Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Kabir Singh - Is Misogyny the Big Problem, or the Fact it's so Popular?

What if I told you Hollywood just made a movie portraying the main protagonist as a racist man who kills minorities for fun and glorifies his act? Would you be aghast that such a movie was made? Or would you even be more alarmed if this movie actually becomes a blockbuster hit?

The movie Kabir Singh sweeping across India (and Canada), and running to packed houses worldwide is the latest blockbuster from Bollywood. According to Indian film-trade analyst Taran Adarsh, the film will “cruise past" the two-billion-rupee mark ($38-million) on its 13th day in cinemas, putting it on track to become “the highest-grossing Hindi film of 2019.” Mr. Adarsh also pointed out on Twitter that Kabir Singh pulled in 175 million rupees "on a working day [Monday]. Most biggies don’t collect that on a [Sunday].”

Those numbers are just for the business it did in India. Kabir Singh has been playing to packed houses in Canada, too. By July 2, the film had collected US$1.72-million in North America, with almost US$600,000 coming from 14 Canadian theatres, according to Weekend Cinema USA, the film’s distributor. On a Tuesday evening in its second week, a 250-seat theatre at Cineplex Yonge-Dundas in Toronto was almost packed, save for the front-row seats. The audience was primarily young South Asian-Canadians, many of whom seemed to be on a date. (Source: Globe and Mail)

Here's some reasons why the film has attracted so much (negative) criticism:

  • Kabir Singh, the protagonist, is a medical student with anger issues who often reacts to situations with violence.
  • A raging alcoholic and sex fiend, he catches his neighbour admiring his buff body, strides over to her room and almost rapes her at knifepoint.
  • He mercilessly hits a student from another college during a football match and claims it to be an act of pride for his college. This is celebrated in the movie.
  • He has to have a drink before surgery. His colleagues all cover for him and clean up his mess.
  • Women in the movie are treated as "property". He "claims" Preety - his soon to be girl friend, and tells other boys to tease other women and not her, because she is his. All this before Preety even utters a word. This is shown as desirable macho behaviour.
  • When his girlfriend displeases him, he slaps her.
Now this is just a small list - there's plenty more in the movie. The (main) problem is not that such a movie was made. Bollywood is known for making misogynistic movies where lecherous and stalking behaviour are portrayed as courting and romantic. Though you could argue this is cinematic liberty of portraying the story of an abusive relationship.

But Kabir Singh is not just a portrayal of a brash and badly behaved man. It also plots the story in such a way that every other major character adjusts for and accepts Singh's flaws and even forgives him. In the end, he emerges a winner and the heroine returns to him. Moreover, his mannerisms and acts are celebrated in the movie.

To me, all of this is troubling, but not troubling enough. The main problem is this - Kabir Singh is now the highest grossing Bollywood movie of 2019.

To me, in this age of secularism and so-called liberal progressive values, if you believe in absolute freedom of speech, then you cannot deny the filmmaker the right to make such movies. Even if he defends beating your girlfriend. It is his right to say what he wants to say.

But it is YOUR right not to support him with your $. Let's face it, if no one went to watch such movies, then such movies would not be made. I chose not to go see Padmavat and Kalank, because I believed they were anti-Muslim movies, or movies that portrayed Muslims in a bad light. I did not want to give such movies my hard earned money. These two were big hits in Modi's Hindutva loving India, so no surprise there.

But Kabir Singh? A movie that celebrates toxic masculinity, beating your loved ones, random acts of violence, rape threats and misogyny - the biggest hit of the year? What it shows perhaps is a sad reflection of Indian society as a whole.

And before we in the West laugh at it, go back to my first paragraph. American Sniper, a movie that played fast and loose with facts about an illegal Iraq War that has taken the lives of more than a million people, was one of the biggest hits of 2014. 

Saturday, June 01, 2019

The End of Ertugrul

This Wednesday, after 5 extra ordinary years, an almost perfect television series came to an end with an almost perfect finale episode. Yes, Diriliş: Ertuğrul was over.

Diriliş: Ertuğrul, also known in English as Resurrection: Ertugrul, or simply Ertugrul for short, is a Turkish television serial that has become a worldwide phenomenon. It tells the story of a 13th century Turkish warrior called Ertugrul who, by a series of extra ordinary actions and events, becomes the father of Osman, who in turn will found the Ottoman empire that will rule as a world super power for the next 600 years.

Ertugrul is a straight forward man who loves to fight for justice and truth. He is loathe to compromise on ethics, regardless of the consequences - facts that sometimes lead to conflicts with his brothers and others in his tribe.

The first two seasons sees him emerge from under the shadows of his father and his older brothers, and come into his own. His father respects his ideals and ethics, but his brothers are more practical and less loathe to endanger themselves or the tribe for the sake of justice. It is this schism that leads to Ertugrul heading off with his own followers, breaking away from the rest of the tribe, to follow his own destiny.

Along the way he and his people manage to establish themselves near the Byzantine borders. The Crusaders, the Greeks, and the ever present Mongols are all enemies that Ertugrul has to constantly deal with, along with the troubles of his own people.

The characters that surround Ertugrul are extremely appealing and well fleshed out. Sadly, despite his many enemies, the worst enemy is usually someone close to him who is backstabbing him for petty cash or worldly powers. The show effectively portrays the many layers of such tribal society life and the schemes that go on on a daily basis.

One of the attractions of this show was the presentation of Islamic ideals, values and morals in a very attractive (and entertaining) manner without coming across as preachy and verbose. These people LIVE the Islamic ideals.

Verses of the Quran are mixed along with parables and stories of the pious from whom Ertugrul and his band of heroes draw inspiration from. The story contains a heavy dose of Sufism that was a big influence of the early Ottomans. The plot was, for the most part, riveting and the script well written, particularly seasons 3, 4 and 5. This is when Ertugrul comes into his own as a man, as a leader, and as a power broker.

There's ample tragedy in the series as well. Good people die, sometimes as result of cruelty of their enemies, and other times due to betrayal and a moment of weakness. The story does not shy away from these moments, but sometimes lingers on them.

Each episode is long - almost 2 hours! There's 30 episodes every season. That's 60 hours per season, and at 5 seasons, you have almost 300 hours of Ertugrul. Yet most people who watch it love it, and watch it slowly to make it last even longer. The show is now a cultural phenomenon, watched not just in Turkey but around the world, particularly after Netflix picked it up.

The show has successfully drawn its inspiration from modern times. Just like today, in the 13th century the Muslim world was badly divided, broken, and weak, and seemed to be on the verge of oblivion under Mongol cruelty. Yet along came a hero, chosen by Allah, who led a resurrection. Within a short span of time, these same Muslims were now on their way to conquering Constantinople. It's not hard to see why this show is so popular amongst today's Muslims. It gives them hope.

You will be missed, Ertugrul. Eyvallah!

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Why "My Body, My Choice" and Abortion is Infanticide

This is going to be a post about abortion, given the recent wave of laws being passed in the US. Even though my own position is that I would like the government to stay out of it, in the future if a Conservative government were to bring the legislation that abortion is to be banned except in case of rape / incest, health of the mother, or genetic defects of the fetus, I would be fine with it.

I am going to present some statistics that sometimes women (feminists) do not consider. Do you know, for example, that over 3000 children (viable, breathing, living children) are killed in the name of abortion every year? Please read on - this is the logical conclusion of "my body, my choice".

All Canadian data is from Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). Where needed, US data is from CDC.

1. Canada has around 98,000 abortions / year (2016). This is down from 100,000+ abortions in 2014.
2. Approximately 1 in 5 (20%) of Canadian pregnancies end in an abortion.
3. The most common age for women having an abortion is 18-34 (76%). Breaking it down further, 27% of abortions are done for women aged 25-29.
4. 83% of abortions occur before the fetus is 12 weeks. 3.3% occur after 21 weeks.
5. Only 1.5% of abortions are for rape or incest reasons, and another 2% are for health reasons (mother and child).

These numbers do not include private hospitals who are not required to report data. Now take a look at the above data. What does this tell you?

The overwhelming number of abortions occur due to young women deciding they do not want a baby at this time. This is not rape, this is not incest, this is not health reasons - those are the extreme emotional cases the left wing feminists try to force into the discussion; but their numbers are negligible. The OVERWHELMING number of abortions in Canada are young women deciding nah, I don't want a child at THIS time of my life.

ISN'T that selfish? Isn't that putting your own ego and desires above the moral code of life? YOU chose to have sex; no one forced you - and then your night of pleasure ended in a pregnancy, and now you are decided to kill the baby because convenience. How is that morally ANY different from a farmer in India who decides his wife should get an abortion because the fetus is a girl? HOW?

Take a look at the extreme end of the abortions - the 3.3% occurring after 21 weeks. Science agrees a fetus is viable after 24 weeks. We all know it's a living being way before that. Most religions agree life begins way before that. Yet in Canada, even accounting for rape, health, genetic defects, about 3000 such lives are taken every year. At that far in pregnancy, surgical or chemical abortion is not viable - the lady is induced into labour, and then then child (no longer a fetus) is KILLED.

There is actually a legal debate happening now in the States - a bill that would FORCE doctors to provide care to these children (babies, really) as if they were real, living babies - WHICH THEY ARE! Think about it, if a woman normally went into labour at 24 weeks, the doctors would do everything in their power to save the premature child. Here, the woman is induced to labour, and the resulting baby is then killed. The US law is called "Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act" , and the Democrats (and their feminist patrons) blocked it. This is why Trump will win again. On these moral issues, he is actually on the right side of it (pun intended).

This is the logical end of "my body, my choice" - actual INFANTICIDE that we are condoning when we say we are "pro-choice". As a society, we have already turned away from God. We now condone adultery (consensual sex, one night stands), we condone children out of wedlock (common law), we condone infanticide (abortion) and we are told religion should be personal. So is it any surprise that when the religious right wins elections, they are trying to bring back morality into the law? Yes, the religious right has lots of issues in North America, but on this particular issue, they appear to be on the right (pun, again intended). 

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Top 5 Tintin Books Of All Time

Tintin is the fictional character in the comic book series "The Adventures of Tintin", created by Belgian cartoonist Herge. This week Tintin turns 90 (he was first published in 1929). Despite some accusations of racism and colonial mindset (same accusations hurled at Enid Blyton for some of her work), I have tremendously enjoyed reading these books while growing up. Tintin was my favourite comic book series and as you can see from the picture above, I have all the books. Yes, many are battered and bruised from all the moves I made throughout my life, but these books form an invaluable treasure trove of memories for me.

In honor of Tintin turning 90, here's my pick of the top 5 books from the series.

1. The Calculus Affair

The story follows the attempts of Tintin, his dog Snowy, and Captain Haddock to rescue their friend Professor Calculus, who has developed a machine capable of destroying objects with sound waves, from kidnapping attempts by the competing European countries of Borduria and Syldavia. The story reflected the Cold War tensions that Europe was experiencing during the 1950s.

This book is most often accepted by critics to be Herge's best work. His biographer Peeters would describe it as his "masterwork", and it's not hard to see why. The art work is amazing, very realistic, the mood is like an espionage thriller, with many mysterious incidents, red herrings, comic moments and it all coming together in a fitting climax. I don't remember exactly, but I think this might have been the very first Tintin book I read as well.

2. The Blue Lotus

This was the very first Tintin book that I had purchased as a kid with the pocket money I had saved. This book is a sequel to Cigars of the Pharaoh, although it can be read on its own as well. The amazing thing about this book is how it does NOT perpetuate negative stereotypes of Chinese and Oriental people common at the time to the elites of Europe, but has high degrees of realism, and promotes an idea of brotherhood of humanity and friendship across cultures. This is because Herge got in touch with some Chinese people, and one of them became his closest friend and a great influence on him.

Tintin starts this book in India, where he’s approached by a Chinese visitor who is poisoned as he delivers a message to Tintin. Our hero begins looking for the killer and starts on a journey across Asia, fighting a secretive opium cartel with a long, powerful reach. This adventure has a more realistic, international feel since Tintin is dealing with real-world tensions between the Japanese and the Chinese. Herge actually put some real life incidents prior to the Second World War in the book. It remains one of my favourite books of all time.

3. The Black Island

This is a straight up adventure, mystery and thriller story, with great art work and a tight story line. It starts straight from the first panel, where Tintin sees a pilot crash a plane, offers to help, and is shot. He is then framed and is on the run, and must solve all these incidents and clear his name. This is more of an adventure story, with not much of the detective element - as in Tintin is on the trail of those bad guys while avoiding the bumbling cops hot on his trail - and all the loose ends are neatly tied up at the end. One of the key facts was the nature of the criminals isn't known - as in what exactly are they upto - until the very end.

4. King Ottokar's Sceptre

This one is a very strange book. At first glance, it's about how Tintin becomes involved in a plot to destabilize a fictitious country of Syldavia when the ruling monarch's sceptre goes missing. Tintin has to find this historical relic, with a deadline looming, or else the ruler has to abdicate.

Dig deeper though, and you realize the story is portraying the grim realities of the looming World War 2. The story was published during 1938 and 1939, just as Nazi Germany began to gobble countries (Austria, Czechoslovakia) before invading Poland. Italy's invasion of Albania is thought to have inspired Herge to create Syldavia.

The mosques that appear in Herge's Syldavia are based on those found throughout the Balkans, while the appearance of the Syldavian village, featuring red-tiled roofs and minarets, may have been specifically inspired by the Bosnian town of Mostar.

This is why I love this book. It starts as something small, slowly gets bigger, and before you know it , the story has a huge canvas and there's the threat of war and destruction. The book also introduces the recurring character Bianca Castafiore, and obviously introduced the fictional countries of Syldavia and Borduria, both of which reappear in later stories.

5. The Red Sea Sharks

There's a lot of Tintin stories involving Arabs and the Middle East. Yes, some of it is a bit of a caricature, and some of it the "white saviour" colonial mindset typical of its time. Herge seems to have accurately predicted the trouble the Middle East would be under due to its "Black Gold", and here he portrays a heinous international slavery ring run by some evil Arabs, who are kidnapping pilgrims en route to Makkah.

This is an intensely thrilling tale, but is also more complicated and introspective than most Tintin stories. The slavery aspect makes this a darker story than most, but there are plenty of flashes of humor and more than enough action to keep the tale from being depressing.

And of course: we will see the "end" of Rastapopulous!

Honourable mentions: Tintin in Tibet, The Shooting Star

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Unwritten Canadian Rules

What are some of the unwritten rules once you get assimilated into Canada ? Let me keep it to 15. And please suggest more in the comments if you have some!

1. Hold the door for others.
2. Every road trip starts with a stop at Tim Hortons.
3. Take off your hat and shoes when entering the home.
4. The left lane is the passing lane on the highway (except in Toronto).
5. Respect the environment, National and Provincial Parks.
6. Don’t talk about religion or politics unless it’s brought up in a meaningful way.
7. Respect the diversity of ALL cultures, and their relationship to Canadian culture as a whole.
8. Don’t talk down to service workers, blue collar workers and others. Don't talk down to ANY one based on their job alone.
9. Say Sorry and Thank You, even when its not your fault.
10. Try to keep your property clean. Grass well kept. Garbage cleaned up.
11. In an escalator, stand on the right and walk on the left.
12. If you have a powerful snowblower help your neighbours with the mountain of snow left by the snowplow.
13. It is customary to have ten reasons to explain why we are better than the Americans.
14. Know which Hollywood and Broadway actor, actress, director, singer is actually Canadian.
15. Be proud of the fact that we are Canadian and Canada is one of the top places in the world to live in.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Hardik Pandya and Rahul - Hypocritical to Blame Them Only

I hardly ever don't watch Indian Television. I find it full of crap, and the shows that are supposed to be comedy are anything but. I do however follow cricket. So recently I read about how two cricketers went on Koffee With Karan and the Twitter verse erupted on how sexist , misogynist and racist these men all were.

You can read about it on Buzzfeed, News18, and Bollywood Hungama, amongst others. Now, interestingly at first Buzzfeed actually published an article on how hilarious, vibrant and open the interview was. However, since the Indian feminist Twitterverse started to rant about the episode, Buzzfeed suddenly decided to be "woke" and criticize the episode as well.

Here is where I find the whole ranting of the Indian viewers hypocritical, especially the feminists (yes, I have no love lost for them).

1. The guys talked about sex and women as if they were conquests.

Well, blow me down with a feather! If Pandya and Rahul were "conquering" women, what were those women doing? These ladies followed the cricketers around, and if they slept with them, proudly bragged about the sex to their friends.

"I slept with that cricketer!"

If you have to blame one side for sleeping around, what about the other side? Why do women get a pass for being sluts? It is a hypocritical attitude.

I am not defending the guys. I find this culture of one night stands and just sex for the sake of pleasure without any strings attached abhorrent. Yet it has become the culture of the day. If so, why blame only the guys. The women weren't forced to do anything, so why should they get a pass?

2. Pandya was called a creep for watching women "move" in the clubs.

Now, once again, the double standards. You are at a club. Men are watching women. Women are watching men. And I guess some men are watching men and women are watching women. Yet only one of these is offensive. Why?

Once again we ignore the materialistic, YOLO, pleasure seeking culture of the modern youth and focus on "wokeness" where a man should never admit he is checking out a woman.

3. Pandya was also called out for appropriating black culture.

Now I am never one who agreed into this "appropriating" bullshit, be it Halloween costumes or otherwise. If Kim Kardashian wants to put on a Princess Jasmine costume, I don't see it as an affront to Arab and Islamic culture or appropriating what have you.

This is what Pandya said.

"I like to watch and observe how they (women) move. I'm little from the black side so I need to see how they move."

Now if you were to ask an average person three things they know about Black culture, they will tell you hip hop, booty shaking women in said hip hop videos, and basketball. Some may add a gangster culture. bling or low slung jeans.

So my question is, if it's offensive to identify "black culture" with "women moving", then perhaps rethink that whole booty shaking women in music videos? Pretty much it seems that's all that is glorified in black culture music. Or stop referring to themselves as "from the hood".

The articles (and the Twitterverse) are long and there are many more issues. However I have no patience to go through ALL of them. Suffice it to say that it takes two to tango, and if you find these cricketers' behaviour uncouth, unbecoming of a gentleman, and a bit like a 'fratboy', remember there's women who are going along with them specifically because of this. Criticize them too, and you have a point.

Otherwise, take a chill pill.