Firaaq Reacion

I was, unfortunately, unable to make it to our last class today (wedding planning has been taking a toll and I was out-of-town). Anyways, I was really intrigued by the opening scene of Firaaq last week, so I decided to finish the film on my own.

My first reaction: Wow. The film was thought-provoking and seemed to have a high level of authenticity. At times, I found that Firaaq was difficult to watch – yet, necessary. The film did a wonderful job of conveying the horror associated with the religious violence in India.

One thing I want to clarify is my use of the word, ‘authenticity’. I realize that this has been a much discussed topic throughout the course – debating who or what is truth. In the case of Firaaq, I’m leaning towards a more accurate truth as opposed to an ‘Orientalist’ truth. My reasoning for this is simply because it doesn’t fit the mold we’ve seen in Gunga Din, Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom, or even Slumdog Millionaire.

 The film was produced in an Eastern culture and (despite the biases that every human places upon their work/beliefs) I believe it’s about as authentic as we can hope from a film. Thoughts?

Seligman’s Dogs

Okay – this may be a stretch – but stay with me on this one. Professor Jani asked the question on Monday:

Balram describes the great Indian chicken coop; though the chickens know they’re up for slaughter, they don’t resist but continue on as if everything is fine.  Is it only an Indian phenomenon, or do we also live in a chicken coop?

The first  thing that popped into my mind when I thought of a ‘chicken coop’ was an experiment conducted by researcher Martin Seligman – “Seligman’s Dogs”.

In a nutshell, Seligman came up with the idea of “learned helplessness”. Basically, his experiment consisted of a couple different tests (I’m unsure as to how many times each were done).

Seligman placed a dog in a cage wired with electrical flooring. He would flip the switch and the dog would receive electrical shocks every time they moved around the floor. The dogs banged around, tried to get out and couldn’t. He’d turn the electricity on, and off, on, and off untill finally the dogs quit banging around and instead would just stand there whimpering, shuddering, and would even urinate. The dogs acknowledged their circumstances and understood that there was no escape.

After a period of this back and forth with the electiricty, Seligman decided to open the door to let them out – and yet, the interesting thing was (although the electricity was off) the dog chose to stay in the cage. To entice the dogs, Seligman sat food outside of the cage, turned the electricity back on and, again, they stayed in the cage. Seligman called this situation “learned helplessness”.

Alright, this is where I draw my connection back to The White Tiger and this idea of a ‘chicken coop’. In many ways we have (in regard to suffering) learned helplessness. When suffering comes upon us, we become stuck and frozen. We believe that we can’t escape  our circumstances and therefore we decide just to wait until the period is over.

I defintiely think Balram was on to something when he descibed India as a ‘chicken coop’ – heck – the world often acts as though they are in a chicken coop. We chose to stay within our circumstances with little hope that they’ll ever improve. I’m not justifying this mindset – I believe it could be changed if we fix our attitude but I also recognize that, for many, it’s easier said than done.

Thoughts? Am I completely off on this one, or does it make sense?

My Second Viewing of Slumdog

"The 'Feel-Good' Film of the Decade"

Without delving too deep into the profound issues of Slumdog Millionaire (something we’ll obviously be discussing in class) – I still wanted to comment on my recent viewing of the film.

I re-watched Slumdog Millionaire for the second time last week. I can honestly say that I was wearing a different lens than when I first saw it in theaters. I honestly believe that Slumdog Millionaire gained recognition because the cinematic world was ready for a ‘fairy tale’ of sorts.  The film is a ‘rags-to-riches’ story (so to speak) that is intertwined with a romance. What can get better than that? People love ‘feel good’ stories.

Anyways, I recall leaving the theater (after my initial viewing of the film) with an uplifted spirit. The film deeply saddened me at times; however, it ultimately ended well and that’s what I walked away with.

In viewing the film a second time (while wearing a different lens – a more conscious lens), I still found it to be deeply poignant; however, I can now discern the some of the unrealistic elements.

Again, I don’t want to delve into these issues now because we’ll be spending an entire class period discussing the film but I had just had to comment as it has been on my mind for several days now.

Between the Assassinations by Aravind Adiga

I wanted to let everyone know about Aravind Adiga’s newest novel Between the Assassinations. Adiga wrote The White Tiger (one of my all time favorite books) that we’ll be reading towards the end of the quarter. This newest novel is similiar to Tiger in that they both focus on class and the caste system.

I just started Between the Assassinations and hope to finish it in the next week or so. I’ll comment a tiny review when I’m finished. If you haven’t read anything by Aravind Adiga before – definitely look him up!

http://www.aravindadiga.com/

Expanding on Kathryn Stockett’s “The Help”

Earlier today, I mentioned that when considering the idea of ‘authenticity’ – I immediately thought of the controversy regarding Kathryn Stockett’s The Help. I read this novel last year and thought that Stockett did a nice job in re-creating an ‘authentic’ African American dialect (despite the fact that she, herself, is white); however, after our discussion in class this morning – I reconsidered the idea of authentic.

I’m not saying that Stockett didn’t present the material in a way that was understandable and true to the time period, but, I liked what Professor Jani had to say – “You have to ask the right kind of questions: What defines accuracy? How does the representation work and what does it ultimately aim to do?”

If we were to apply this thought process when considering Stockett’s The Help, I think it’d be safe to say that she gave an adequate representation. I found a statement from Stockett when asked about the culture of this time:

“Well, I can only talk about my experience. I grew up in the 1970s, but I don’t think a whole lot had changed from the ’60s. Oh, it had changed in the law books — but not in the kitchens of white homes. As children, we looked up to our maids and our nannies, who were playing in some ways the role of our mothers. They were paid to be nice to us, to look after us, teach us things and take time out of their day to be with us. As a child you think of these people as an extension of your mother.

For the adults employing them, the relationship is different. You hire someone to clean your house and do your laundry. But in many cases, these women worked for the same white family for generation after generation. That, to me, is the difference between an employee and someone you feel close to. They’re an important cog in the wheel of your family. Some readers tell me, “We always treated our maid like she was a member of the family.” You know, that’s interesting, but I wonder what your maid’s perspective was on that. You look at all these rules in place in the ’60s — the separate bathroom, the separate plate and cup. That’s not how you treat a member of the family. And that conundrum is what got me started on the real plot of the story.”

Thoughts?

Feel free to agree or disagree.

A few links regarding this topic…
http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1937562,00.html
http://www.powells.com/review/2009_2_8http://www.powells.com/review/2009_2_8
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/11/05/the-help-kathryn-stockett_n_346016.html