Monday, January 29, 2024

Film conversations: Fighter

As I have iterated multiple times before, I rarely venture into a multiplex to see a move due to previous harrowing experiences.  Especially so because the price of cola-popcorn sold there rivals that of real-estate in Bangalore.  That, and multiplexes allowing children into the theatre even though the CBFC rating of a film disallows them from doing so.  I have raised these issues with relevant authorities and have been met with as much response from them as from a stone wall.

Regardless, I made an exception because it was a film starring our National Treasure, Hrithik Roshan.  Add his proven combo with Director, Siddharth Anand and music by Vishal-Shekhar - the same one that gave us the peerless title track of Bang Bang, and you will appreciate my reckless foray into a multiplex again.  As if these were not enough, Hrithik is being paired with Deepika Padukone for the first time, and the format is IMAX 3D - a first for me.

Without giving away any spoilers, I will just say that Fighter is a thrill ride throughout.  It packs in a lot: aerial action, hand-to-hand combat, camaraderie, romance, feminism, patriotism, terrorism, and of course, songs and dances.  But in the words of Shershaah, Yeh dil maange more!  There should have been another dance number with Hrithik - the Ishq jaisa kuch number only appears with the end credits even as people are walking away.  And, despite its beautiful locale and choreography and Hrithik-Deepika's dancing, it does not quite measure up to the Bang Bang title track, which continues to remain the gold standard for YouTube reactionaries to score views and likes with.  

Some of the same reactionaries and reviewers have said that Fighter is jingoistic and patriotic.  That it harks back to the old formula of black-white depiction of bad neighbours resorting to terrorism.  And that the aerial actions scenes are CGI, etc.

I say, so what?  All films across the world are simulations: they are fake and made up, requiring varying degrees of suspension of disbelief from the audiences for them to work.  Fighter is no exception.  

It is no more unbelievable than the over-the-top action shown in that drivel that I had the misfortune of seeing: Jawan; or, speaking of over-the-top, RRR or KGF - take your pick.  And let's not even mention the high-on-shock-value-and-ultra-violent-but-lacking-a-decent-story Animal.  Or for that matter, take any Marvel movie character and add them in any other of the franchise and it will be a good fit, because they are all the same; only the CGI varies. 

And all of the above are allegedly mega-hits, watched and adored by the very same reactionaries.  So why not Fighter?  If Fighter is being targeted by some for not earning as much as these mega-hits, know it to be a negative campaign by those who are rankled by the pro-India, anti-terror theme of the film.  As it is, it has been banned in the Middle Eastern countries, and - to call a spade a spade -  viewers from these and our neighbouring country would much prefer watching a far less substantive SRK film only because he happens to be of the right religion - for them.   

As far as the depiction of neighbourhood terrorism is concerned, is there anybody who can argue that it isn't well deserved?  And patriotism is something that is a special feeling to us Indians, given our history that is replete with cultural and religious assault by foreign adversaries and our present situation of having to thwart constant threats from hostile neighbours and breaking-India forces.  This is something that non-Indian viewers, foreign reactionaries and pseudoseculars will never understand.

I enjoyed Fighter.  My enjoyment was only rivalled by a fellow Hrithik fan's who was sitting next to me and whooping and whistling and openly man-loving Hrithik whenever he appeared looking dashing in the various military uniforms and topless in the Ishq song.  And yes, I bet he was watching only Hrithik in the dance sequences, ignoring all the other dancers - a mesmerizing effect Hrithik has on his fans.  The guy next to me also knew when to fish out his mobile to take pics/videos - Hrithik's entry scene and the tricolour scene in the helicopter.  I figured he was the prototype of Hrithik fans who will be pouring into the theatres again and again, given the film's repeat value.

I rated this 10/10 on IMDb because of the whole experience: the story and the emotions worked for me, the actions scenes were amazing, and just the fact that this is one of the better outings for Siddharth Anand.  

IMAX 3D, though dearer, involves a larger screen with more resolution and enhances the experience by giving an immersive feel to action sequences.

And Fighter is a perfect film to watch in the IMAX 3D format - go for it! 


Image source:

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Links to educational resources

Please find the links to all of my recommendations for students on educational resources (click on the links below to open in a new window).

Professional resources:

Lectures for medical students on major topics in Psychiatry (click on link to podcast under each topic)

Patient education videos on common psychiatric conditions

Advice to aspiring students on whether to join the medical profession: video and article

Writeups on mental health issues: 

Article on stress

Article on dementia

Two articles on ADHD: one and two

Article on homosexuality

Books written by me on mental health issues:

Lake Amidst The Seas: An account of resilience in the face of mental adversities

Aham: Short stories of the Mind

[With explanatory notes on the mental issues covered in the stories]

Aham Paperback: Publisher's StoreAmazonFlipkart

Further reading: 

My book recommendations for all medical students

My book recommendations for students of Psychiatry

Further viewing: 

My film recommendations for all medical students

My film recommendations for students of Psychiatry

Thursday, August 24, 2023

A mainstream threesome

Recently, I have come across at least three mainstream programs wherein the protagonists are gay.  

There are, no doubt, more such programs out there (I am told that there is a host of 'Thai BL' drama out there that I am yet to discover).

But these three are the ones I have seen and liked.  

Here's a list of them, with my take on what they mean for LGBT-inclusivity.

Gameboys: This is a 2020 Filipino web-series wherein the two main characters are male teenagers who discover their own sexual orientation over the course of online games and chats, in the background of the pandemic induced lockdown.  [PS: I could only find Season 1 on Netflix India]  

The diffidence in accepting one's sexuality, and the frequently changing interactions in young relations are well depicted in this series.  There is hardly any interference from the adults in the lives of these young people; in fact, the mother of one of the leads is so understanding and supportive that she should be enshrined as the prototype of an ideal, broadminded parent that every gay adolescent afraid of coming out should be blessed with.  

Good writing, with terrific use of the lockdown restrictions to depict the pining for union between the leads, and the leads themselves who are as charming as they are adept in emoting and expressing these interactions, makes this is an engaging series with a feelgood factor working in its favour.  

With so much going for it, Gameboys makes it easier to accept the boys' relations from the point of view of a viewer who has no idea about gay relations.  

Hi baby! - sorry, couldn't resist that one.  

Heartstopper: Again, male teenagers go through the pangs of discovering their sexuality; only, this 2022 web-series is set in England.  The relationship tangles, interpersonal strife, and parental acceptance/non-acceptance are depicted here in a no-holds-barred manner, which makes this a lot more intense and emotional affair.  Credit, once again, should go to the writing, direction and acting by the entire cast - can't go wrong with Olivia Colman in the scheme of things, can we?

During the course of the two seasons, this series manages to cover issues pertaining to all the letters of LGBT acronym, besides touching upon eating disorders, self-harm, and that other letter in the extended acronym: A - asexuality.  

Red, White & Royal Blue: A trans-Atlantic love affair between two grown men is made all the more sensational by the fact that the leads happen to be a prince and a president's son.  Based on a novel of the same name, this 2023 American film struck an immediate chord with the viewers and generated a huge positive buzz on social media.  What works here is the chemistry between the leads; it helps that they are both incredibly good-looking and act wonderfully well.  

What's also good is that this mainstream film does not shy away from showing the intimate moments between the gay leads.  The romance is so engrossing that one forgets that this is not a star-crossed straight love story, such as Romeo & Juliet or Heer-Ranjha; a staple diet we have feasted on in our heteronormative mainstream film-viewing experience thus far.  

This just goes to show that the heartstrings can be tugged at just as well by well-depicted gay love stories as straight ones.  


The larger point that emerges from all these watershed creations is this: LGBT relationships are normal.  They are variants of romantic/sexual relations, and are not in any way inferior to straight relations.  The same process of falling in love, relationship issues, breakups, and reunions that are part of straight relations are also common to LGBT relations.  

After all, one falls in love with an individual, whose personality, worldview, and affability is congruous with oneself.  So, how does it matter if that individual happens to be a man, woman or transsexual?  

I have written in detail about these issues, calling for acceptance of alternative sexuality in an earlier article

Now, while I appreciate these three programs for bringing gay relations into the mainstream across the world, I can't help wondering when we, here in India, would be doing our gay community a huge favour by creating similar content.  

If you leave out a few series in the OTT space [as in Made In Heaven 1 & 2 (about the travails of a gay protagonist, with an impressive Arjun Mathur playing the gay man), The Married Woman (lesbian affair of a married woman), and His Story (gay affair of a married man)], all of which, I must add, are excellent creations, there is a woeful lack of meaningful depictions of gayness across all film industries of India.  

On the other hand, gay characters over the years have been shown as mere caricatures, to be made fun of, or to be considered abnormal, or to be discriminated against.  

The nuances explored in the above three landmark productions are patently absent in the Indian context, and one has to wonder why this should be so, when we all know that the Hindi Film Industry has more than its share of gay filmmakers and actors.  It is disappointing that none these filmmakers have thus far taken the lead to address this situation.  Perhaps commercial considerations may be hindrances to producing an out and out gay film?   

This only leads me to appreciate what the makers of some small but effective Bollywood films have achieved in terms of bringing fringe sexual issues to the open.  At least here, the list is impressive: Vicky Donor (about sperm donation), Dum Laga Ke Haisha (obesity in sexual partner), Shubh Mangal Savdhan (erectile dysfunction), Badhaai Ho (late-life pregnancy), Janhit Mein Jaari (woman advocating condom use), Dream Girl (phone erotica), and Pad Man (menstrual hygiene).  

To me, these are much more meaningful than any of those big budget, over-the-top, opium-to-the-masses type of hypermasculine drivel that film industries across the country dole out to pander to the whims of hero-worshipping, sycophantic fans of aged superstars.

Huge shout out also to the makers and actors of a few small LGBT-themed Hindi films: Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (male gay relations with mainstream actors: Ayushmann Khurrana and Jitendra Kumar - well done you guys), Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui (transsexual relationship with Ayushmann Khurrana and Vaani Kapoor - kudos to Vaani for doing this role), and Badhaai Do (lavender marriage between a male and female gay person with Rajkummar Rao and Bhumi Pednekar - again, well done on breaking stereotypes).

Now, if only the mainstream Bollywood guys could take a cue and put together a big budget musical extravaganza in which the leads are gay or lesbian or trans.  

Imagine gay versions of QSQT, MPK and HAHK with same-sex lovers mouthing lyrics such as So what if we are alone, with you along we can achieve anything - I am yours, since agesGo go go pigeon, convey my first love letter to my lover; and Mother O Mother, listen to the crow on the roof; your darling has fallen for the love hermit (see what I did there?).

If and when that happens, and if we can, as an audience, watch them without cringing just like the fans of the above three films across the world have done, we would have taken a huge step forward in terms of gender inclusivity and equal opportunities for all representatives of the LGBT community.  

So, would it be too much to ask for a Rocky Aur Raju Ki Prem Kahani?  

Dharma Productions, over to you.  

Pictures sources:


Thursday, May 18, 2023

Film conversations: The Kerala Story

Why I saw this film...

Usually, I never venture into the multiplexes due to prior bad experiences, preferring instead, to catch a new release when it arrives on OTT platforms.  Even as I was watching this film, there was a group of people continuously chattering throughout the movie just behind us.  But I put up with all this only because of one thing: to make a statement.  When the filmmakers are sticking their necks out to show the truth as it is, and others are out to ban the film for the exact opposite reason, I thought I should express my solidarity with the former.  

About the A rating...

This film has been rated A by the censors.  Although understandable, this is unfortunate because adolescent girls, who are one of the gullible and vulnerable target groups, would be deprived of the opportunity to see radical evangelization in action in this film.  

While the ticket sellers were thoroughly checking the IDs of young people at the counters, I couldn't help wondering about the futility of this exercise, because in just a few weeks, this film will make its way to the OTTs where even five-year-olds will have access to it!  When it does, though, I hope adolescent girls do watch it.  

Be that as it may, even as I was walking within the theatre, I saw a family with a woman holding a young sleeping child - either they had given a written undertaking to the ticket sellers that they will keep their child sleeping throughout the film, or, more likely, they snuck in the child by hiding it while buying the tickets! 

Contents of the film...

I am not going to go into the technical aspects, or indeed, the performances in this film, all of which are very good.  I will leave that to the cine critics of which you will find plenty on the Internet.  I shall, instead, focus on the story on which the film is based.  I am also assuming that given the evidence presented towards the end of the film, these stories actually happened and the reasons behind them occurred as shown in the film.

It's also important to remember, as we go into this, that one should challenge the radical ideology per se, and not hate the person with such an idea.  Since Hinduism is the primary target of radical thoughts expressed in this film, I shall focus on this, and attempt to pass on the wisdom gained to the groups involved in or affected by the story of faith-based conversions and persecution. 

To the radicals...

One of your kind, a 'snake-in-the-grass' female recruiter in the film talks about Hindu Gods' powerlessness to defend Hindus, while her Almighty never lets them down.  Here's my counter: 

Why did a crane collapse, killing hundred of 'believers' in the holiest of holy places a few years ago?  Why do 'believers' suffer from hardships such as natural disasters, poverty, and diseases across the globe?  You may defend and deny as much as you want, but one just needs to take a peek in our neighbouring country's yard to understand the dangers stemming from the nexus between a theocratic government, a subversive military, and nonstate extremists.

Further, a woman's clothing does not afford her any protection against a determined sexual predator as has been reported in several crime news reports.  Admit it; the tent-like garb is an expression of extreme patriarchy and intended to keep the woman subdued, something that is harrowingly depicted in this film.  

To the pseudoseculars...

Are you okay with the reductive division of 'believers' and 'non-believers/kafir/heathen' of the entire human population?  How can these prescriptive religions proclaim that their's is the only correct path and that all others are false?  As it is, these book-based religions are yet to figure out if they should interpret their scriptures literally or figuratively.  

Indeed, this very confusion has resulted in the divergent, radical ideologies that the story of this film is based on.  This comes to the fore during several scenes, one such being the discussion whether the use of mobile phones is blasphemous or not.  

How is it that you, the paragons of scientific rigour and logic, are unable to see the stupidity inherent in such misogynistic customs as keeping women under tent-like body/head covers, female genital mutilations, and coerced marriages contingent on conversions of non-believers?

Why is it that you apply the law of free speech differentially?  A case in point: you were okay when the BBC documentary on Gujarat riots was shown in the streets, but silent when the governments of two states banned this film.  One loses count of the number of slurs that Bollywood has inflicted on Hinduism and its adherents over the years.  You ignored all of that, but you are up in arms over this film that has dared to call a spade a spade.

If these issues and the terrorist activities that stem from their misinterpretation do not open your eyes to the clear and present danger they pose to the world and to the future of humanity, I don't know what could be afflicting you.  Instead of calling out this radical ideology for what it is, you are intellectualizing and rationalizing the problem to the extent that one fine day, it will come back to bite you.  

To the parents of girls...

Watch the film and wake up!  As one of the characters asks her hypocrite communist father why he did not teach her about Hinduism, I ask you if you have done enough to educate your children about the beauty of Sanatana Dharma?  Have you told them why it is called so - the Eternal Religion? 

Have you told them about the innumerable Saints that have graced this beautiful land of ours and left behind a rich legacy of love and wisdom?  Have you taught them the meaning behind our customs and rituals, which often have a logical and/or a health-related basis for their existence?  

Have you taught them the basic tenets of Sanatana Dharma: sarvatmabhava (oneness of all souls), satya (truth), dharma (righteousness or right duty), karma (action and fruit of such action), and vasudhaiva kutumbakam (the world is one family)?  Have you pointed out that these values are more important than superficial rituals and a narrow, divisive worldview? 

To girls and young women...

Do not believe in 'love at first sight'.  It only signifies the psychological phenomenon of collapse of ego-boundaries - that is, you are only temporarily identifying with your lover.  When you regain your ego-boundary, the lover's shortcomings become painfully visible, or, in this case, his true colours.  

Instead, place high value on character assessment before you commit to any kind of relationship.  Looks are important initially, but in the long run, the harsh reality is that marriages are hard work, and require a high degree of commitment, trust and adjustment from both parties for them to work. 

Understand that love, in its truest sense, is unconditional.  The moment somebody says 'I shall marry you if you convert to my religion', run from such a person as fast and as far as you can.  You are perfect as you are, and if someone really loves you, he/she will accept you for what you are - your entire personality with its strengths and weaknesses, as well as your faith, language and culture. 

Beware that they will throw the caste brick at you.  Even though the concept of caste/varna/jati is only an indication of the professional groups that traditional Indian society was divided into, no doubt, casteism is a bane in todays' world.  But then, you should ask them, 'why is your own religion divided into so many sects and denominations?'  If there is only one formless Almighty, why then are adherents of these groups fighting amongst themselves for supremacy of their own ideology?

Remember that not all followers of prescriptive religions are radicals, but some are - telling them apart is the problem!  Be friendly with people of all faiths, but do not get so overinvolved that you fall for the indoctrination attempts of those with a proselytizing, bigoted mindset.  


The message, one hopes, the followers of book-based religions get is that they live and let live: keep your religious practices, but make sure you are not harming others by disowning radical thoughts and respecting others' faiths.  As I have already said, our battle is with the ideology, not the person - it's the mind and the body that could be corrupted, not the Atman which is pure in all beings.  

Evangelism and conversions are reflective of the underlying insecurity of book-based religions and exposes their patronizing efforts at homogenizing the entire world according to their own restrictive worldview.  

For the reasons cited above, The Kerala Story is highly recommended viewing! 

May truth prevail and justice be done in the cases covered in this film, as well as in all cases of religious conversions and persecution.

Picture source:

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Is it okay to be GAY?!

Is being gay a social problem?

Gayness has existed since times immemorial; it’s only since Indian people started asserting everything about their personalities openly that we are waking up to the situation.  Bewildered by their ignorance, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, contrary to their eons of cultural conditioning, are having to face the harsh reality that one of their sons, granddaughters, nephews or nieces is gay.  The situation is so glum that for many elders in India, the concept of homosexuality is an impossibility that they struggle to comprehend. 

If you look around, I am certain you can find an uncle or an aunt or a distant relative or a friend who has remained a ‘bachelor/spinster for life’, only because they were unable to declare their actual sexuality to the world for fear of ostracization by their family/community.  Either this, or they submitted to the whims of their families and entered into fruitless and joyless matrimony, which if it lasted, was nothing short of torture. 

I am reminded of a recently married male patient who was advised to see me because he was not ‘participating’ in the marriage.  His mother expressed great hope in our therapy process and thought that he would be cured of his marital diffidence, whereas the bride’s side were vehement in their criticism of his family for conniving to get their ‘abnormal’ son married.  The girl even tried to touch him during therapy to demonstrate how he would recoil from her.  At home, the mother apparently stood guard outside the couple’s bedroom so that her son would not escape conjugal union with his spouse!  

What would you do in cases such as these?  How would you address a problem that was created to hide another problem?  How will you tell them that straight marriage is not the one-stop solution to all problems under the sun?  That individuals will not be cured of their gayness if they are married off?

While all denominations of the LGBTQI spectrum face the ire of the ‘regulars’ to varying extents, it is the male-male relations that seem to receive the most flak from all quarters in our country.  I am not suggesting female-female relations are accepted without problems – they are not – but somehow men falling for men is considered to be more shocking and unacceptable. 

This is probably due to the expectations surrounding the male progeny; that he should be macho, in control of all situations, well educated, gainfully employed till retirement age, married to a woman who he can keep under his thumb, and able to procreate and raise children according to his family’s expectations.  Any deviation from this norm invites harsh criticism from all quarters, and an expectation of course-correction to fall back in line and ‘settle down’. 

Is homosexuality a disease?

Zoologists have observed homosexual proclivities in animal species as diverse as baboons, giraffes, dolphins, anglerfish, mallard ducks and cats, among others. The Homo sapiens species is no different.

Indeed, the more relevant question to be pondering upon is how is it possible for the entire humanity to be divided right down the middle into male and female genders? 

Birth, influence of genes/environment, physical gender, psychological gender and sexual feelings are complex factors influencing the ultimate gender/sexual expression of an individual.  This is reflected in the ever-increasing numbers of alphabets that are added to the acronym LGBTQ+ that indicates the gay community.  Therefore, reducing gender/sexuality to a binary is a reductive exercise and betrays a lack of understanding of these complexities. 

But ignorance and bigotry make for a deadly duo.  This is why gay people around the world have had to bear with insults, taunts, ostracization, victimization, discrimination, and the worst, conversion therapies.  Anybody who makes a claim that gayness can be cured like any disease, is lying, and is probably operating under the influence of the deadly duo. 

Being gay is neither a disorder nor a crime.  Homosexuality has been removed from psychiatric diagnostic manuals such as the ICD-10 (devised by the World Health Organization) and the DSM-5 (devised by the American Psychiatric Association) since a long time. 

Whether it is a crime or not depends on where you are living.  There are still certain countries where the state and the majority of the population are afflicted by the deadly duo, and homosexuality is considered a criminal offence.  It is not because gay people do not exist in such societies; it is just that they live a cloistered life, away from public expression.  I have seen this in students who come from a far eastern theocratic country where being gay is outlawed. 

Homosexuality is not a disease, but homophobia is!  Homosexuality is neither a lifestyle choice as surmised by upholders of traditional cultural values nor does it occur due to poor upbringing, as some parents of gay children fear it to be.  On the other hand, homophobia is a by-product of eons of erroneous cultural and religious conditioning.  Further, it can be indicative of the underlying insecurity and a fear of the unknown on part of the ‘straight’ people, who operate under the influence of the psychodynamic defence mechanisms of reaction formation and projection of these fears onto the gay community.

Ultimately though, it is all about the ego.  Families of gay people live in fear of stigma and ostracization.  Deeply affected by the diagnosis, they either live in denial of their son/daughter’s homosexuality and try to get them married, or if they do acknowledge the condition, they try to drag them along to dubious therapies in the vain hope of a ‘cure’.

This non-acceptance of homosexuality and the resulting distress caused by the attitude of their family, relatives and friends can result in gay people experiencing cognitive dissonance – a phenomenon characterized by a discord between how one feels from within and how one has to behave in the outside world.  Combine this with the guilt resulting from cultural and religious bigotry, and you will get some idea as to the pitiable state of mind that gay people have to endure for having been born that way in the wrong place and at the wrong time.    

What do the religions say?

It is most unfortunate that the LGBTQI discourse has been hijacked to some extent by 'wokeists' and pseudoliberals who never let go of an opportunity to pit it against Sanatana Dharma’s tenets, conveniently forgetting the patent homophobia that exists in prescriptive and converting religions.  If anything, Sanatana Dharma has always been LGBTQI-friendly.  The only Hindu person who claims to have a cure for samlaingikata (that is homosexuality in Hindi), is a prominent yoga guru and Ayurvedic products manufacturer – no prizes for guessing who.  I am an admirer of his work in general, but I disagree with this claim, and I hope he desists from making such misleading claims in the future.   

Leave that aside, and you will find that our itihasas and puranas are replete with stories of LGBTQI characters who are part of the mainstream discourse and play a crucial role in the stories therein.  Mahabharata’s Shikhandini who later became Shikhandi is only one such example.  The enchanting damsel, Mohini, who tricked the Asuras into forgoing their share of the immortal nectar, Amrita, was Vishnu in a female avatar.  The Ardhanarishwara form of Lord Shiva shows Him as a union of the male and female forms.  Aiyappa, the celibate Hill-God of Kerala was born of the union of this very Mohini and Shiva.

These stores underscore the fact that everything in this universe is energy.  So, even gender should be seen as such; varying expressions of the same energy, depicted in different cultures as Purusha-Prakriti and Yin-Yang.

Further, in the Valmiki Ramayana, Lord Rama’s devotee and companion Hanuman is said to have seen rakshasa women kissing and embracing other women.  At another place, the Ramayana tells the tale of a king named Dilip, who had two wives, but died without leaving an heir. The story says that Lord Shiva appeared in the dreams of the widowed queens and told them that if they made love to each other, they would have a child.  The queens obeyed Lord Shiva and one of them got pregnant and gave birth to a child who grew up to be the King Bhagiratha, best known for having brought Ganga from heaven to the earth.

So, why did our culture that was so libertarian that it expressed sexuality on temple walls and in sex treatises become so close-minded and bigoted?

Most likely, it is due to the imposition of puritanism by western invaders/land occupiers that any matter relating to sex was severely curtailed, the crowning glory being the imposition of Article 377 by the British, which the Indian government foolishly continued even after the British themselves had legalized gay relations in their own country. 

As the scholar of Abrahamic studies, Sumit Paul, says: ‘Thousands of years of slavery and the restrictive Semitic civilisational influence transformed the collective mentality of Indians and changed their psycho-sexual behavioural ethos.  We began to condemn our own cultural heritage and history.’

It took a few enterprising NGOs to take the matter to the Supreme Court to have it struck down.  Still, that’s only one part of the struggle; till date there are not equal civil rights to marry, register children/properties for gay couples (this matter is sub judice in the Supreme Court, as of April 2023). 

Spiritually, we are moving from one body to another; sometimes male, sometimes female, sometimes other genders.  So, a man might have been a woman in a previous birth, and may be reborn as a transgender in the next.  So why confine yourself to this birth alone?  If you look at it from the universal and spiritual perspective, it hardly matters whether you are male, female or other. 

As per spiritual healers and masters, your soul decides which body to inhabit prior to its earthly sojourn.  You are a spirit wearing the garb of a human body, put here to do certain actions with your free will, so as to facilitate your karmic journey through this birth and the next with the ultimate aim of attaining moksha.  So, focus on that, and give up your fixation with ephemeral bodily features. 

What should parents/families do?

As I have written under sex education, have an open conversation with your child at the appropriate time about their sexual preference.  Alternative sexuality is a normal variation of sex expression, just as being left-handed or grey-eyed is.  There is more to your child than just his/her sexuality; look at developing their overall personality, academic interests and any other passion.  Do not reduce their life to fretting over the fact that they may not get married or have children.  There is more to life’s purpose than these events.  Remember that not everybody is cut out to get married or have children.

Whether we like it or not, whether governments of the day dither or not, whether radical religions oppose it or not, and even if self-appointed custodians of Indian culture send missives to the President asking for equal civil rights not to be granted to the gay community, gayness always was and always will be.  It will be accepted in the mainstream in the future, if not now. 

As we emerge from the heteronormative prerogative of brushing aside anything queer under the carpet, we need to figure out how to uplift 'hijras'/'eunuchs' from a marginalized lifestyle that involves begging from and harassing people at traffic signals towards a more mainstream life of gainful employment through equal opportunities.  And yes, for that matter, toilets and restrooms would also have to be redesigned to be more inclusive of the LGBTQI community.  

I envisage a future wherein intimate relations would be an optional undertaking rather than mandatory, with the individuals having a wide range of sexual/gender diversity to select their partners from. 


  • LGBT banner picture:
  • Shikhandi: And Other Tales They Don't Tell You, Devdutt Pattanaik, Zubaan and Penguin Books India, 2014

Monday, October 24, 2022

Film conversations: Kantara

Kantara is turning out to be a sleeper hit, running chiefly on the fuel of word of mouth.  Very rarely do I venture into a multiplex, but when the family insisted that it was our 'national duty' to watch this film since everyone else was, just as during Dangal, I had to given in.  But of course, my grouse is about the multiplex experience, not the film per se; the film itself is first rate.  

Think of Thithi in terms of the rustic rawness, and you have it in this.  Think of Jallikattu in terms of beautifully lit night scenes in the jungle and background music, and you have them in this.  Think of the eerie jungle mystique of Churuli, and you have that here.  Think of Karnan in terms of the village being under siege and the villagers fighting back against the police/landlord, and you can see the similarity.  

But then Kantara is not confined to any of these descriptions; it stands alone in its own right as a showcase of the culture of Uttara Kannada/Malenadu/Udupi regions of Karnataka, specifically of bhuta kola, or the spirit dance/worship artform.  The situations and dialect is so true to the region, that even Kannada audiences need to read the subtitles sometimes to make sense of the drama, which comes with a smattering of Tulu, the local language.  

Kantara could have ended up like a documentary, but the makers have come up with a clever combination of intrigue, culture, spirituality and humour to keep one engrossed for the two and half hour duration of the film.  I could almost taste the ele-adike (betel leaf & nut) in my mouth as the scenes showing the natural beauty and culture of Kundapura unfolded.  And as touted, the denouement is captivating.  There are sexual innuendos and swear words throughout, which makes it difficult to classify this as a family film.    

The film is not without flaws: it could have lingered on certain moments instead of the breakneck pace we get to see, the change in the landlord's and police officer's characters could have been shown more convincingly, the mother's lament that her son is walking in the footsteps of his father is not explored fully, the entire romantic/sexual angle could have been more implicit or even eliminated, and the background music, though excellent, could have been toned down a bit, but I suspect this is down to the multiplexes jacking up the volume rather than any fault of the makers.  

Kantara goes to show what can be achieved by focusing on our indigenous culture, rather than the standard Bollywood fare that major production houses dish out.  It also demonstrates the stature of regional, especially South Indian, cinema that is growing with every outing.  Not least, this is a successful demonstration of the untapped cinematic potential of our culture, spirituality, smritis, shrutis, puranas, and itihasas, which, if Kantara's success is any indication, we will be thankfully seeing more of.   

The only blemish on Kantara is that one of its songs appears to be more than 'inspired' by another music group's song which is at least five years old.  It would be prudent for Kantara's makers to acknowledge this if they haven't done so, and give due credit to the original song's makers.  

This does not, however, diminish what Kantara otherwise achieves.  In a time when needless remakes of old classics or films from other languages are the norm - not to mention the biopics galore on every conceivable high achiever - Kantara is a rare danta kathe, or a folktale, that is remake-proof: neither is it a remake of anything else, nor can anyone remake it into another language given that it is a product of a specific local culture.  

So, well done to the entire team.  Highly recommended viewing!  

Picture source:


Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Mahishasura Mardini Stotram (Aigiri Nandini)

The Mahishasura Mardini Stotram, popularly recognized by its starting phrase, Aigiri Nandini, was composed by Adi Shankaracharya.  Even though some sources attribute the stotra to Ramakrishna Kavi, with due respect to him, one would be foolish to take the attribution away from the Hero of Hinduism, given the complexity and the rhythmic beauty of the composition.

During Navratri or Dussehra, the Mother Goddess is worshipped according to the Navadurga, or the nine special attributes of the Mother Goddess, each on one of the nine nights.  The tenth day, when the Mother Goddess was victorious is celebrated as Vijayadashami.  The stotra celebrates the victory of Maa Durga over the demon king Mahishasura, in essence, the victory of good over evil. 

In this video I have broken down the phrases to facilitate proper pronunciation by those wishing to learn the stotra. 

Bhakti Sudha, the primary source for this rendition does not have one paragraph, but for the sake of completion we have included it, as given in other sources (see references below).


  • Bhakti Sudha, Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, 24th Edition, 2012



Background music: Maestro Tlakaelel, Jesse Gallagher

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