A Handful of Stories

Reportage on health, science and politics. And some meditations on film

Author Archive for sohinichattopadhyay

The Courtesan, the Sportsperson and the Desires of the Nation

The courtesan, a long-time fascination of Hindi cinema, is being replaced by the sportsperson. Corporeal labour and the art of sports is the kind of performance that the politics of post-2000 India celebrates. The courtesan represents women in pre-modern India, the sportsperson represents the ideal citizen of contemporary India. In particular, the sportswoman In the book Dancing with the Nation,…

Why Does the Muslim Woman Need Saving in Hindi Film?

The Muslim man has been recast as a beast in mainstream blockbusters. But the Muslim woman we see in projects like Special Ops, War or Bajrangi Bhaijaan is either infantilised or simply erased In Special Ops, the web series by Bollywood director-producer Neeraj Pandey, there are two Muslim women characters with speaking roles among a dashboard of bloodthirsty Muslim men…

Hindi Film’s Crush on the Intelligence Services

Over the past decade and a half, the Neeraj Pandey brand of thriller has given to Bollywood what Hollywood has done for the CIA: romanticising the Intelligence Bureau. Later films like War have sexed up this formula Fifty days after the Pulwama terrorist attack, acknowledged as an intelligence failure even by the BJP-appointed governor of Jammu and Kashmir, the Hindi…

Nine Rays of Incandescence

Nine moments from Ray’s cinema that I return to again and again 1. When Arati’s (Madhabi Mukherjee’s) colleague Edith (Vicky Redmond ) teaches her to apply lipstick in the office bathroom in Mahanagar. The mirror catches the unexpected friendship between a Bhadralok school master’s daughter-in-law on her first job and the ‘smart’Anglo-Indian ‘office girl’ 2. When Shamalendu (Barun Chanda) offers…

Covid Lockdown Leaves India’s Elderly Stranded without Carers or Family Support

India has the world’s second largest population of senior citizens after China — 104 million. The abrupt draconian lockdown left them without any help In the days since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a complete lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the country, development sector professional Sohini Sarkar has noticed something new on her mother’s face when…

India’s New Surrogacy Bill Ends $2 Billion Commercial ‘Rent a Womb’ Industry

Under the strict new law, cases like Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan who had a third child by surrogacy would not be permitted If India’s parliament passes a proposed new Surrogacy Regulation Bill, cases such as that of Bollywood superstar Shah RukhKhan, who had his third child va surrogacy, would no longer be possible. The strict new Bill being considered…

Indian cinema legend Soumitra Chatterjee’s death spotlights end of art film era

Chatterjee worked closely with late Oscar-winning director Satyajit Ray, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Worked his entire life in the Bengali film industry, eschewing the more lucrative Bollywood Noted Hollywood director Martin Scorsese once said the four most influential auteurs of the 20th century were India’s Satyajit Ray, Japan’s Akira Kurosawa, Italy’s Frederico Fellini and…

A Rich Tradition of Under-reporting Disease

In a country where doctors can get suspended for Facebook posts on health crises, ‘mystery fever’ is the preferred term to dodge government paranoia In the 1990 film Ganashatru, director Satyajit Ray tells the story of a doctor who finds himself unemployed and ostracised when he speaks about the contaminated water supply in his town. The doctor traces the growing…

The Rehabilitation Scheme for Colonial Statues

How India Quietly Removed the British Colonists from Their Pedestals On the river banks in Barrackpore, a sweltering town some 30km from Kolkata, the statues of 13 dead British men stand high above the ground on brick-red plinths. One is made of marble and 12 are made of metal, but they all have the identical distant gaze – instantly recognisable…

The Unpaid Labour of Housewives

The Bengali films Tasher Ghawr and The Lovely Mrs Mukherjee show the domestic servitude written into subcontinental marriages  Some days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi locked us down on 25 March with the battle analogy of the 18-day Kurukshetra war, the celebrity housework videos began. Then, the men who did not have cameras installed for easy recording provided dishwashing updates, and…