Saturday, February 20, 2010

Looking for a hero

As I saw Tiger Woods reading out his apology to his fans, for his extra-marital affairs, I couldn’t help but wonder if he needed to do it. One school of thought said that ‘he better have done it! He cheated his fans’. The other school of thought said ‘hold on! Why does he need to apologise to us?’ The former thought is probably something that would be more acceptable to fans, than the latter. The refrain would be – ‘he was a hero and a role model to so many, and he let them down’. This is what I am uncomfortable with.

I had read an article written by Rohit Brijnath (the best sports writer in the world, in my humble opinion) that said that these top sportsmen are sporting champions, not necessarily heroes. I so agree with him. What I fail to understand is the need to crucify Woods for cheating his wife, the need to crucify John Terry for having an affair.

How well did we know Tiger Woods? Yes, we may know about the majors he won; we might know of the incredible shot he pulled off at the 2005 Masters; we might know that his first name is actually Eldrick; but what else do we know about him as a person? Precious little! That is the truth. On the golf course, he is a champion; outside it, we do not know him. So, why does he need to apologise to his fans who know nothing about Tiger Woods the man?

Don’t we all hold sports stars and film stars to an extremely high moral standard? Now, just think that you had a friend, and he or she cheats on the partner. Would we expect that friend to apologise to the partner that was cheated upon or would we expect that friend to call all of us over and apologise to all of us? I don’t think we’d feel aggrieved if the friend did not offer us an apology. We might feel bad, though, if the aggrieved partner has not been apologised to.

That is what should have happened. The press and the fans should have just let Tiger Woods be. Let him apologise to his wife, let him sort his life out, the one he leads away from the golfing greens. And once he comes back to swing his club, let us welcome back and cheer the champion that he once was on his turf.

And I hope that we all realise that not all sporting champions are real heroes. They are people who can go wrong, who can be insecure, who can be obnoxious, who we should accept as human. If we are to look for real heroes, let us search a little closer. Well, I did that and found my real heroes.

I think of that wonderful lady who sat next to me and helped me with my homework, and did not even make the slightest mention of her back spasm that badly needed rest. I think of that caring man who rushed me to a doctor when I had a 101 fever, and did not even bother that he was himself running a temperature of a 102. When I was old enough to realise this, I realised who my real heroes are. Believe me; some of my sporting heroes have let me down in one way or another. That why I looked for real heroes. And they weren’t difficult to find.

So the next time people mention Tiger Woods or Terry, let’s accept them for what we know them for; their prowess in the sporting arena and nothing else, for that is the only part of them that we intimately know.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My Name Is Khan: Review

One has seen lots of spoofs, funny ones, of big Hollywood films. Top Gun was spoofed in Hot Shots; Scary Movie series spoofs almost all the big Hollywood hits. Austin Powers spoofed James Bond and Star Wars. But these films are not by big directors and big actors. Tom Hanks and Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington do not star in them, and people like Martin Scorcesse, Speilberg, Tarantino do not direct them. Switch to Bollywood! Here things happen differently. The biggest directors and actors make extremely expensive spoofs. I saw one recently, it was called ‘My Name is Khan’. It starred Shah Rukh Khan and was directed by Karan Johar, for those who don’t know.

The movie was unintentionally funny, as was the whole premise behind the same. KJo usually reduces his heroes to simpering and crying retards in his films, albeit unintentionally. This time, he intentionally made SRK a retard. Well, those suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome (or autism) aren’t retarded. But King Khan played an autistic like a retard. He ran KKR like a retard in IPL – 2, made sweeping and retarded statements leading to the release of a movie, in which he acted like a retard.

Coming back to the spoof. Well, to begin with, one of the films this one spoofed was ‘Harold and Kumar escape from Guantanamo Bay’. That was a comedy, so the spoof was serious. It’s natural. After all, serious movies are spoofed comically; so it makes sense if comic films are spoofed in a so-called serious way. The story of Harold & Kumar goes like this – These are 2 care-free American citizens of Korean and Indian origin, who love smoking weed. On the way to Amsterdam, on an American flight, Kumar decided to light a bong. That raises alarms, and the plane goes back to America. There, they are detained by authorities (the HOD is an arrogant dumb-ass) where typical racial profiling happens. They are sent to Guantanamo Bay, from where they escape. Then begins their journey across America to prove their innocence and meet the President to get a pardon. Also, Kumar is doing it for love, because the girl he loved is getting married to a douchebag.

I’m serious!! This is the story of that hilarious comedy. So very familiar to MNIK. There are other similarities. Rizwan Khan finds a sleeper cell in MNIK, Harold and Kumar find the Ku Klux Klan in their movie; Rizwan is sent to a detention center, so are Harold and Kumar; Rizwan’s family face troubles, so do Harold & Kumar’s parents; most importantly, Rizwan meets Obama (who knows all about him), H&K meet George Bush at his ranch in Texas (where they smoke weed with him).

The reason H&K was better (besides the comedy) is that the duplicate Bush really looked like Dubya. In MNIK, KJo cast the first African-American that he found as Obama. Haven’t we all heard that – ‘sab kale ek jaise dikhte hain’? KJo probably thought people are serious when they say that.

This movie has proven one thing. Just like the illustrator of Savita Bhabhi cannot be expected to paint The Last Supper, the maker of utopian rubbish like KANK and K3G cannot be expected to make a good film on racial profiling. And, one feels bad that an actor who played Mohan Bhargav and Kabir Khan had to reduce himself to a caricature called Rizwan Khan. And no, SRK wasn’t Dustin Hoffman (Rainman) and Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump) rolled into one. Not in a million years!!

Mithun was a better desi James Bond in the Gunmaster G-9 movies, than SRK as Forrest Gump or Raymond Babbitt.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Saving Our Tigers: Exploiting a dying animal

Looking at the ‘Save Our Tigers’ campaign evokes a lot of mixed feelings. For the uninitiated, it is a campaign that Aircel has taken out. On one hand, I am happy that there is a lot of awareness that is being created which highlights the plight of our national animal, the most beautiful creature in our forests. On the other hand, I am not too sure if Aircel is in it for the long haul. Would this campaign last for very long?

I believe, if a corporate has come in for a long term then the cause being promoted is honorable. However, if they intend to use the tiger as a way to create goodwill for themselves with a short burst of publicity, then this is simply not done. We have seen, in the past, many celebrities and companies using a burning issue just to promote their films or products.

I do not know how much is being spent by Aircel to protect the tiger. What I definitely do not know is what the way forward with this campaign is. There are a couple of outrageously stupid links on the website that Aircel is promoting–

1) Speak up: This is what the text is on this link – ‘Write a letter or an email to editors of popular newspapers and magazines, asking them to support the cause and highlight the urgency to save our tigers. The more people we can reach and inform, the stronger our roar will be’

What I fail to understand is that why there are no articles by people actively involved in tiger conservation? Isn’t it important to highlight what people like Belinda Wright, Dr. Raghu Chandawat and Valmik Thapar have been writing and doing?

2) SMS, contact an NGO responsible for tigers, Preserve our natural resources, Be a responsible tourist.

Well, all is this utopian rubbish. SMSes do not help stop terrorism, where humans are killed, how is it going to save tigers? What NGOs do we get in touch with? All of us know that we must preserve natural resources and be responsible tourists. This is told to us right from our school days in moral science classes. But, almost all of us buy air-conditioners, use plastic bags without looking at the microns and litter when we travel. What is the use of writing this rubbish?

3) Donate: And here, they have provided a link to the WWF India website to make cash donations.

The third point takes the cake, in terms of stupidity of suggestions. Let me try and explain why.
As per the Project Tiger website, there are 38 reserves in the country which are project tiger reserves. There are other forests too, where tigers can be found, but these are not project tiger reserves. The government gave a grant in the 2009 union budget this year, to protect the tiger.

The generous grant was of Rs. 50 crores. That’s all the union budget of 2009 could spare for the national animal. This means, that just the 38 project tiger reserves would get Rs. 1.3 crores each, per annum to protect the tigers. And what all is needed to have a stronger tiger task force? Here is a very concise list:
  • Equipment to monitor tigers: This includes radio collars etc.
  • More number of people need to be employed to patrol the reserves day and night, so keep poachers out. The reserves are under-staffed and many vacancies are yet to be filled, and even if they are filled up, the number of rangers and forest guards still needs to double
  • Proper fire-arms and weapons: Today, the poachers have more sophisticated weapons than the forest guards. It is the sad truth• More vehicles to patrol the forests
  • Need to create more motorable roads so that the forests can be patrolled and guarded even during the monsoons. Currently, the forests are not guarded for 3 months of the monsoons and 50% of poaching happens then

This is a very small list, probably missing many more things that go in to save the tiger. But would Rs. 50 crores suffice to provide even half of the aforesaid? I seriously doubt it. This is where I find a disconnect. If Aircel is indeed hell bent on saving the tiger, the crores spent on making brand-films and plastering cities with campaigns could have added to the Rs. 50 crores of pittances the govt. has given. It would have done the tiger more good had a few extra equipments been bought out of that money than ensuring that a person in Juhu sees a Save Our Tigers hoarding.

Some may say, Aircel is not into charity. They are in the business of mobile services. That is exactly my point. If they are in a business, then run a business. Do not try and be clever and create awareness about your brand, using the plight of the tiger to your advantage.

And, there are many more pressing issues that concern the tiger’s existence that people need to be made aware of. The biggest issue is the one that concerns passing of the Tribal Bill in the parliament that has literally sounded the death knell for the national animal. Why don’t these corporate houses join hands with Wright and Thapar in revoking that bill?

If, after a few years, we realize that these campaigns about ‘Saving Our Tigers’ has resulted in the govt. waking up, I would take back all my cynical words about Aircel, and write an apology on this very space. I so hope I have to. I hope I am made to eat the pie, the one found in the ‘humble’ bakery, a few years from now. But, in my experience, online petitions and smses do precious little for causes, especially the ones that do not involve rights for some human being.