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This is Rajnikanth

Pax-Indica Sid Gau

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Previous Posts New paper draft on terror monitoring Know your Nepalese leaders Nepal update Impressions from watching Leander's 17th Major win... 2011 religion census and comparisons with 2001 Reflections from the hockey field Castaway like a Hobbit Lingaa works, par dil maange more ... Pakistanisch hockey: eine Komödie, ohne gleich The caboodle of crap aka hockey update

Archives 06/01/2010 - 07/01/2010 07/01/2010 - 08/01/2010 08/01/2010 - 09/01/2010 09/01/2010 - 10/01/2010 10/01/2010 - 11/01/2010 11/01/2010 - 12/01/2010 Some of the posters from all over Tamil Nadu on Rajnikanth's birthday... Source: Ananda Vikatan Translations (from top to bottom): 1) We worship the piety that rules us -- S. M. Raja 2) My leader is teak-wood -- K. Rajnimuthuveeran (Muthu and Veera are names of Rajni's movies in the 90s, the first leading to his becoming famous in Japan). The picture is a morphed version of the poster from 16 vayathinile where Kamalahassan is the naive/reluctant hero (Linky). 3) Grandfather at home, but no. 1 dada in the cinema industry -- K. R. Manikandan and S. Pazhanibaadsha. 4) Adisayapiravi (name of one of Rajni's movies meaning a surprising entity)'s surprising birthday. The first man to live past 100 on his 63rd birthday. The man who chose to be our leader and god, please choose to take the responsibility of a CM for the well-being of Tamils. -- S. Peter Rajni Raj, K. P. Rajni Sarathy, G. R. Rajni Umapathy. 5) The day when God reincarnated as a man -- 12/12/12. -- Maveeran Rajni Fan Club (Maveeran is a name of one of Rajni's movies from the late 80s). 6) The world-famous man who speaks the truth and does good. We bless you and worship you. 7) They say Central government, State government. When is your government coming? -- R. G. Meiappan, S. Rajni Arumugam and others.

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Labels: In-Pictures, Tam-land posted by Pax-Indica @ 12:17 PM


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09/01/2012 - 10/01/2012 10/01/2012 - 11/01/2012 11/01/2012 - 12/01/2012 12/01/2012 - 01/01/2013


01/01/2013 - 02/01/2013

Emulating Shahid Khan...

02/01/2013 - 03/01/2013

For all the animus Indians have on Pakistanis (and vice versa), there are lessons to be learned everywhere in the sense that any rational Indian (or Pakistani) would want some curious incidents emulated. Shahid Khan has owned the Jacksonville Jaguars football team for more than a year now. An UI graduate, Shahid, has most likely inaugurated the Jags' worst season on record (I expect it to finish 2-14 as the Pats visit next, followed by a trip to Nashville). And given that Florida is known not only for its pregnant chads and hanging chads, but also two other floopy chads on the gridiron -- Pennington and Henne, that 2-14 mark was a foregone conclusion. Even though alluring, I hope the Jags dont waste their impending first pick at the draft with Geno Smith or worse, Matt Barkley and pick someone like Manti Te'o instead. That said, whatever be the Jags' pick, it is not hard to bet on the rise of the Jags in the coming few years. All this background begs the question: why is the ownership of the Jags worthy of emulation by the Indian and/or Pakistani expat community? 1) While Shahid is a part of the visible revolution in ownership of megasports franchises in the US coming in the not-so-long-line of AfricanAmerican and Latina/o celebrity owners of the recent past (Jay-Z, Usher, Jennifer Lopez, Will Smith, and so on), he is nevertheless a potent symbol that the symbols of what make Entertainment America, Inc., are available for sale to the highest bidder provided some "home"ownership caveats* are not bruised in the process. 2) Owning franchises is a self-contradictory proposition. It is rare to see winning money-making franchises put up for sale. Packs, Yanks, Pats, Dodgers, no they are not about to be sold anytime soon. But, even losing franchises gain in capital value over time. This is because there are very few franchises around (even fewer marquee franchises) and a large number of suitors (glamorous and not-so-glamorous) fishing for them -- either for vanity or for business or for any of the gazillion reasons one can conjure up (tax benefits, possibly). The classical supply-demand mismatch means that the asset value bubbles up over time with more and more money chasing the elusive ownership tag. Thus, the owner makes the biggest profit when he/she gives up a part of the/the whole stake in the franchise and ergo, no longer commands the franchise. 3) Often time, franchise-buyers coax out sweetheart deals on stadia/merchandising from the City that looks up to the franchise for circulating the local economy. While some cities such as LA can see spikes in green-nik protesting in the process of bringing a football franchise "back home," almost every other City could care less about environmental regulations and other jazz as long as the local unemployment rate is held under a cap. Some of these stadia/merchandising sweetheart deals accrue tangible benefits as the real-estate market bubbles up, an eventuality that is a given in a midto big-City in the medium- to long-term. 4) Noone in the US loves a losing team. So all that said, when bought, it is difficult to steer a losing franchise to winning on the field and help it make money for the investments put in. It is also difficult to get the professional players to play for pride when millions of $ float around and every concussion is valued in terms of the $ lost rather than in terms of certain death at 40s. Its even more difficult to get the City going nuts over a franchise and building a Black-Hole, or a cheesehead club, or a Jerry World. Every entrepreneur worthy his/her salt loves such a challenge. Its a better challenge than being the CEO of a Fortune-500 company, because it is his/her own money at stake and not of the stockholders (not always). 5) Franchise owners form a club of exclusivity and he/she gets to hobnob with the fellow-travelers in this weird journey. While owning a franchise does not get a free-pass from the security drills the TSA puts in, it does get attention from the people who make the news and the views, even if they are of the TMZ variety. The constant gripe of the Indian community that they do not get adequate attention of the powers-that-be relative to the houbara-hunting-facilitators across the border can only be resolved by playing the power game in all its dirty glory.

*The caveats mentioned above are all-powerful and make America what it is (today). It would be implausible to imagine the town of Green Bay ever giving up on their team -- the entire population up north of the Rockford Line and part of the W in the Paul Bunyan's Axe is going to bubble up and un-winterize the Frozen Tundra. Nor are some rivalries going to go away -- Red Sox-Yanks, Packs-Bears, Colts-Pats, etc. So a Rams-type team is not going to run away from LA every other day. Nor will a virtual non-entity be allowed to bid, let alone win a bid. Even less so if that non-entity is from Third World country with no antecedents of the game, ever. Thus, it is not surprising that Wayne Weaver was so embarrassed by the Shahid Khan-bid for Jags that he offered Shahid to pass the bid on. Shahid did not, and therein lies the message that needs to be hit in 24-ct gold. Labels: Sports posted by Pax-Indica @ 3:35 PM


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Losing the plot -- in Tamil Nadu Some simple electoral conclusions on Tamil Nadu based on share of valid votes received by each party in Tamil Nadu from the Assembly elections in 1991 to 2011 (from Linky) Nationalist Parties (in %) 1) BJP 1.70 1.81 3.19 2.02 2.22 2a) INC 15.19 5.61 2.48 8.38 9.30 2b) TMC - 9.30 6.73 - - 2) INC + TMC 15.19 14.91 9.21 8.38 9.30 3) CPI 1.24 2.12 1.59 1.61 1.97 4) CPM 3.15 1.68 1.68 2.65 2.41 State/Regional Parties: 1) ADMK 44.39 21.47 31.44 32.64 38.40 2) DMK 22.46 42.07 30.92 26.46 22.39 Caste/Splinterist Outfits: 1) PMK 5.89 3.84 5.56 5.65 5.23 2) MDMK - 5.78 4.65 5.98 - 3) DMDK - - - 8.38 7.88 4) VCK - - - 1.29 1.51 5) PT - - 1.27 - 0.40 The three nationalist parties -- BJP, CPI and CPM -- have a certain captive votebank that more or less faithfully votes for them time and again. Unless the agenda of these three parties focusses on devolving power to the masses as a credible alternative, there is no hope for these parties. The CPI and CPM have to move past their "workers, unite" rhetoric as Tamil Nadu is becoming a middle-class state (faster than these parties can transform) and with that, the discourse changes from rights to duties. The BJP has to move past its "Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan" rhetoric as the last time that rhetoric could have worked in the state was under Rajaji or Bhaktavatsalam. Even then, it might not have given the impact of rationality (selective, though it may have been) in worldview. Perhaps under Kumarasami Raja or Omandoor Ramasami when universal adult franchise was not in vogue. Similarly, the INC has its own captive votebank (which it split with TMC in the heydays of G. K. Mooppanar). Kowtowing to either regional outfit will not allow the INC to grow and it needs to stand up for what it believes in if it has to make a mark. Of course, standing up against a duopoly is a hard job, but noone succeeded in a job they did not pursue. Sadly, even during the days of Rajiv Gandhi, most of his speeches were not held in Madras city, but in places such as Maraimalai Nagar -- as distant from the masses and the power center as there could be -- shabbily translated by the likes of P. Chidambaram. Why, even his being assassinated in Sriperumbudur -- a cradle of the auto industry today and a shallow backwater in 1991 with nothing much to boast except that it was the constituency of family friend Maragatham Chandrasekhar -- says a lot about how the Congress party has/had avoided Madras city like a plague because its rhetoric gets/got booed out by the TASMAC-induced masses. With this backdrop, there seems to be little hope for nationalist parties in Tamil Nadu today. This trend will continue unless India faces a warlike situation or if there is a blackswan event where self-respect gets commoditized as a good with a value that it commands. The zero-th step in winning the Tamils begins with finding good orators, speechwriters and literary luminaries who could monologue their way into the people's hearts and minds. Even here, the precedents in both the Congress and the BJP camps have been terrible. Mooppanar's koozhangal speeches never energized anyone, even though a better speaker in Kumari Anandan had to repeat telecast the TMC moves with no change in the central leadership at the end. Ela Ganesan may not be koozhangal, but he is not very far in a state where even Sathyaraj or T. Rajendar -- karadis that they are -- can energize the audience. The narrow focus of PMK as the Vanniyars' paradise will match up with their ~5% vote share for as long as they so choose. For all the Dalit assertion in Tamil Nadu, voiced by the types of VCK and PT and paragon-ed by the revolutionary outlets and media, most Dalits still choose to vote for either the ADMK or the DMK. In other words, one could have a victimist mindset, real or perceived, but unless there is a credible alternative, the minorities will continue to transact business with the parties that are perceived to be credible. The distance of DMDK from power will ensure that it will die a natural death over a period of time unless the post-Karunanidhi era brings some hope that could push it to displace either of the post-DMK outfits. The case of MDMK is simpler: natural death without much fanfare. The only short-term events that could make a dent in Tamil Nadu's electoral saga are: the health of Jayalalitha and the post-Karunanidhi phase vis-a-vis the DMK. Truly, Tamil Nadu stands divorced from a lethargic nationalist polity that does not know how to conduct business with the state. And in that sense, Tamil Nadu is in a league of its own. Even states that have seen much terrorist violence such as Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, the Northeastern states, have at least one of the two mainstream nationalist parties as an electoral alternative. The buck for this mega-trend lies not with the Tamils... PS: Caveats remain on the use of the data. The percentages above are for valid votes polled. This has to be re-normalized appropriately based on electoral turn-out and demographic inflation. Labels: Caste Politics, Tam-land posted by Pax-Indica @ 5:02 PM


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Explaining the Mega-Superstar Story --- Why Rajnikanth matters? A possible tribute to a great man I am an unabashed fan of most things Rajnikanth -- his generosity, the lack of a need to cover his bald pate with a wig, his acumen in picking battles that have to be fought (taking sides in the elections of 1996 vs. not doing an MGR encore thereafter, battle with Ramadoss on cigarette smoking on the screen, reluctant acceptance of his daughter's choice for a spouse and the possible coaxing of Chiranjeevi to follow his example), empathy for producers, financiers and cinema screen owners, his theist philosophy that is more personal rather than evangelical, and so on. On his movie persona, despite his under-used comedical and dancing skill-sets, it is a different matter of delight altogether for connoisseurs of 'punch dialogues.' In the same vein, I am an equally unabashed hater of most things Kamalahassan -- his socialist philosophy and outlook going back to the 80s, the need to grind an axe with the theme of overtly casteist/socialist/inter-sectarian movies (Varumaiyin Niram Sivappu, Unnal Mudiyum Thambi, Thevar Magan, Anbe Sivam, Virumaandi, Dasavatharam, etc.,), his overdramatic acting, speech delivery (even in interviews) and grandiosity for the sake of grandeur (make-up artists in Dasavatharam and Avvai Shanmughi, tech gloss in Nayakan, the unfinished Maruthanaayakam aka Marmayogi), his supposed lack of empathy for peers (the recent Hindu episode on Nayakan's success, DTH delivery for Viswaroopam, follow-ups on bombing of movies), the need to do a Barry Bonds'-esque transformation at a ripe-old age of 46 single-handedly leading the Tamil cinema industry to a steroids culture from which it has still not recovered, and so on. With that caveat out of the way, it is necessary to explain why this post matters. Why, of all things in the world, should Rajnikanth matter for Tamil Nadu's vision of itself and for its position in India? Why should it matter to anyone else? For that, one has to understand the context behind the arrival and rise of these mega-heroes in the Tamil cinema industry. But before that, one has to understand the role played by Tamil cinema industry in shaping what is Tamil Nadu today. But even before that, one has to understand the social setting of what was then the Madras Presidency, which then became Madras State with the linguistic division of the states, and which then renamed itself as Tamil Nadu in the 60s. But even before that, one has to understand how the social situation arrived at that fork point in history. As we know, the possibilities are endless as one understands history as it happened, and as it is understood and popularly explained/re-explained today, and as it is perceived by the two or many contestants to the legacies of such a battle, and as it is perceived to be perceived, and so on, but life is not. So I will cut it short and just broadly say that, what is now Tamil Nadu was in a state of flux as to its identity in the 30s and 40s. A microscopic minority of the Brahmins (with all the South Indian languages as their mother-tongues -- not just Tamil) who had cornered a disproportionate percentage (relative to their population) of the available menial (relative to today's standards) British India government jobs and an even more microscopic minority amongst these who had entrenched themselves in the academic and literary communities were seen by a good fraction of the "left-behinds" as the living symbols of colonialization within colonial India, of exploitation not by the British -but by the Brahmins, and so on. Needless to say, many of the entrenched Brahmins did not make their case better and some did not even show the empathy needed to understand the socio-emotive issues at hand. And as a battle for power -- economic and real -unfolded in the state, one of the root-causes identified was the social strata of the "left-behinds" relative to the entrenched microscopic minority and the need to upend it. Given the diversity of the "left-behinds" (socio-economic, linguistic, caste-based, sub-sect, regional, religio-denominational/strain of areligiosity, philosophical, historical legacy-based), nothing else could have united the various claimants but the love for a language which was deemed to be time-immemorial. While I have serious doubts about the time-immemoriality of the language that I too love beyond any other and am unabashed about that, the fact that some of the entrenched Brahmins did not respond with an iota of sensibility or rationality on the language issue made this community even worser villains than the British in the eyes of the elites of that day. This and many other reasons led to a widely-accepted motif that 'the enemy of the enemy could be a friend even though the enemy of the enemy in himself was more Janus-faced than the enemy.' In any case, the uniting theme of a state with a common language was good enough to paper over the serious power differences between different communities. This is the precise context in which the Tamil cinema industry rose up in the 40s. While the historical contiguity of the neighboring states of today's India meant a business-driven circulation of talents, ideas, technical developments, finances, story-lines, marketing and markets, the subconscious need (even if not recognized so explicitly) to forge a welcoming atmosphere lest it hurt the cause of Dravidian politics meant that the Tamil cinema industry ended up less-discriminatory (provided one learned not to turn on a few language-based buttons) than what is possible in Tamil Nadu today otherwise. Thus, the mega-heroes of the Tamil cinema industry have often been "outsiders" who have become more Tamil than the native Tamils in professing support for popular causes. For example, while the mega-heroes of the forties were natives: M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar, P. U. Chinnappa and T. R. Mahalingham, the mega-heroines were from outside: Bhanumathi, Anjali Devi, Kannamba, Lalitha-Padmini-Ragini, and so on. The fifties and sixties saw the rise of M. G. Ramachandran, M. N. Nambiar, Nageswara Rao and N. T. Rama Rao -- even though the latter two made a better killing in the Telugu cinema industry with the last being a popular CM of that state. Rajnikanth has only continued this journey from the late seventies through today. Not much needs to be said about MGR's support and role in building the LTTE to where it was in the 80s, and not much needs to be said about Rajnikanth's support to Tamil Nadu in the water wars with Karnataka. Of these, the journeys taken by Rajnikanth and Kamalahassan are eerily similar on the surface to the journeys taken by the mega-heroes of the previous generation: Sivaji Ganesan and M. G. Ramachandran. Kamalahassan comes from a lettered family in the cinema field while Rajnikanth is a rags-to-riches story of a bus conductor from Bangalore. (Sivaji Ganesan was the stage-artist/drama troupist who climbed his way through the ranks through sheer might of his performance, while M.G.R. despite his initial success(es) in Tamil movies used his propaganda secretary-level association with DMK to become the mega social hero of the Dravidian/Tamil/"left-behinds" cause.) Both Rajnikanth and Kamalahassan started their mega-rise with the same movie under the same heavy-duty director (Bharathi Raja): one as villain and another as a reluctant/naive hero. Both were constant themes in another heavy-duty director's (K. Balachander) films through the eighties: one as a noisy/womanizing/patronizing villain and the other as a reluctant/naive hero. The dramatic transformation of the villain Rajnikanth to Superstar Rajnikanth is one of those acts considered serendipitous in popular renditions today just like Sachin Tendulkar's debut as an opener against New Zealand. Nevertheless, the social transformation of the state of Tamil Nadu from the ambiguous, rebellious and confrontational sixties to a more 'chalta-hai'/'let's talk business' attitude of the eighties where the middle-class wanted to lap onto confrontations on the screen, but not much in real-life could provide an easier explanation for the rise of the Superstar. The more wittier and empathizable the hero, the better it fitted the mental image of the angry yet intelligent, rebellious yet rooted, all powerful yet emotionally susceptible hero who could pick the right fights that the audience would like to see in reality but do not want. His blue-collar roles brought him closer to the audience who were happy to lap up their hero being one of them. In short, Rajnikanth's choice of movies constructed and reinforced the continuing myth of a social super-hero that was not available in reallife, despite thirty years of Dravidian politics and twenty years of Dravidian party rule that should have ideally changed Tamil Nadu. While Rajnikanth is just a distant symbol in terms of social transformation, he is a very powerful symbol of the possibility of levity in social structures today. In another flux-ridden age of identity politics, where the fight for power between the erstwhile "left-behinds" is unfolding as we speak in Tamil Nadu today (Dalits vs. Vanniyars, Thevars vs. Pallars, Tamil Christians vs. Hindus), a living example of what is possible is a more constructive solution than 1008 years of sloganeering, armchair politicking or think-tanking about social transformations. For the "outsiders," a bus-conductor from a Marathi background who rose from being a villain to the Superstar in a land of language fanaticists (such as me) is almost the perfect example of how to tap the Tamils and conduct business with them. It is also a powerful message that the supposed land of language fanaticists is not just the land of language fanaticists. It is also a land where respect is imagined to be shared on a mutual give-and-take basis, yet a land where unrequited love is not a problem! It is a land where Nakkeeran (probably the only hero I would emulate), Vaali and Raavanan are scorned heroes, yet a land with the largest number of standing grand temples in India today! It is a land where we love our Tamil more than our blood and life, yet we do not know whether to put a moonu suzhi na or a rendu suzhi na in a complicated word. It is a land where red and black are most likely the only acceptable colors, yet the doyen of that culture parades around in an yellow shawl. It is also a land where that rationalist, anti-Hindu doyen knows more about Kambha Raamayanam than the religulous could ever. It is a land where a good majority supposedly sips from the nectar of rationality while also consulting on the "nalla neram" from the Paarppaan (probably the only one left-behind in the village). We are not God's own country nor are we servants of gods -- we are a country where we debate the gods and exasperate them. We are not the land of Tri Lingas, we are the land of 108 Divya Desams and 275 Siva Sthalams even if we do not know about all of them nor are we close to all of them. We are not the land of milk and honey, Cooum nadhi is our Thirupaarkadal, Marina beach is our Paramapadham where we rightfully hunt for chozhis to play paramapadham. Of course! We are Tamils, and we love to defy you with your understanding of us. Why, we love to defy us in our understanding of what we are. Rajnikanth is not the Superstar -- the only one there could be; the mega-Superstar is Rajnikanth. Chuck Norris the excuse for that is Rajnikanth for you. Labels: Caste Politics, Tam-land posted by Pax-Indica @ 1:49 PM


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