March 08, 2009

Clambering on shoulders

To go with this interview of a certain Pramod Mutalik (don't miss the enthralling comments), MidDay asked me to write a counterpoint essay. I can't find it on their site, but it appeared in print yesterday (Mar 7 2009), and you'll find it below.

Comments welcome.


Clambering on Shoulders

My favourite title, and it's a hard choice from among several classics, is Andheri Raat Mein Diya Tere Haath Mein. If you're not chuckling, you don't know Hindi. The play is on the word diya, which can mean both "lamp" and "gave it to you." That is, this film title can mean both "On a dark night there's a lamp in your hand" and "On a dark night I gave it to you in your hand." And of course, the late Dada Kondke knew which of those two he wanted to plant in your mind.

Kondke was an immensely popular, successful film-maker. He is something of a legend in Maharashtra, but certainly in the rest of the country too. Millions went to his films and laughed at the ribald jokes, the naughty word play. Given all that, who would suggest that Dada Kondke was a menace to our culture? Nobody ever has. Which is exactly as it should be. Far from threatening Indian culture, Kondke's films are a living expression of it.

This is the point to make and think about, whenever we hear people rising up to apparently defend Indian culture. In particular, when Pramod Muthalik and his Sri Ram Sene attack women emerging from a Mangalore pub, when they assault lovers celebrating Valentine's Day, when they announce that they will put their (the lovers') images up for public consumption on a website -- when they do these things and wrap them in the cloak of a defence of Indian culture, the right response is to say to Muthalik and friends: please don't presume to defend something you know nothing about.

For here's a truth about culture: It is not some remote ideal that's set in stone, forever immutable, forever virtuous. Culture is what's happening all around us today. It's joyous, dismaying, uplifting. It defies every definition, every straitjacket. It is Indian warmth and hospitality as much as it is Indian suspicion of the "outsider". It's sublime, it's vulgar, it's ordinary, it throbs.

If Indian culture encompasses films by Dada Kondke as much as those by Ram Gopal Verma and Zoya Akhtar -- and who would disagree? -- it certainly has space for women who go to bars. Space also, in fact, for those who dispatch pink chaddis by courier.

All of which is precisely why it is so vibrant, so alive. All of which is why it's capturing the world's imagination as you read this.

Pramod Muthalik has no monopoly on what makes up Indian culture, and certainly no right to "defend" some twisted idea of it. His threats, assaults and antics amount only to what Alexander Cockburn wrote in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky episode a decade ago: "What we're seeing here is one of the most disgusting of all spectacles: Puritans wringing their hands while clambering on one another's shoulders to peep in the bedroom window."

So understand this, Shri Muthalik, as you roam about looking for more young women to hammer: The only attack on Indian culture evident in Mangalore is yours.


Anonymous said...

Upon hearing of Baburao Samant's demise, I searched everything for a post. I could not find many obituaries. So I searched for "Dilip Dsouza Baburao Samant".

I knew, you would report it. I did not know of your personal relationship. And yet, I knew you would know that he has passed away just in your capacity as a journalist. I also knew you would report it.

I am not sure if this is an opportunity to congratulate you. Perhaps not. But just so that you know, there is a bit of confidence you have acquired for your integrity in the minds of a few people.

Baby V

Dilip D'Souza said...

Thank you Baby V. That's very kind. He was a fine man: principled, gentle, wise, forthright.

Blueshift said...

Thanks to Ram sena, women lost their already tiny freedom in Bengaluru.

Sudha said...

I just wanted to say to Blueshift: the worst thing we can do is act like our freedoms are curtailed. Let's not give him that pleasure. He's a thug and in this age of instant celebrity he has had his few days of fame/notoriety. Our freedoms are in our hands , not his.

Blueshift said...

I dont want to give credit or freedom or anything to thugs but his gang is on rampage in the streets of Bengaluru and no one is ready to confront this and stop it. Police are on their usual denyial mode and Politicians are in their usual tacit support mode, in the mean time women are scared to roam on the streets of Bengaluru. I dont want to shut my mouth now.

km said...

Wonderful stuff as always, Dilip.

//You could just as easily replace "Indian culture" with "American culture" and "Dada Kondke" with any *really* popular musician here.

Anonymous said...


Dilip D'Souza said...

Thanks km and AnIndianAb: what's also interesting about all this is the contortions people who rail about attacks on Indian culture will go to, to sidestep Dada Kondke.

Some years ago, one Shantaram Nandgaonkar headed a body called the "Stage Performances Scrutiny Board" under the then Shiv Sena-BJP government in Maharashtra. They were cracking down on so-called "sex plays", and naturally, someone asked them about Kondke. He said, and I quote: "Kondke's issue is different. ... It's vulgar, but appeals to rural audiences."

So you see, vulgarity is fine if it appeals to the rural masses. They can be exposed to vulgarity and that's OK. It's only urban people who need to be protected. Besides, was he seriously implying that Kondke's films don't appeal to urban audiences?

Anonymous said...

Where are DSouzas' and the Renukas'??

Oh they need no "Safforn" group is involved.

- Surya

Dilip D'Souza said...

Where are DSouzas' and the Renukas'??

OK let's see. The CNN-IBN article has this line at the top: "Published on Mon, Mar 16, 2009 at 16:04, Updated on Mon, Mar 16, 2009 at 16:18".

That is, about 2.5 hours ago as I write this.

Between that time and 628pm IST, about 30 minutes ago as I write this, "Surya" learns about this ghastly incident.

What does "Surya" think is the best thing to do?

I mean, of course, simple: get on this blog (and possibly others? I don't know) and ask, "Where are DSouzas' and the Renukas'??"

I mean, of course, I'm grateful to "Surya". His effort means I can chalk up yet one more time that I've got news of a ghastly incident via someone whose reaction to the news is to flail about, asking "Where are the Xs and Ys??", and "Why haven't you condemned this yet??"

Anonymous said...

The Taliban are almost on our doorstep. Trust the Taliban to deliver the mortal blow to pseudo seculars, for the Taliban brook no nonsense. They have a firm clarity of purpose.

Anonymous said...

Even the headmaster of pseudos Kuldip Nayar has given up om Pakistan...

Anonymous said...

I think we Indians are very confused lot. We should surreder to the Taliban.
Pseudo seculars will be very happy and I can have four wives !!!