Tag Archives: ISLAMIC STATE

CHARLIE HEBDO MASSACARE: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD !

7th January 2015,Paris; 13 people lay dead after two gunmen had attacked the office of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and massacred members of the Charlie Hebdo editorial team as well as its top caricaturists. Shouting “Allahu Akbar” the assailants triumphantly left the building and claimed that the Prophet Mohammad was avenged and that Islam was safe again.

Paris continued to reel under Islamic terror when four more were killed in a hostage situation in a Kosher (Jewish) Supermarket. The hostage taker, Amedy Coulibaly (who claimed allegiance to the ISIS), was gunned down as also the two out of the three Charlie Hebdo assailants, Algerian brothers Cherif Kouachi and Said Kouachi (al Qaeda). The third, Hamyd Masoud surrendered. The French Government suspected an international conspiracy behind the three day carnage. Eventually the Al Qaeda In Yemen (AQIY) took responsibility for the attacks on Charlie Hebdo.

What provoked the carnage? The answer contains uncomfortable truths for the victims as well as the perpetrators.

Charlie Hebdo started in 1970 after its predecessor the “Hara Kiri” was banned for mocking the death of ex-President Charles de Gaulle. It remained out of print from 1981 till ’92 when it was resurrected by the efforts of François Cavanna (editor 1969 – 1981),Phillipe Val (editor 1992 – 2011). The magazine is irreverent, satirical, provocative and non-conformist while dealing with religion and French politics. Its editor Stéphane Charbonnier (Charb), who was killed by the gunmen, had once described the magazine’s positions as left-wing, secular, and atheist. It has caused maximum controversy when covering religion, particularly in the depiction of the Prophet Mohammed.

In 2006, it provoked protests when it featured a weeping Mohammed with the headline “Mohammed Overwhelmed by Fundamentalism.” And also featured reprinted cartoons from the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten that caricatured the Prophet.In 2007, it again caused furore when it published cartoons of Mohammad carrying a bomb in his turban. In 2010,it supported France’s “burqa ban” through the caricature of a naked woman. In 2011, its offices were fire bombed when a Charlie Hebdo edition supposedly “guest edited” by Mohammad was taken out with a Mohammad cartoon announcing “100 lashes of the whip if you don’t die laughing” and titled Charia Hebdo (a refence to Sharia Law).

In response – the magazine published the cartoon of a Muslim man kissing a cartoonist !

In 2012, an edition had a cover showing an orthodox Jewish Man pushing a Muslim man in a wheel chair and titled “Intouchables 2” a spoof on a French movie “Intouchbles”.It also carried a spoof on the malicious, divisive and globally decried Islamophobic internet movie “Innocence of Muslims”, by depicting a naked Mohammad in pornographic positions! This was done against the advise of the French government.

The editors reacted to Muslim chagrin by saying that the fire bombers were “stupid people”, that the magazine conforms to French free speech laws and not Koranic and that they could be least bothered about the reactions or laws of Kabul and Riyadh. They admitted that they were against religion but depicted the Prophet especially to provoke and shame.

And provoke they did.

The Amul ad depicts the carnage in Paris.The Eiffel Tower is almost falling over under the onslaught of extremists with storm clouds gathering and paper, ostensibly depicting drawing sheets, strewn all around. The Amul Girl is shown as defending free speech with a drawing pencil in one hand and a paint brush in the other.

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The Tag LineParis Is Reeling…is a statement on the unprecedented attacks in Paris and the “IS IS” in red is a play on the suspected role of the Islamic fundamentalist movement Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. This is an incomplete representation as the two main suspects had announced allegiance to al Qaeda.

Secularism is the de facto official religion in France. Inasmuch that the French have twice imprisoned recalcitrant Popes in 1798 and 1809 who tried to resist the Revolution. In 1905 the French Third Republic decreed the separation of the church and the state to ensure Freedom of Thought. This entailed strict official neutrality known as laïcité – absence of religious involvement in government affairs and vice versa.

French Identity is essentially non ethnic and non-religious and is now under strain due to the immigration of people of colour and multi ethnic identities from the former colonies. It’s in this backdrop that the Charlie Hebdo editorial line is to be seen.

Strictly secular, Charlie Hebdo swore to safeguard laïcité. It had subsumed for itself the right to equally offend all, also known as – equal opportunity blasphemy- with irreverence. It intended to subject to brutal interrogation, any self-sanctified institution especially religion. It aimed at making humorous attacks so common on the most sensitive issues and concepts that these would get defanged and lose their control and illogical hold on the people. Charb was loathe to self-censor and would never indulge in appeasement of a group or two at the cost of his core ideals.

This courageous editorial underpinning put Charlie Hebdo on a path of direct conflict with the six million Muslim immigrants of France and the extremists within them. These are the most disenfranchised ethnic grouping who have also felt targeted by the government especially when the latter banned head scarves and veils. Charlie Hebdo demonstrated a strange naiveté when it ventured into these troubled waters upholding laïcité but ignoring the transforming ethnic realities of France. Its irreverent and offensive attack on the most sacred entity for the Muslims – Prophet Mohammad- was seen as racial and humiliating by a marginalized ethnic grouping. These caricatures thus became the catalyst for the inevitable outburst of a suppressed and discriminated minority made to feel unwelcome in France. And resulted in a senseless carnage leading to the death of 17 people.

The rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the younger generation is a failure of the French State especially when the original immigrants assimilated so well that they are at the forefront of the voices against extremism. The French need to accept the changing paradigm of the ethnic composition of France. Marginalisation breeds a pronounced sense of identity and leads to overt display of religious symbols and beliefs which cannot be stemmed by stringent laws alone. Without serious thought being given to the root causes of alienation the next incident too should be round the corner as Charlie Hebdo has responded to the massacre by publishing yet another Mohammad Cartoon with the latter holding the “Je suis Charlie” placard and saying “ all is forgiven”.

The Muslims too need to introspect as to why is that when Charlie Hebdo depicted the Pope with a condom, Marie Le Pen shaving pubic hair and Michael Jackson as a skeleton immediately after his death that none of the groups resorted to large scale protests, fire bombings, shootings, executions and hostage taking? Free speech is a modern concept which is far removed from Islamic tenets and is a cherished value of the Western nations. Such blatant attacks will lead to nations reacting in a manner which will threaten to further exclude the Muslim community and typecast them .If the Muslims aspire for a better life as immigrants then they must assimilate and learn and develop tolerance and shun extremism.Western nations too must ensure that the right to offend is moderated.

Muslims also need to give serious thought and voice to the demands for reform in Islam keeping in mind the changes in the 1400 years since the compilation of the Holy Koran.It is not their belief which is coming in the way of assimilation but the manner of interpreting the teachings of the Prophet and the  Koran.

There is a lesson for us Indians too especially in the backdrop of the protests against the Aamir Khan starrer -PK. Extremists all over the world speak the same language of intimidation when they want to subvert free thought.And they need to be resisted. And the rabid protestor could also be reminded that if he feels belittled by the depiction of certain practices and concepts which have crept into the Hindu religion then why doesn’t he protest about these practices too while demanding limits on free speech.

Charlie Hebdo and the ones who died represent the “mockingbird” – who never harms us but sings its heart out for us.And to kill a mockingbird, is to kill something innocent and harmless that too when the devil is within us. To quote from the famous novel by Harper Lee “when they finally saw him, why he hadn’t done any of those things … Atticus, he was real nice,” to which he responds, “Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”

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NOW SERVING – SHAKESPEAREAN OMELETTE WITH INDIAN CHUTZPAH !

A successful director, a yet-to-prove-himself actor & a Kashmiri journalist as the script writer along with generous support from Shakespeare, have combined to create a critically acclaimed but controversial Bollywood flick – “Haider”.

“Haider” is an adaptation of the Shakespearean classic- Hamlet. Set in the militancy ridden Kashmir of the 1990s the plot has betrayal, love and revenge intricately woven together. Adapting it to Kashmir in a particular period is a challenge well met. Revolving around the revenge that the wronged son seeks for his father’s betrayal and death, from his uncle, the lead characters Shahid Kapoor (Hamlet), Tabu (Queen Gertrude), KK Menon (Uncle Claudius), Irrfan Khan (Ghost), Shraddha Kapoor (Ophelia) have rendered power packed and committed performances. The ability of Vishal Bharadwaj,the Director, to get the best out of the cast is amply showcased as well.

It’s a satisfying finale for Bharadwaj, as with “Haider”, he has successfully (commercially as well) completed his Triology on Shakespearean plays – Maqbool (Macbeth) & Omkara (Othello) being the other two.

“Haider” portrays the rigours of daily life in a strife torn Kashmir way back in the 90s.Its setting and the depiction of the Indian Army’s (IA) role in the conflict in light of the sequence of the destruction of the house while smoking out militants, alleged custodial disappearances as also the supposed torture methods has tended to portray the Army in a negative and controversial shade by the script writer,Basharat Peer.

Some have even lamented that the Indian government “imposed 41 cuts” on “Haider”, through the censor board. Well, 35 of those have been imposed by Bharadwaj himself for getting the length right!

I think the next project that these India baiters and conscience keepers should take up can be a flick on the strife torn areas under the Islamic State (IS), where they will be filming as embedded journalists (without bullet proof jackets- BPJs) and depicting the barbaric nature of the IS fighters and their excesses. The IS has kindly consented not to cut the film short through its censor board (unlike the Indian government!). Instead they have decided to cut a head from the production unit each time they find something objectionable. So, Basharat, Vishal & Shahid would you like to take this on? No censor board.Liberal enough, right?

And why no BPJs? Because the IS made up its own deficiency – so to hell with the film unit!

Okay I made a difficult offer. Why not film in Swat on the dangerous liaison between the ISI and the Taliban. An issue worth taking up( like the supposed excesses of the IA). FYI, Geo TV tried this and their license was withdrawn and offices ransacked ! So, game for it? No?…..Why? After all no censor board, just the Taliban and the ISI…AND YOUR LUCK!

By the way a word about the Pakistan Censor Board. They banned Ranjhana as it showed a love story between a Muslim girl and a Hindu boy (?)! Then they banned Khiladi 786 as the use of the number could hurt religious sentiments (??). Banned Chennai Express as it was against the business interests of the Pakistani film industry (???). And also Agent Vinod because…wait…well that wasn’t way off the target and their Indian counterparts should have done it for the sheer torture it inflicted on the audience!!!

I have a few themes in mind too.

To begin with, an Indianised Charlies Angels as “Subramaniam Swamy’s Angels” starring Jaylalita, “Madame ” Gandhi and our very own Mr Kejriwal.

Then “The Wolf of Raisina Hill” directed by Kapil Sibal designed to expose the guile and cunning of one man who has jettisoned the Grand Old Party into outer space.

Adaptation of “Hum aapke hain kaun” to have a climax in which the dog (as in the original) entrusted with handing over the letter of support from the Shiv Sena (Madhuri Dixit) to the BJP (Salman Khan) mistakenly hands it over to the NCP (Monish Behl).Unlike the original there would be no union between Madhuri & Salman but Monish will do all he can to keep Salman away …oops..confusion…to keep the Shiv Sena away!!!

Not too sure if these will pass the Censor scrutiny though.

The Amul ad/ topical on the movie Haider depicts a scene from the movie with a caricature depicting Shahid Kapoor’s character sitting in the snow with the Amul Girl filling in for Shraddha Kapoor’s character. The detailing is good with the protagonists being shown in the same attire as in the movie complete with the chequered kurtas ,the pink scarf, the umbrella and the facial resemblance.

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The Tag Line….Try with Haider Bread or Rotiis clever play on the ubiquitous acceptability of the Amul butter with any kind of bread or roti (flat bread)as well as on the name of the movie itself.

The Punch Line.. A Modern Day Classicis a subtle way of showcasing the quality of the Amul butter by using the expression that can best describe the cinematic effort that went into creating a critically acclaimed movie.

Lastly, to those who have felt aggrieved at the negative depiction of the IA, be rest assured it’s an institution with intrinsic strength and cannot be swayed by its depiction in a movie. The IA’s actions are there to speak for itself. It is one of the few armies which has not hesitated in taking the harshest actions against its own in order to right a wrong. In a conflict there are many situations when shades of grey emerge, but over time the IA has been able to discern through these too and made sure that its impartial and just image and ethics are upheld at all times.

By the way, the Lion King too was an adaptation of the “Hamlet” (Simba=Hamlet & Scar = evil uncle) and Lion King II…an adaptation of “Romeo & Juliet“!

Shakespearean omelettes always taste good and to make them better add some Chutzpah…yes you can..in India.Other places?Well…they may shoot first and that too to kill !!!

POST SCRIPT

3rd February 2015;In the recently announced 60th Filmfare Awards 2015 winners list saw the Bollywood movies ‘Queen’ and ‘Haider’ sweeping the field with a whopping six and five awards respectivley.

The Amul ad/topical on the Filmfare Awards shows the Amul Girl with the runaway winners of this year’s edition.It shows two caricatures depicting Shahid Kapoor in a tuxedo as he wore on the awards night and Kangana Ranaut in her famous “girl-next-door” attire in the movie “Queen”.They are both shown holding the “black lady” which they have won for the Best Actor and Best Actress roles respectively.

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The Tag Line is in the form of call out boxes with the Amul Girl making an overt attempt to let the readers know about the identity of winners in terms of the movies and the actors themselves.They translate into “Haider-tea is here” and “Kangana-have a bun”.

The Punch Line…Always in a Leading Roleis a take on the awards won by Shaid and Kangana for their leading rooles in the two movies  discussed above and once again subtly promotes the leading status of Amul Butter and the brand in general.

Queen is a 2014 Bollywood comedy-drama starring Kangana Ranaut and Lisa Haydon and Rajkumar Rao in supporting roles. It is directed by Vikas Bahl and produced by Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane.

The plot revolves around Kangana playing the lead role as Rani, an under-confident girl who suffers as her fiancee calls off the wedding at the last moment.Shocked and hurt,Rani decides to proceed alone on her pre-arranged honeymoon.Here she rediscovers herself in the company of staranger.She eventually returns with her fears conquered and inner demons exorcised for good.The fiancee ,Vijay, also learns his lessons when he attempts to make amends.

The movie premiered at the Busan International Film Festival,had received wide critical acclaim for its unique story line,writing,direction and Kangana’s performance.Produced at a cost of Rs 12.5 crores it earned Rs 98 crores at the box office.Previously nominated in 13 categories at the Screen Awards it won three of them including Best Film and Best Director.At the Filmafare Awards 2015 the movie won six including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress for Kangana Ranaut,Best Editing, Best Cinematography and Best Background Score.

‘Haider’ was a close second with five awards including Best Actor for Shahid Kapoor , Best Actor in Supporting Role (Female) for Tabu, Best Actor in Supporting Role (Male) for KK Menon and also for Best Costume and Best Production Design.

The Filmfare Awards are the Oscar Awards equivalent for Bollywood and have had its share of controversies and ups and downs.These have been attacked for their poor or biased choices in the past but off late have been able to make justified choices more often than not.

MARS ORBITER MISSION: MANGALYAAN AND THE FOURTH ROCK FROM THE SUN !

Everyone sat anxious and tense, at the Mission Operations Complex-2 (MOX-2), the nerve centre of India’s Mars mission.There was just one question on everybody’s mind: Will it happen?When Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman K. Radhakrishnan nodded calmly,the gesture made it official. At 7.59 a.m. on 24th September 2014, India had accomplished a gigantic feat of putting a spacecraft in orbit around Mars in its first attempt.

The space odyssey of the “Mangalyaan” (Mars Orbiter Mission – MOM) commenced on 5th November 2013 when it set out on its journey to Mars onto an indigenous and improved PSLV-C25. It would travel 78 crore kilometers in a 300 days journey towards the Red Planet for its eventual date with destiny.On the anointed day the LAM engines & the thrusters roared into life and placed Mangalyaan in the Martian Orbit.

The entire project cost USD 74 Million (Rupess 450 crores) (Hollywood flick “Gravity” cost USD 900 Million).This is the cheapest ever inter planetary space mission.The improved PSLV-C25, LAM engines, the AOCS thrusters, Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser (MENCA),Gyroscopes & Accelerometers are some of the critical components designed & manufactured indigenously in India. ISRO is the fourth space agency after the Russians,NASA & the ESA to reach Mars & the first to do it right in its first attempt.India & the USA are now in an agreement to share the findings of the mission with NASA.

Such a feat will always attract acolytes & detractors alike.Its the latter which keep me in business!

New York Times (NYTimes/ NYT) published a cartoon showing members of the Elite Space Club reading a newspaper with a headline about India’s Mars mission. They appear unhappy with a seemingly impoverished Indian man dressed in a a turban,with a cow,knocking at their door.This is a self goal by NYT. The caricature has nothing to do with contemporary realities & it failed to register the fact that no other country has managed to enter Martian orbit in its first attempt & that NASA is relying upon “Mangalyaan” to improve upon the findings of its ultra expensive “Curiosity” or “Maven”.

In case ISRO is succesful in launching a cow,a certain Lalu Prasad Yadav is already working on the contract to supply fodder on Mars.May God -or Martians- save the cows & the fodder!!!

Incidentally, the Chinese are still looking for their Mars bound “Yinghuo 1” in the Pacific & the Japanese “Nozomi” is declared lost as it could not place itself in orbit around the planet!

The ruling BJP has gone gung ho with the launch & trumpeted it as the biggest success of the Modi Government.They are  now hopeful of reaching an agreement atleast with the Martians on seat sharing arrangements for any elections taking place on Mars!

Some of the Congressmen are upset at missing out on a Golden opportunity.Realising only now that this was a one way mission they are ruing their chances of not convincing Rahul Gandhi aka Pappu to undertake a Martian tour for championing women empowerment on Mars!

One Arvind Kejriwal has demanded that amongst the many probes in the spacecraft which one is probing corruption on Mars?On being answered in the negative he has claimed this to be a sign that the NDA Government is not serious about tackling corruption (??)! He is demanding that ISRO send him to Mars so he can sit on a Dharna & protest!

The al Qaeda isnt happy with this Indian achievement & they have asked Hafeez Saeed to send suicide bombers after Mangalyaan.Not to be out done, the Islamic State has in a recent interview to some western news channel ordered the beheading of Mars (???) for hosting an infidel spacecraft!

To out do ISRO , Bilawal Bhutto of Pakistan is planning a rocket to the Sun (???) He is now managing Bajaj engines to power the flight.His scientists are presently figuring out how much to tilt the rocket to get it kick started? Any guesses?

Narendra Modi is also being credited by the RBI for smart economics.The timely fine of Rs 100 crore on ex CM, Jayalalitha lowered the effective cost of the MOM to Rupees 350 crore!This has found favour with the credit rating agencies & India has been upgraded from it present status of “negative”!

Coming to the Amul Ad/ topical on Magalyaan or the Mars Orbiter Mission.It captures the ISRO feat of putting the Mangalyaan in Martian orbit.It depicts the Amul Girl in a space suit & in a Superman like pose she is guiding the speeding “Mangalyaan” towards Mars, which is seen in the background.

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The Tag Line…Mangalkhaana..is a spin on the name of the spacecraft “Mangalyaan (Mars-craft)” . “Mangal” in hindi has two meanings.It means the planet Mars & also means Auspicious.And the word “Khana” has been used to depict the Amul butter as being equally pleasant & auspicious as the ISRO achievement.

The Punch Line..MOMs love it..is a take on the anagram of the Mars Orbiter Mission & is a subtle endorsement of the Amul butter as being the favoured choice of mothers for pampering their children with generous dollops of the yellow delight!

Amul had previously commemorated the start of the mission too.

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In the midst of all the accolades the real significance of the mission lies in the future exploration & eventual attempts to colonise outer space for its resources.Mars is flush with Methane & the leading nations already have their sights on the resource.ISROs success implies that the neighbouring countries will not make a beeline for China to assist in launching satellites & this has massive security & economic implications. ISRO has contributed immensely through remote sensing & now the MOM will further stabilise its credentials for additional financial commitments to explore outer space.It is definitely a feat worth commemorating & has invigorated young minds to take up scientific studies.

The most unbelievably low cost of USD 74  Million was achieved by keeping the Mangalyaan payload down to 15kg, compared to the complex MAVEN payload, to complement and not duplicate what the other missions to mars already have in and around Mars.In conjunction with the Maven and the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Express, Mangalyaan will provide a three point measurement of the research on methane and the presence of methane producing microbes on Mars.

So,India simply played it smart ! And for NYT,whether you like gatecrashers or not,  snake charmers have now mastered the fourth rock from the sun…and can teach you a thing or two as well !

NYT has since retracted the controversial cartoon & apologised as well.Reality Bites…or should i say..Moos (like a cow)!

19 December 14

ISRO and its team of scientists have made a major breakthrough.The space agency has achieved the successful launch of the GSLV Mk III.The launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, in Sriharikota on 18 December 14 of the heaviest Indian rocket,also known as LVM3/CARE, was carried out to validate the complex atmospheric flight regime of the suborbital experimental mission.Its two solid S 200 engines and a liquid L110 engine performed as expected.The rocket also carried a passive (non functional) cryogenic upper stage.This has brought ISRO closer to carrying out the first development flight with a functional C25 Cryogenic stage,also known as Cry engine or cry stage.Success of the LVM3-X will ensure heavier payloads of up to 4 tonnes for Indian satellite launch vehicles and will eliminate the need to depend on foreign agencies to launch such satelites.

The CARE stands for Crew Module Atmospheric Reentry Experiment.This module was integrated in the upper stage of the rocket and separated at approx 126 km and after 730 seconds splashed in the Indian Ocean at a controlled speed of 7m per second.The success of the CARE module in meeting all flight and re entry parameters augurs well for the future.And thirty years after Rakesh Sharma, India is now definitively closer to putting together its first manned mission to space.

Success begets success and after Mangalyaan each leap is now bigger than the previous one.