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Posts Tagged ‘Hollywood’

Chinese Softpower: No Answer To Hollywood

Deng’s China has decided that China must give up its pre-Maoist past – and become ‘modern’. Result – China has become a huge market for Hollywood now.

China informs the world that Hollywood film Django is being released in China. Such an important event, no!  |  ‘#Django’ might get unchained in China’s theaters in May http://bit.ly/12LwGz5  |  Twitter - globaltimesnews- ‘#Django’ might get unchained ... 2013-04-26 09-06-57  |  Click for original tweet.

China informs the world that Hollywood film Django is being released in China. Such an important event, no! | ‘#Django’ might get unchained in China’s theaters in May http://bit.ly/12LwGz5 | Twitter – globaltimesnews- ‘#Django’ might get unchained … 2013-04-26 09-06-57 | Click for original tweet.

China has long wanted to lead in soft-power – a major force in global culture and arts.

However, this objective has eluded China.

Sun Yat Sen To Now

Modern China‘s pillars are all foreign – especially from the West. Communism from Europe, social media forums like Weibo is a Twitter clone. But possibly the biggest failure is in films.

India with Bollywood films has the largest number of productions and viewers. Africa has now jumped ahead of Hollywood – and China, in production numbers and viewership.

But it was not always like that.

Shaw Brothers had built, out of Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, over the last 70 years, an enviable base of Chinese film narrative. This was based on Chinese themes – Buddhism, Boxer Revolution (China’s version of India‘s 1857 War), Kung Fu, Japanese colonialism in China. These ideas appealed not just to Chinese audiences, but even global audiences.

However, Deng’s China has decided that China must give up its pre-Maoist past – and become ‘modern’.

Result – China has become a huge market for Hollywood now.

What’s Language Got To Do …

When you ‘follow’ foreign culture, you also end up losing control over your culture. Like this recent post pointed out, how Hollywood with Kung Fu Panda-II is trying to define the future of India-China relations.

Africa’s adoption of Arabic, Jewish abandonment of their language, have made these cultures into peripheral entities in the world today. In India, government subsidies to English in higher education has extended the life of a colonial imposition to much beyond pragmatic usage.

English has become a sub-religion in India like cricket.

In India …

A very remarkable effect of this in India is the effect English has on Indian minds. For instance, Arvind Kejriwal’s Party, AAM AAdmi Party (AAP) has looked to the US for every inspiration. This inspiration-by-the-US ideas are not based on study of the US – but on the propaganda by US media.

For instance corruption.

Just one scandal in the US, is bigger than all corruption cases that have ‘allegedly’ happened in the last nearly 70 years of independent India. The nearly US$8 trillion of unaccounted /partially accounted hole in the US Department of Defense.

Yet a founder of the AAP tweets on US governance. Not surprisingly, it based on ‘optics’ – but on any critical appreciation of the US.

In the meantime, back to China. China’s prime English newspaper /website, Global Times has decided to inform the world that Chinese will be able to see ‘Django Unchained.’

A major event, I presume.

Two weeks after the Hollywood film Django Unchained was pulled from theaters on the day it premiered on the Chinese mainland, rumors began to spread on the Internet that the film had passed the country’s censorship requirements again and would return to Chinese screens.

Reliable sources said that the first film from director Quentin Tarantino to come to the Chinese mainland will be available for film lovers in May, popular movie information and ticket booking website mtime.com reported Thursday.

“The former edition to be released in cinemas is almost the same as the editions released overseas, which were edited by Quentin Tarantino. That edition had few problems generally, and after the suspension, only some nude scenes were cut from the film. I suppose it will be on screens after May Day,” sina.com.cn reported.

via ‘Django’ might get unchained in China’s theaters in May – CHINA – Globaltimes.cn.

 



 

Shakti goes to Hollywood

May 21, 2011 4 comments
Publicity poster for Shakti.

Publicity poster for Shakti.

Going Hollywood

Shakti, a 1982 film, directed by Ramesh Sippy (of Sholay, Seeta aur Geeta fame), was an acclaimed commercial and critical success. In the India of the early 80s, with chronic shortages and near-zero opportunities, Shakti was about the interplay between ethics and expediency. The climax scene became a legend with the fugitive son (Amitabh Bachchan) dying in his cop-father’s arms (Dilip Kumar) – shot by the father.

Imagine my acute feeling of déjà vu, when a similar story, with a similar scene was recreated in a Hollywood film Heat. Al Pacino an upright policeman kills the escaping criminal Robert De Niro. Apart from minor changes in the script, the plot follows Shakti lines – right to the casting level. Even the length of the movie is Shakti-like – three hours for a Hollywood film?

Unheard of.

Interestingly, this film also did very well on the international circuit – and not as well in the USA.

At the same time, any movie with Pacino, De Niro, and Val Kilmer is bound to be a commercial success. Heat had a budget of $60 million, and ended up grossing over $170 million worldwide. $107 million of the box office revenues came from non-US audiences, as the movie was particularly successful in France, where 1.3 million tickets were sold.

Am I the only one

My first reaction was to assume my judgement as biased. But then Monsieur Google prevailed. A 30 minute trawl yielded excellent catch. One of the first comments that I could track back came in 2005. When Humble Rafi pointed out

Did you know HOLLYWOOD copied this movie as “HEAT” ?

AL PACINO is there.

Read this chat on Youtube on this same scene two years ago (extracted below).

Search for “dilip kumar kills amitabh bachan” in youtube videos to see the original inspiration of this scene shot way back in 1982 at Bombay Airport, India! (sunnytravels 2 years ago)

this ending scene is copied off 1982 indian film shakti starring dilip kumar and amitabh bachan search shakti dilip kumar kills amitabh bachan (qezza22 2 years ago).

haha it kinda is copied isnt it (secretlover12 2 years ago).

You are right . . the inspiration for that scene came from that movie Shakti made in 1982 at Bombay airport.. so either Michael Mann just loves Shakti or it was an incredible coincidence! 🙂 (sunnytravels 2 years ago).

At a movie forum, on 28-11-2008, Guillaume P pointed out

Re: Heat (Michael Mann,1995)

Before “Heat”,there was “Shakti”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfxemtLGGZE

The next day, at another forum,

Mannfan – 29-11-2008, 13:37 said,

Before HEAT there was SHAKTI!:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfxemtLGGZE

Hollywood Cartoon - Courtesy - http://www.bagagedrager.nl/. Click for larger image.

Hollywood Cartoon - Courtesy - http://www.bagagedrager.nl/. Click for larger image.

DesiMusicClub hesitantly says that Shakti (1982)

reminds me of the Hollywood movie ‘Heat’ – also a cop movie that put together 2 legends in one movie (DeNiro & Pacino).

Satya, in another film-review site pointed out in 2009

Amitabh bachan and dilip kumar starrer Shakthi (1982 ) had exact same climax as Heat !! I still wonder if for once the hollywood copied from bollywood ?!. please see for yourself to confirm.

SearchIndia.com Responds:

Will do.

Now, wouldn’t that be something – a Robert De Niro/Al Pacino movie being a lift of a Bollywood film.

In 2009, a fan of Amitabh Bachchan also commented in Amitabh Bachchan’s blog, how Heat was so similar to Shakti.

a full 13 years ahead of the Pacino vs De Nero face of in Heat, looks like Micheal Mann must have seen Shakti as ending is too similar!

The same fan (probably) of Amitabh Bachchan followed up with a review. A few months ago, in a webzine he linked the films together saying, Shakti was a “highly recommended film to watch for all real Hindi film fans and yes the film is so much better than the clash between Pacino and De Nero in Heat!”

Michael Mann’s muse?

Michael Mann’s first claim to fame was a short film, that won him awards at Cannes, Melbourne and Barcelona film festivals – a film with a ‘succession of hypnotic images and colours are cut to haunting Indian jugalbandi music.’

Name of the movie – Jaunpuri.

Related articles

China and U.S. soften tone on yuan

The poor will pay a price ... as usual.

The poor will pay a price ... as usual.

Amid harsh rhetoric, Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Zhong Shan and U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner sounded some conciliatory notes on Wednesday.Mr. Zhong, making a 30-hour visit to the U.S. to try to ease bilateral tensions, expressed confidence that politicians from the two countries “have the wisdom and ability to resolve existing problems.“Mr. Geithner said he be- lieved China would allow its currency to appreciate over time, according to a CNN interview transcript. While the U.S. “can’t force them to make that change…I think we can work through the tough things we have together,“ Mr. Geithner said.The stakes are high for both sides. The U.S. and China are among each other’s biggest trading partners, and numerous U.S. companies have investments in China. The U.S. is increasingly looking to China to cooperate on international strategic issues, such as nuclear nonproliferation and the fight against terrorism. (via WSJ ON YUAN – China and U.S. soften tone on yuan).

Let the games begin!

Rousing 'macho' WASP voters!

Rousing 'macho' WASP voters!

The Dragon and the Eagle are squaring off! An experienced US stalks China, waiting behind high walls of US$2500 billion foreign exchange reserves.

The US-China game has started in earnest. US, egged on by ‘macho’ voters and a cheering media, will:-

  1. Act tough
  2. Behave in a morally outraged and indignant manner
  3. Commentators will prescribe a trade war and sanctions

In parallel, analysts, academics, think-tanks, journalists will talk-up China. Like Greenspan talking-up the US dollar or Dow Jones. They will: –

  1. Hold up China an nation-exemplar
  2. Write books analysing on China. Such books will start pour out of our ears
  3. Make movies and novels about the ‘dominant’ Chinese in the US
  4. Study, extol Chinese culture /tradition /history, and hold forth as a shining example.

And China will be ‘uncompromising’! Act as though, they have a choice.

A certainty

The change in dollar-yuan exchange ratio will happen. Peacefully, or with violent side shows. Assuming that the dollar-yuan revaluation will happen smoothly, is fraught with risk. That it will happen, without any significant disruption, is one, big, huge, slippery assumption. What will follow the Chinese moment in the sun?

Economic mayhem?

What remains to be seen

What could set off economic mayhem in China? Crime in China (a simmering threat), terrorism in Xinjiang (remote possibility), real estate bubble (a real scenario)?

Will the Chinese Government be able to ride this storm? Without a war with India? Which side of the fence will China fall? Answers to these questions will be worth waiting for! And prepared with!

Last time …

It would do well to remember that last time when China had a problem, it resulted in the India China War of 1962. Just after the disastrous Great Leap Forward and before the equally disastrous Cultural Revolution.

The Great Leap Forward began in 1957-58, saw famine and hunger across China. After the Communist takeover of China, land seized from land owners, was given to peasants in 1949. Ten years later, in 1959, the Chinese State took away the same land from the same peasant. Food shortages, starvation followed. Western (questionable) estimates are that 30 million people died during this period. War with India followed in 1962 – a diversion from the domestic Chinese catastrophe.

What will it be this time?

Was Spielberg’s ET based on a Satyajit Ray Script?

March 27, 2010 6 comments
Satyajit Ray  |  Image source & courtesy - indianexpress.com  |  Click for source image.

Satyajit Ray | Image source & courtesy – indianexpress.com | Click for source image.

Spielberg has denied plagiarizing Ray’s script. “I was a kid in high school when his script was circulating in Hollywood…” [Link]

This post here from Ultrabrown lays out the linkage between Satyajit Ray’s script and Spielberg’s ET.

Another case of Cultural Dacoity?

Spielberg & his ET. “Originality is the art of concealing your sources” - Benjamin Franklin

Spielberg & his ET. “Originality is the art of concealing your sources” – Benjamin Franklin

The Dragon vs. the Eagle

December 10, 2009 1 comment
Such a loving couple ...

Such a loving couple ...

At the same time he seriously plays down the horrors of Mao’s tyrannical rule, writing that “he remains, even today, a venerated figure in the eyes of many Chinese, even more than Deng Xiaoping” and that the Communist Party “succeeded in restoring its legitimacy amongst the people” and fostered “extremely rapid economic growth,” “despite the calamities of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.” In addition he diminishes the importance of the pro-democracy Tiananmen demonstrations and dissident sympathies, arguing that there is an “apolitical tradition” in China and that “the Confucian ethos that informed and shaped it for some two millennia did not require the state to be accountable to the people.” (via Books of The Times – The Dragon vs. the Eagle in Martin Jacques’ ‘When China Rules The World’ – Review – NYTimes.com).

For this one insight …

The Dragon versus the Eagle analogy is just hot air! A lot of hot air. China is too busy playing footsie with the USA to challenge! But the bit about China being ‘apolitical’ is a gem.

This bit about, China’s “apolitical tradition” in China and that “the Confucian ethos that informed and shaped it for some two millennia did not require the state to be accountable to the people.” This one observation by Martin Jacques’ explains so much about world history – and modern Asian history.

Platonic-Confucian axis

The axis of Confucian-Platonic authoritarian, ‘wise’ rulers, who were not accountable, was (and remains) the overwhelming model for the world. Property rights remained with less than o.1% of the people. Under the CRER principle, (cuius regio, eius religio, meaning whose land, his religion; CRER) even the most personal religious beliefs of the individual were subject to State approval, as per law.

Pareto’s principle … Ha!

Yes – Pareto was wrong.

Rarely (do they at all?) do 20% of the people get to own 80% the national wealth. It is usually about o.1%. Look at America. Less than 300,000 people (from the Forbes /Fortune lists, the Government and the academia, media) who control the US  – a population of more than 300 million.

The West scorns the Chinese one-party rule. But how does one more, collusive party in the national polity, in a ‘democratic set-up, become the paragon of political virtue. Did it ever occur to its defendants, that a two-party polity just an illusion of choice and change. But, it was the same lack of accountability – in a more invisible manner?

The only exception to this was the Indic system of polity – where property rights were vested with the user, justice was decentralized (did any Indic king dispense justice?), religion was maya and dharma was supreme. The modern Indian State has acquired the Desert-Bloc-Platonic-Confucian authoritarian principles of the State as parens patriae. So, the power of the Indic ideas is something that India seems to have forgotten, missed and lost!!

What's the difference?

What's the difference? One more collusive political party!

In Greater China

In Hong Kong Chinese movies, till the 1990’s, a recurring theme was the Buddhist monk. Until the modernist Jackie Chan goes to America versions started coming out, it was always the wise Buddhist teacher who taught the Brave ‘Chinaman’ to fight against feudal oppression. It was always the Wise Buddhist Teacher who showed the way.

Lee Kuan Yew – a Confucius bhakt

Now this explains why Lee Kuan Yew extols Confucian virtues of Greater Chinese. Is it surprising that the ‘modern’ Chinese Government is so afraid of Buddhist revival that they have put restrictions on the Falun Gong followers from doing breathing exercises in the open. Falun Gong which attracted nearly 10 crore followers in the last 15 years, seems to have made the Chinese Government nervous.

Contrast the faith that the Chinese have in Buddhist teachers with the representation of Church and priests in Hollywood and you will see the contrast. One set has been able to maintain trust and faith for more than 2000 years – and the other set seems to have lost it in less than a 1000 years.

Is it any surprise that the common Chinese loves and venerates the Buddha – and the Chinese Government lays so much emphasis on Confucianism?

Nicolas Sarkozy ‘helped’ Roman Polanski get bail

November 28, 2009 Leave a comment
The Glitter Dome by Joseph Wambaugh
The Glitter Dome by Joseph Wambaugh

The director’s sister-in-law Mathilde Seigner hinted that the leader has been instrumental to the recent development.

“I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it is thanks to the President that Roman has been freed, but he has been super. The President has been very effective,” Times Online quoted her as telling Le Parisien newspaper.

Sarkozy had earlier expressed his views on the director being held on a US warrant for having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977. (via Nicolas Sarkozy ‘helped’ Roman Polanski get bail).

Joseph Wambaugh on Hollywood

For years now, I have been avid reader of Joseph Wambaugh – a policeman turned writer. His comedies, wrapped in (mostly) LA or (sometimes) New York milieu, are in the style of Raymond Chandler under halogen lamp. The darker areas get better light. The chrome glints more. Glamour quotient gets mixed with large doses of warmth and understanding. Unlike Chandler, Wambaugh’s is never judgmental – which make his characters very real.

I read Wambaugh’s Glitter Dome, and twenty years later I remember one of his interesting observations on Hollywood,

Parking, not pussy, is at a premium around these parts, they said.

Wambaugh captures the politics of Hollywood
Wambaugh captures the politics of Hollywood in The Glitter Dome By Joseph Wambaugh, page 46

Sarkozy and Polanski are both short ... I wonder ...Sex, Cinema and Fashion

Hollywood, Bollywood (a patronizing name by which Indian film industry calls itself), haute couture businesses have a rather blase attitude about sex. Hence, to hold Hollywood to ordinary behavioural norms, has a puritanical air about it. In the Polanski affaire, the alleged victim, Samantha Geimer, wants the case closed.

But anyway, coming to why this story gets me curious, is why did Anand Jon, a haute couture designer get such a harsh sentence. Unwilling /semi-willing /actively willing sex in Hollywood /Bollywood /haute couture businesses is what (I have been given to believe is) normal. I mean these days, stars /starlets ‘leak’ sex tapes on the internet.

And no one has ever been seriously prosecuted, convicted and sentenced – as Anand Jon has been!

Where is the balance

I am assuming that Anand Jon is guilty. Is it the first time that models have tried advancing their career by sleeping with designers? Has it not happened before? I wonder what is it that Anand Jon did, which brought down the entire American judicial establishment onto him like ton of bricks. The case of the Sri Lankan Rajarathnam has similar smell to it.

The US prosecuting authority, Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, alleges that the Galleon Fund made some US$20 million out of this insider trading. I am sure that Galleon Fund (more than US$5 billion in assets under management) spent more than US$20 million on tea, coffee, espresso, soda, Evian and paper napkins. Rajrathnam’s own net worth was estimated by “Forbes” to be US$ 1.3 billion.

Coconut Bharara - Brown outside, White insideIs there any sense, any balance to these cases. Is Preet Bharara, indulging in reverse ‘affirmative action’ by prosecuting Rajarathnam? Is Preet Bharara trying to prove that he is colour blind?

“If you’re a wealthy trader, you aren’t special,” Bloomberg quoted Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara as saying at a press conference. “Knock on our door before we come knocking on yours.”

If you ask me, he should investigate Hank Paulson, the Former Treasury Secretary, under whose watch many bankruptcies happened conveniently in favour of JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs.

Zombies versus churails

Could you have an equally successful version with churails and djinns? Perhaps, but Grahame-Smith’s success is also because of the public fascination with zombies, vampires and werewolves. Werewolves come from the Old Norse vargulf, and were feared as actual threats several centuries ago. Zombies originated in Haiti, but the idea of revenants—the walking dead—was very much part of Old English folklore. Vampires, especially the Transylvanian kind, reached the peak of their popularity in the 18th century.

True zombies, vampires and werewolves have not been feared for at least two centuries. But their place in the popular imagination has been maintained by horror movies and novels as well as several generations of gamers. Stephenie Meyers’ Twilight series elevated the classic vampire love story to interspecies romance, with a werewolf vying for the hand of the beautiful Bella. (via Nilanjana S Roy: Zombies versus churails).

Why are Indians so bad at horror films …

Why does the largest film production culture, i.e. India not produce Jaws, Jurassic Park (animals as malevolent monsters; justifying the extermination of huge swathes of wild life, “good that we have exterminated them). Where is the Indian Dracula or Frankenstein? In all its 25 major languages and more than 500 plus dialects, Indians don’t have a national ‘monster’ culture? The writer of this column writes, almost complainingly, how

But few have carried on the legacy of Rabindranath Tagore, who wrote some of the most chilling ghost stories of all time—Khudito Pashan (The Hungry Stones) being perhaps the best of them. It’s not for lack of talent—for instance, Tarun Tejpal and Ravi Shankar Etteth have both played around with the ghost story. Ravi Shankar wrote at least one classic, featuring a busload of highly unusual passengers in war-ravaged Kashmir. In 1914, a Mr S Mukerji compiled a set of Indian ghost stories

The Ramsay family tried keeping the ‘horror’ flag flying. But most of their ‘horror’ films finally turned out to be romantic comedies – with a token presence of the ‘horror’ element.

The Indic spread

Other Indian themes have crossed languages, geographies, cultures – and spread all over the world. Witness the spread of Ramayana or how Sanskrit defined most languages of the world. After more than 1000 years of aggression, the Desert Bloc has only half the world as its adherents – though they have 80% of the world’s geography. The Indic belief systems still accounts for half the world’s population.

Why indeed does India have a scarcity of ‘monsters’. Even Indian asuras are not really monsters or devils! This columnist speculates that

perhaps something of the belief that ghost stories are for the masses, not for the purveyors of high literature, has rubbed off on to our authors. That, given India’s rich heritage of dakinis, betaals, nishibhoots and other things that go bump in the night, is a sad mistake.

To understand this better, let us look at the world’s most fertile ground for ‘monsters’ …

Medieval – Renaissance Europe

16th century Europe – specifically, Spain and Portugal. The last of the Moors had been driven out of Spain. The Christian standard was flying high. The Papal Bull divided the Earth (for the Europeans) between Spain and Portugal. White Christian rulers of Spain, Isabella and Ferdinand, set historic standards in persecution and extortion. More than a million Jews were killed, crucified, burnt alive; their properties confiscated and distributed. Columbus returned to enslave the American Natives – and subsequently, work them to death.

New chapters in bloodshed were being written by conquistadors like Vasco Nunez De Balboa, Francisco Pizarro, Juan Ponce de Leon, Hernando de Soto, Hernando Cortez, et al. Not to forget the search for El Dorado led by, “above all, that prince of monsters Lope de Aquirre, colour the pages with the darkest hues of bloody emprise.” In South American memory, Francisco de Carvajal, the “demon of the Andes” remains alive. These real-life monsters set new standards in brutality, slavery and genocide.

Europe in the sixteenth century was “obsessed with questions of language, and especially so in Spain and its recently conquered American Empire (emphasis mine). This was driven by

what Marshal McLuhan called “the hypertrophy of the unconscious,” a phenomenon he associated with periods of revolution in media technology: the advent of print in the 16th century created a great need for sensational materials to be broadcast, and this need caused ideas that formerly had been only lurking in the dark recesses of men’s minds to come floating to the surface.

One of the great bestsellers of the 16th century was the Histoires prodigieuses of Pierre Boaistuau (Paris, 1560), a sort of Renaissance Ripley’s Believe-it-or-not containing marvelous tales on everything … Seventeen of the Histoires forty tales are about monsters, a fact that may explain why the book was republished anywhere from ten to twenty two times and translated into Dutch, Spanish and English. (from Popular culture in the Middle Ages By Josie P. Campbell).

Spanish literature of the Renaissance

From this hotbed of ferment, a representative of this period was Calderon de la Barca (1600-1681), the Spanish writer. Growing up in a Spain, a 100 years after the Conquistadors, benefiting from the twin advantages of fresh memory and hindsight “a century of Janus, facing backward, towards the rise of the Spanish Empire … and forward, toward its decline.” His more than a 100 plays and writings represent 17th century Spain, significantly – and even Europe.

There is probably no word that is more characteristic of Calderon de la Barca’s art than monstruo, “monster.” Rare is the play in which the word does not appear several times … (from Celestina’s brood By Roberto González Echevarría).

Calderon’s play about Semiramis, the Assyrian Empire builder, showed her in a monster mode – her hybrid character the most masculine modes and the most feminine, a monster of destruction and creation”. And Calderon was not alone. The fertile growth of monsters gave birth to a new study – teratology, the study of monsters.

“Monster lore truly becomes “popular culture” only with the Renaissance … Fresh works on the subject of teratology are written by Italians, Germans, and Frenchmen. The foreruuner of the modern newspaper, the broadside were bought at street corners and at fairs by the barely literate masses. The great reformers Luther and Melanchthon used the broadside medium to popularize their propagandistic and anti-Catholic versions of two of the most famous monsters of the Renaissance, the Monk-calf of Freiburg and the Pope-ass of Rome. (from Popular culture in the Middle Ages By Josie P. Campbell).

Some of Calderon’s plays dealt with the proselytization of the Native Americans – like his play, La Aurora En Copacabana (Dawn in the Copacabana), described as a play about “the conquest and conversion of the Indians in Peru”

The success of the conquest, therefore, is attributed to (Christian) faith which is valued as mans greatest gift to the world … Thus (Christian) conquest becomes a form of colonisation with the purpose of imposing religion and culture on a land “que habitan inhumanos” (512) and is in need of redemption and education. Finally, the play tries to harmonise irreconcilable contradictions which lie at the bottom of colonial discourse. (texts in brackets and italics mine).

With this idea, must be seen something important. That is the important element of “the escape of the monster.” In the … Monster Theory, Joel Cohen has remarked that the monster always escapes. Now combine the three elements – the newly acquired colonies of America, the proselytization (or otheriwse, the genocide) and the escape of the monster. These were the ‘monsters’ of colonialism.

A very interesting play by Calderon was La vida es sueño (Life is a dream). It tells the story of Segismundo, the Prince Of Poland, who was destined to be a monster. To forestall the prophecy, Segismundo was imprisoned by his father from the time of his birth. In adulthood, released from prison to test the prediction, Segismundo fulfills the prophecy. As a analyst of Calderon’s work summarizes,

Affirming a “better reality,” Segismundo’s message speaks as well to all of Europe: the “new European man” is the real monster. (from The subject in question By C. Christopher Soufas).

200 years after Calderon, HG Wells, in the The Island of Doctor Moreau, foretold Joseph Menegle’s experiments rather well.

Onshore genocide – The Roma Gypsies

Apart from the Jewish persecution, less known is the the persecution of the Roma Gypsy, which continues till date. In Europe, kidnapping children was considered legal for most of 1500AD-1750AD. On one condition – you had to kidnap Roma Gypsy children! More than 25,000 children kidnapped. No problem. Everybody sleeps peacefully at night. Switzerland was doing this till 1973!

Roughly, between 1500 to 1750, it was legal in Europe to hunt human beings. Yes! Just like hunting for deer in India, or hunting buffalo in Africa or fox-hunting in Britain. Yes! You could hunt human beings. As long as the humans you hunted were Roma Gypsies. In Europe you could be hung to death if you committed the crime of being born – between 1500AD-1750AD! Born as a Roma Gypsy!

Europeans, in the their age of Enlightenment and Renaissance, (1500-1750) could just pick up human slaves – yes, own them like cattle and furniture, if you found one! As long as they were Roma Gypsies. Later you could also sell them for profit!

Ship owners and captains in Europe’s Golden age, (1500-1750) could arrange galley slaves for free. No wages, no salary. You just had to feed them. Use them, abuse them, flog them, kill them, drown them. You could do anything – as long as they were Roma Gypsies.

What set off the Roma Gypsy Genocide

In 1420, a 60 year old man, blind in one eye took charge – and took on the might of the Roman Church and Roman Emperors.

Jan Zizka.

Over the next 12 months, he became completely blind. In the next 15 years, Zizka (and other Czech generals) defeated, many times, the combined armies of Germany, The Roman Church and others. His military strategy was studied for the next 500 years. Thereafter, the myth of military might of the Church was broken forever.

Jan Zizka allied himself with the Taborites (the radical Hussite wing). Zizka made Tábor in Bohemia into an armored and mobile fortress – the Wagenburgs.

Interestingly, a 100 years after the Hussite Wars, the European persecution of the Roma Gypsies began in full earnest. And during WW2, the Vatican joined with the Nazi collaborators, the Ustashe,  to extort gold and the genocide against the Roma Gyspises.

Military success

Zizka ranks with the great military innovators of all time. Zizka’s army was made up of untrained peasants and burghers (townspeople). He did not have the time or resources to train these fighters in armament and tactics of the time. Instead they used weapons like iron-tipped pikes and flails, armored farm wagons, mounted with small, howitzer type cannons.

His armored wagons, led by the Taborites, in offensive movements, broke through the enemy lines, firing as they rolled, cutting superior forces into pieces. For defense, the wagons were arranged into a tight, impregnable barrier surrounding the foot soldiers – the Wagenburg (the wagon fort), as they came to be known. The wagons also served to transport his men. Zizka thus fully initiated modern tank warfare. Zizka’s experience under various commanders was useful. At the Battle of Tannenberg (1410), Zizka fought on the Polish side , in which the famed German Teutonic Knights were defeated.

Roma Gypsy Wagon Caravan

Roma Gypsy Wagon Caravan

Coming back …

Who were the major users of the wagons in Europe then (and now?) Answer – The Roma Gypsies.

Who were the people who could pose spiritual and ecclesiastical questions to the Vatican? Answer – The Gypsies, with their Indian heritage, were not not new to spiritual dialectics (contests, discourse and debates). For instance, Mani, and his adherents, an Indic teacher of Buddhist thought, known to Christians as Manichean thought, were the nightmare for Christianity till the 15th century. When Mani called for overthrow of slavery, the Vatican at the Council of Gangra, re-affirmed its faith in slavery. European minds were occupied with the questions raised by the Hussite reformers.

Some think they (the Waldensians) had held them for centuries; some think they had learned them recently from the Taborites. If scholars insist on this latter view, we are forced back on the further question: Where did the Taborites get their advanced opinions? If the Taborites taught the Waldenses, who taught the Taborites?

Who were the people who could help the persecuted Waldensians, the Bogomils, the Cathars to escape persecution and spread out across the Europe? Answer – The Roma Gypsies – in their wagons. The same Gypsies, had earlier pioneered the Troubadour culture in the Provence Region, which provoked the Albigensian Crusade by the Vatican.

Prokop Coat Of ArmsProkop Coat Of Arms

And who was the King of the Taborites? Answer – An entire clan of leaders who called themselves as Prokop (The Shaven /Bald; The Little and The Great) were the military leaders of the Taborites.

The word and name Prokop have no meaning in any European language – except in Sanskrit, where it means vengeance, retribution, violent justice.

Mythology as History

Jan Hus initiated the Reformation in the Vatican Church. It was Jan Zizka who broke the back of Papal authority. On the back of these Czech successes, was laid the foundation of 95 Theses by Martin Luther in 1517. The British break (1533-34) with the Holy Roman Church happened due to favors by the Papal office to the Iberian Empires – in matters of trade and colonial expansion, and the impediments to divorce of Henry-VIII at the behest of the Spanish rulers.

Today, the Germans and the British are loath to be reminded about the Czech Church Reform initiatives and the defeats at the hands of the Poles and Czechs. Western historiography about the Enlightenment and Renaissance, in Britain, France and Germany, leading to the reformation is ‘mythology as history’.

Of course, the role of the Greek Orthodox Church, the Byzantine Empire in the entire Czech saga is also worth re-examining. Were the Hussite Wars, a proxy war waged by the Eastern Church against the Vatican?

Dracula, Frankenstein, Dr Jekyll and Mr.Hyde

In the 19th century came the monster story was dubbed as Gothic – and this form of story-telling matured as a craft.

A significant array of Gothic writers emerged from Ireland (from Charles Maturin, Sheridan Le Fanu, Bram Stoker, and Oscar Wilde to the contemporary writer Patrick McGrath), in a colonial situation where a Protestant minority was the colonial occupier. (from Late Victorian Gothic tales By Roger Luckhurst)

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797–1851), wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley started writing Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus, at the age of 18, and completed it one year later. First published in London, anonymously, in 1818 by small London publishing house of Harding, Mavor & Jones – after previous rejections by bigger publishers like Charles Ollier (Percy Bysshe Shelley’s publisher), and John Murray (by Byron’s publisher). The writer’s name started appearing from the second edition of 1823 onwards. The interesting aspect, lost in popular usge, is that the monster is not named – and Frankenstein was the scientist, who brought the monster to life.

In 1886, Robert Louis Stevenson’s book, The Strange Case of Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde was first published. This explored how ‘normal’ (Dr.Jekyll) human beings could become ‘evil’ (Mr.Hyde).

And in 1887, Bram Stoker, an Irish writer published his Dracula. The character of Dracula is based on Emperor Sigismund and his Order of the Dragon, who waged war against the Hussites – led by Jan Zizka. Infamous for his betrayal of Jan Hus, he sparked of the Hussite Wars, in which the Taborites (the Roma Gypsies) used wagons and gun powder for the first time in Europe. He founded a secret sect,  the “Dracul” called the Order of the Dragon.

Of course, these three are the most famous – but not the only ones. Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1871 “Carmilla“, about a lesbian vampire was another monster book of its time. An associate of Mary Shelley, John Polidori created the character of the “The Vampyre” in 1819 – on which possibly Dracula was based.

Most significantly, in 1896, was HG Well’s The Island of Doctor Moreau, which presaged Joseph Mengele – when Joseph Mengele had not even started on his higher education. A good 50 years before Joseph Mengele’s experiments were discovered by a shocked world.

The wellspring of these works is H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau. In this 1896 novel, a vivisectionist attempts to transform animals into men until the misshapen creatures revert and kill him, the forces of nature overcoming man’s civilizing artifices. From The Boys From Brazil (Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele, alive and well and cloning Hitlers at a secret lab in the Brazilian Amazon) to Jurassic Park (Richard Attenborough alive and well and cloning velociraptors), Wells’ basic formula has become familiar: an island; a Frankensteinian experiment; a Faustian scientist; something gone terribly, terribly wrong. (from Requiem for the Mad Scientist

From the 1700-1800, while Spain was in decline, for about a 100 years, Western literary field did not see too much action on the monster front. The main action was in Haiti, where zombies, the ex-murderers, the living dead became a part of the voodoo cult.

The late Victorian era was one of the most expansive phases of the empire. Britain annexed some thirty-nine separate areas around the world between 1870-1900, in competition with newly aggressive America in the Pacific or the European powers in the so-called ‘Scramble for Africa’ after the continent was divided up at the Berlin conference of 1885. (from Late Victorian Gothic tales By Roger Luckhurst)

The last of the true great monster in popular culture came from the East. Soon after WW2, as tales of Japanese atrocities started coming out and as American atrocities in Vietnam started, Godzilla came out of Japan. But a different pressure head was building up, which gave rise to a new genre – detective fiction.

Euro-Pessimism

Between 1800-1950, Western powers killed (directly or otherwise) more than 50 million people in America (the Native Americans), Africa (the Native Africans), Asia (Indians, Chinese, Arabs). This led to a situation that every other person in the West had participated in murder or massacre – unlike the few Conquistadors. Western ambiguity towards Soviet Russia on one side, Hitler on the other was itself a concern. To that add, Gandhiji’s resolute opposition to colonialism and you have a inflammable moral situation.

The deluge of blood and murder caused moral anxiety and was a matter of ethical dilemma amongst common folks. The pressure valve for this was popular fiction. Identifying murderers became a form of proxy, vicarious entertainment for ordinary folks. Enter the super detectives, who pick out the murderer from a room full of ordinary people. Enter detectives like Auguste Dupin, of ‘The Purloined Letter‘ fame, who “investigates an apparently motiveless and unsolvable double murder in the Rue Morgue.”

Murder in Popular Image

The racist imagery in Tintin.

The 'racist' imagery in Tintin.

A trend started by Edgar Allan Poe, whose first detective novel, Murders In Rue Morgue (1841) soon became an avalanche. Writers like Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple solving murders happening by the second), Georges Simenon (and his Inspector Maigret investigating brutal crimes), Ngaio Marsh (Roderick Alleyn), GK Chesterton (Father Brown), Raymond Chandler (Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe) dealt with murder. Alfred Hitchcock made horror thrillers in similar themes.

In 1887, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock series made its debut. Many of Conan Doyle’s characters came from the colonies. Many victims lived in isolated communities. Past (mis)deeds caught up. Crime, murder and malevolence hung in the air like thick smoke. Some of the stories addressed the colour prejudice. The status of England as a super-power was apparent. The intrigue and bloodshed in the India was palpable in stories like the The Sign of Four at the Pondicherry Lodge.

Tintin in Congo

Tintin in Congo

Agatha Christie’s book, filmed as Ten Little Indians, based on the book, initially released (the book) in Britain as Ten Little Niggers (later renamed as Then There None) gives the game away. Agatha Christie probably unconsciously verbalized the White desire to ensure that there should be none of the Red Indians left to tell the tale. The overt racism in Herge’s ‘Tintin in Congo’ made the world sit-up and note the pervasiveness of racism in detective fiction.

Media and academia

Jerome Delamater, Ruth Prigozy, in an essay compilation, ‘Theory and Practice of Classic Detective Fiction’, observe that Jane Marple, along with Hercule “Poirot becomes an equal opportunity detective who really believes that anyone might commit murder”. Dismissing the jaundiced view of human nature,” the writers of this book, while commenting about the detective fiction genre, do not mention slavery at all – and mention colonialism and racism once each.

One writer, Franco Moretti did half the job in book Signs Taken for Wonders: On the Sociology of Literary Forms By Franco Moretti. He writes,

“The perfect crime – the nightmare of detective fiction – is the feature-less, deindividualized crime that anyone could have committed because at this point everyone is the same.” He further writes,“Yet, if we turn to Agatha Christie, the situation is reversed.Her hundred-odd books have only one message: the criminal can be anyone …”

Detective FictionIn his entire book he does not use the words like slavery, racism, genocide, bigotry even once. The 19th century, which was based on Western bigotry, White racism, African slavery, and assorted genocides is unrecognised in Moretti’s books.

Running or hiding? Or it a case of feeling squeamish? Perhaps, a case of queasy stomach, Franco?

Another book, The Detective as Historian: History and Art in Historical Crime Fiction, by Ray Broadus Browne, Lawrence A. Kreiser does a better job. This book examines, the detective fiction genre, with some references to slavery and child prostitution.

How was this explained away

As the monsters increased, both in real life and literature, rationalizations were required. A person no less than Immanuel Kant, was pressed into service to deconstruct the ‘monster’, re-invent it and give it a positive spin.

The monster taken up by Kant in an aesthetic sense to refer to those things that exceed representation considers that the monstrous describes an entity whose life force is greater than the matter in which in which it is contained. Thus rather than something that malfunctions during the course of its production, monstrosity is associated during romanticism with “over-exuberant living matter” that extends itself beyond its natural borders in order to affect a much wider sphere. ((from The subject in question By C. Christopher Soufas).

In the twentieth century, Kant’s hypothesis finds an echo when Lord Randolph William Churchill, the ‘Bulldog’ declared

I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race has come in and taken their place. (from Minorities, peoples, and self-determination By Nazila Ghanea-Hercock, Nazila Ghanea, Alexandra Xanthaki, Patrick Thornberry)

In another instance, Churchill wrote how superior’ Arabs, imposed on the ‘inferior’ negroes.

The stronger race imposed its customs and language on the negroes. The vigour of their blood sensibly altered the facial appearance … (from The River War By Winston Churchill).

The Mystery of the Dying Detective

After de-colonisation, as mass murder went underground, the detective-murder mystery books genre faded. This category was replaced by a new theme – the axis of Corporation-Government-International Conspiracy.

The new category of popular fiction are represented by Ian Fleming, Arthur Hailey, Frederick Forsyth, Irving Wallace, Robert Ludlum, Graham Greene, John Le Carre, et al. More and more contrived, each conspiracy theory writer has been ‘inspired’ by real life incidents.

While Ludlum’s international-conspiracy-plot-CIA-FBI-KGB series have worn thin, the spookiness of Le Carre’s Absolute Friends and Constant Gardner still work as novels representing the West.

Western Twins – Anxiety and Paranoia

To develop this understanding further, there are two classes of films that I wish to draw attention to.

Malignant Nature

Jaws (the shark that eats humans), Jurassic Park (mad scientists, conspiring technicians let loose man eating dinos) Gremlins and Poltergiest (things that go bump in the night). This paranoid fear of nature (and natural laws) seems to be a result of the subterranean knowledge of the way in which ecological damage and pollution is happening. These films produced /directed by Steven Spielberg (who is incomparable because as Time Magazine says, “No one else has put together a more popular body of work”)

Illegal AliensVindictive Humans

The other is the thinly disguised hate and prejudice films against the poor and the victimised. ‘Aliens’ needs just one small change for the films idea to become clear. Instead of LV-426, Nostromo the space ship, receives a distress call from some country in South America or Africa (or India, if you prefer). The meaning is clear when you see the movie while conscious of the fact that alien is is the word the US Government uses for people from other countries.

As for the Indian churails

Coming to India, a writer notes how

Francesca Orsini identifies the detective  novel as one of the genres that ‘was brought into India ‘ready-made’ without the intellectual and historical substratus that had generated it in Europe’ This total lack of any indigenous roots, one could argue, makes detective  fiction a colonial imposition, and its adoption by Indian writers, clearly a case of copy-cat reproduction wherein ‘black-pens’ write ‘white-texts’ that have no identity of their own. (from Postcolonial postmortems – crime fiction from a transcultural perspective By Christine Matzke, Susanne Muehleisen, page 88).

How very true!

Ms.Christine and Susanne, you have hit the nail right in the centre of head! Your aim is truer than you imagine. Whatta shot! Though I dont know if you have hit the nail deep enough – deep into the heart of the darkness, which gave rise to these genres of Western ‘literature’.

The Indian churail (or pisach or djinni) faces similar problems as the Scandinavian myling or the Er Gui of China: they don’t translate well outside of their culture.

India may have had local incidents, where an oppressive zamindar may have created a market for horror stories and monsters – but without genocide, slavery and massacres to fall back on, popular imagination simply does not have the fodder to create ghouls and monsters.

And that is reason for Indian churails being rare – not lack of literary ability in Indians.

Military success

Zizka ranks with the great military innovators of all time. Zizka’s army was made up of untrained peasants and burghers (townspeople). He did not have the time or resources to train these fighters in armament and tactics of the time. Instead they used weapons like iron-tipped pikes and flails, armored farm wagons, mounted with small, howitzer type cannons.

His armored wagons, led by the Taborites, in offensive movements, broke through the enemy lines, firing as they rolled, cutting superior forces into pieces. For defense, the wagons were arranged into a tight, impregnable barrier surrounding the foot soldiers – the Wagenburg (the wagon fort), as they came to be known. The wagons also served to transport his men. Zizka thus fully initiated modern tank warfare. Zizka’s experience under various commanders was useful. At the battle of Tannenberg (1410), Zizka fought on the Polish side , in which the famed German Teutonic Knights were defeated.

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