On Sholay and its opening sequence

From one of my favourite blogs on Cinema, by Jai Arjun, an essay on Sholay, one of the all time greats of Indian cinema;

“The back-story is that throughout my childhood, my Sholay-watching was done on a videocassette specially brought for me by a Lagos-based uncle on one of his India trips. Bits of the film, including the opening sequence, had been snipped to fit into the cassette’s 180 minutes. The first shot – the railway station and the camera gliding down slowly to meet the train – was intact and so were the first few credits (accompanied by Burman’s lilting music and the shots of a sunbaked landscape that might have come from a classic Hollywood Western). But only the names of the six principal actors appeared in this print; there was an abrupt cut from the title “And Introducing Amjad Khan” to the post-credits scene where the Thakur is speaking with his visitor.

Whoever cut out the rest of the scene must have figured that opening credits are superfluous – as they indeed were in many films of the time. But watching the full sequence on DVD, I realised that here was one of the best establishing scenes I’d come across in any Hindi film.

As Ramlal and the policeman make their long ride, we are taken through the entire setting where the film’s action will later occur. First they pass the talaab where villagers and dacoits alike presumably get their water from (this is also where Gabbar’s men will accost Basanti as she waits for Veeru). As the two riders approach the village itself, the camera draws back to give us an aerial view of the houses as well as the temple, the mosque – and in the far distance, the water tank where the comical “suicide” scene will take place. Long before the film’s main narrative brings Veeru and Jai to Ramgarh, we become acquainted with this self-contained little community. We see the village centre and its people as they go about their daily routines: shopkeepers preparing for the day’s business, children playing, women carrying water-pots, a goatherd driving his animals down a rough path.”

The full article here…

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From the ruins of the Empire – An interview with Pankaj Mishra and Ian Buruma

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Why People believe in weird things – Michael Shermer at TED

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The Lives of Erich Fromm: Love’s Prophet

On Fromm from the Boston Review;

“Fromm’s thesis in Escape from Freedom was a simple one and, like Freud before him, he did not hesitate to use the conventions of mythic storytelling to make it vivid for the educated layperson. In Freud’s case the story derived from the classics; in Fromm’s, from Genesis (don’t forget those Talmudic studies). Human beings, he argued, were at one with nature until they ate of the Tree of Knowledge, whereupon they evolved into animals endowed with the ability to consciously reason and to feel. From then on they were creatures apart, no longer at one with a universe they had long inhabited on an equal basis with other dumb animals. For the human race, the gifts of thought and emotion created both the glory of independence and the punishment of isolation; on the one hand the dichotomy made the race proud, on the other hand lonely. The loneliness proved our undoing. It so perverted our instincts that we became strangers to ourselves—the true meaning of alienation—and thus unable to feel kinship with others.

And it is just here that Fromm and Freud part company in a way that accounts for the vital difference between social psychology and hard-worked analysis. For Freud, the all-important loneliness of mankind was inborn; for Fromm it was culturally created. Freud said the conflict of instinctual drives means that human beings are born into a sense of loss and abandonment that can be ameliorated only through psychoanalysis. Fromm said it was enough to understand that the race is born with a sense of connectedness that is destroyed by the social climate.

Ironically, though, for each of these thinkers, it was the exercise of the very powers that had brought about our downfall that alone could release human beings from the imprisonment of such separateness. If men and women learned to occupy their own conscious selves, fully and freely, they would find that they were no longer alone: they would have themselves for company. Once one had company one could feel benign toward others.

This, Fromm said, was the only solution to the problem of the alienated individual in relation to the modern world. The only thing that could save humanity from its own soul-destroying loneliness was the individual’s ability to inhabit what came to be known as the “authentic” self. If you achieved authenticity, you would be rewarded with the inner peace necessary to become a free agent who is happy to do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”


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‘Howl’ by Allen Ginsberg

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Zen and its Chinese origins – A historical perspective

“The Ch’an (Zen) movement is an integral part of the history of Chinese Buddhism, and the history of Chinese Buddhism is an integral part of the general history of Chinese thought. Ch’an can be properly understood only in its historical setting just as any other Chinese philosophical school must be studied and understood in its historical setting.p. 4

The main trouble with the “irrational” interpreters of Zen has been that they deliberately ignore this historical approach. “Zen,” says Suzuki, “is above space-time relations, and naturally even above historical facts.”Any man who takes this unhistorical and anti-historical position can never understand the Zen movement or the teaching of the great Zen masters. Nor can he hope to make Zen properly understood by the people of the East or the West. The best he can do is to tell the world that Zen is Zen and is altogether beyond our logical comprehension.

But if we restore the Zen movement to its “space-time relations,” that is, place it in its proper historical setting, and study it and its seemingly strange teachings as “historical facts,” then, but not until then, an intelligent and rational understanding and appreciation of this great movement in Chinese intellectual and religious history may yet be achieved.”

Read more here…

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Reviving Marx!

From the brilliant online magazine n+1, another article worth reading;

“The first intellectual consequence of the economic crisis was to undermine neoliberalism—or the belief in the sufficiency of markets to secure human welfare—as the age’s default ideology.

The second was to prompt a hasty resurrection of Keynes. “We are all Keynesians again!” the ghost of Richard Nixon might have declared as Gordon Brown and Barack Obama, leaders of the nations most squarely behind the neoliberal push of the last thirty years, changed the Anglo-American tune and, this past winter, begged their European colleagues to stimulate the Continental economy with borrowed money. The crisis also made the economists Paul Krugman and Nouriel Roubini into the first Keynesian superstars since John Kenneth Galbraith. Their recommendations, on their invaluable blogs, of still vaster countercyclical spending and the temporary nationalization of banks were not taken up by the Obama administration, but they did confer new respectability on the idea of close state involvement in the economy.

But the Keynesian revival, so far, is partial and expedient rather than thorough-going. Keynes’s “somewhat comprehensive socialization of investment” remains taboo, and when Hyman Minsky’s famous reinterpretation of Keynes was rushed back into print last year (Minsky developed through Keynes a theory of bubbles and their bursting), the author of the preface to the new edition assured readers that Minsky’s own advocacy of public-led investment could be ignored. There are at least two Keyneses: the tinkering inspiration for the so-called neo-classical synthesis, who demonstrates the ultimate viability of capitalism in spite of bouts of crisis; and the suave radical whose call for the “the euthanasia of the rentier” doesn’t stop far short of taking the rentier out to be shot. This second Keynes lives next door to the Marx who in the Manifesto insisted on the “centralization of credit in the banks of the state,” and hasn’t been heard from much lately.”

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Class, Margaret Thatcher and saving Britain…

via n+1;

“Her class anxiety, so manifest in the painful eradication of her Lincolnshire accent, led to a forced, fake elocution, a voice that grated or soothed depending on what you were listening for. The photographs of Margaret Thatcher meeting the Queen are telling: she looks like a photocopy of the monarch, but badly printed. The anxiety blurs the picture. The cracks show. Both are figureheads but only one is the real thing. Nevertheless she was Prime Minister. She had the top job. How did a woman achieve the feat of leadership of a party dominated by and serving the interests of owning-class men?

The policies she espoused suited their purpose better than they could have dreamed, but so did the personal style: a bossy, middle-aged woman, not too motherly, dedicated to a cause beyond her own personal life. These were men who for the most part as boys were wrenched from their homes and sent to boarding school. By and large the women who had raised them most intimately were nannies from “respectable” working-class backgrounds who put their charges’ needs ahead of their own families. At boarding school these women were replaced by matrons and housemistresses—disciplinarians, remote and authoritative, yet knowing the secrets and the vulnerabilities of their charges. Margaret Thatcher was perfectly cast in the role of ultimate incarnation of this succession of females in their lives, and that must be part of the explanation of her apparent power over the posh men in public life. But just as nannies could eventually be cast off at will, so could Margaret Thatcher if she stepped out of line, which she did in her third term. ”

Read the full article here…

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Stanley Kubrick : Life in Pictures

A documentary on the life of one of the most amazing creative visionaries of our times. From ‘Dr Strangelove’ to ‘2001: A Space Odyessey’ to ‘The Shining’ to ‘A Clockwork Orange’ to ‘The Full Metal Jacket’ to ‘Eyes Wide Shut’. One brilliant movie after another.


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Dan Ariely: What makes us feel good about our work?

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