Zubeen’s Mission China – a film with a mission!

Finally, the much awaited film Mission China was released. The first big budget Assamese film – produced by Garima Garg and directed by Zubeen Garg, Mission China came to the cinemas of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Bangalore, Delhi and Pune on 8 September, 2017.

Image Mission China

Casting Zubeen Garg, Deeplina Deka, Sattyakee D’com Bhuyan, Siddhartha Goswami, Yankee Parashar, Pabitra Rabha, Parthasarathi Mahanta,Tridib Lahon, Nabadweep Borgohain to name a few, the film represents a  ‘mission’ – that is to rescue the daughter of a minister who was kidnapped by Lama – an extremist. The same extremist also kidnapped Chaya – the love of Colonel Goswami. Colonel Goswami, played by Zubeen Garg, has been appointed for this mission who returns home after suffering three years of imprisonment. The film has a secondary plot too representing the love story of Siddhartha and Ragini. Weaving around love, romance, terrorism and revenge, Mission China is an action thriller scripted by Zubeen Garg.

Well, apart from the fictional mission represented by the film, Zubeen Garg’s Mission China has a real mission too – that is to help the Assamese Film Industry grow by promoting Assamese films and encouraging people to watch them. Mission China had already taken the state by storm before its release itself. Be it electronic media or social media – there is uninterrupted coverage of Mission China and its promotions everywhere. Zubeen Garg seems to be seriously into this ‘Mission’, and that his mission is  approaching success is signaled by the profit earned by Mission China on the very first day; when all tickets of Mission China were sold out for three consecutive days in almost all cinemas in Assam and outside, immediately after its release.

The wave that Mission China has created in Assam is somewhat similar to the wave created by the movies of Rajinikanth in South India. For the time in the history of Assam, an actor/filmmaker has been worshipped by the common mass; Zubeen turns to a living GOD to his fans. The whole state seems to celebrate a carnival called ‘Mission China’.

Whoever has watched Mission China will definitely agree that it is a technically sound film with integration of cutting-edge cinematography. The film had been shot in various beautiful locations in Assam and the Northeast. The natural scenes shown in the film are undeniably a visual treat for the eye. Costume design is also apt, except in select scenes where the combination colors seems a bit peculiar.  The music of Mission China is a big hit film with Zubeen Garg’s ethereal voice. However, the songs could have been better placed in select situations with a little editorial intervention. For example, the first song of the movie came quite abruptly.

So far acting is concerned, almost all characters did justice to their roles. The acting of Pabitra Rabha also deserves special mention here. The Sid and Ragini episode is an apt addition to the film wherein the film could connect to the audience. Both Siddhartha Goswami and Yankee Parashar as Sid and Ragini respectively, did justice to their roles with powerful performance and effective dialogue delivery. Otherwise, dialogue delivery seemed hurried and half-hearted in a couple of instances in the film. When it comes to the lead role, Zubeen Garg was of course the centre of attraction throughout the entire film as Colonel Goswami. However, he could have chosen a different match for the role of Colonel to make it more effective.

On the flip side, the story line of Mission China could not live up to the expectation of many. For a movie to be really successful and be more than a one-time watcher, it should have a bold and impactful story.  A film is an organic whole and it consists of various parts/ stages like story, dialogues, camera, casting, shooting, music and sound recording, reproduction, editing, and finally screening. All these parts play a major role in shaping the finished product – that is the film. The team Mission China took good care of these various parts, except for its story which appeared flat.  The film was entertaining, but entertainment is not the only thing that many audience look for in a movie. Whereas some of the Zubeen Garg acted films like Mon Jai, Dinabandhu and Gaane Ki Aane have very impactful narratives, and there is still a repeated urge in people to watch these films.

All said, Mission China has created a new chapter in the history of Assamese Cinema. Mission China broke all barriers of publicity and journeyed to the nook and corners of Assam which is indeed a laudable move taken by Zubeen and his team. The film is expected to be a game changer for the Assamese film industry, and it has already started doing so by drawing countless number of people to the theatres in Assam and outside the state.  Given its excellent cinematography, the purpose – that is to support Assamese Cinema, Mission China is must watch for all. And more so, it is a “Zubeen Garg Movie”.

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He was my music teacher!

Love for music is innate in me, music makes me feel complete!

Usually, after coming from office, I turn on my TV. It’s not that I seat and watch the shows, but I keep my ears open so that I am aware of what’s going on in my home town. That day also, I did the same, and suddenly one of the local TV channels drew my attention. The channel was telecasting the celebration of Rabha Divas – the death anniversary celebration of Bishnu Prasad Rabha, the legendary cultural icon of Assam.

I can’t remember the name of the show exactly.  But, it showed some eminent singers of Assam who made a humble effort to perform the immortal numbers created by Bishnu Prasad Rabha.

Don’t know what happened to me…but immediately, my mind flew back! The TV show acted as a catalyst. It made me recollect those days when my Maa had made a serious effort to make us (me and my sister) aware of the folk songs of the region and learn to sing. I recollect, I too made a naïve attempt at singing Rabha Sangeet – the immortal creations of Kolaguru Bishnu Prasad Rabha.

Reminiscence in progress!  

I had an innate longing for music, in addition to Maa’s insistence that we should learn these folk songs. So, the learning process started. Initially, we had learnt from our cousins and family friends who had some formal training in music and performed at school and college shows.

We grew up and my longing for music also grew. I became more interested in learning different types of folk songs and expressed my interest to get enrolled in a music school, and pursue music formally.

I can’t remember why I was not sent to music school. But, I remember, Maa managed to fulfill my dream of pursuing music with the help of a music teacher.

Yes, my music teacher was none other than our dearest ‘Bishnu da’ who was our tenant long ago.  Bishnu da was a radio artist and quite popular among my friends.  His performance of lokageets were broadcasted in All India Radio’s Dibrugarh, Centre.  So, it was a matter of pride for me that I was learning music from him!

A genius he was – not only in music, but also in every single sphere of life. I still remember, Maa often used to say that we needed to learn a lot of things from him. Honesty, dedication, hardworking – these were some of the adjectives that we often heard our parents using to define him.

Well, Bishnu da used to come home after completing his college hours (he was studying in Majuli College then) and teach me the evergreen songs like Logon Ukoli Gol, Parajanamor Xubhologonor etc. by Bishnu Prasad Rabha coupled with Borgeet and Lokageets. It was Bishnu da who helped me widen my horizon of Assamese folk songs including Borgeet, Lokageet, Kamrupia Lokageet, Jyoti Sangeet, Rabha Sangeet, Adhunik Geet etc.

No doubt, I started to learn music with great enthusiasm and dedication. But, I could not carry it with the same spirit. There came a stumbling block – my formal education. Without being aware of, my direction changed and my connection to the world of music became shaky. I could not give time. Now, I feel, I chose the road “travelled by all”, not the one “less travelled” by! I succumbed to the demands of the mainstream, music became secondary.

With the course of time, my approach to music also changed. The transition was from “learning” to “listening”. I completed my school education and got enrolled in a college far away from my home. A new life stated in a new place, and music became my sole companion – an escape to deal with homesickness and loneliness. The Walkman and the customized cassettes filled with my favorite songs became an integral part of hostel life in Cotton College. I became more addicted to listening songs of different types and genres.

Time flies! First, I left home for higher studies and then my hometown to start a new chapter. The boat of life took its destined direction. My childhood spent in the river island, desire to pursue singing, the music classes by Bishnu da and many more things turned into unseen leaves of memory.

Well, I need to pause here. I will miss out the connection of this post, if I dig further into my childhood.

Yes, I started with “Rabha Divas”.

I tried searching for Bishnu da (my music teacher) immediately after the TV show. But, all my efforts went in vain. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube – none of the social media sites could give me any clue of him. I was disappointe. I thought of trying for the last time. This time, I made a simple Google search with his name and the keyword Majuli – the world’s largest river island.  Yes! I COULD FIND HIM along with a couple of his photographs.  The only site that could provide me with substantial information about his identity as a folk singer based in Majuli was the British Library website. To my utter surprise, the British Library has collected one of his songs in the section called “Music from India”.

I was dumfounded! I could not believe my ear when I played the recording published by the British Library. I heard his voice for the second time in life… a voice so unique, a voice so innocent and untouched by modern day marketing… a voice the world must hear!

 

A personal take on Bangalore literature Festival

 

The IT hub Bengaluru recently witnessed the 5th edition of Bangalore Literature Festival (BLF). This year Bangalore Literature Festival was held on 17th and 18th December at Hotel Royal Orchid, Bengaluru. Like the preceding years, this year also, Bangalore Literary Festival had gone beyond of celebrating the rich linguistic tradition of Karnataka to include the best authors and artists from various parts of the country. An estimated number of 100 authors, journalists, scholars and celebrities had got together and discussed various issues and shared their thoughtful insights on diversified topics; the festival covered a lot of debates and discussions.  The participating authors of the festival included – Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Bezwada Wilson, Antoine Lewis, Chetan Bhagat,  Carlo Pizzati, Ananth Padmanabhan, Margaret Alva, Kanhaiya Kumar, Arup Kumar Dutta, Anita Raghavan, Ramachandra Guha, Omkar Goswami, Prathibha Nandakumar, Vivek Shanbhag, Jerry Rao, Aishwarya Rajinikanth Dhanush, Gurcharan Das, Shashi Tharoor, Shatrughan Sinha and Amish Tripathi, among others.

The origin of Bangalore Literature Festival goes back to 2012 when a select writers and publishing professionals including Vikram Sampath, Shashi Deshpande, Shinie Antony, Alaham Anil Kumar and Srikrishna Ramamoorthy came up with the idea of organizing an annual literature festival in Bangalore. The main objective of this festival had been nicely summed up then by one of its leading organizers and renowned author Vikram Sampath, who said “Bangalore Literary Festival is an attempt to provide a cultural space for the Bangaloreans to meet the best literary minds of our time, year after year, in an inclusive, non-elitist gathering”. Throughout these years, the festival has successfully retained its main objective by providing a solid ground for everyone who is has a literary orientation to meet, interact and engage with the best literary minds in a non-elitist gathering.

 

A huge crowd gathered at Hotel Royal Orchid on both days to participate in this literary carnival. The festival has been successful in drawing people from diversified interests and discipline with different age groups. Aspiring writers, academicians, scholars, journalists, students, business, IT and management professionals, retired professionals – anyone and everyone who is interested could take part in BLF that provided them with space to interact with the best literary minds, ask questions and exchange thoughts. To make it as diversified  as possible and cover all important issues having contemporary relevance, the BLF, this year covered a wide range of topics ranging from popular fiction to cricket, film, cooking, history, demonetization, and dissent to name a few.

The literary festival was inaugurated by the eminent author and one of the organizers of the festival Shashi Deshpande, Sudha Murthy, the Chairperson of Infosys Foundation and the renowned Kannada poet KV Tirumalesh. The inaugural ceremony was followed by the session on “Inglorious Empire: The Reality of the British Raj” wherein Shashi Tharoor talked about the reality of British Raj in India in conversation with Sanjeev Sanyal. In his discussion, Tharoor emphasized the importance of retelling history and knowing the past on its own term; that past is important to have a meaningful future. And this is the reason why he wrote a book on British Raj in India after 70 years of Independence.  This is followed by a conversation between Sudha Murty and Chetan Bhagat wherein the later primarily talked about his newly launched book One Indian Girl.  It was a hilarious yet meaningful conversation where Chetan Bhagat had to answer questions like whether he actually writes or dictates!

A couple of prominent media experts also attended BLF this year who included Siddharth Varadarajan, Mini Menon, BV Rao, Josy Joseph, G Sampath, Prasanna Viswanathan, Mihir Sharma, Narendar Pani, Aakar Patel, Shradha Sharma to name a few. Another attraction of BLF this time was the he Atta Galatta-Bangalore Literature Festival Book Prize 2016. It contained a prize worth Rs. 2 lakhs for 3 different categories – Best Fiction (English), Best Non-Fiction (English) and Literary Achievement Award in Kannada.

The festival also had a session on the Future of Indian Cooking with celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor and Manu Chandra. The session on “Askew: A Short Biography Of Bangalore” was also equally interesting where Naresh Narasimhan, Prakash Belawadi, Prof. KE Radhakrishna and V. Ravichandar discussed their memories of the city with Vasanthi Hariprakash; a Bangalore that was gentle and green, it’s journey of growth,  impact of the  IT  industry on Bangalore etc. Another major attraction of the festival was the renowned historian Ramachandra Guha, who shared his thoughts on the game of cricket in his speech on “Five Forms of Cricketing Partisanship”.

Like the preceding years, this year also BLF had a special session called C|L|F) – “Children| Literature|Fun” dedicated only for children to drawthem towards the world of literature and writing. It included workshops on puppet making, clowning and story writing, creative games, special sessions on children’s literature and direct interactions with renowned children.  There were also open mic sessions for kids wherein each child got a chance to speak, sing, recite or tell a story of his/her choice for 3 minutes. (C|L|F) also included sessions on journalism for kids and a Q&A session with experienced journalists. (C|L|F) was indeed a laudable initiative taken by the organizers to stimulate children’s interest in art and literature.

Along with inviting the best and established writers to discuss their works and viewpoints, BLF 2016 also had also accommodated the aspiring and unpublished writers within its ambit by providing them with a space showcase their innovative ideas of writing. The session called Lit-mart was mainly dedicated to this cause where aspiring authors had been allowed to pitch of their manuscripts to the editors and publishers –a way of inspiring young authors and connecting them to the publishers.

Finally, the much awaited Bangalore Literature Festival came to an end with the concert called Raat Ke Musafir by Piyush Mishra – the famous theatre and film actor, and singer.

Well, all said about BLF 2016, now let me share my personal experience with BLF. Every year, I eagerly wait for this literary carnival to commence as it always has something special for me. In fact it is a space where “I” can feel “honored” when I see the authors my homeland being invited almost every year to discuss our literature, along with the literary minds across the country. The 4th edition of BLF had a separate session dedicated to the writers of Northeast where Eminent writers of my land including Jahnavi Barua, Mitra Phukan, Dhurba Hazarika, Tayenjoum Bijoykumar Singh and Binalakshmi Nepram from North-east participated in the festival and shared our literature and discussed about socio-political and cultural issues that shape our lives. This year also, we had the opportunity to attend sessions by Arup Kumar Dutta who had participated in the session called “Whose water Is It Anyway: Rivers of India” along with Kalyanaraman Durgadas, Rohini Nilekani and Sanjeev Sanyal and Dr. Veena Srinivasan. Besides, Dutta, who has authored a considerable number of fictions and non-fictions for children of various age groups, had another very interesting and engaging session called “Adventures with Arup Da “with the children in BLF. It was really exciting to see Mr. Dutta addressing all those imagination based quires thrown up by a flock of children. The organizers have done a commendable job by making the audience aware of the rich literature of a land (Northeast) that is often cut off by the mainstream culture/literature.

Overall, BLF 2016 was a great success drawing all – authors, book lovers, scholars, thinkers, and business professionals form various parts of the county and connecting them all under the same platform. Apart from the above-mentioned sessions and discussions, BLF also included many other interesting activities like book-nooks, stand-up comedy, author signing sessions, book launches, tribute to singer and Nobel laureate Bob Dylan, ballet and live music.  Yes, there’s something for everyone in BLF this year! Looking forward to the same enthusiasm in coming years!

 

 

 

Michael Foucault, Disciplinary power and WE!

“Power is not an institution and not a structure; neither is it a certain strength we are endowed with; it is the name that one attribute to a complex strategical situation in a particular society”-Michael Foucault

Imagine how utopic life would have been, had there been no ‘play’ of power! Power and power relations constitute an integral part of our everyday life. Be it political, personal, social or economic sphere – power is all over. If we look at the historical narratives that bear witnesses to our past, they are also filled with stories of power relations exercised at individual as well as organizational level.

Now, what is power? In its simplest sense, it is the ability to influence or regulate the behavior of others.  It is exercised by the powerful individuals to regulate/ control the behavior of subordinates. That some people powerful and have the capacity to control the lives of others is the most intense fact of human existence. Power and power relationships are two things that have always been a part of any debate in social science, and they have been explored in various disciplines.  A number of “structuralist” and “post-structuralist” thinkers such as like Louis Althusser, Jacques Lacan, Michael Foucault, and Jacques Derrida have analyzed power and its function in different contexts, drawing inputs from sociology and human psychology.  Among all scholars, who have contributed enormously to this field of discourse, Michael Foucault’s writings seem extremely influential in shaping the understanding of power. The contemporary relevance of his thoughts on “disciplinary power” is immense, and they seem to have a close resemblance to situations that we face in our everyday life.

Michael Foucault

Before delving deep into what Foucault says about power, let’s know a few things about him. Michel Foucault was born in 1926 in France. He was French historian, philosopher and social theorist whose writings has had a strong influence on various disciplines. The History of Madness, The Birth of Clinic, The Order of Things, Madness and Civilization, The Archaeology of Knowledge, Discipline and Punish, and The History of Sexuality are some of the major books published by Foucault. The central point of discussion in majority of his writings is power in relation to socio-political contexts, and how power and knowledge have been used in society to develop various discourses and control.

Foucault on Power/Disciplinary power

According to Foucault, power is diffuse rather than concentrated. He offers a relational concept of power where different individuals/agents occupy a precise function in system of power and tactical arrangement allow power to be applied. Defining power Foucault says “power is never something that someone possess, anymore that is that emanates from someone. Power does not belong to anyone or even to a group; there is only power  because there are dispensations, relays, networks, reciprocal supports, differences of potential discrepancies etc. it is in this system of differences, which have to be analyzed, that power can start to function( 2006). The definition clearly reveals the relational aspect power. Power is not centralized. It is not confined to a ‘center’. It is diffused and embodied in discourses. Rather than executed by a central agent, power is constituted through accepted forms of knowledge and truth. It is neither and agency nor a structure.

In his book Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison published in 1975, Foucault talks about disciplinary power – a concept of power which is different from sovereign exercise of power discussed in his previous writings. Unlike the sovereign exercise of power that was used in feudal states to control people, the disciplinary power is a new form of power that  was used Prisons, schools and mental hospitals – the administrative systems and social services created in 18th century Europe.  It is a modern form of power that controls us by “surveillance” and “gaze”.

In his book, Discipline and Punish, Foucault uses the metaphor of “panopticon” to discuss how disciplinary power functions in the modern society. Panopticon is an architectural design of a building designed by Jeremy Bentham – an 18th century philosopher and social theorists for prisons, insane asylums, schools, hospital.  The idea behind his panopticon is to control all the inmates of a building without using any physical power or violent means, and putting them under constant observation. The panopticon model used in prisons stands for powerful and sophisticated internalized coercion, which is achieved through the constant observation of prisoner/people, each separated from the other having no interaction and communication among each other. This modern form of control allows a single watchman to see inside each cell from a high central tower unseen by the prisoners. Such continued surveillance by the guard acts as control mechanism spreading a sense of fear among the prisoners who are conscious of being monitored all time. Such constant awareness of being controlled compel them control their behavior. Although, this blueprint of prison by Bentham’s was never adopted completely for prisoners, for Foucault it becomes a metaphor to explore the power relations in society where such disciplinary practices are actually used for regulation and docility.

Disciplinary Power and the Current Context

So far, we see that disciplinary power works through surveillance and panoptic discipline that compel human beings to conform to established /dominant rules.  The constant awareness of observation make people conform to disciplinary practices; we are afraid of breaking rules because we know that we are being monitored all time.

Michael Foucault argument that disciplinary power works that discipline creates “docile bodies” which is ideal for the new economics, politics and warfare of the modern industrial age is quiet relevant in today’s context.

Let’s take an example from our everyday life and see how disciplinary power works. If we look back and recollect our school days, we can easily relate how disciplinary power works. Conformity to disciplinary power is quite obvious in schools that control students by adhering to disciplinary mechanisms. From the time moment we get inside our school campus, we become conscious of the fact we need to follow certain codes of conduct and behave accordingly. Starting from the uniform we wear to the way we behave – everything is set in order and we are being watched.  We get enclosed within a classroom where we seat facing our teacher. We are not supposed exhibit any irregular conduct or move out of the class, but to sit silently until our teacher grants us a break or the class is dismissed.  In fact, we don’t utter a word unless we are told to speak.  The very thought of being monitored compel us to internalize the norms/rules set up by the school authority and thereby by exhibit desired behavior. Because, if we violate any norms set by the school authority, we should be ready to faces consequences.  Any deviation from these established rules or violation of discipline would lead to punishment. This is exactly what Foucault says – that we unconsciously subscribe our body to these disciplinary practices and turn ourselves into docile bodies that can be easily controlled.

It has already been mentioned that disciplinary power no longer need the force of violence to control people. People on whom disciplinary power is exercised, they learn to discipline themselves and behave as expected ways. However, to construct disciplinary /docile bodies, disciplinary institutions like schools must be able to constantly observe and record the bodies they control, and ensure they internalize these norms. Disciplinary power molds human bodies into the correct/ desired form.

Let’s take another example – an example of our work place where behavior is disciplined in such a way that any deviation from such disciplinary behavior is followed by adverse consequences. The very movement we swipe in and get inside our workplace, we become conscious of the fact that we are being watched; we exhibit desired behavior. As and when the day starts, we conform to certain predetermined set of practices – such as completing daily tasks, meeting deadlines, getting work done etc. There are hardly any reminders; we know our daily deliverables. Rules are not imposed, yet we make sure we follow them, and also enforce others to follow the same.  The above-mentioned behavioral traits within an organization are expected behavior set by an organization. This disciplined behavior is considered as normal behavior within an organization, and deviation from such normality is usually followed by consequences such as warning, PIP (Performance Improvement Pool) or loss of job.

Now, how does disciplinary power work in school and business organizations? As Foucault says, it works through networks, relays, and reciprocal supports. In school, it works through the network and reciprocal support between principal and associate teachers; and in a business organization, it works through layers of hierarchy and the network of association between different teams and levels.

Now, is disciplinary power is negative term because it represses or controls? Well, we cannot condemn this power as something bad or negative. Here again, I would like to quote Foucault, according to whom power is the transformative capacity – the ability of an individual (organization in this context) to influence the actions of subordinates to realize certain goals. Disciplinary power is important for the modern society to be operative; for schools to control students; for organizations to run businesses. As against what most people perceive of power – that it is predominantly evil and repressive, Foucault points out that power is the ability to bring social change; it is a productive force.

Now, another noticeable aspect associated with power is that it is always followed by resistance; where there is power, there is always resistance. Power is a type of discourse that produces both hegemonic and counter-hegemonic subject positions; and resistance always come from the counter-hegemonic forces. Now, if we go back to the previous example of work place, we notice that there are times when employees raise their concerns against certain organizational processes/policies put in place by management. This is what we call resistance – resistance that comes from those on whom power is exercised; the counter- hegemonic forces. However, power and resistance are co-relative terms; resistance is also a kind of power. But, based on the perspective from which power relation is judged, we call it either resistance or power.

Coming back to disciplinary power where no physical force is involved, resistance is not overt. This is because people conform to this power, and it becomes a habit. Here, disciplinary power seems to resemble what Lousi Althusser calls ISA (Ideological State Apparatus) – one of the tools used by a state to control its citizens. Power exercised via ISA makes the functioning of power appear so normal that any individual is hardly aware that he/she is being controlled. Ideological State Apparatuses are seen being used in school, church, trade unions and media that control the society and individuals indirectly.

To conclude – Michael Foucault writings may sound theoretical to many of us. But when we read them carefully and pause for a while, we can easily find the connection; and realize that his writings talk about nothing but what we encounter in our everyday life. They are very much into realism!

References.

Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth Of the Prison. Trans. by Alan Sheridan. New York: Vintage, 1979.

Foucault, Michel. Psychiatric Power.Ed.by Jacques Lagrange.Trans.by Graham Burchell. Hound mills: Palgrave Macmillans, 2006.

***  A published piece.

 

 

 

And she realises!

 

Trapped in some grotesque lies, she freezes.

The unbearable coldness of life,

A self –imposed silence,

A confiscated voice,

And some dormant anger.

The choice was always hers,

A choice that was so firm.

She cannot regret now…

A lost past and a lost future!

The only recourse she has…

The same old oath of acceptance.

Acceptance or denial – both ways she is doomed!

Life betrays!

 

 

How justifiable is it to use the term “subordinate” at work place?

Have you ever come across the term “subordinate” at work place? Many a time, I find senior colleagues using the word subordinate to refer to juniors colleagues. Every time I come across a situation like this, I question myself how justifiable it is to use the term subordinate to refer to someone who is junior to you. Continue reading