I’m so happy to share that my article “Calcutta 1908: Apocalypse Now” has been published in the latest issue of the peer-reviewed scholarly journal Democratic Communiqué as the featured critical commentary.
Can theatre and film help spark an armed revolt? I believe they can, and that they did, specifically Indian theatre artists and India’s first silent filmmakers, in the capital of British India in 1908, in response to the Partition of Bengal and the systemic sentencing of children to public floggings.
My article is, in my view, a timely exposé of crimes and human rights abuses committed by the British Empire that have largely gone unreported in the West, but which are increasingly coming to light in the news and in pop culture of late. I’m not condoning or condemning revolutionary violence. We all have our positions on that, usually on a case-by-case basis, and that’s okay. I’m eager to shine a light on this history.
I’m really excited to share this slice of my research as a Fulbright-Nehru Scholar in India. It is, I daresay, in-depth, yet it is only one part of a much larger story I’ve written.
Democratic Communiqué focuses on “cultural artifacts, media and imperialism, media’s relatedness to social movements, and the power of media to convey varying versions of the same event simultaneously.” It’s housed on the ScholarWorks server at Umass Amherst.
You can find it at the link below. I hope you’ll check it out.
I’m grateful to have been offered an opportunity to write about the international Indian hit film RRR for Contingent Magazine, whose mission statement is “history is for everyone.” They purposely waited until 15th August (India time), India’s Independence Day, to publish the article as their lead story today. What does RRR have to do with my Kolkata theatre research as a Fulbright-Nehru Scholar? You’ll see. And be sure to read those footnotes.
The article begins below:
Sure, George Washington was a good war strategist, but could he pick up a motorcycle by one wheel and swing it around in battle? Or how about if Martin Luther King Jr. had busted Malcolm X out of prison by carrying him on his shoulders and dodging gunfire while hopping across rooftops, and together they took out J. Edgar Hoover? These events could not, and never did happen, but would be pretty cool to see in a big-budget historical fantasy action flick.
This family docudrama TV series from China warmed my heart
Meet Mr.Bai, the headmaster of a one-room school in an impoverished, experimental farming community in China’s vast Gobi Desert. His school needs many material improvements but he’s a devoted teacher, so he makes do with what little they’ve got. One thing he’d love to see is a new playground. He keeps applying for funds from the local district government, but his requests go ignored.
Impassioned and frustrated, he finally takes the drastic step of going over the local politicians’ heads and complaining in person to the regional government. Before he knows it, he’s thrown into the shark tank of local politics. How much is he willing to compromise his ideals just to get a playground?
Yikes. All of this drama for a village playground could be the comedic makings of a wry satire a la Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People, but this story is set a lot further east, and treats its subject matter with a dignity and respect I found refreshing in our age of cynicism.
Mr. Bai’s passion for a playground is but one subplot among many in the 2021 Chinese TV series Minning (a close pronunciation in English would be Ming-Ning) Town, produced by Daylight Entertainment (Nirvana in Fire, Ode to Joy, Like a Flowing River, The Story of Ming Lan). The trials of the beleaguered Mr. Bai