Thursday, July 26, 2007

Oscar the cat predicts patients' deaths

Source: Yahoo news

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Oscar the cat seems to have an uncanny knack for predicting when nursing home patients are going to die, by curling up next to them during their final hours. His accuracy, observed in 25 cases, has led the staff to call family members once he has chosen someone. It usually means they have less than four hours to live.

"He doesn't make too many mistakes. He seems to understand when patients are about to die," said Dr. David Dosa in an interview. He describes the phenomenon in a poignant essay in Thursday's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

"Many family members take some solace from it. They appreciate the companionship that the cat provides for their dying loved one," said Dosa, a geriatrician and assistant professor of medicine at Brown University.

The 2-year-old feline was adopted as a kitten and grew up in a third-floor dementia unit at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. The facility treats people with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and other illnesses.

After about six months, the staff noticed Oscar would make his own rounds, just like the doctors and nurses. He'd sniff and observe patients, then sit beside people who would wind up dying in a few hours.

Dosa said Oscar seems to take his work seriously and is generally aloof. "This is not a cat that's friendly to people," he said.

Oscar is better at predicting death than the people who work there, said Dr. Joan Teno of Brown University, who treats patients at the nursing home and is an expert on care for the terminally ill

She was convinced of Oscar's talent when he made his 13th correct call. While observing one patient, Teno said she noticed the woman wasn't eating, was breathing with difficulty and that her legs had a bluish tinge, signs that often mean death is near.

Oscar wouldn't stay inside the room though, so Teno thought his streak was broken. Instead, it turned out the doctor's prediction was roughly 10 hours too early. Sure enough, during the patient's final two hours, nurses told Teno that Oscar joined the woman at her bedside.

Doctors say most of the people who get a visit from the sweet-faced, gray-and-white cat are so ill they probably don't know he's there, so patients aren't aware he's a harbinger of death. Most families are grateful for the advanced warning, although one wanted Oscar out of the room while a family member died. When Oscar is put outside, he paces and meows his displeasure.

No one's certain if Oscar's behavior is scientifically significant or points to a cause. Teno wonders if the cat notices telltale scents or reads something into the behavior of the nurses who raised him.

Nicholas Dodman, who directs an animal behavioral clinic at the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and has read Dosa's article, said the only way to know is to carefully document how Oscar divides his time between the living and dying.

If Oscar really is a furry grim reaper, it's also possible his behavior could be driven by self-centered pleasures like a heated blanket placed on a dying person, Dodman said.

Nursing home staffers aren't concerned with explaining Oscar, so long as he gives families a better chance at saying goodbye to the dying.

Oscar recently received a wall plaque publicly commending his "compassionate hospice care."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Pamela Mountbatten on the Jawaharlal-Edwina relationship

Source: The Hindu

In the first interview given by any member of the Mountbatten family on the relationship between Lady Mountbatten and Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, Lady Pamela Hicks, Earl Mountbatten’s youngest daughter, has said she does not believe Nehru and Lady Mountbatten had a sexual relationship but added “maybe everybody will think I’m being very na├»ve.” In an interview to the CNN-IBN programme Devil’s Advocate to mark the publication of her book (co-authored with her daughter India Hicks), India Remembered: A Personal Account of the Mountbattens during the Transfer of Power (Pavilion Books, London 2007), Lady Pamela spoke at length about the Edwina-Nehru relationship. Excerpts from the int


Lady Pamela Mountbatten, with her parents, bidding good-bye to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, in New Delhi.

Karan Thapar: In your introduction [to the book] you write: “towards the end of the fifteen months we spent in India, the immediate attraction between my mother and Panditji blossomed into love.” What do you mean by love?

Lady Pamela: I mean a very deep love. The kind of love that the old knights of old [had], a chivalric love really … Nowadays everybody assumes that it has to be a carnal love, but you can have just as deep an emotional love with two like souls in a way, people who really grow to understand each other, and to be able to listen to each other and to complement each other and find solace in each other.

In your book you write: “my mother had already had lovers, my father was inured to it” but then you add, “the relationship with Nehru remained platonic.” Can you be really sure of that?

I was with them most of the time. We called it a gooseberry. It was very awkward for them, you know, if I was around the whole time. I would say yes, anyway Nehru was a very honourable man who liked my father. There was a great affection between the two. It was nearly always in my father’s houses either in England or in India that they were together, and I think he would have never dishonoured his friends, you know.

But you know at the time, and even afterwards, people have speculated about it to say that the friendship went a lot further. Did this speculation hurt your father? Did he ever object to the fact that he must have known behind his back people were joking possibly about the Viceroy being cuckolded?

I think it shows what confidence he had and how he was correct in that. My mother died in Borneo, working for Save the Children Fund and St. John Ambulance Brigade, and she died suddenly in the middle of her work. On her bedside table was a packet of Panditji’s letters. In her will we found she had left the whole collection of letters to my father and they were an enormous number — there were suitcases full of these letters. He asked me to read them. He said he was ninety nine percent sure there was nothing that would wound him or worry him or diminish him in any way. But there was just that one per cent of doubt fluttering in his heart and he said, ‘darling will you read them first?’ So I read them and they were wonderful letters — nothing at all that would have distressed my father.

Were you at all apprehensive? Did you as a daughter think, maybe, there’d be a sentence, a stray phrase that might give the game away?

No, I didn’t. Because I didn’t really attach the sexual importance to the whole affair that other people did. To me they were two amazing people whose place in history was considerable. What they did, I thought that was the important thing about them. And I loved them both very much, and I wasn’t particularly interested if they were tumbling around in bed together. And I was certain they weren’t

In a letter you quote in your book, he [Lord Mountbatten] wrote to your sister Patricia: “she,” meaning Edwina, “and Jawaharlal are so sweet together. They really dote on each other. Pammy and I are doing everything we can to be tactful and helpful.” Was it easy to be as tactful as he makes it seem? It couldn’t have been quite that easy?

Yes, very easy indeed. We just had to go out of the room!

So there were moments when he felt ‘I ought to just leave them alone’?

Yes, but they were both fully dressed sitting on a sofa in the study or something.

There was no tinge of jealousy or perhaps of hurt emotion?

No, because I think he trusted them both. And also, my mother was so happy with Jawaharlal, she knew she was helping him at a time when it’s very lonely at the pinnacle of power. It really is. And if she could help, and my father knew that it helped her, because a woman can, after a long marriage, and they’d been over twenty five years together, a woman can feel perhaps frustrated, and perhaps neglected if somebody’s working terribly hard. And so if a new affection comes into her life, a new admiration, she blossoms and she’s happy.

So both of them, in a sense, fulfilled a need — both Jawaharlal and Edwina needed each other.

I think they did, and my father understood that need and of course it made my mother, who could be quite difficult at times, as many very extraordinary women can be … and yet when she was so happy with everybody, it was lovely to be with her. There were no prickles.

You have a lovely phrase in your book: “there existed a happy threesome based on some firm understanding on all sides.” What was the firm understanding, not to probe too deeply?

No, I think that there were no doubts. That my father was convinced that it was just a friendship. That they would like to talk together and be together, and he was convinced that was all it was. I was certainly convinced that was all it was.

Much of this friendship and affection, much of this relationship, actually lived its way in the letters they wrote each other. You reveal in your book that Pandit Nehru wrote to your mother practically every night at 2 o’ clock.

They would have an endearment to begin with and, sadly always, [they would say] that they were missing each other so much. They wouldn’t see each other for six months at a time. And then probably they only saw each other twice in a year.

There is a particular letter that Panditji wrote to your mother, where it seems quite obvious to anyone that he’s just completely bowled over. He writes: “suddenly I realise that there was a deeper attachment between us, that some uncontrollable force drew us to one another.” Was he in a sense more in love, because he was a lonely man, than your mother maybe?

No, I don’t think so. But again I think he is talking about the emotional more than the physical. I think suddenly they’ve realised that they were two souls together. Not necessarily two bodies together.

So all the speculation that there was a physical side is, in fact, unfair?

Yes. I don’t understand this obsession that people who have a deep emotion with each other must immediately have a physical relationship … These were two very unusual people.

But Panditji was a widower, he needed female affection. Your mother was alluring and beautiful. They were so close to each other. It would be natural for the emotional to become sexual.

It could be, and maybe everybody will think I’m being very naive, but the fact that she had had lovers in the past, somehow this was so different, it really was. And the letters, I mean if you were deeply, physically in love, your whole letter would be about the other person and your need of them physically, and it would be that kind of love letter. These letters had an opening paragraph of tenderness, and the end would be also tender and romantic and nice like that, but three quarters of the letter was unburdening himself of all his worries and his disappointments or his hopes and all his idealism coming out for the extraordinary time of India at her rebirth in history and it is the history of India as an independent nation.

Panditji would not hurt his friend?

I think so. Panditji was a very honourable man.

There is another aspect of this relationship that you refer to in your book. You say that the Edwina-Nehru relationship was also of use to your father as Viceroy. That he often appealed to Panditji through the influence your mother had. And that this was particularly useful handling tricky situations like Kashmir.

That is true, and he did use her like that. But he certainly wasn’t going to throw her, he didn’t say to her ‘go and become the Prime Minister’s lover, because I need you to intercede!’ It was a by-product of this deep affection.

He realised there was an emotional relationship he could use for the betterment of everyone?


Many people in India believe that the decision Jawaharlal Nehru took to refer Kashmir to the United Nations was taken under your father’s advice. Could that have been an area where your mother’s influence would have been particularly useful?

I think it could have been well. Because Panditji being a Kashmiri, of course, inevitably the emotional side comes in from one’s own country, doesn’t it? And my father, just in dry conversation, mightn’t have been able to get his viewpoint over. But with my mother translating it for Panditji and appealing to his heart more than his mind … that he should really behave like this. I think probably that did happen.

So in a very interesting sense, Panditji had a love in your mother, and your father had a bit of influence through your mother on Panditji.

Yes, I think so. But the important outcome of it all was really for the good of India … Panditji was a real statesman, it never occurred to him to make anything out of his position. He never made money out of it. He was the real idealist, for the good of India, always.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

US Senate opens with Hindu prayer

Source: Rediff

History was created in the United States Senate at 9.30 am on Thursday, when Rajan Zed, the Hindu chaplain of the Indian Association of Northern Nevada, opened the Senate with a Hindu prayer.

This is the first such instance since the formation of the powerful Upper House in 1979.

A few Christian fundamentalists protested and began screaming, while holding the Bible aloft, "Lord Jesus, protect us from this abomination."

Officers from the Sergeant of Arms' office ejected one after the other (three were taken away) from the Senate gallery which looks down on the floor.

The president pro-tem of the Senate, had to beat the podium with his gavel thrice. He requested Zed to halt his prayer just as he was about to begin, and called on the Sergeant of Arms to restore order in the Senate Chamber.

A Senate aide said these people probably had gotten visitor's passes to the Senate gallery through a Senator's office and noted that "disrupting a Senate in the chamber is a criminal offense and they can be arrested."

A few minutes later, Zed delivered his prayer which took no more than 90 seconds, which as per the instructions from the Office of the Chaplain of the Senate had to be delivered exclusively and entirely in English.

"Let us pray," Zed began, "We meditate on the transcendental glory of the deity supreme, who is inside the heart of the earth, inside the life of the sky and inside the soul of heaven. May he stimulate and illuminate our minds.

"Lead us from the unreal to real, from darkness to light, and from death to immortality. May we be protected together. May we be nourished together. May we work together with great vigor. May our study be enlightening. May no obstacle arise between us."

Seeking the blessings of god on behalf of and for the Senators, Zed declared, "May the Senators strive constantly to serve the welfare of the world, performing their duties with the welfare of others always in mind. Because by devotion to selfless work one attains the supreme goal of life. May they work carefully and wisely, guided by compassion, and without though for themselves."

"United your resolve, united your hearts, may your spirits be at one, that you may long dwell in unity and concord!" he added, and ended with, "Peace, peace, peace be unto all."

Before stepping away from the podium, Zed also said, "And, Lord, we ask you to comfort the family of former First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson," wife of the former and late President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who died at age 94.

Speaking to immediately after he delivered the prayer, Zed said, "I sprinkled some Ganga jal -- the water from the Holy Ganges on the podium before the prayer."

He also bemoaned the protests, saying, "I believe dialogue is always better," and profusely thanked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, who had arranged for him to deliver the first Hindu prayer in the US Senate.

"The Senator was a very courageous man for standing up and giving us this opportunity. He was very courageous and I appreciate what he did very much," he said.

A few minutes later, when this correspondent accompanied Zed, his wife, Shipa, and four of his friends from Virginia, who were the only Indians present in the gallery to witness this historic chapter in the US Senate, to Reid's office, Zed told Reid, "We appreciate your courage, you stood up to them. We appreciate it very much that you went through with it."

Reid, seeing the conspicuous tilak of Zed's forehead, asked him what it was about, and the latter, who was wearing the saffron robes synonymous with Hindu priests, explained that it is a sign of auspiciousness.

Earlier, before the prayer, Reid told, "There has been some criticism that I arranged this, which is true."

Asked if these protests were from other denominations, Reid said, "From other people," and noted, "The Senate Chaplain's office got hundreds of people protesting, by phone, mail and e-mail for allowing this."

But he asserted: "It shows what America is all about. Having real big arms to put around everyone and this is a religion that has been around a long time, which has brought peace and contentment to people over the generations and we are happy to have a (Hindu) prayer."

Before the prayer, Zed told he felt honored, humbled and thrilled that he was creating history. "It's a great honor for me, my family, for the great state of Nevada, for all Americans and for us all Hindus. It's is indeed a historic occasion for all of us Indian-Americans also."

Zed said the fact that a Hindu prayer was opening the US Senate for the first time, was a clear indication that there is an acceptance of Hinduism as part of America today. "Slowly we are becoming mainstream. Yoga is very popular already, and through yoga in America, Hinduism is becoming more known. I teach Hinduism classes also in the community colleges (in Reno, Nevada) and I get a very favorable reception."

Each day, when the Senate is in session, the Senate chaplain delivers the opening prayer, before the Senate gets down to the business of lawmaking, which it shares with the US House of Representatives, but occasionally, on the urging of one community of another, particularly those from minority religions, guest chaplains are invited from across the country to deliver a prayer from their faith.

Zed, an alumnus of the Panjab University, from where he received his bachelor of journalism degree, is also the public relations office of the India Association of North Nevada.

After coming to the US for higher studies, Zed received his master of science and master of business administration from San Jose State University in California and the University of Nevada, Reno, respectively.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Any takers for serious cinema?

Source: The Hindu

Struggle for space: Stills from Shyam Benegal’s “Ankur.

Popular director Anil Sharma, whose high-profile “Apne” was released recently to a fine reception, is a touch disappointed these days. His first, and arguably the finest film, “Shradhanjali” has found no takers. Much like Prak ash Jha’s “Damul” and “Hip Hip Hurray”.

Sharma laments, “TV satellite channels do not show ‘Shradhanjali’. They show what sells. They are ready to screen ‘Gadar’ and ‘The Hero’ 100 times but not my first film, which is also my best.” “Apne” was in great demand from channels even before the release.

No takers

Jha, who has also made a neat switchover to popular cinema with films like “Gangajal” and “Apaharan”, says, “There are no takers for serious cinema on television. The market is determining the choice. Nobody is interested in ‘Hip Hip…’ anymore. They want ‘Gangajal’. I am designing films that sell in the market. If I don’t texture a film according to the market, it won’t sell.”

He should know. While his films like “Damul” and “Hip Hip…” have struggled to find takers among the private channels, “Gangajal” and “Apaharan” have raked in more on the small screen than all his previous films combined.

It is not a surprise. Nor are Jha and Sharma without company. Govind Nihalani’s timeless classic “Ardh Satya” lies unsold as does his sci-fi venture “Deham”. Nihalani, whose “Takshak” and “Dev” (starring popular actors like Ajay Devgan and Amitabh Bachchan) have been shown repeatedly on TV, explains, “When films like ‘Ardh Satya’ were made, this kind of cinema had to fight for time then too.”

Yes, the small screen continues to ignore the works of the finest craftsmen of parallel cinema. Never far from being models of anonymity, serious filmmakers have failed to make the cut with TRP-driven satellite channels. Ironically, the stakes have seldom been higher for major players in the Hindi film world and the losses steeper for lovers of serious cinema.

At a time when major box office hits like “Rang De Basanti”, “Lage Raho Munna Bhai”, “Krrish”, “Dhoom-2”, “Phir Hera Pheri”, “Umrao Jaan” and “Don” have been lapped up for television screenings at whopping sums going up to Rs.15 crore, no channel is ready to push the envelope for serious cinema. Result? Parallel cinema is dying a second death.

Having lost out in the box office popularity stakes, worthies like Shyam Benegal, Mrinal Sen, Goutam Ghose, Kalpana Lajmi and others are being given the cold shoulder by satellite channels too. Almost all the movie channels including Set Max, Zee Cinema, B4U and Filmy show four films a day, but on a “safe average only about six parallel cinema films” a month.

At times less, coming down to as little as two out of 120 films a month. Interestingly, unreleased entertainers like “Partner” and “No Smoking” with popular stars have already been bought by various channels!

As Filmy’s Ashutosh says, “We don’t have the luxury of waiting to know the film’s box office fate.” The channels are ready to shell out up to Rs.30 crore for a Yash Raj bouquet, but will not stake even a fraction of that for parallel cinema. Even box office duds like “Raja ki Aayegi Barat” (one of Rani Mukherji’s early films) or “Janani” (a Bhagyashri-starrer that was taken off some theatres on the third day of its release) are preferred to classics like “Ankur”, “Bhumika”, “Mrigaya”, “Manthan”, “Saaransh”, “Katha”, “Ek Pal” or “Nishant”.

No wonder Kalpana Lajmi, who has directed films like “Ek Pal” and “Darmiyaan”, rues, “The channels only want films of the last five years. I am known to the new generation by some of my weaker films. Even I cannot see my favourite films like ‘Ek Pal’ on television anymore. The classics are lost.”

Only economics

Mahesh Bhatt, who started his career with films like “Arth” and “Saaransh” before being associated with the likes of “Murder” and “Zeher”, says “Contrary to the assumption that people want good cinema, they don’t. Even if they get it for free, they don’t watch it. Even Doordarshan, where profit is not the main motive, does not want art house cinema. It is a battle for the eyeballs, a battle for bums on the seat. It is pure and simple economics, no art.”

He reveals that the contract of his National Award winning “Zakhm” was not revived with Zee because it had exhausted its possibilities. “Zee found it too gloomy. The film in the first run on TV had exhausted its potential audience. Channels are petrified of losing their audience. When TV runs short of icons, it manufactures them.”

Not excluding himself, Bhatt says “You have to put up with potboilers on television today because even the filmmaker who made ‘Saaransh’ yesterday makes ‘Murder’ and ‘Jism’ today.” Incidentally, “Jism” got Star very good ratings!

What is worse, the channels plan special festivals of the films of Amitabh Bachchan —Zee cinema had Bachchan’s ‘Navarasa’ in April-May this year and around the same time Set Max had ‘Ab Tak Bachchan’ — Madhuri Dixit, Sridevi, Madhuri Dixit, Govinda and Akshay Kumar... But never is a festival of Shyam Benegal films or Goutam Ghose films planned or shown. And, in a rare case, as in Set Max showing films of Guru Dutt and Benegal, the films are dumped in the early morning slot, sometimes starting as early as 8.00 a.m. on weekdays. And they are completely off the radar on weekend mornings “as that is a time for family viewing”.

Dhoom 2”.

Nihalani states the obvious, “TV is a very commercial medium. The best time goes to blockbusters. The ‘other’ kind of films are shown according to the channel’s convenience. Often more like a filler.”

Ashutosh admits, “There are not too many art movies on the channel. They don’t work well if you take ratings into account. Ninety per cent of people don’t want them. One has to make the channel work. We are not for classics that don’t sell. It is a battle for the eyeballs. Even popular films like ‘Pakeezah’, ‘Guide’ don’t work.”

Older and cheaper

Set Max’s Sneha Rajani takes the same line. “When one criticises the channels for not showing serious films one must remember their number is smaller too. We have Ghose’s ‘Yatra’ and some of Benegal’s movies like ‘Sardari Begum’ and ‘Kalyug’. We do not have a strict schedule for them but Sunday morning is ruled out for any library movie.”

A library (old film of about 25-30 years) movie is purchased by a channel at less than one/tenth the cost of a blockbuster. The older it gets, the cheaper a movie becomes for channels. Still the best works of Guru Dutt and Bimal Roy hardly make it to the schedules of movie channels. For evidence, just surf the timetables of Set Max, Zee Cinema, B4U, Filmy and others. No movie has made it for screening in May. Even Star Gold that started with the idea of showing yesteryear super hits now plays regular, usually relatively new, movies.

Rajani counters, “When they talk of serious cinema, why only the past? We have shown Aparna Sen’s ‘15 Park Avenue’. I wish the audiences had supported us then.”

Zee Cinema’s Mohan Gopinath, head, marketing and programming, explains, “Case to case, we give recommendations according to the star cast, content, mass appeal, before a movie is selected. For instance we have had hits like ‘Diler’ and ‘Durga’. These films had flopped when they released in cinema halls. Sometime back we did show ‘Ijaazat’. But we normally have late night slot for such films as we have to cater to the larger audience at other times.” As Bhatt puts it, “Everybody talks of good cinema, nobody watches good cinema.”

Meanwhile, the rarely seen Lok Sabha TV is the only exception. Every Saturday evening, the channel is busy showing films like “Ek Doctor ki Maut” and “Pestonjee” at prime time. The films, according to the Executive Producer Vartika Nanda, “get good response from the viewers with a lot of enquiries about the films”.

Each film is introduced by an expert from the field and is ushered with promos played a couple of days before the film’s screening. “We are a low-profile channel. We don’t indulge in mirch masala. We are not in the rat race. We shows films with sub-titling and intend to continue the series over 54 weeks,” adds Nanda.

But is that enough to take on the juggernaut where each offering of Yash Raj Films or Vishesh Films comes with truckloads of advance publicity and a screening schedule more than a month in advance. No guesses needed!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Fans do not make a following

Source: The Hindu

Photo: M. Periasamy

Spontaneous expression: At a theatre showing “Sivaji”.

A week of cathartic images; fans going delirious, jostling queues, offerings of milk and flowers, NRIs soaking in the fun — the scenes of the first day first show of the film “Sivaji” crammed our television sets. While cameras panne d and mobbed the crowds in Chennai theatres, it remained ignorant of places where there were hardly any such celebrations. A huge billboard of Rajini in front of the Casino theatre in Chennai was the only sign of “Sivaji” being screened there. Otherwise there was hardly any fanfare and certainly no milk was flowing. Casino screened the Telugu version of the film and understandably did not have many takers. It looks that image, even if it is that of Rajini, is still not free from the word. Fans were, after all, not so blind as the television commentators made them out to be. Even if it amounts to two weeks of waiting, they would rather wait than watch a Telugu-speaking Rajini.

Simplistic notions

In one of the television shows, a young film critic from Mumbai simply shrugged his shoulders and declared that the catharsis as seen is nothing new to Tamil films or fans. His casual comments simplistically connected films, fans and politics. Names from Annadurai to Jayalalithaa were thrown in the rings of discussion. The subtext of the conversation was that the film crazy South cannot distinguish fantasy from real life. Things often blur and at times reach the irrational, they said. As the conversations continued, images of people pouring milk and jumping around Rajini’s images were juxtaposed.

For, those who are familiar with Tamil politics and film history would know that one of the biggest flops in politics was Shivaji Ganesan, the thespian. His fan following and box office performances matched that of M.G. Ramachandran, but none of those could be converted to votes. The political party he started quickly folded up. Annadurai, who many think is the architect of the film-politics coalition, lost his second election in Kancheepuram. Not all of MGR’s films did well at the box office. There were a considerable number of flops. Rajinikanth himself had to eat humble pie when he urged voters to vote against a particular party. Fans did not listen to him. Jayalalithaa’s ascent in the party was not instantaneous. Her stint as parliamentarian and propaganda secretary cannot be overlooked. She was also not the immediate successor of MGR. Vijayakanth is still toiling. Sarathkumar, another popular actor, lost elections in Tirunelveli. S.V. Sekhar, a comedian, lost as an independent and BJP candidate but was elected as a member of the Assembly only after he joined AIADMK. He was elected from Mylapore constituency, which many think is a Brahmin stronghold. It was not enough to be an actor, the kind of politics one was part of was more important.

Nature of public spaces

Revelry in theatres is about cultural practices in public spaces. Theatre is not a closed space of performance where one restrains till the end and stands politely and applauds. The audience, be it a vocal performance or a film screening, burst out in appreciation even in the middle of the show as it happens. To express in a spontaneous manner, unbound by the unwritten codes is rather common in popular cultural practices. What was hitherto immanent to people who enjoy the performance has now been showcased as the urban ethnic by television. The ceaseless quest to pick and produce peculiar images masquerades as a discovery of urban culture. The downward gaze conveniently separates the gaiety as an image for circulation while the moorings are overlooked.

Comfortable co-existence

Nothing could be more revealing than the image of the bald and un-shaven Rajini overlapping with the fair and lovely poster picture of him. The fans are comfortable with Rajini as he actually is as well as with the made-up hero screened in the film. The image is not all that overwhelming. They are not suspicious of the image nor consider it manipulative. The fantasy conveniently coexists with the real and the ability to discern and differentiate never vanishes. Suspicion about cinema is age-old and it has always struggled to achieve the status of legitimate spectacle and source of pleasure. When “Sivaji” fans are having simple fun and inventing the theatre space as their own, it can be left to remain just that.

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