Monday, September 6 2021

Dive In

When these things happen repeatedly, it is bound to raise suspicion. There are accusations that the Infosys management is deliberately trying to destabilise India’s economy…Could it be that some anti-national power is trying to harm India’s economic interests through Infosys?

That’s from a cover story in Panchajanya—the publication which is the official mouthpiece of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The piece alleged that the company—which has been under fire for its shoddy work on the income tax portal—is trying to destabilise the Indian economy and supports “Naxals, Leftists and tukde tukde gang.” The RSS has since distanced itself from the article, praising Infosys’ “seminal contribution in the progress of the country.”

Big Story

A heated debate over the Malabar Rebellion

The TLDR: In 1921, a revolt against the British in the Malabar region in Kerala ended in widespread bloodshed. It has now become a lightning rod for a political battle over history. The BJP/RSS view it as a “jihadi massacre” of Hindus. The Congress party sees it as part of the freedom movement—while the Communists frame it as a peasant uprising. And at least two of the five filmmakers who planned to make a movie on the subject have dropped their projects. 


Note: The lead image is a painting of the 1921 rebellion that was once displayed at the Tirur railway station in Malappuram. It has since been removed due to protests from the BJP.


Tell me about the movies…

Last year, five filmmakers announced projects that focused on the rebellion. First up was director Aashiq Abu who announced a movie with actor Prithviraj in the lead. The announcement immediately sparked a flood of rightwing Hindutva trolling. But four other directors followed suit—each offering a different take on the events. These included an RSS sympathiser—who promised to expose the “real face” of the movement’s leader Variyamkunnath Kunhahammed Haji. But others appeared to portray Haji as a hero. For example: ‘Ranabhumi’ which carries the tagline ‘story of an unsung hero’.


The cancelation: Over the weekend, two of those filmmakers have canned their projects. In the case of Abu, there is some talk about differences with the producers—who insist they will make the film with a new team. Director Omar Lulu insisted that he has not given into pressure—but doesn’t think there is any need for yet another movie on the subject. But the other projects appear to be on track… for now. 


The deletion: The announcements raised eyebrows because they came on the heels of the Culture Ministry’s decision to delete 389 names of leaders of the Malabar Rebellion from ‘Dictionary of Martyrs of India’s Freedom Struggle’after a three-member panel decided that the revolt is not part of India’s struggle for independence. Opposition leaders called it a move to “communalise history.”


Point to note: Many Malayali intellectuals are unenthusiastic about these movie projects, worrying about the effort to recast the same episode in very different ways:


“We cannot deny the freedom to produce different films on the Malabar Rebellion. But, the different versions of the Rebellion will cause communal polarisation in the region because modern society will find it difficult  to understand the context of the violent episodes in the Rebellion that occurred around 100 years ago. Presentations of contradictory versions may bring negative results.”


What really happened here?


In today’s edition

Headlines That Matter

  • Naomi Osaka takes a break
  • An appalling ‘televised rape demonstration’
  • The high price of a destroyed painting
  • Behold the bionic arm


Smart & Curious

  • Universities rely on the financial exploitation of foreign students
  • Latest conspiracy theory: Roy Kent on ‘Ted Lasso’ is CGI

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