Arnab Goswami’s new media venture is funded by NDA MP and Mohandas Pai

Hindustan Times shutting down editions – it’s dangerously lazy to blame demonetisation

Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Manipur, Uttarakhand, Goa to go to the polls between Feb. 4 and March 8

So that battle lines are drawn. Election dates for elections in Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Punjab, Uttarkhand, and Goa are announced.

The people of these four states will go to elections booths from February 4 till March 8, 2017, and seal the fate of their possible leaders.

Probably,  most would elect who would fleece them the best, and they don’t have a  choice! And a few would be lucky to elect some meritorious candidates who would also administer the states.

Happy New Year – Happy Old Year


It is New Year once again! Year 2017.  I wish you all a Happy, Peaceful and Contentment-filled New Year. May our world witness much-desired peace and harmony, all over.

I tend to look back at 2016 and see what was it like for me.

Actually, it started with my trip to Seattle University (SU) in  Washington, USA. I flew to the US on 31 December 2015, and reached Seattle University on 1 January morning 2016 (US time). A 68-year old young man sporting a white beard and a red t-shirt was waiting for me outside the Seattle airport. But to get to the point where he was awaiting this little LeRoux Chair (Winter) 2016, was a herculean task. And with no mobile (with active connection) in my possession, it was real adventure!

Thanks to Prof. Russel Powell, Associate Provost for Global Engagement, and the SU administration. They selected me as their prestigious LeRoux Chair. I was nervous. I was adamant not to go to the US at that time and in my given condition. Did not want to go. But Russel would have none of it. Though I had sent the CVs of two great scholars from St Josephs College Bangalore, Russel wanted me. Then I sent four CVs of Jesuits from St Josephs College. After going through the CVs of all four of us, Russel clearly told there was only one choice, and ‘get ready!’ That was the only time I prayed so hard to God for the negative – that my plan of course (to be taught by me at SU) be rejected by their screening committee. No, it was not. Then I prayed that my visa application be rejected. I was happy when the person in front of me in the queue was grilled for almost 20 minutes by the Chennai Consulate. But -to my horror- when my turn came, the same Vice Consul spent just about two minutes, and seemed pleased, congratulated me, and told me that she would recommend me for the visa! That was the moment of determination. Then, there was no looking back.

Before I forget, I must thank Dr Etienne for his constant support and filling me with Vitamin C (‘C’ for Courage).He went out of his way to help me develop a course plan, suggesting readings, and also help clarify my LeRoux Lecture concepts and plans.

I am not sure how well did I vindicate the SU’s faith in me as LeRoux Chair. But my SU students were extremely happy with my taught module. Their anonymous feedback about me to the Student Evaluation (of teachers) says that as much. While one said she wanted to visit India and explore its culture and cinema, two others mentioned in the same anonymous feedback that they would love to pursue a Masters course in Film Studies! And many more things. I was happy.

The LeRoux Lecture on 2 March 2016 was well attended – mostly all professors from SU and a few friends of Su. It was supposed to be a 40 minutes lecture followed by 20 minutes of Q&A. I thought that the time was too short – that is, after speaking 45 minutes. The question hour went on for almost 40 minutes, and there were more questions than I could handle. But to be frank, I still believe, I could have done it differently, could have done it better.

Above all, that was a huge learning experience for me. Learning about American university administration, University-Community relationships (clear distinction unlike our Gordian knots here!), American pedagogy, American student culture, their campus culture, their faculty atmosphere, Endowed Lectures, etc. Additionally, I travelled quite a bit. Paid two visits to California – one in January to Berkley and around (like Santa Clara, Stanford, Google, Facebook, San Francisco, etc.). The second in March to LA – to visit Hollywood. I spent some meaningful time at Loyola Marymount University, Sony Studios (Columbia and others) and above all Universal Studios, Venice Beach, my friend from Hollywood Zach Miller, and what more! Thanks to Eddie Siebert. Then there was a visit to Oregon state – went driving – visiting waterfalls and other territories. I couldn’t ask for more. Met some Indian friends. Had dinners and lunches. Made friends – some for life. Watched Films and documentaries. Sight-seeing and socialising.

One thing I missed – research. Because my Masters students at St Josephs had not completed their dissertation, I had to guide them from SU! That was a bit too much. To guide about 10 students, to read their progress and suggest corrections, and to tend to my own course module, LeRoux Lecture, and the precious new interest that I had found, it needed something special. I was not upto it. I could have done more. I could have done better. I should have published at least one research paper as part of my LeRoux Chair.

Never mind. I did something else.

I returned to India towards the end of March 2016. Soon after me came a team of five SU professors as part of their week-long Immersion Programme. I was their primary contact and host (though they were the SJC guests). That meant quite a lot in terms of organising an international team programme.

Most of my April, I spent in the North Eastern parts of India – Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Manipur. My maiden visit. Wow! What a lovely place, people, and cultures! Really fascinating.

When I returned from the North East to SJC in early May, there were a couple of Call for Papers to submit papers for research. That’s when I decided this was a good chance to publish, get my act together. No matter what life is like at home. Never mind the painful and harrowing experiences. Some people -in their avatars- can inadvertently be great motivators for reasons totally opposite. I ran the gauntlet.

Thanks to Dr Etienne Rassendren (English Department) and Dr Michael Rajamathi (Chemistry Dept). Their commitment to research gave me that added fillip. In addition, in our College Research Centre Committee, I had a team of great researchers, who in addition to their regular teaching hours and other roles as mentors, heads, and so on, continue to research and publish. Researchers by passion. I being Director of that Research Centre and convenor of the Research Committee meetings, it was only appropriate that I lead by example. Earlier -at SJC- I was denied a chance to guide Ph.D.s , even though the otherwise bureaucratic Bangalore University was willing to empanel me as research guide with them (the un-academic decision was to be followed by another harsh, highly self-motivated, irrational, and blind denial in the current year). I resolved to do something radical, something different. More about it at an appropriate time in months to come. And all my energy was channelised into research. And success came my way through painful, sleep-missing, desk-sticking hard work. Research.

At the end of the calendar year, I have two papers (to be) published in international journals. One of them is already published (a few days ago). Another could take at least three-four more months before going public. But the articles are accepted.Impact Factor matters!

Then there are two more research papers accepted for presentation in their national or international conferences, to be followed by publication. So, they are under research. A fifth paper on social media and family relationships has been under research since June; should be complete by February-March.

In the meantime, two more things came on my way – unwanted.  A committee to study the possibilities of upgrading St Josephs Colleges (SJC, Evening College, and College of Commerce) to Deemed University status was entrusted to me. I accepted. While this was going on, two more committees were formed to i) formulate Higher Education Policy for SJC and its sister colleges, as well as a ii) Research Policy to be implemented in these colleges. And these were given to me. I got caught/ choked in the pressure cooker of these committees.

But I had great teams of academicians at SJC to work with me and guide me – Drs Michael Rajamathi, Etienne Rassendren, Cheriyan Alexander, Dr Sandra Misquith, and Ronald Mascarenhas just to mention a few. Because of these two committees, I have read and I know (a bit of) UGCs policies on higher education, Deemed Universities, research, APIs, etc. If and when SJCs become a Deemed University, I may not be here (almost certainly); when the Higher Education Policy and Research Policy are implemented fully, I may not be here (almost certainly, though the signs of implementation have already and half-heartedly begun to show up, and no matter who takes credit for it). That is a good sign. Research must go on. Publications must be done regularly, and in reputed journals. Researchers must be recognised and honoured. Teaching must be scholarly and innovative and put a full-stop to monotonous, unidirectional, and dictat-orial” classrooms. SJCs should become a University – preferably under a few good academicians -who have worked in higher education and also have published, without resorting to ghost publications or predatory journals- and not bureaucrats, in key positions. I would be the happiest if our planned University gets a lay person (but a reputed scholar with an independent mind and professional outlook) as its first Vice Chancellor. Ultimately, higher education, research, and innovation should be served. And students should benefit.

And that is why my heart beats – so loud and clear. For St Josephs, for higher education, and research, and for students. For quality and for professionalism – that is where our students’ future is opened.

The Patriarchal Wrestler: Dangal

Dangal – the Wrestler (2016)

The latest Aamir Khan-starrer and production has attracted much attention. A run-away success, Dangal is like Lagaan of 2001, Taare Zameen Par of 2007, or 3 Idiots of 2009. Aamir has something about him which fascinates us and keeps audiences glued to him.

His latest offering Dangal (2016) is no exception to it. The multi-crore film produced by Aamir Khan and directed by Nitesh Tiwari works well as a mass entertainer. Aamir is Aamir. He can strike an instant chord with audience; he can offer something different in a formula industry; he can look for the underdog and lift him/her high to be seen, admired and applauded. And that’s it. Or, feel good about the underdog, and forget it.images

We are accustomed to Lagaan – the ‘nationalist’ drama with our national obsession cricket as metaphor to repay the British in their own coin. We have watched Taare Zameen Par, and have learnt that it is not important to study if you find it not to your taste. Just say you have dyslexia, and you will become an engineer, conquering the techno-savvy Japanese. And how we loved it! We have admired Aamir for his genius in 3 Idiots, even though a few quality film-buffs complained that there was one less!

Whoever would deny that Aamir has understood the mass psychology? Even one better than multi-star obsessed Karan Johar?

Dangal, with some hummable numbers, begins with a household realigning its TV antenna on the rooftop since they were not getting sports broadcast to watch the channel in their village in Haryana. Then we move on to the lovable Mahavir Singh Phogat (Aamir), the country wrestler. He wants -well we all know- a boy to fulfil his dream of winning a gold for India in wrestling. For a gold-starved nation of a billion plus population, what more nationalism would you expect? No! His wife delivers girl after girl; but Aamir is afterall our hero, he doesn’t blame his wife for girls. And we have some humour with every villager turning an expert in delivering a baby boy for Aamir! All that Mahavir can do in his nobility is give up his dream for an Indian gold.

Then one fine day he sees his two daughters have hammered two boys black and blue. Voila! There you are! Suddenly the girls are brought up into boy-mould – regular exercises, shorts (!), wrestling, and even cut their hair short – against their will, because something very good will happen in the future. When the girls fight against all odds (well, it’s their father!) and overcome anti-women attitudes, defeating every male opponent, it’s time for international competition. Now training of the elder Geeta shifts to National Sports Academy (NSA), Patiala. She learns to be a girl, and yet pursue her father’s dream. But she must have an evil coach! And Geeta can’t win a single medal at the international level, even though she proves her father’s training was weaker than the ‘professional’ training of her NSA’s evil coach.

The visuals quickly alternate between her village (younger Babita) and NSA (Geeta). Finally, there is the (in my words:- ) much-defamed, corrupt (for the Suresh Kalmadi-esque) 2010 Commonwealth Games held in Delhi. And what do you expect?

Aamir Khan (with Nitesh Tiwari) packs a good emotional punch; if you are an emotional weakling, be prepared to be suffocated with a lump in your throat. And then there is that typical Lagaan-esque “nationalism” – passion and commitment a gold in wrestling. And you feel nationalistic (why not? The Supreme Court of India has mandated it!)

Many a viewer exists the film screen with that feeling – Wow! Feels nice to be an Indian. Feels nice to be a girl. Feels nice to be a women’s liberator. We love that nationalist jingoism, we love the underdog stories, we love the subtle emotional tear-jerkers.

But the underlying ideology is highly patriarchal. It is the father all through. He has decided his daughters would be wrestlers; he has decided their diet and fitness regime; he has decided their dress; he has decided their hair hinders their wrestling, and hence need to be cut. There is no difference between boy and a girl in their upbringing, in their identity, in their emotional structure. ‘So what?’ you ask, ‘if it blocks their wrestling, and now they succeed?’ No, it’s not just succeed. Geeta has become typically ‘girlish’ with other female wrestlers at NSA – with TV, food, friends, time-pass, and longer hair. And she can’t win a single medal!

There is the father again; and she realises her hair holds the key. She cuts it short, and now there is no stopping her – even against Melissa the Australian who beat her twice earlier, or the unbeatably strong Nigerian and who else! It’s her male-chauvinist father whose memories and advise per her up overcome her failures and be a champion. It is to him she attributes her success, against her ‘professional’ coach – ‘mere Papa!’.

That is how our entertainment media pack these anti-women, highly patriarchal messages. And they go down our sub-conscious as such, in the name of ‘different’, ‘meaningful’, ‘film with a message’ media fare.

Three kudos to Aamir for packing such an entertainer with foot-tapping music and visuals and dialogues and humour. But not for the highly patriarchal, subtly anti-women film.

Fake, and increasingly dangerous

This is the problem with easy access to technologies or lack of conscience! Fake news. And unscrupulous fellows fish in the troubled waters!
BY SHUMA RAHA| IN Media Practice |26/12/2016
An alarming proliferation of fake news that managed to outstrip fact-based news, threatens to topple the credibility of the media
SHUMA RAHA on 2016’s biggest media menace


Last week a story that appeared on a news website called AWD was headlined “Israeli Defence Minister: If Pakistan send ground troops to Syria on any pretext, we will destroy this country with a nuclear attack”.

The story was fake. But before that came to light, an infuriated Pakistan had already reacted to it. Its Defence Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif responded with a warning to Israel on Twitter that “Pakistan was a nuclear state too.”

This dangerous piece of misinformation capped a year that saw an alarming proliferation of fake news. Driven in large part by the US presidential campaign, fake news sites cropped up all over the internet. They peddled flat out lies that masqueraded as news. And no matter how outrageous the fiction, millions swallowed them and shared them on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.

So much so that fact-checking website Politifact has named “fake news” the Lie of the Year. The annual honour, or rather, the dishonour,….

India’s ruling party ordered online abuse of opponents, claims book

It was always a known fact that the BJP and its parent RSS manipulated social media as well as mass media to brainwash voters in the 2014 Parliamentary elections. Anybody who was perceived to not toy the right wing line of Modi, Amit Shah, their party and the RSS, were criticised, trolled and abused in the worst way possible. Their political rivals were decimated rightly or wrongly. Even a clean man of the calibre of Dr Manmohan Singh, the former Prime Minister, was badly attacked and portrayed as a villan.

My next article “Silencing Public Dissent: Right-wing domination, Digital Networking and Social Media” explores this gagging and trolling practice online, especially in the context of TV journalist Rajdeep Sardesai deactivating his Twitter account after being trolled and abused. The article is expected to be published by an international journal, soon.


Former volunteer for the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) says she was told to criticise journalists, actors and political figures online

Narendra Modi
The volunteer says Narendra Modi’s campaign posted criticism on social media about public figures who did not support him. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Social media trolling against Indian public figures including journalists and actors has been directly co-ordinated from inside the country’s ruling party, a new book has claimed.

An Indian former troll has alleged the 2014 prime ministerial campaign of Narendra Modi used social media volunteers to push critical messages about public figures perceived to be opposed to the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP).

Whether intended by the BJP or not, the social media campaigns would often spill over into religious and sexual trolling of the target, especially if it was a woman, ….

Hindi films that made a mark in 2016

Here’s a look at a few Hindi films that made a mark this year

As with most years, the most stimulating cinema, for me, happened elsewhere—in the turmoil behind the tranquillity of Gurvinder Singh’s frames in Chauthi Koot (Punjabi) set in post Operation Bluestar Punjab, in the madness and disruptive power of love in Nagraj Manjule’s Sairat (Marathi), in the radical interpretation of motherhood in Bhaskar Hazarika’s Kothanodi (Assamese) and in the audacious, independent spirit of Sudhanshu Saria’s LOEV and Kranti Kanade’s CRD. Then there were two debuts that will hopefully find a release, and space in the 2017 top 10—Konkona Sen Sharma’s A Death In The Gun, a beautifully measured slice of family life and a haunting tale of tragic dissipation and Shanker Raman’s Gurgaon, about male entitlement and cultural flashpoints that define the NCR (national capital region).

In a year of sequels and biopics and of films built around the themes of feminism and patriotism, the first three (rather two and a half films) had me absorbed. The rest are selected in alphabetical order.

Kapoor and Sons

Best of Malayalam movies in 2016

Critics’ picks | Movies

Best of Malayalam movies in 2016

Rasmi Binoy gives her selection of top 5 Malayalam movies released this year.

2016 has been marked by the phenomenal success of Mohanlal-starrer Puli Murigan, the costliest Malayalam film so far and the first to enter the Rs.100-crore club. The year also saw debutant directors coming up with critically acclaimed films such as Kismath and  Anuragakkarikkinvellam. Two film-makers who had a dream run with their debut movies, did not live up to expectations in their second outing.   Jude Anthany Joseph and Ebrid Shine, makers of Om Shanthi Oshana and 1983 respectively, brought Oru Muthassi Gadha and Action Hero Biju this time. Biju went on to become a hit riding on its popular masculine hero ingredients. Ka Bodyscapes by Jayan Cherian, dealing with same-sex love and dalit issues, had a run-in with the Censor Board and the Kerala High Court had to intervene to allow its screening at the IFFK. The year ends with no Christmas releases because of a deadlock between exhibitors on one side and distributors and producers on the other. Unlike last year that saw the release of a movie by a woman director, no films by women directors hit the theatres this year.

1. Maheshinte Prathikaram

Best of television in 2016

Here is a list of several new shows that we at The Hindu couldn’t quit binge-watching!

2016 was filled with unprecedented decisions (we’re looking at you, America), civil wars and the passing away of many notable people. But in the middle of all that, 2016 was also the year that gave us some of the best television shows, including some brand new ones. Here is a list of several new shows that we at The Hindu couldn’t quit binge-watching!