November 6, 2017

An open letter to American Democratic party leaders

I am going to take up some space here to talk about American politics. I am disabling comments on the post because the internet is a cesspool of idiots and horrible people about whom I don’t care, and from whom I don’t need to hear. Then I’ll get back to Indian movies (although BTW India? You need to take care of some political stuff in your own house too. Get on that, will you? I want to be able to move there if things here don’t improve fast but as it is now you aren’t any better!). But right now, after living through a year of the dumpster fire that is our government, I need to vent.

So here’s the thing.

It appears that at least some of you (*cough* Elizabeth Warren *cough*) think that Bernie Sanders and his rabble of supporters are necessary to the future of our party. I am here to tell you that nothing could be further from the truth.

Here’s why.

The main thing that distinguishes Democrats from Republicans is our diversity. Women, people of color, LBGTQ people, and other marginalized communities depend on our leaders in the Democratic party to advocate for us, fight for us, and keep us safe because the GOP sure as hell isn’t going to.

Bernie does not advocate for diversity. He thinks “identity politics” as he calls it, “can wait” or are somehow disconnected from social class. He’s wrong; and it makes many of us feel like we’re being sold “trickle-down economics” from the right and “trickle-down civil rights”* from the so-called progressive left.

Civil rights are economic rights. Access to health care, abortion, reproductive control, are all economic issues. Systemic racism and sexism and discrimination of all kinds are economic issues. The GOP keeps chipping away at the progress we have made on behalf of women, LGBTQs, and people of color—but we need those Sanders white guys in order to win?! I don’t think so. The white guys who support us already because they get it will continue to do so, the ones who don’t can fuck right off.

Bernie would be a terrible President. He is divisive, he is rigid, he does not listen to other people. He would make the gridlock in our Capitol even worse (if that’s possible). He showed that in the Democratic primary last year when he refused to concede the nomination and work with Democrats to defeat Trump. He was more concerned with his own ego than he was the future of the country. Oh, who does that sound like?

His supporters argue that the election was “rigged” and attack women and people of color with racist and sexist language when they are challenged. They seem to think more people wanted to nominate Sanders than Clinton, despite his loss to her by 3.5 million votes. They persist in their grievances in the face of constant rebuttals from thoughtful and informed people. Oh, who do they sound like?

If you really think Sanders is the future of the party, and that his supporters are necessary in order to win, and dismiss all the characteristics of both that are in a direct line with Trump and his supporters, then we’re done here.

There is a reason Sanders lost to Clinton by 3.5 million votes, and it’s not that the all-powerful DNC was pulling the strings. It was because people like me—who could not have told you the name of the DNC chair—looked at both candidates and liked what Clinton had to offer more. I am sick and tired of people not understanding that. It’s insulting to all of us who chose our nominee carefully and thoughtfully to be dismissed as not understanding people’s “real problems”. She had real workable policy ideas; she had years of making a difference in public service for people who needed it most. She was literally the most qualified person on the planet to be President. We also saw that she had to swim upstream against white male attacks from both the left and the right (including Sanders and his supporters even after she had the nomination firmly locked down) and admired her resilience and tenacity in the face of it all. What you seem to be missing, dear leaders, is that WE ARE ALL Hillary Fucking Rodham Clinton and we are tired of that shit. Our choice won the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes and we’ve watched in dismay as she’s continued to be the scapegoat for everyone else’s failures. We know what that’s like too. But she isn’t the point here.

Sanders supporters keep whining: “But he would have won!” First of all, they don’t know that as fact and will never know it; and second of all, if he had won it would have been because Clinton supporters wouldn’t have been dumb and self-absorbed enough to sabotage an important race and people’s futures by casting a holier-than-thou third party vote or not showing up at all. They don’t get to both help Trump win and whine that Bernie would have; logic and reason do not work that way.

The Republicans haven’t won anything without cheating since George W. was “elected” (truth: not elected) in 2000. Where have you been while they have been suppressing minority and poor voters, drawing extreme gerrymandering maps (including using prison populations as “voters” even though they can’t vote!), taking advantage of the outdated Electoral College to give rural mostly white voters a disproportionate amount of power, and using easily hacked voting machines to their advantage? I know that the media is biased in their coverage of Democrats and never talks about what you’re doing behind the scenes. Democrats are, by and large, people who don’t make great headlines because we don’t bait people who can’t fight back and make outrageously false claims. But seriously, why are Republicans still getting away with all this?

It is really hard to be a Democrat and has been for a while. You don’t seem to be helping this country make progress. I’m not sure exactly what you stand for any more, because people of color, women and LGBTQs are still struggling for equality and justice. The only reason I’ve stuck with you—like many—is because you’ve been my only real, viable alternative to the GOP’s reprehensible racism, sexism, homophobia, and general hatred.

But if you think embracing as the party’s leader a man who is dependent on a vague notion of “Revolution!” to enact his ideas (which aren’t anything new), but doesn’t think including those of us who aren’t white and male is absolutely necessary; if you embrace as leader a man who did a lot to sabotage us and very little to help in the last election; if you embrace yet another man who dismisses women (when he’s not sticking his hand in their faces and talking over them), then I’m done with you forever. We are the ones who are necessary: we women, people of color, worshipers of different religions; all of us on that wide spectrum of sexuality that doesn’t distinguish right or wrong; we who have always showed up, who haven’t sold out because we were disgruntled and our egos bruised. I disagreed with Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to vote (totally support his right to and reasons for kneeling during the anthem) (also, the team who picked him up would have so many forever fans because of it, if the white guys running the league could only figure that out), although I got it. Or at least I thought I did.

Now, I really DO get it. I do. I’m right there with you Colin, sitting on that bench and watching, and we are not alone. Women particularly are used to not being heard so you might not have heard from a lot of us, but believe me plenty of us are really angry. We talk to each other, though, and we are not having it if you don’t recognize who really supports you.

You need to figure out what you want this party to represent. We need a party who stands with us and doesn’t equivocate over what is truly important. We need leaders who will DO something with the energy and enthusiasm propelling us onto the streets to march and protest. Equality and diversity matter to us, and not as afterthoughts. Gun control matters to us. Justice matters to us. Kindness matters to us. Humanity towards all living creatures on this planet matters to us. We’re tired of tiny increments and backward steps. If nothing else, Trump’s election shone a klieg light on everything that still needs big-time fixing. Sexism, racism, homophobia are all right up there still. And we’ll keep fighting against those things even if we aren’t Democrats any more. Something else will take your place in our lives even if we don’t know what it is yet. So don’t underestimate us or take us for granted, because on top of everything else that will be the last goddamn straw.

*I did not make “trickle-down civil rights” up myself, a smart woman named Monica Chilton did, but it’s so perfectly perfect.

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April 7, 2017

Parwana (1971)

parwanaThe tagline on the DVD cover caught my eye first: “A Murder Plan That Forced Indian Railways To Change Their Train Timing!” I am not sure that Indian Railways actually did worry that much about murders galore being unleashed on the Indian public, but it was enough to attract me. The film stars a very young Amitabh Bachchan, Yogita Bali, Navin Nischol and Shatrughan Sinha, and is directed by Jyoti Swaroop, who directed two of my favorite films (Padosan and Chorni). It was billed as a thriller of sorts, although there is no effort made to disguise “whodunit”—it’s marginally more of a “howdunit”.

It is a very stylish and nicely-paced production, however, and showcases the soon-to-be overwhelming charisma of its anti-hero Bachchan to great effect (especially compared to milquetoast-y “hero” Navin Nischol).

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February 23, 2017

April Fool (1964)

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Lord I love Indian spy films from the 1960s, but make no mistake about it: this is a bad movie. Since I expected that going in, I was not disappointed, and in fact was delighted to find a decent level of (possibly inadvertent) hilarity. I will share those gems here so that you can give the painfully awkward and sparkless Biswajeet/Saira Banu pairing, the boring songs, and the disaster that is the plot(s), a miss.

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July 18, 2016

Roop Tera Mastana (1972) (mini-review)

I quickly grew tired of the plot (Pran evil, Mumtaz helpless, Jeetendra clueless, I.S. Johar painful), but remained riveted to Mumtaz’s Disney princess wardrobe and accessories.

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May 28, 2016

The old cowhand…

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This week, two days before he would have turned 14, I said goodbye to one of the most entertaining and endearing characters to ever cross my path. Bandit came to me just over three years ago, right before his 11th birthday. His rescuer and foster dad, Eric, posted the following on my Facebook page the next day, and I think his words and pictures describe Bandit’s backstory (as he calls them, Acts I and II) so eloquently and beautifully that with his permission I am sharing them with you.

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April 12, 2016

Prem Kahani (1937)

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I love the elegance of the Art Deco era of the Twenties and Thirties. Of course my mother points out that I would have probably been at the back of a bread line dressed in rags, but I prefer to picture myself draped in chiffon and pearls, languidly smoking from a long cigarette holder and lounging in a posh Park Avenue mansion. Thanks to Prem Kahani, that vision has been altered slightly to one of gold-edged sarees and cocktail shakers; a quartet of musicians playing in my Marine Drive home as friends and I rehearse for a benefit we’re holding for the poor and needy (the people actually standing in that bread line of Mom’s).

But I am getting ahead of myself.

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March 23, 2016

Lalkar (1972)

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The film’s title is actually Lalkar (The Challenge) but I never did figure out what the Challenge was, other than getting through the Comic Side Plot interruptions and tepid romantic interludes which kept intruding on the otherwise fun espionage plot. Rajendra Kumar and Mala Sinha get top billing, so I was hoping to collect some Nahiiin Face additions for the Gallery but they were fairly restrained. They are supported by a stellar cast of character actors led by the inestimable Shyam Kumar as the eye-patch wearing Japanese villain, Dharmendra at his peak, saucy Kum Kum, some really special special effects, and a host of small details that made it eminently watchable.

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February 29, 2016

Alibaba (1977)

alibaba1977Even with subtitles, I probably would have fast-forwarded through vast stretches of this film; without them I spent much of my time bewildered by the plot and bored by its meandering. I might not have bothered to write it up either except for there’s an absolute dearth of material about it out there, and it does have some very redeeming qualities. It seems to have had a decent budget: there are a lot of well-known character and comic actors; the costumes and sets are lush and colorful; Helen and Laxmi Chhaya each have dances. I suspect though I can’t confirm that none of the money lavished on it went to a script writer, however. Mohammed Hussain is a director whose name I am always happy to see in the credits, but he might have been rather worn out or bored himself by the time this was made. It lacks his trademark lunacy, and that craziness is sorely missed.

Khair. Enough quibbling, let’s talk about the good stuff.  Continue reading

February 16, 2016

Guest Post: Indurani, a star of the 1930s

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This article is written by my friend and film historian Arunkumar Deshmukh, who previously has shared here his knowledge on actors Parshuram and Bhudo Advani. I am very honored that he asked me to publish this here, and I am thrilled to find out more about the beautiful actress Indurani of 1930s and 40s fame, her family (including her sister, actress Sarojini, and niece Azra—always a favorite of mine), her career and her life. I know you will be too!

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August 28, 2015

(I am not out of my mind, I am a) Rajput (1982)

So proclaims Bhanu Singh (Vinod Khanna) in English at about two hours into this epic, leading me to reflect that if I’ve learned nothing else from Hindi movies, I do know that an unhinged mind and a Rajput heritage are not as mutually exclusive as he thinks. Still, this is possibly my favorite line ever spoken in the history of movies, with the bonus of an unnecessary but hilarious subtitle: “I am not insane, I am a Rajput!”

Actually, the subtitles are one of my favorite things about this movie, and there are a lot of favorite things.

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