All aboard the Modi Express

220px-ABD_0165You can like him, hate him but you cannot afford to ignore him. Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat may very well beat the Indian electoral system for the third consecutive time. So it may come as no surprise that he will emerge as the undisputed winner even before the votes are counted in the Gujarat assembly elections.

Narendra Modi started his political life as a RSS member and slowly rose to the higher ranks in the BJP. LK Advani picked him as the face of the party in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh in 1998. By 2001, in less than three years, he would be leading the state as the chief minister. Such was his charisma. Although Modi faced heated criticism in 2002 during the Godhra train carnage and communal violence in Gujarat and subsequently resigned, he was elected back to power. Several investigations tried to link him to the carnage but none were successful. Despite his fanatic religious dogma, Modi has the charm that most politicians in India lack to lure both the rural and urban Indian alike.

Internationally, Modi was a pioneer in attracting foreign investment to Gujarat. He made visits to China, Singapore and Japan and claimed to be instrumental in the release of the Indian diamond traders jailed in China. Due to his linkages to the 2002 riots, the UK and US refused direct links with Narendra Modi. Although the UK withdrew its policy, the US still refuses to grant tourist/diplomatic visa to Modi. Narendra Modi wields tremendous power in Gujarat that even the Congress treads carefully while campaigning against him. Rahul Gandhi makes an appearance in Gujarat short enough to silence any reports of real apprehension but not long enough to directly contend with Modi. Every time women race from behind the drapes to take active part in politics, candidates run for cover. But not Narendra Modi. Neither Jagruti Pandya nor Shweta Bhatt can rock this man’s cradle hard enough to topple him.

To really understand Narendra Modi’s hold over his audience one only has to attend his rallies. His oratorical skills captivates the audience making the sway like snakes to the charmer and when he is finished there is only one word ringing in Modidom – MODI. He doesn’t preach, he doesn’t promise, he simply asks the questions. Will we leave Gujarat in the hands of strangers? Reminding them that he has been in power as their longest serving chief minister. He makes a mockery of Sonia ben and Rahul Baba, India’s first family in politics and gets away with it.

Narendra Modi is also extremely tech savvy. He conquers the youth and elite population by tweeting from his @narendramodi account. His website http://www.narendramodi.in is frequently updated and he might be the only politician to actively congregate using Google hangouts. Modi’s Sabarmati waterfront project won the hearts of many and Ahmedabad’s thriving skyline stands testimony to his keen business acumen. By bringing manufacturing hubs like the Nano plant, he delivered a home run. Although rural Gujarat is infected by similar woes that the rest of the country is engulfed in, Modi has learnt to play right into the hearts of Gujarat’s nobility. Urban Gujarat chants the Modi mantra vigorously and rural Gujarat grudgingly accepts their fate for a Modi rule.

Modi might not be the torch bearer for Indian politics. In a country where most politicians are con men and there is no real choice in candidature, any progress that a politician promises is a good sign. Indian politics is plagued by hooligans trying to augment just their bank balances, the country be damned. So while Narendra modi is not the perfect choice, he might be Gujarat’s only choice for a future. While most politicians seek shade under the party umbrella, Modi has shunned both party and politics and reached directly to the people. He understands that this is what counts in the end. Even as the boat rocks during this election, there is no doubt that Narendra Modi will dock safely.

But will his sail soar high enough to reach the chambers of Delhi? Are we ready for him to lead the nation? India, is Modi really the best you have? I sincerely hope not.

(This article is my first foray into politics and was published here in www.behindindia.com. By this time, Modi had a hat trick victory in Gujarat and reinstated in his throne.)

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2012 Mass or Class?

What if Viay did no311436t do a kuthu number? What if Surya did not reveal his six packs? What if Vikram did not to physically metamorph himself? Ajith guarantees a blockbuster opening but would he also guarantee a blockbuster? Or do we experiment with new faces, taut screenplays without songs and suspense dramas? Can a movie succeed without a comedy track or a duet set in a pristine European locale? Does commercial cinema featuring top actors succeed over small budget films relying on just plots and scripting? Year after year the same debate rages amidst film buffs, critics and movie makers. Does 2012 give us the answers?

Surya as conjoined twins piqued our curiosity and the technical aspects of filming set our expectations soaring. Yet Maattrraan did not match up to the superlative standards. Meanwhile, Attakathi which neither featured a six pack hero nor a glam doll girl kept our smiles intact until we walked out.

Mugamoodi was touted as Tamil cinema’s first superhero movie. The amazing mask man did nothing to the folks who had lapped up comic book heroes from Hollywood. Yet a simple drama about a housewife’s travails over English taught us how resilience triumphs. The superwoman was one among us and we cheered for her unabashedly in English Vinglish.

Karthi’s intricate political moves in Saguni fared pale in comparison to Balaji’s attempts in succeeding in love in his debut movie Kadhalil Sothapuvathu Yeppadi. An honest attempt at everyday love debacles was rewarded richly than a political drama that left a sour after taste.

Sundarapandian introduced Sasikumar as the mass hero and the movie had all true elements of a commercial film. Poda Podi shot extensively abroad featuring Simbu and Varalakshmi with a superior soundtrack did not work up the magic that the former could even while staying rooted in our villages.

Charulatha featured Priyamani as conjoined twins but the movie was not half as spooky as the story about the “Pizza” delivery boy. Pizza broke box office records and Tamil cinema has finally found its thriller genre.

Billa 2 was Ajith’s biggest opening till date. Yet even his presence could not mask the movie’s weak storyline. Naan E did not feature a big name hero nor was the hero human. The fly triumphed over mortals and proved that for a movie to succeed duets, humor and drama are all secondary.

Thaandavam’s promotions screamed of echolocation. While the movie hardly made use of this technique, Oru Kal oru kannadi had no techniques to boast off. Humor and Santhanam carried the movie all way to the top.

With movies with big heroes bombing and debut directors weaving magic and setting the cash registers ringing, 2012 steered through a clear path. Yet if there is one movie that dispels our mantra about established stars, it is Thupakki. Thuppaki races as the straight shooter where the story does not play second fiddle to the hero’s image. We need an entertainer and one that wouldn’t make tall claims about its genre and then fall flat. We can do without logic but we cannot sit through songs that interrupt the well woven plot. We want to cheer our hero but an intro number is not half as important as an engaging screenplay. A guaranteed blockbuster is a happy marriage between mainstream commercial cinema and an air tight storyline. Hence, proved.

An edited version of this article was published in behindwoods.com.