Friday, April 10, 2009

Controversy's children

It was only a matter of time before it happened - Deepa Mehta and
Salman Rushdie coming together for the mother of all controversies
designed from scratch - a movie called "Midnight's Children".

Salman Rushdie didn't do the world of literature any great favour by
writing "The Satanic Verses", but the silly narrative gained a lot of
traction by courting the unmistakable ally of poor art - controversy!
It was no masterpiece, but it got plenty of publicity, by getting
banned, criticized, and by managing to get the author a fatwa from the
Islamic world!

Deepa Mehta made a lousy film called "Water". It should have been
called "Drain" for what it did to the viewers, but it picked up
plenty of controversy along the way, and it is really only poor art
that CAN pick up this kind of controversy, because people who react
quickly and take to the streets by perceiving an attack on their
culture aren't going to fall for sophisticated points of view that can
actually be thought provoking.

So, it is perfectly expectable that terribly overrated artists would
provide enough ammunition to start the next controversy, and please
don't be surprised that such controversy is easier to kick up in the
Muslim world either.

If you are a fairly neutral consumer of books, you will see no great
literary value in The Satanic Verses. So, the best way to sell the
book to you is to get you really curious through controversy. Deepa
Mehta is a perfect ally to Salman Rusdie now with Midnight's Children.
For an author who is reasonably good at best and a film maker who
can't tell a story to save her life, a venture of this nature was

Don't show them any sympathy, but know that a paucity of creativity
can be exploited and substituted by an abundance of controversy - as
far as the marketplace is concerned. It is one thing when a work of
art aims to debunk theories humanity has subscribed to, asks questions
that make us examine our convictions, and provides perspectives that
shock us out of our stupor - that is the power of art. The
controversies that follow such works are a fallout of the effort and
merely a part of the journey.

It is entirely another to NEED a controversy in order to bring some
sort of recognition to an effort at art. Those are the props true
artists should never have to have. Whether it is a Danish cartoonist
or a pretensive Indian painter, their expressions are not richer for
having controversy carry them to recognition. Know the difference!

Here is the prediction - clear as day. The moment this film goes on
the floor, and you bet it will do that in India - there will be a
protest against it. And from then on, Deepa Mehta will continue to
roll the dice exactly as terrible artists are prone to - focus on
everything except on her lousy film making ability. In Water, I still
remember with disdain the scene where the long yearning lovers finally
come together before their flight into the promise of the unknown -
the birds being released from the cage. And they came together like
two dead bodies, bereft of all emotion, and made me wonder what
unfeeling, soulless creature would create a mess like this!

The same creature is about to unleash another rotten stink upon the
world of cinema, and it is called Midnight's Children. She should not
be stopped, definitely not for any fear of her great art influencing
anybody's thought process or culture. She is nowehere near capable of
that. That dopey Salman Rushdie should not be stopped either, for he
is, just like her, a child of controversies, and nothing more.

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