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Contemporary painting and Indian politics
Pioneer Editorial, 2 June 2007
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Abusing freedom

The Pioneer Edit Desk

Bogus 'art' is for trash cans

It is not surprising that some professors of the Faculty of Fine Arts of Maharaja Sayajirao University have attempted to defend art student Chandramohan Srilamanthula's controversial works of 'art' by describing the university officials who took action against the student and his dean as "visually illiterate". <b>It may be recalled that Chandramohan's 'creations', which included blasphemous depictions of Jesus Christ and Durga, recently caused a storm of protest for denigrating the sacred.</b> The professors have astonishingly characterised the works as symbolic of the so-called creative urge. <b>Thus, for example, they have found in the image of a defiled Christ a symbol of his suffering and transmutation. Few will dispute with the contention that works of art are open to varied interpretations.</b> At the same time, it can hardly be that the student in question or his professors could at any time have been unaware of the religious sensibilities of the wider community or that these particular works may be found deeply offensive by many to their religious values. Surely, these 'heroes of free expression' cannot be so insulated from the society they live in as not to have understood its notions of the sacred and the profane. <b>This is precisely why believers are of the view that Chandramohan's 'art' is a deliberate act of transgression, meant to provoke and insult. This is not to suggest that the right to freedom of expression should be curbed in any manner. But no responsible citizen can presume this right allows unfettered licence to insult or hurt religious sentiments and faith. </b>The law provides for punishing those who choose to flaunt licence as freedom.

Our Constitution, typical of such laws, enables the placement of reasonable restrictions on the right to freedom of expression in the interest of public order, and this finds expression in other laws such as the penal code. Artists and their creations are not exempt from these laws, artistic freedom notwithstanding. <b>Admittedly, art and artists need to explore the unconventional and stretch the boundaries of imagination - and in doing so, they do help us to think and grow. The darkest of images can be rendered in the most sophisticated of styles. There are innumerable examples of bleak themes being rendered on canvas, carved in stone and cast in metal without a shade of perversity.</b> Chandramohan has ignored this imperative and stolen the idea of blasphemy by defiling Christ from other equally contemptible charlatans posing as 'artists' with the purpose of shocking viewers and stunning believers. <b>He and his defenders mouthing bogus reasons must remember that it is not necessary in the name of artistic freedom to pull down or destroy the cultural symbols that have held societies together for millennia. It would have made sense if the professors who are trying to justify Chandramohan's transgression had denounced the man for what he is. But that would be expecting the devil to quote the scripture.</b>



<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Art for God's sake

Chandan Mitra, Editor

The disinformation machinery of the <b>Indian Left </b>is probably more ruthlessly efficient than anything wartime Nazi propagandist Goebbles could have dreamed of. <b>The effortless ease with which they disseminate half-truths and thereafter construct gigantic myths around these is something to be marvelled at.</b> Despite their disdain for all things Indian, such as our age-old epics, they have picked up significant lessons from the Ashwathama story and are busy putting it into practice virtually every day. <b>That they diabolically employ sympathetic TV channels for multiplier effect besides infiltrating the English-language print medium through the JNU route adds to the efficacy of their political message.</b>

<b>The latest armoury in the Left's arsenal has been derived from Gujarat, a State that worries them immensely because of the sheer popularity of its Chief Minister and the BJP's acknowledged sway over public discourse there.</b> In recent weeks, they first attempted to destabilise the State's administrative machinery and derail the nation's anti-terrorist game plan through wildly exaggerated reports aimed at vilifying the police, investigative agencies and the Modi Government. <b>After their cause celebre, "innocent victim" Sohrabuddin (allegedly felled by a communalised, trigger-happy, Dirty Harry breed of policemen) turned out to be a notorious criminal besides being a terrorist gunrunner and underworld conduit, the Left-liberals switched affection to his murdered wife.</b> I am not defending whatever was allegedly done to Kauser Bi, but it worries me that sections of the media behave virtually as spokespersons for terrorists who, understandably, are out to demoralise the security forces. Has so much concern ever been showered on victims of terror? For example, about families ruined by the Sarojini Nagar or Mumbai train blasts, including innocent children orphaned by the terrorists' insane bloodlust? <b>Wasn't former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao right when he commented in despair, 'It seems in this country only terrorists have human rights'?</b>

Just when the Sohrabuddin-Kauser story began to run out of steam, <b>the Left found a godsend in the Vadodara art exhibition and the arrest of one Chandra Mohan for painting vulgar pictures of Durga, Saraswati and Jesus Christ. That Gujarat Christians were a vocal component in the petition against the exhibition was neatly overlooked by the Delhi media, which predictably, focused on the BJP's alleged role in getting the exhibition shut down and dispatching the wannabe MF Hussain behind bars.</b> Three points are worth noting here. First, the agitated townsfolk that stormed the MS University campus was led by MLA Nitin Jain, strictly speaking, not a Hindu. Then, outraged Christians complained to the State Human Rights Commission, apart from filing a plaint in Court demanding action against the blasphemous portrayal of Christ. Third, unlike what the Left propaganda machine got everybody to initially swallow, it was not a "private" display of art works. Admittedly, this exhibition of wanton vulgarity was not mounted in some art gallery, but it was widely publicised nevertheless, attracting hundreds of people including many art dealers. Just because an exhibition is held within a university campus does not make it a "private" show.

<b>Most importantly, ordinary people who visited the exhibition complained to politicians, and some went further to lodge a PIL. In response, the local court ordered the exhibition's closure and punitive action against those who allowed it to be staged.</b> Accordingly, the Vice-Chancellor suspended the Dean, a Keralite widely known to have pro-saffron political sympathies but unable to withstand the pressure brought upon him by the Left wing students. In other words, whatever happened in Vadodara was in accordance with the court's directions - a point completely overlooked by the mainstream, non-Gujarati media because they received only the Left-jholawala version of the "infringement" of the right to free expression.

<b>In my view the guardians of public morality did a disservice by getting the student arrested</b> for that drew the Left-liberal media to Vadodara in droves and enabled the CPI(M)'s front organisation, Sahmat, to launch a frenzied campaign among artists and intellectuals. Clearly the party hoped to make up for the damage done to its image by the brutality of its cadre and captive policemen in Nandigram last month. Half-truths were peddled as if they were gospel, which predictably had the effect desired by the Communists of getting the apolitical urban middle class disturbed by visions of a Hindu right on the rampage. <b>The controversy also assisted the Left to neatly resurrect the cause of absconder MF Hussain by dovetailing the Vadodara paintings with the celebrity artist's offences. This exerted sufficient pressure on the higher judiciary to stay a lower court order to attach Hussain's properties for non-appearance to face charges. The Left projection of this so-called persecution of artistic creativity neatly sidestepped the law, which clearly prescribes punitive action against persons proven to have promoted enmity between communities.</b> As long as such a law exists in the statutes, nobody can be faulted for approaching the courts against Hussain's objectionable paintings, nor can the judiciary be pilloried for ordering action against the artist for his persistent and deliberate refusal to appear before the court.

<b>But there is a larger issue that goes beyond the arrest of an art student, vandalisation of movie halls screening Deepa Mehta's films (which are gigantic flops anyway) or the supposed persecution of Hussain. It is disturbing that the vocal Left-liberal media manipulators have succeeded in bestowing such people iconic status, which in turn results in the proliferation of perverted art.</b> Hindu gods and goddesses, age-old social customs and other things revered by most Indians have become targets of vilification and desecration. The aim is to make a mockery of the Hindu social structure, Hindu systems of worship and systematically erode the foundations of the Hindu faith. To put a veneer of secularism on this objective, <b>Jesus Christ is periodically dragged in as a smokescreen to hide the true purpose. Left-wing plotters assume that the usually law-abiding Christian community will not raise Cain, be it the staging of the controversial 'Jesus Christ Superstar' or scandalous portrayals in works of art by Vadodara students. Interestingly, the Left-liberals never put forward the "right to creativity" argument over depiction of Islamic motifs. Would somebody at Vadodara dare paint a likeness of the Prophet? Even during the latest controversy deafening silence was maintained on the issue of the Danish cartoons that, rightly, outraged Muslim opinion throughout the world.</b>

Is there a way in which this conspiracy to blaspheme the Hindu faith can be countered? I believe there is a pressing need to enact a stern law against blasphemy in India that penalises all efforts to disparage religion and religious icons, irrespective of faith. Nobody, not even the tallest intellectual or celebrated artist, has the right to purposely hurt anybody's religious sentiment by exhibiting nude or copulating gods. None stops them from painting voluptuous women or male hunks in various disagreeable forms and enough models are available to serve their purpose. But, for God's sake, don't use our gods to satiate your intellectual perversions.

One more from same paper.

<b>Facts are no longer sacred</b>
Kanchan Gupta
My aim is to show the purity, truth and reality in human beings using the images of god and goddesses. I did not mean to hurt anybody's senntiments," Chandramohan Srilamanthula, who has been at the centre of a raging storm over his blasphemous depiction of Jesus Christ and Durga, recently told The Hindu in an interview. Unrepentant about his gross misdeed which is punishable under the law of the land, he goes on to add, "I want to know what is wrong with my paintings as my concept is altogether different." He is either too dumb to understand what is wrong with wilfully hurting religious sensibilities and mocking at faith or too criminally callous to be concerned about society at large, leave alone the law of the land.

There is a third possibility. Chandramohan feels emboldened by the support he has received from Page 3 libertines masquerading as Left-liberals and couldn't give a damn about the hurt he has caused to believing Christians and Hindus. Therefore, it is not surprising that he plans to settle down in either Mumbai or Delhi - a wish he has expressed to the CPI(M)'s unofficial organ - where he will no doubt be welcomed into a dark world where perversity defies imagination.

<b>It is galling that Chandramohan, a student at the Faculty of Fine Arts of Maharaja Sayajirao University in Baroda, should talk of "purity" and "my concept". There is nothing "pure" about denigrating sacred icons, nor were the sacrilegeous depictions his "concept". He stole the idea of defiling Christ from 'artists' with sick minds like Thierry der Cordier and Andres Serrano. He is not only guilty of blasphemy, but also of plagiarism. He is a charlatan and deserves neither sympathy nor comfort, let alone support.</b>

Upstarts like him, however, should not really upset us; it would be wrong to expect responsible behaviour from those who believe irresponsibility is their birthright, never mind the evil consequences. <b>What is truly upsetting is the role of the media in the entire episode. Ever since the controversy broke on May 9, newspapers and 24x7 news channels that have been passionately espousing Chandramohan's cause under the garb of upholding freedom of expression, have made it a point not to provide details of his 'art' that have so exercised the faithful. Instead, a concerted effort is on to prevent the shocking crudity of Chandramohan's work from becoming public, so that the protest appears as unfounded and uncalled for. The Hindu, which has published Chandramohan's interview, is yet to publish details of his depiction of Christ on the Cross</b>, his penis dripping semen into a commode, and fish feeding on the semen. Neither has it bothered to mention that Chandramohan's 'Durga Mata' is a grotesque caricature of a naked woman giving birth to a child.

<b>Worse, charges are being hurled at the protesters without offering any evidence to back them up.</b> For instance, it is being claimed that there was "vandalism" at the Faculty of Fine Arts - described by its now suspended dean, SK Panniker, as his "personal bedroom" where he can do anything he wishes - and that Chandramohan was "roughed up". During a recent television debate on the issue, in which I was invited to participate, I requested the pretentious oaf who hurled these allegations for specific details. He huffed and he puffed and then he screamed, "We must raise our voice against the vandalism." What vandalism, I asked him again. "Vandalism! Vandalism!" he shouted back, sounding frighteningly similar to a demented man. The anchor contributed his mite by insisting that a "mob" had stormed the Faculty of Fine Arts. Since the protesters included Church elders, I suppose he was referring to them. It doesn't matter that there was no mob on May 9.

During the debate, one of the participants, who heads an NGO, slyly suggested if Chandramohan has hurt religious sensibilities, then we should let the law take its own course as there are provisions in the Indian Penal Code - Sections 153A and 295 - to deal with such issues. Later, he turned around and insisted that the police had no business to arrest the offender while the pretentious oaf, by now frothing at the mouth, chanted, "You can't arrest a student! You can't arrest a student!" So, how does the law deal with such infringements of the law? Or is Chandramohan above the law?

<b>Obviously taking its cue from the Indian media's outrageous suppression of the truth about Chandramohan's intentional act of blasphemy and the sinister manner in which jholawallah libertines have been allowed to hijack the issue without their allegations being contested, The New York Times has run a story on how art is being censored in India.</b> Headlined 'At a University in India, New Attacks on an Old Style: Erotic Art', the report begins with a dramatic flourish: "It's a heady time for Indian contemporary art. Never before has it fetched such extravagant prices and acclaim abroad. Never before have Indians at home been so prosperous as to support a proliferation of galleries, exhibitions and even investment funds devoted to art. But art and its inevitable transgressions continue to provoke fury in Hindu nationalist quarters, leading stalwarts to shut down an exhibition, drive an artist out of the country or, in the latest case, send a young art student to jail for a final-exam project deemed offensive..."

So, to use a worn out cliche, the cat is out of the bag. <b>This entire campaign of calumny, this Goebbelsian propaganda, is not about protecting freedom of expression but denigrating 'Hindu nationalists'. Here's yet another opportunity to indulge in Hindu-bashing by taking recourse to the usual subterfuges, lies and half-truths, by quoting individuals out of context, by telling only that part of the story which seamlessly fits into the agenda of denouncing that India which refuses to concede ground to those inspired by White urban trash culture who believe indulging in unbridled hedonism is demonstration of fidelity to liberalism.</b> Those who do not pander to their perverse worldview or accept their right to decide what is socially acceptable and unacceptable, or, for that matter, what is high art and creativity, are to be labelled 'Hindu nationalists'. <b>The New York Times, of course, fails to mention that 'Hindu nationalists' are enraged as much by Chandramohan's denigration of Durga as his blasphemous rendition of Jesus Christ. Such omission, you see, fits into the larger pattern.</b>

<!--QuoteBegin-k.ram+May 30 2007, 05:04 PM-->QUOTE(k.ram @ May 30 2007, 05:04 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->Could go in any number of threads....

Pioneer - Baroda - 29May2007

<b>Icons of Infidels</b>
Sandhya Jain

When the tele-serial Mahabharata captivated the nation with the power of performance and integrity of presentation, I noted that the forceful dialogues which captured the epic’s philosophical truths and psychological insights with unsurpassed perfection were penned by renowned Leftist, late Dr. Rahi Masoom Raza.

Like Muslim artisans who chisel murtis for Hindu temples, Dr.  Raza had imbibed his Indian heritage in totality, studying its symbols, meanings, and deeper truths in the course of a long intellectual journey. Nothing else can explain the honesty of the words that captured the spirit of the epic and gripped the imagination of the people. Not since Mr. Mohammad Ali Jinnah ruptured the social and political fabric has a Muslim so mesmerized this nation.

Yet Dr. Raza was modest about his immense contribution to modern Hindu consciousness. Though his religious and political affiliations did not permit genuflection before a larger Indic identity, he sidelined both to delve the depths of Hindu metaphysics and give us a Hindi Mahabharata. This is not possible with a superficial acquaintance with the epic; the narrative hints at knowledge of Hindu mysticism.

Dr. Raza’s reverential treatment of another faith contrasts sharply with that of his co-religionists Mr. Salman Rushdie and Mr. M.F. Hussain, and Vadodara art student Chandramohan, whose religious affiliation has been carefully concealed by Hindu-baiters. The three exemplify intra- and inter-religious iconoclasm, backed by powerful religio-corporate interests. Mr. Rushdie received the West’s largest literary advance for an unreadable novel whose highpoint was the equation of the Prophet’s wives with brothel inmates. <b>As Islam lacks the concept of a Holy Family and the wives do not rank as religious entities in its theology, the outraged ummah was caught in an unenviable bind.</b> Rushdie hit a vulnerable spot without technically committing blasphemy; he and his sponsors laughed all the way to the bank.

<b>M.F. Hussain has made execrable paintings of Hindu Devis and is enjoying the fame of notoriety, even as mediocre brush-holders promote their own careers while defending his ‘creative freedom.’</b> Mercifully, the somnolent Hindu society is waking up to the perils of letting this cultural iconoclasm go unchecked, and legal interventions have prompted Hussain to transfer his assets to his son and stay out of India. Quite a lot of pragmatism for a supposedly bindaas artist!

Actually, Hussain has been allowed too much liberty (read license) because of the Nehruvian quest for sarkari Mussalmans. <b>He once made some “flattering” panels of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, which were installed in Parliament’s Central Hall.</b> The late Piloo Mody found the panels tasteless and objected; Mrs. Gandhi must have seen merit in his view, as the panels disappeared; only Hussain can tell us what happened to them.

<b>The Nehruvian ethos – specifically Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru’s quest for a Soviet-style new Indian with a ‘scientific temper’ and anti-Hindu orientation </b>– is still alive and kicking. It can be seen in the disrespect “reputed” artists display for Hindu cultural sensitivities, while vying for State patronage. Though some high profile corporate wives have taken to promoting art recently, for decades after independence, only Government departments gave artists commissions, foreign tours, and national performances.

Even today, all artists network furiously with babus with Departmental budgets, to promote their “creativity.” I challenge artists defending the disgraceful Mr. Hussain and Chandramohan to <b>make a full disclosure of the extent of State patronage received by them over the decades.</b> SAHMAT should tell us how much funding, if any, derives from sources other than the Union Government. <b>A PIL asking the Government of India to explain its anti-Hindu ethos could be interesting. </b>

In Vadodara, Maharaja Sayajirao University student Chandramohan drew vulgar paintings of Hindu deities, as well as one of Christ. While local pastors objected and joined a protest rally on May 9, both the All India Christian Council and the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India refused to support them, reducing the issue to ‘saffron’ opposition to the “purity” of iconoclastic perversion. <b>Chandramohan’ s language in an interview with a friendly newspaper virtually echoes Pope Benedict XVI’s pronouncement that the native populations of South America were yearning for the faith that drove them to the verge of extinction!</b>

The Dera Sacha Sauda controversy that erupted in the wake of the Vadodara incident has interesting lessons on religious identity and cultural sensitivities. The Dera leaped into national limelight when its chief, Baba Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh, was portrayed wearing a dress that Sikhs associate with Guru Gobind Singh, and distributing ‘amrit’ in contravention of Sikh maryada. Initially some analysts viewed the controversy as political mischief, but there is another aspect. 

Hindus routinely dress up as deities at festivals. Sikhs shun images, hence few realize they have a well developed religious iconography around the ten Gurus, depicted pictorially. Thus, when the Baba appeared in a dress reminiscent of the tenth Guru, Sikhs saw it as impersonation (becoming the living image of) and took offence. The Dera expressed regret, followed by an apology, but refused to close down, as demanded by the Akal Takht. It is popular among marginalized groups and should not be needlessly antagonized. A via media could be a declaration that the Dera is a Hindu, not Sikh, organization, and hence not subject to Akal Takht diktat.

I may add here that I do not shun the use of force to command respect for one’s views when public debate is one-sided. Moreover, while Hindu ethos has always separated religious and political authority, religion existed in the public realm. Modern attempts to banish faith into the individual domain are ill-concealed moves to clear the public arena for the domination of one creed, depriving others of agency.

Finally, Union Minister Vyalar Ravi is brazenly attacking Guruvayur priests for purifying the temple after his family worshipped there. The Minister’s wife is Christian, and non-Hindus are not welcome in the mandir. Mr. Ravi could have avoided controversy by declaring that neither his son nor grandson is baptized; the fact that he did not do so suggests the family is Christian. Their insistence upon worshipping the icons of infidels is baffling, <b>but worse is the assault on temple tradition by insisting upon reforms to bring non-believers at par with bhaktas.</b> Hindu society needs to erect higher barricades against aggressive unbelievers trying to invoke State power against the believers.

<!--QuoteBegin-ramana+Jun 2 2007, 12:52 AM-->QUOTE(ramana @ Jun 2 2007, 12:52 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin--><!--QuoteBegin--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Art for God's sake

Chandan Mitra, Editor

Is there a way in which this conspiracy to blaspheme the Hindu faith can be countered? <b>I believe there is a pressing need to enact a stern law against blasphemy in India that penalises all efforts to disparage religion and religious icons, irrespective of faith. Nobody, not even the tallest intellectual or celebrated artist, has the right to purposely hurt anybody's religious sentiment by exhibiting nude or copulating gods.</b> None stops them from painting voluptuous women or male hunks in various disagreeable forms and enough models are available to serve their purpose. But, for God's sake, don't use our gods to satiate your intellectual perversions.
<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->[right][snapback]69657[/snapback][/right]<!--QuoteEnd--></div><!--QuoteEEnd-->Checkmate. Good move by the loonies like Chandramohan ('charredmoon' hereafter), they've now got sensible people like Chandan Mitra cornered into suggesting anti-blasphemy laws.
But there's no need yet to imitate christoislamism and start voicing ideas on limitations to freedom of expression by introducing 'blasphemy laws'. We're not living in the dark christian ages or in sharia. Not yet, at any rate.

Next to that, such laws will only be to the advantage of salamis and christos who have always been free to abuse (and have indeed abused) our symbols; but now their own iconography will lawfully be safe from any counter-insults. For another, it's exactly what the international and local English language media is hoping for: proof that the 'evil Hindoo fundamentalists' are inhibiting freedom of speech/criticism of Hindoooooootvaaaaa.

The solution to this particular Charredmoon case is to send him and just his offensive depiction of an alleged 'jeebus' off to tour the US - the bible belt in particular. Let's see how hot he is over there. <!--emo&Big Grin--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/biggrin.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='biggrin.gif' /><!--endemo--> No bodyguards necessary, mind. There won't be many 'Hindoo fundamentalists' there, so it's unnecessary. Of course the open-minded American christos will take good care of him.

MFH and this dweeb and others keep depicting what they claim are 'Hindu Godesses'. They can say all they like, but it's clear there's only Ayesha/Khadija/other wives of mohammed and charredmoon's girlfriend to be seen in their images ...

Just a thought. A visitor to the Mumbai police department should make matters clear to the general public by subtitling MFH's paintings of nude women with the title: 'Ayesha' and 'Khadija'. Not everyone of the common populace is an art connaisseur after all, some of us need to have images clearly titled to know what MFH is trying to depict. Of course, MFH being a salami (one can easily be communist and salami, just like there are many christos who are communists in India and elsewhere - the ideologies are not mutually exclusive!), his religion would never have allowed him to paint Hindu deities. It's obvious then to any onlooker to figure out who he had in mind when he made his drawings: his subconscious wanted a way to express the esteemed islamic women without getting in the way of the fatwa machine. Hindus ought to help him out of his self-censorship by labelling his paintings with the appropriate character names as he had himself intended, because he is clearly too afraid to come out with the truth himself.

Personally, I think it's rather distasteful to thus depict khadija and ayesha ... but what can I say when a salami himself wants to draw them in such a fashion? Must not stand in the way of islami mental progress. So more power to him then, as long as we can label his works correctly when they're done.
Furore over sketches depicting Prophet Mohammed in the nude found in M S University campus on Wednesday night spilled over on the streets here on Friday afternoon.

We need to look at this issue of contemporary painting and Indian politics through the prism of modernism and India. Modernism was a concept developed in Western Europe from the 16th to 19th centuries over a period of 300 years to create a new industrial society casting of the old agrarian society. And this allowed the Western Europe to march ahead of the rest of the World. In order for Modernism to succeed there have to be at least two conditions- Independence and Innovation. All Western European countries had these two conditions.

In contrast the "Second"(Russia and Eastern Europe) and "Third" world had three handicaps- time compression, colonialism and imitation. While Western Europe had about 300 years to achieve modernism these two groups had less than a blink of the day. They moderinised by fiat/dictat as soon as Colonial rule ended or monarchies were displaced. Again there was no Independence to learn and change the tack of modernism as the two groups were dependent on the First World in political, economic and cultural ways. The third handicap is imitation. The intellectuals in the two groups are imitative instead of innovative. This is what causes the most strain as they seek to force feed an alien way over the rest of their people without giving time for the changes to take effect.
The imitative nature of modernism in India can be seen right on this thread where the artists have been accused of plagiarism and imitating thier foreign inspirations.
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->In the Waiting-Room of History
Amit Chaudhuri

Review of Provincialising Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference by Dipesh Chakrabarty

The 'first in Europe, then elsewhere' paradigm that Chakrabarty speaks of - what is now the developmental paradigm - is what made the process of modernisation in non-Western countries seem to many, European and non-European, like mimicry. 'We pretended to be real, to be learning, to be preparing ourselves for life, we mimic men of the New World,' Naipaul's narrator, Ralph Singh, says in The Mimic Men; Chakrabarty's friend, the exuberantly impenetrable Homi Bhabha, has an essay on mimicry and colonialism, 'Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse', that has long been part of every postcolonial primer.<b> In it he tries, using Lacan and referring in passing to Naipaul's great, intractable novel, to complicate and even rescue the idea of mimicry, to make it subversive: mimicry undermines the coloniser's gaze by presenting him with a distorted reflection, rather than a confirmation, of himself.</b> Some of the essay's formulations about mimicry - 'almost the same but not quite'; 'almost the same but not white' - are close enough to the kinds of problem Chakrabarty addresses. Once again, though, as with Said, I think Chakrabarty's work gives us a richer, more penetrating language to deal with modernity and the colonial encounter. There's a barely concealed utopian rage in Bhabha against the compulsion towards mimicry, and also an unspoken nostalgia for a world in which mimicry isn't necessary. For Chakrabarty, 'Europe' is a notion that has many guises, and these guises have both liberated us and limited us, whichever race we belong to. There is, therefore, a valuable element of self-criticism in his study: to provincialise Europe is not to vanquish or conquer it - that is, provincialising Europe isn't a utopian gesture - but a means of locating and subjecting to interrogation some of the fundamental notions by which we define ourselves.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
Artistry serves same function as sport in modernity, that is, to simulate a sense of subjectivity and control in the consumer populace. Frankly, it is quite a good thing that sport has been so casual in its application in India, in comparison to the regimented ranks of communist countries which delight in technique's potential to deliver from oppression. Every two bit casteist is plugging for his own caste man without regards to "merit". every Bengali for the Bengali on the team, etc. It is impossible to forge true modernity from the caste material of India. This is why Ellul makes a specific execption for India in his opus. Art, sport, etc basically allow for the (controlled) exposition of extra-technical impulses. Jati is outside this control; hence the concerted attacks on indian caste.
Advocating blasphemy laws is nuts, just paint mo nude and call it freedom of expression every time this happens and everyone will shut up, some Hindus have evidently learnt to stop bleating like sheep and have started to do the same with muhammad and muslims under "freedom of expression", those Hindus who cry are losers, I commend everyone who stuck those nude pics of Muhammad on walls and Kailash Tiwari for his pics portraying Muslims in unflattering terms because that is the only way the double standards of secularists will be exposed.
MF Hussain may have tried to suprress the so called revivalist school of Raja Ravi Verma.

A new kind of narrative based on hindu themes in comics is already underway. and will influence hindu iconography of the future in youngsters' minds. <!--emo&Big Grin--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/biggrin.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='biggrin.gif' /><!--endemo--> Remember that these are just a beginning, and are not fully Indian.

Check the offerings in comics from Virgin comics ( http://www.virgincomics.com ).

Especially the series on "Devi", "Ramayana Reborn", "Sadhu" and "snakewoman". IMHO better art for $2.99 than MF Hussain's vulgarly expensive scrawls! <!--emo&Smile--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/smile.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='smile.gif' /><!--endemo-->

You can read inside couple of these comics at:


and few pages at

<img src='http://comicsmedia.ign.com/comics/image/article/712/712865/virgin-comics-20060615032612405.jpg' border='0' alt='user posted image' />
<!--QuoteBegin-Ashok Kumar+Jun 4 2007, 01:08 AM-->QUOTE(Ashok Kumar @ Jun 4 2007, 01:08 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->A new kind of narrative based on hindu themes in comics is already underway. and will influence hindu iconography of the future in youngsters' minds. <!--emo&Big Grin--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/biggrin.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='biggrin.gif' /><!--endemo-->  Remember that these are just a beginning, and are not fully Indian. 

Check the offerings in comics from Virgin comics ( http://www.virgincomics.com ).
[right][snapback]69736[/snapback][/right]<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->US is doing what Japan's been doing for a decade: bringing in Hindu and other mythology into their comics and animations. There was a series called Arjuna in Japan - futuristic sci-fi about a girl and her bow fighting 'Asuras': aliens. Then before that there was another Hindu-named movie, and another called Heroic Legends of Arislan about the Persian Shahnameh.
Problem is that after Arjuna, lots of people in the west started thinking it was a girl's name and that Asuras were aliens.... But that's okay: its main target was Japanese viewers who already know a lot about other cultures or have an interest in finding out - I'm not worried about them. They know where playful fiction ends and the facts begin.
But people in the US watch a movie set in some faux-history and think it is historically accurate (examples abound, like Troy, which tried its parasitic best to murder its 'inspiration' the Illiad).

Spoilsport that I am, I'm worried that the overly muscular blue dude who looks like he has no brain is indeed going to "influence the Hindu iconography of the future in youngsters' minds". And that it might not be much of a good thing. I think this blue hulk looks scary and, unlike the green one, is not endearing. That's in spite of the initial confidence imbued by the 'Deepak Chopra' mention on the cover.
'Rama' (is it?) is starting to look more Oryan with each new depiction. Why not go all the way and give him blue eyes, blond hair and dub him 'Rambo'? Please do.
(Nice bow on the front cover by the way, looks like someone plagiarised from the cover of 'To Green Angel Tower'. Or even John Howe's latest renderings for visual inspiration for the LOTR movies - am referring to the Legolas and Gimli painting he made.)
And Devi doesn't look Indian either, besides looking like a stand-in for Lara Croft. And the tagline 'Between the divine and the diabolical ... there is devi' is also a good ambiguity to pass on to next generations.
The storylines are as useful in preserving or retelling the existing rich body of Indian works as '300' was in its accuracy. It's surprising how many young people actually think 300 was a fair and faithful depiction. Scary thought.

Next up is the problem that, like the titles and characters in DC and Marvel's Comics, our characters and titles will be copyrighted. As will the 'blue hero with the bow'. It's not enough that they exploit our literature to tell stories because they've exhausted their imaginations. No. They have to mangle them, and tell and present them badly too.

Now if Y Kawajiri and team animated the Ramayanam the way he did VHD 2 (and stuck to the story) - I'd be the first in line to see it.

In the Donar graphic novels I worked on (late primary to high school), we stuck to the correct descriptions, the correct settings, and my friend - who did most of the research and writing - only expanded storylines by adding things that stuck to the spirit of the original. Donar was valorous, friendly, likeable and goodlooking - instant appeal. And oh yeah, he was Godly. My friend didn't dilly-dally around with that: the main character was not some mere superhero or something. He was the <i>God</i> Donar.
His adventures for the comics included well-known ones, obscure ones and ones made up (but that could have happened with the real Thor, being consistent with existing story lines).

The thing about creating derivative works of cherished ancient stories is to be true to the originals and present the same eternal messages for younger generations, so that they lose nothing in translation (in the new versions). You try to provide and derive the same visions of the Gods as people held before you, or one that's consistent with those visions. Be creative within that rich inheritance for expression. (When you create your own mythology you can use your imagination to the full.) The famous 80s Japanese-French animation 'Ulysses 31' is the Odyssey set in the 31st century and it is beautifully true to the integrity of the characters and events of the Greek epic.
In a recent local retelling of the Greek historical stories for youngsters, the illustrations I and others contributed still fall in line with traditional iconography and have not caused any offence amongst Greeks or others. One can tell it's Artemis and not Lara Croft for instance, and that it's Ares and not the Hulk or Ahnuld.

Some may cheer this new development by Virgin Comics' entry into Indian Puranas, but I find it disheartening.

I went through similar thoughts. But I realized that given that these are produced by a non indian company and primarily for a non indian crowd, it is actually a positive development. It may be a harbinger of truly indian comics based on true hinduism, and not just like amar-chitra-katha but more ambitious and creative. The animation Hanuman was a faint beginning in the world of indian animation. The kind of imagery used in these new comics will inspire a much more creative and powerful animations I think.

The point is that this particular stream of narrative, even though not fully faithful to hindu tradition, is far better than what Wendy's spawn at Univ Chicago divinity school and other places, churn out.

In these comics Rama is a hero and Devi is a heroine, even though much more rajasic than sattwic. But that is better than the tamasic or evil portrayals of hindu icons that is the current flavour in american academia. Over time sattwic portrayals may be generated, possibly from within India. The challenge would be to maintain the sattwic nature of the divine icons, while still having enough "action" to keep comics-lovers hooked. I don't think that is unsurmountable though.
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->A new kind of narrative based on hindu themes in comics is already underway. and will influence hindu iconography of the future in youngsters' minds. biggrin.gif Remember that these are just a beginning, and are not fully Indian. <!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

Our puranas offers so much material that the West has not seen. It would be change from the Greek/Roman mythologies; and could well be incorporated in the SCi-Fi realm.

One of my son's (and mine heee hee) favorite is Avatar: The Last Airbender Except that Avatar is an amalgamation of vast eastern culture, not just Indian.

added: I belong to the camp that would cheer this development.
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->far better than what Wendy's spawn at Univ Chicago divinity school and other places, churn out.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->Thoroughly agree with this.
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->But that is better than the tamasic or evil portrayals of hindu icons that is the current flavour in american academia.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->Tamasic is too kind a word to apply to them. Evil is all that's required.

Think I am starting to understand your point: you are proposing that however poor these comics may be in representing Hinduism, at least they will give western kids an alternative and <i>somewhat</i> more positive vision of it, compared to the ueber-lies they were fed in Religion Class. And that if these comics catch on, at least western children won't persecute Hindu children for following the 'evil Hindooo religion'. That is quite possible, and would definitely be a good outcome.
And Hindu children in the US won't grow up to be more self-loathing. (Although they'd not have learnt anything about Hinduism from the comics either, besides having to unlearn a lot of the fictions.)

Still, have more complaints to lodge against the comics themselves:
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->In these comics Rama is a hero and Devi is a heroine, even though much more rajasic than sattwic.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd--><i>Tamasic</i> I'd say - ignorance and misinformation.
I looked at every single drawing at that link. See the ones on here and this one for instance. They look positively evil, not to mention ultra-ugly. That's not Devi, who is the very definition of beauty and good.

Christomissionaries will have a field day saying 'look at how evil the false gods of the Hindoooos are'. And then they'll point to the gratuitous gore - battles and blood being devoid of all meaning in these comics - as proof for how 'Calee is evil'. <!--emo&Sad--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/sad.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='sad.gif' /><!--endemo-->
Instead of using the opportunity to set the record straight, such images in these comics look to perpetuate the stereotype, from what I get from the visuals.

(Oooh, looks like they ripped off Yuriko/Deathstrike from X-Men here.)

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->One of my son's (and mine heee hee) favorite is Avatar: The Last Airbender Except that Avatar is an amalgamation of vast eastern culture, not just Indian.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->They play that here also. It's a poor attempt to imitate the indomitable Japanese animation. But at least the creators leave the setting in the East instead of appropriating that too, as others in the US have done. From the two episodes I've seen, I like the storylines.

I agree with you. Also my usage of word "rajasic" to describe the comics is not a complete description. The closest word I can find is the "vital" as used by Sri Aurobindo.

The word "vital" as used by Sri Aurobindo corresponds with "prANa" or the life-force. It is the force of life but is also prone to its wants, desires, angers, passions, and a penchant for drama and control. Just as taittirIya-upanishad says that there is a vital-sheath (prANamaya-kosha) that all humans possess, Aurobindo also mentions that there is a certain individuality in us which is dominated by prANa, he calls it the "vital-being" in us. We have other individualities too such as "mental-being" (manomaya-kosha) and the "physical being" (annamaya-kosha). The individuality that survives through rebirth is none of these physical, vital or mental individualities, but our soul (kAraNa-sharIra), which he terms as the "psychic-being" in us. This is a much truer individuality and its evolution through multiple lifetimes is the real human endeavour. In most humans this individuality is undeveloped or suppressed. If you watch TV or cinema, it is clearly seen that most of drama of life is about the part of us called the "vital-being". Only in few greatly advanced souls, the "psychic being" is overtly in control of the whole human being.

Even in a normal human's life, psychic, or mental can dominate some of the time but most often it is the vital part which runs our lives.

Yogis mention that all these individualities also have a world of their own. Vital-being has its own world called the vital-world, with which it interacts. These worlds/planes are not mutually exclusive and can interact with each other, so mental can influence vital and vital can influence mental etc. These so called "worlds" are not physical, but are manifested in dreams, visions etc, but they are not completely unreal in the sense that their impact is completely unreal. It is the evidence of many yogis that impact of these "worlds" or "planes" is quite real on a human. A human is constantly being subjected to their influences, intrusions, suggestions and even attacks. In psychological terms you can describe them as mood swings etc, and they may just be some neuronal imbalances, but the impact on a person can be quite strong and real.

Apparently the vital-world is the world of passions, desires etc, and is a great hindrance in a yogi's progress. The problem is that help of vital or prANa-shakti is needed for any endeavour, but it has its associated costs. It is felt by all who practice yoga/meditation that after a certain advancement has been made, they become very sensitive, and attacks, impacts and lures of vital-world considerably increase. If unprepared or not suitably guided, a sAdhaka can get trapped in the lures of vital formations. All the so called practitioners of tantra who think sex is a way for spiritual progress are tied down at the vital-level. It is also mentioned that unlike humans that have physical bodies too, some beings can exist which are purely vital bodied, i.e. made solely of prANa-shakti. They gain their sustenance not from physical food but by other sources, sometimes even preying on people.

When I see most of the comic-books, I perceive a strong vital-element in them. The imageries of victory, destruction, blood and gore and sexual depictions all indicate vital element. In itself prANa is just a shakti, and can be used for good or bad. But in an unpurified form it can become a great hindrance.

In that sense I am also not completely pleased with these virgin comics, since they perpetuate the dominance of the vital-element. But that seems to be the norm in comics and in most of the entertainment industry. It would take highly creative and inspired individuals to create comics or general entertainment which can be engrossing for the soul and not just the vital in us.
Ashok Guroo, While I agree this is a great development there is a slight doubt that I have - not sure how to express it. Below is a feeble attempt.

The problem is this -> suppose the company that makes "Roundup" (the weed killer) makes herbal shampoo and call it "Roundup Shampoo" will people buy it ? Comics somehow seem to be in that domain. The brand that becomes popular in the comics world is mentally assigned a corner where spiderman/superman/batman live. Animation movies perhaps do not have that effect - ofcourse this is all a personal opinion. And ofcourse it all depends on the audience we are talking about. An animation movie on Hanuman will have a different effect on me then on someone who has never heard of Hanuman before and even more different on an indologist.

At a different level IMO there is already a certain level of mythologizing of hindu characters. Wendy and her bachchaa-log do the same thing. These comics are doing it from a more sympathetic POV perhaps. JC OTOH is not mythologized. JC is God (uppercase) and Son of God (uppercase again). Bible becomes fact and Mbh becomes mythology, ok a GREAT mythology along with Lord of the Rings. Rama becomes a cool character but JC becomes factual character.

What is the way out ? I dont know. Perhaps there is a need to mythologize JC ? Perhaps MSU students have shown the way ? I really dont know.


BTW has anybody seen an animation movie "Veggie Tales". It had all vegetable characters and a central Jonah (?) character who resembles JC in lots of aspects. This is an old movie (perhaps 3-4 yrs old). I found the tactic very interesting there. Kids see an animation movie with the theme very-very close to bible. But the character aint JC. Veggie tales is ofcourse in the realm of fertile imagination (cool story but...) while JC is the real thing as in bible.

Saap bhee mar jaye aur lathee bhee nahin tute.
I saw the Veggie Tale movie, one of the least entertaining movie ever seen by my family.

Many of you must have heard about theLord of Light novel by Roger Zelazny. It draws heavily from Hindu and Buddhist doctrines. It is considered a classic by the sci-fi crowd. We might disagree on how our 'icons' and 'concepts' were used. Point being the public has not gotten a negative image from such books, movies, cartoons etc.

Comics, Games and Sci-fi are three accessible media to reach impressionable minds.
Rajesh, Valid points.

There is a book which claimed that Jesus Christ visited India before he was 30 and before he became a religious leader and was known as Christ. This can be used as a basis to create a series of comics on JC and his travels in India in search of wisdom. Someone from India could create these comics and perhaps find a market in India. Just as Ramayan retold is finding a market in USA.
Thanks Ashok (#55) for giving your views in detail on it.
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->It would take highly creative and inspired individuals to create comics or general entertainment which can be engrossing for the soul and not just the vital in us.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->There are many in the Far East who achieve this, but I've never seen it done in the US.
No. I'm wrong. American and Canadian sci-fi tv series are excellent. After all, that's the realm of the American agnostics and atheists, and they're sane people with good imaginations. Thank the Gods for them.

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->BTW has anybody seen an animation movie "Veggie Tales".<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->Rajesh_G, that's a christian kids-program made by a christian company, and they've never concealed its outlook or its ideological import, but advertised it proudly as such. Thankfully, the loud warnings allowed me to avoid it like the plague. Besides, it's always been recommended for those 'who loved the Left-Behind series' (from a few reviews I came across, this last is something about the recent 'rapture' delusion apparently).
There. Even if I couldn't save you from exposure to Veggie Tales, at least I can keep you from accidentally watching 'Left-Behind' (not sure that's the title - just avoid anything that sounds like it).

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->This can be used as a basis to create a series of comics on JC and his travels in India in search of wisdom. Someone from India could create these comics and perhaps find a market in India.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->Personally, I feel the less there's any mention of him in India, the better it is for the Indian population's mental health. I'd say Indians require less exposure to him, not more...

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Perhaps there is a need to mythologize JC ?<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->The Dune novels (sci-fi) have done much better than mythologize him. They have shown how such mythologies and religions come about by recreating and dissecting a very jc-like mythos.
SwamyG, I know thats a terrible movie but that wasnt the point.

Ashok Guroo, I think bible is a big book with many interesting episodes. People need to know about ALL of them so they can know how loving JC is.


I didnt know it was that kind of movie. Every once in a while its my turn to take bunch of kids to movies and unless there is particular hot-fav i pick any animation movie. Wish I had known. Anyway, point is, inspite of its backers, the story was not made on the REAL JC. It was made on a JC-look-alike-character. Why ? I think that is because animation products (along with sci-fi) have a thing associated with them - similar to RoundUp weed-killer or Nirma-Washing-Powder - you cant make age-defying lotion with RoundUp or Nirma brand.

Re the other point..

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Personally, I feel the less there's any mention of him in India, the better it is for the Indian population's mental health. I'd say Indians require less exposure to him, not more..<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

The exposure is not in your hands. You decide which parts to expose. There are people who are already providing exposure. For eg, western channels in India show the west from a western perspective. Kids in India know west based on this and Hollywood movies. Kids in the US know about India from textbooks (as in CA), US academia and Mira Nair types. Bringing balance is in your hands, blocking exposure is not.

Re whether to mythologize JC, I was wondering if MSU students (student?) has shown the way or not. No matter how much people jump and down people are going to 'explore' 'sexuality' of one thing or the other. It has been going on for centuries why will it stop now ?

We can choose to keep on protesting or we can start doing the same - in our terms. Perhaps Mr Chandra Mohan was only doing that ?

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