016

On the Other Side of my Song

Few years back a certain TV serial took Bengali Satellite TV viewers by storm. It had all the elements in place for the Bengali intellectual; the ones taking their last breath in a century that’s completely alien to their philosophy of life. The serial was called Gaaner Opare. It was a clash between the old and the new; traditions and modernity; almost the same things that every Bengali Soap is made of (if not about the members of the extended family trying to kill each other). But it had one major difference; the context of Gaaner Opare was Rabindrasangeet. The male protagonist was the dream of every teenager going to JU or Presi (Jadavpur University or Presidency College for the uninitiated). He was a rock singer trying to redefine Tagore. That’s explosive and he had the drop dead intellectual looks of his dad; the second most loved “Feluda”. The female protagonist on the other hand was someone who every mother in Bengal wanted as her daughter in law. Independent yet upholding tradition; wearing the most gorgeous Sari in the day and age of Jeans and T shirts and a voice of gold singing Rabindrasangeet in just the right way.

Cutting a long story short; the show ended as well; thankfully without trying to extend it’s runtime. But Gaaner Opare left a mark. A few days back a friend with a strong connection to Calcutta suddenly pinged me asking me about the true meaning of this song. And I was dumbfounded. Probably one of the most esoteric of Tagore’s songs; like many of his later works it masquerades as a love song in the grey area between spirituality and platonic, unfulfilled love. And therefore as the rains lash Mumbai forcing me inside my house and on my bean bag; here’s an attempt.

The Original Bengali Genius

Dariye acho tumi aamar gaaner oparey x 2
Amar shurguli paay choron, ami pai ne tomare.
Dariye acho tumi aamar gaaner oparey.

Batash bohey mori mori, aar bedhe rekho na tori. x 2
Esho esho paar hoye mor hridoy majhare.
Dariye acho tumi aamar gaaner oparey.

Tomar saathey gaaner khela duurer khela je,
Bedonate baanshi bajay shokol bela je.
Kobey niye aamar baanshi bajabe go apni ashi; x2
Anondomoy nirob raater nibir aandharey.

Dariye acho tumi aamar gaaner oparey.
Amar shurguli paay choron, ami pai ne tomare.
Dariye acho tumi aamar gaaner oparey.

My English Transliteration Attempt

You stand beyond the realms of my song x2
Probably my tunes reach you in their trembling steps;
but I have never been able to get to you
As you stand beyond the realms of my song

The winds blow; oh how beautifully; do not hold your boat back  x2
Come cross over to the very centre of my heart
And yet you stand beyond the realms of my song.

Singing a song with you; is celebrating the song of distances
The pain of it emanates from my flute all day long;
When will you take my flute to play your beauteous tunes? X2
In the darkness of the night filled with unspeakable happiness?

You stand beyond the realms of my song
Probably my tunes reach you in their trembling steps;
but I have never been able to get to you

As you stand beyond the realms of my song