Sunday, December 24, 2006

Jockey - Idhi Chaala Pedha Rod Guru

Everyone thought that Krishna Vamsi had lost his touch and Anthapuram was the last of his impressive movies. NTR Jr was similarly written off after the failure of successive movies like ……., ……., ……. (Please fill the blanks). But both are back with a fatal vengeance and unfortunately it is not just on their critics. Krishna Vamsi tries to do a Shankar – packaging socially relevant themes in a commercial format. We therefore have an unbearably powerful movie. So powerful that the crowd is thrown off their seats into restrooms, corridors, staircases etc. The theaters are sealed during the show to prevent any damage of adjacent buildings.

Jayakrishna, fondly called as Jockey, has a fetish for undergarments and is a strong votary for their public display. He is pained by the society which reprimands skimpily clad women, especially those flaunting their undergarments from their no waist, I mean, low waist jeans. He is supported by one sister and two girl friends, one in-house (Maradalu) and one next house. The former is fair and fat (Charmee) and the later is fair and flat (Ileana). Towards the end, fat makes way for the flat. A metaphoric depiction of upholding the socialist principle of haves making way for the have-nots.

The films is extravagant from the word go. More characters than that can fit on a 35 mm film. More dialogues than you can possibly hear. More songs than you can remember. In short, the first half of the movie is a walk in the clouds. Aimless, directionless and meaningless. It has everything other than a story. If you find that the interval is no where in sight then it is not your fault. You need to beg, bribe and finally bash up the operator in the projector room before you get that much needed relief. But before that, the doting sister of Jockey dies of a fire accident caused due to her sari catching fire in the kitchen. He solemnly vows that he would not rest till he liberates all the Indian girls from the clutches of traditional dress and attains them the freedom to bare themselves in bikinis. With that, the director leaves you to take a break and get ready for a second dose of gang bang. Let me again remind you that the theaters are sealed and you cant run away.

In the second half, Jockey takes inspiration from the Swadeshi movement and decides to burn all cloths except undergarments. Such is his obsession that he doesn’t care even if the cloths are on someone’s back. It is here where Krishna Vamsi slightly, very slightly, loses the grip over the script. The director seems to have got confused between serial killing and mating of lions. (When mating, the lions copulate every 20 to 30 minutes for 4-5 days) Nevertheless, the manner in which Jockey seamlessly travels across the breadth of Hyderabad and kills 40 persons in a single day would serve as a case study for traffic and time management.

Since, Jockey is a guy for the women, by the women and of the women, the police department gets a hysterical women police officer, Suhasini. She often shrieks in such high pitch that the theaters had to install temporary noise reduction devices to prevent damage to the speakers. You should keep in mind that this sound is a supplement to Jockey’s angry verbal spews. You now know whom Spielberg hired for giving voice to Tyrannosaurus Rex in Jurrassic Park.

Finally, mercy dawns on Jockey and he decides to surrender. In the court, he asks the judge for two minutes before the judge pronounces his verdict. When you eagerly start your stopwatch, you realize that he meant two minutes on Pluto (whose 1 year equals to 248 earth years). By the time he completes his harangue on the socio-cultural, economic, political, psychological and historical importance of undergarments, any amateur can easily complete all the 18 holes on a golf course.

The climax, like the rest of the movie, is equally powerful. Prakash Raj, the judge in charge of delivering verdict, is blown off by Jockey’s commitment to the cause and immediately resigns and disrobes himself, endorsing Jockey’s cause. He further takes a solemn oath that he wouldn’t cloth himself till the highest court of the land acquits Jockey. Thankfully, we are not exposed to the execution of the oath.

The film closes with Jockey telling a huge crowd of women how the most powerful men, He-Man, Superman and Batman, always proudly displayed their underwears. Thus the corollary, greater you show, the more powerful you grow. He emotionally appeals that we should live in such a free society where there would be no necessity for another Jockey. For once, everyone watching also agree with him.

Every department of film-making has scaled new heights in this movie. The music stands apart and even tears you apart. During the crucial scenes, Narayana Murthy (of Dandorra and Erra Sainyan fame) renders an inspiring hip-hop number in the background. To prevent piracy and reuse, all songs have been remixed with suitable phrases like “Come on Baby”, “Yes you can”, etc. The result - A nostalgic remembrance of Mayadari Maisamma at the engineering college festivals.

Krishna Vamsi, not just emulates but outbeats Shankar is all areas. In logic, he outbeats even Stephen Hawking. The clinical precision with which he burns scores of people without even a speck of soot on him is something that would keep physicists thinking for another two decades. The vividness of colors used by him in the sets of songs is forcing Bill Gates to contemplate on a 512-bit true color version for windows desktop. The graphics used to picturize burning sequences has put to shame the animators at TNT Cartoon Network.

If such is the technical strength, then can acting be behind? NTR Jr’s expression of shock and anger is something which you might have never come across - that of a eunuch deciding between which restroom to use. Illeana, in an extremely sensitive portrayal, sobs more than the guys’ drool during the songs. Charmee, with her obstinate obsession for perfection, has chosen to dub herself. The consequence is a perfect telugu in a neutral accent. Never mind her village background and never mind that the words come out at the rate of one word every 30 seconds.

The movie is a must watch for all those guys who are tormented by their spouses’ eternal question, “Does my butt look big?”. However, a word of caution. Answer that question while looking at NTR Jr and not Ileana. Else you might end up in dog house for the rest of your life. To conclude, Jockey is a thought provoking movie that forces you to think on a serious contemporary issue that confronts the liberal urban women – the right to reveal your underwear from a low waist Levi’s jeans. So watch it if you are bold enough to discuss such issues. It is definitely not for the weak hearted escapists.

P.S: NO. I did not see the movie. I swear I did not see the movie.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Dirty Doles and Perverted Poors

Kuffir has been a strong votary of direct money transfer to eradicate poverty instead of numerous employment generation programmes which have been in operation under various names. Initially, like many others, I too was not very keen about the idea. My apprehensions were the usual ones like misdirection of expenditure of the allotted doles and a possible dent in the potential creation of infrastructure. The second one had virtually disappeared when the NREGA programme in Vizianagaram literally adopted the Keynesian suggestion of digging and filling of trenches. This recent post had once again set me thinking on why such direct transfer of money should not succeed. I now feel that the conventional apprehensions are not really very sound.

Cash would lead to unproductive expenditure, they say, and even I thought so. But if you are really worried that the money would go into booze, why do you auction liquor licenses? On a serious note, irresponsibility towards family is matter of personal perversion. It is not and cannot be linked to poverty. The chances that a father would be irresponsible in a rich household are in no way lesser than in a poor one.

But we cannot come into terms with this fact. For us, the poor have to be ignorant and irresponsible. Else how can we justify our capacity to teach them their way out of poverty? Hence don't give them cash. Instead give them work, even if it means filling and digging the same wells. Give them grains, even if it means that they have to be transported over thousands of kilometers benefiting rich farmers and transport companies.

Speaking about food subsidy, the Planning Commission admits that it spends Rs 3.65 to transfer Rs 1 of food subsidy. The case would not be very different in other subsidies. Effectively it means that for every one rupee that goes to the poor, Rs 3.65 goes to the rich. Wow! What a means to achieve our socialist goals! It is in this scenario that I feel that direct transfer of money would be more cost effective.

I agree that there is a chance of leakage and corruption in the identification of beneficiaries. But that is common to all approaches. But where doles might score against others is that there is no additional leakage in terms of deciding what "asset" should be created, which contractor should create it, how much should it cost, etc.

With a wide network of banks and growing computerization the administrative costs of such programme would be very low. Secondly, since the programme would just have to identify beneficiaries and not the contractors or assets to be created or the procedures to be adopted, decision making would be faster. Thirdly, doles wouldn’t be subject to seasonal vagaries. Most of the works which employment generation schemes undertake come to a standstill during monsoon as manual labour cannot be performed under rain.

However, unlike Kuffir, I am not asking for scrapping of all employment generation programmes. What I say is that when there is no work or if a particular task can be performed more effectively and economically using machines, it is cruel to create work just for the sake of the programme. It is even crueler to leave the allotted funds unused like it happened in Raichur District where of the 10 lakhs not a single paisa has been spent. [Link via Kuffir] It is in such cases that we should not shy away from distributing money among the needy.

One of the criticisms of doles is that it discounts the need for work and that unearned money is frittered away recklessly. Considering the gargantuan proportion of poverty in India, any possible dole would hardly be a few hundred rupees per month at its fanciful best. As most our programmes promise, it would at best alleviate poverty but not eradicate it. Thus, doles would never do away the need for work. As far as frittering away unearned money is concerned, I wonder if people who are starving, who are chronically diseased and whose kids are congenitally malnutritioned, have even the energy, let alone a heart, to spend on things other than food.

Why is it then that we don’t consider doles? I think the problem is fundamentally in our mindset. Cash is a very dirty word. I remember till I left my school, I was never given money at home. My parents always said sternly "Money would spoil you. Tell us what you want and we would get it". The unsaid tag attached to it was "if we think it is worthy". It is the same psyche that runs through out. Right from the most basic social institution, the family, to the most complex ones, the Government and international agencies like World Bank. Everyone thinks that the poor and the weak are unintelligent, unimaginative and irresponsible. Hence, the Government (read babus) have to shoulder the "white man's burden" of "guiding" (read deciding, regulating and monitoring) the amelioration of the poor. If the Government can think of making PSUs and Panchayats autonomous, why can’t it give the freedom to the poor to decide their priorities in spending the money allotted to them? Ultimately, all the welfare schemes must ensure capacity building, not infrastructure (a very catchy word in the 10%-growth aspiring-era) building.