Selma & The Civil Rights Movement From The Sixties

An awe-inspiring film that has a brilliant star cast and plenty of African-American history, in it.

The Academy Award winning bucket list this year did not contain the epic movie, “Selma” – for the most part, it was one of the biggest snubs in the history of fine cinema. The film is about the civil rights movement during the sixties and the hardships endured by black people in America. Selma is not about a politically correct film – it is about a film that showcases how far America as a nation has gone for the subject of civil rights.

African-Americans have had to “tolerate” injustices inflicted upon by the most disgusting and distorted ills of society, have had prejudices heaped upon them, that only progressed as leaders, such as Martin Luther King Jr., moved forward. They have made sacrifices, and although these leaders come with their own set of ‘difficulties’, there is no denying that they were all inspirational figures, with a hugely emotional and tragic fate.

The budget of the film has been low so the film fails to excite with the march in places, like it is supposed to. David Oyelowo is remarkable in the film – the movie is not a biography of Martin Luther King Jr., it is more about his role in the civil rights movement and the movement itself. You learn more about Martin Luther King Jr. from the point of his infamous “I have a dream” speech but you do not get to witness the horrific assassination attempt in Memphis in 1968, that eventually resulted in King’s death.

King was a man with that rare oratory skills that could command crowds but he was also an easily breakable, fragile human being. His role in the civil rights movement – charted to end discrimination and remove racial segregation from American society, has been interesting to learn of cinematically. The initiative was politically and financially led by labour unions and also because of contributions from politicians, such as Lyndon B. Johnson.

Late, Late Shows & Latte!

If you have grown up, with the idea of American pop culture deeply ingrained into everything you do, from how you like your coffee to the Little Brown Bag, then you cannot be far from the phenomenon, that is late-night talk shows. There are numerous camps in this area of work, but I like to keep my favourites close and the ones I can only look at with utter contempt, a good, sane and safe distance away from me. Why? Because the whole late-night talk show concept is really about how Jay Leno snubbed David Letterman for the top-job once more.

I do like to indulge in my regular dose of junk gossip, but there is something strange about those hosts: they make some absurd comments, and then turn around, wink and pretend like they now have a totally new avatar, and it is somehow acceptable in mainstream Manhattan society to be okay with that! What a load of turd!  When I was still in school, I would sometimes spend my weeknights with the Late Show with David Letterman. I had no idea how that would happen, I remember, because it would usually come during rainy evenings spent with headphone hair and practicing writing long essays on what Shakespeare’s works mean and how they are culturally relevant.

If that sounds boring, you can kiss your journalism career goodbye, right now! But in the middle of all these papers floating around and trying to jump from my favourite track to another, I would watch that show and be mesmerized by the jazz music, the whole baseball cap that I wished I had almost as badly as the foam finger from basketball games, and ofcourse the jokes that apparently I was too young to have understood, but did! There is no hidden innuendo that is secret for long, when your brain works faster than lightning. The sketches were really interesting because it reminded me of stand-up comedy,and this was a time when I was still trying to understand the whole point of: Seinfeld. They had so many tapes, to go through, so much history, I got lost in why stand-up comedy was as appealing as it was, because I was still that extroverted popular kid, who liked shows that had canned laughter attached to them. Hey! What can I do? I like to know when something is funny, sometimes! It makes a food fight look twice the more fun!

But as I keep growing and learning, the late night shows that I have tried so hard to learn from keep disappearing! First, it’s almost time-up for Late Show with David Letterman. Second, The Daily Show, recently got axed! I do enjoy a sensational piece of news story on a news broadcaster, who has just hopped from Latin America to France, amidst fanfare. Someone who is always a little bit too interested in melancholia/making a mountain of a molehill, in American society, than can be deemed comfortable enough. Someone who has a good reach amongst couch potatoes.

But that’s not enough! It never is enough to hold my attention, for long enough! It was hard enough to phrase all those POVs on those broadcasters, without resisting the urge to reach a deep slumber, to begin with! Viewers want both of the show’s comic timings, their unique take on American culture (societal/political) to remain intact-post retirement for both Letterman, and Jon Stewart (the young host of The Daily Show, for a good few years, who has made a name for himself, talking about big boobs, funny-looking politicians, who seem to be addicted to Chinese fried rice, the relevance of Sarah Palin in politics).

Is that feasible? I would think not if you would take a look at the hosts that are ‘all-set’ to come and sit-in for them, pretty soon! The writers are all there, but can you really deal with another host delivering the similar kind of jokes? I guess that wouldn’t be as interesting as the bloodbath between hosts, to become a late-night talk show host. How interesting! But that must just be me: I’m too stuck-up with Hollywood to care a lot about corporate trenches and the melancholia that comes from seeing a favourite host fall, publicly and then vanish from public consciousness almost instantly. It might rival a Conan-something’s return from obscurity some 60-years later but storylines on soap operas have more thrill, thirty-years down the line, than seeing someone you have never heard of, FINALLY get his due and make it BIG! At least until then we have…60 Minutes!


Teaching Eastern Europe About India

In the last couple of days, one of the subjects that have peaked interest rather widely, is the interest Eastern European communities have on learning the Hindi language. Hindi is the predominant spoken language of India, and migration since the breakup of the British Empire has left many second and third generation Europeans from the ethnic minority diaspora, unable to connect with their roots. They are as a group very disenfranchised from Indian culture and lifestyles, unless eating Sainsbury’s poppadoms and watching MTV India on SKY counts.

Soap operas, Bollywood films have thus begun to act as a portal of learning more about modern-day India, for many Europeans, from every class imaginable. Normally, the films that are produced locally have no meaning, no plotline, no social message, and are very far-fetched from real life. So, the educational factor in them is very negligible, but we are not talking about the films that are produced with advise from Cannes or Disney, because they are tailored specifically to address the urban market in India, as well as Westerners, to help them learn more about a particular subject, with the same overarching agenda Hollywood has for each and every one of their production, be it on cinema-reel or on television screens.

Bollywood acts as a focal point for providing entertainment for the Indian masses, it is not meant for European tastes because our cultures are inherently distinct. Because people interested in learning Hindi are mostly ‘heritage learners’ the subject tends to be overlooked for Eastern European communities interested in taking it up at schools/universities, here because like ‘heritage learners’ they do not have any clue about the dialect Bollywood films shares, which sometimes acts a medium of learning for the students. Typical Bollywood films, television commercials, are meant for the South Asian continent, not for Western Europe.  The heritage learners in their homes here have no connection with Hindi inside their homes, on most occasions, so to pressurise them with learning dialects to be more familiar with how Indian cinema works is making things a bit too difficult to grasp.

Sampling Indian food, taking part in cultural festivals celebrating India, here is a means of learning more about India. Modern subculture in India or about India, borders on the fascination Western crowds have with Japanese manga, they want to learn the language just so they can watch MTV India, without having to read the subtitles. The ushering in of the “television era” from the mid-nineties onwards has added the culture factor of learning for “middle class India” with their typical households and local customs, alongside that of the rich, vibrant world of Bollywood. The whole point of the song/dance routine very different from Hollywood musicals is to arise consciousness about the culture of India, because most of the audience who tune into these films, walk out of the theatres, without much recollection of the film.

Their failure in being very memorable, is one of the important factors of consideration, when you dive into discussions how bad plotlines, languages and culture-representation should act as one of the reasons, why communities here should opt to find alternative means of learning about India – this is inclusive of programmes and films catering to modern-day India because their work is accurate, and often very loved, bordering on hysterical fandom, even. But where we are talking about educating the classes on rural and middle class India, there is an underlying problem here that really needs to be resolved. Bollywood films are limited in their capacity in representing Indian culture, they cannot depict Indian society properly. So, the basic question here, should be, do you want to watch a film purely for entertainment purposes or do you actually want to learn more about India?