Sunday, February 8, 2009

Culturally bankrupt

After all the cries about the “rich culture” of India from the “self-declared watchmen” like Rama Sena’s Mutalik and in equal measure, from those against him, I really wonder what that creature is all about. I believe culture is, at its roots, attitude towards life, and towards fellow men and in particular, women. It reflects what do we, as a bunch of people, value in our lives most of the time. And all I can think of that thing called “Indian culture” is that it is decaying (not in the sense the cultural watchmen use) and at best, messy: decaying, because there is no one to inject little new life/thoughts into it. No one bothers to, at least in the mainstream media. One might argue that there are quite a few who bother to talk sense and you got to keep your eyes and ears open. But voices of those few who bother to think are hard to be in the deafening noise of the advertisements. The absence of such dialogue/ discussion is alarming. And the state of such 'apparently well-meaning' social discussions more often like Arattai Arangams, which are emotional, tear-jerking kind or mud-slinging. When intelligence is on the fringes, it seems really hard to have hope.

As a nation, we might have been culturally bankrupt for much longer than we think. We have been carrying the ‘cultural symbols’ for too long after they became useless. And to carry them without knowing or even attempting to know what they were really meant for is sheer foolishness. While the watchmen live in a time warp, hailing Ram and Sita as the “Perfect Symbols of India” conveniently forgetting the pranks of Krishna, the dickheads of MTV generation are not any better. They just pass off arrogance as intelligence. They are just as, if not more, arrogant as the watchmen. If you look at it, their arrogance is much more dangerous than that of the watchmen. They proudly wear their arrogance as crown of intelligence. Just wearing a Che t-shirt, they think they are revolutionaries/men of action. Well, let’s not get into whether all that is just a little muscle flexing to get a few brownie points from the fairer sex.

What is most frightening is that as a nation we probably are thinking less and less, despite the intelligence we claim to have. This is not surprising as we have let much of our time to be ruled by idiot boxes or silver screens. Well, what follows is just based on anecdotal evidence and not any statistics. Nonetheless, the trends are obvious almost everywhere to for us see. Going by what is on the mainstream TV, dancing your way to the top is made out to be sexiest thing to do. “Want to be happening? Want girls over you? Put on your shoes and dance. Leave the thinking stuff to out-of-the-world, irreparable nerds, who often are stupid in the ‘worldly’ matters.”

While this might seem like a petty issue of just mindless entertainment to relax after a hard day, the massive scale at which it is happening is alarming. There is not much time left to think after you drain your energy dancing to tunes of Simbu or Vijay (that $%&(@&^& donned Bharathiyar makeup and mouthed the most intelligent piece of dialogue of the year “Villu, power… Fullu!!” Etho milli adicha rangeku dialogue, @#@$#$%). Many of us had reservations against Slumdog Millionaire making money showing the ugly underbelly of India. As if the body-show in Bollywood trash is more Indian! Seems more like it is we who are in denial. There is a difference between sincerity and sinisterness. Probably Danny Boyle was sincere in his attempts to show things as he saw. But, can we be sure that things are the same when we talk about our movies? When you sell sleaze knowing well what it is, you are not sincere but sinister. Better we boycotted our movies! Let the Vijays/ Simbus/ Ajiths/ Dhanushs/ Rajnis/ Kamals go bankrupt. Teach ourselves to think a little. Spend it on books.

But the literary scene in Tamil Nadu is in a pitiable state. Landmark in Spencers Plaza has at most four racks for Tamil books, of which most of the space is taken by Sivagami and Ponniyin Selvan. Of course, with Tamil being the family property of Kalaingar MK, it is no wonder that not many people prefer to play there. Or rather the few rare trespassers who dare to jump over the fence can’t claim any ownership to Tamil. If the state of Tam novels is such, better do not think about the social commentaries. News channels are nothing but ways for pulling cover over our eyes and mongering votes 24x7. And more importantly, slinging mud at each other. There is apparently no voice other than those loudspeakers of parties. They used to have news service on Vijay TV. God... oopppss forgot I am in rationalist state! MK only knows what happened.

Our movies are full of depressingly ugly stereotypes and falsities. Novels of even some passable quality have stopped long ago. Such bankruptcy in literature/arts, though apparently harmless, can do more harm in the long run. It is not that such ‘entertaining’ dreams are by themselves harmful. But the enormous scale they fill our lives is overwhelming that we are easily blinded to reality. I don’t mean that all of this trash should be changed into some moral preacher stuff. Definitely not. But all this trash invisibly repeated over time has de-sensitized us to life at large. But we can change the way our cultural output reflects our lives. At least in our personal lives. How? We better switched our TVs off and did a little thinking about it.

Possibly related posts:


Is Rama Godly?

The Original Sin


krishnapriya said...

I don't really understand your stance. You say stop dancing & start reading?

Senthilvelan said...

Saravana, Bankruptcy is everywhere.. Politics, Literature, culture, values,.. Namma Dr.Vijaya pathi paesi yaenda un friendsa pagachikara.. ( avuru thaan adatha CM ;)) Ennatha solla po!!

sk said...

For the thinker I thought of you as, I din't expect this question from you. ;) Did i say stop dancing & start reading? I know very well it just CANNOT be and there is no need to do it. Ithuvum konjam irunthaa nallaa irukkum nu solren! ;)

All I meant was an average Tamilian could be a lot more well-read. We better make attempts towards that. Of course, you will remember that MacCaulay letter on breaking India's cultural spine that was being forwarded sometime back. English have long left breaking that and WE have taken it from them. Happily.

We, as a society, lost our sense of value of our own people. There are many brains who were driven out of india just coz of the way they were treated or rather ill-treated. Probably you personally know a few.

So as a start, I just proposed something that can be done: watc less TV/cinema and spend it reading. Just to make things a little more clearer: Nasser's dialogue (not word for word) from Kuruthi Punal "ini varra thalamurai cinema paarthu valarntha balakeenamaana koottam..."


Vijay CM naa? Ilaingarani thalaivar yaaru? Simbhuvaa? Dhanushaa?

Ponnarasi Kothandaraman said...

//Vijay CM naa? Ilaingarani thalaivar yaaru? Simbhuvaa? Dhanushaa?//

Ithu peru than ucha katta koduma! Ipdi pesa vaai koosala cha sorry kai koosala? :P

Anonymous said...

R-ambam :
ella dance um nallathukille...
ella books nalla books illa ..
athey mathiri thaan cinema..
its upto us to choose , avlothaan !

anbe sivam , anbulla rajnikanth, unnal mudiyum thambi, bombay- are movies worth watching...

nammaalunga marketing seriyillai ..., wat say? Also,
rajini aluthaa pidikaathu, serious aana padathula kooda kamal nayyandi koraichale irukkathu, paattu - ragam illaama KB padam kedaiyaathu, Maniratnam tamil lai mathikaama vaera edavathu language la shoot pantu namma ooru hero vai dubbing kku koopduvaaru..seri apdithaan original track naalum 2 words kku maela oru dialogue irukkathu ..
enna panrathu ? vithi..! arabic kadaloram , chandralekha, strawberry kanne paatukkellaam kedaikaatha award kedaichirukkaynu manasai thaethikka vaendiyathu thaan..! paavam pa cinema kaaranga..romba kashtapadraanga ...!