RRR is historically significant – and not because it smashed box office records

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.

Cont’d at https://contingentmagazine.org

My Trip to Minning Town

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

Escaping the Racist Escape Room Paradigm

In lieu of a kids’ Halloween party this year due to the whole plague thing we decided to invite one family at a time to try their hands at our escape room, The Great Kohinoor Diamond Heist, throughout the month of October.  In case you’re not familiar with escape rooms, you’re not really locked in a room, it’s just pretend. In order to find the hidden object or “unlock” the door you have to solve a lot of puzzles and look for hidden clues. This one is set up in our dining room. Here’s how it came about.

Imagine if it were ‘Escape From Jehovah’s’ Witness Island’ or any other religion

My biracial son and I did our first escape room this summer. It was called Escape From Voodoo Island and the idea, as explained in the introductory video before you enter the room, is that some evil Haitians have kidnapped an ambasaddor’s daughter and are holding her captive on “Skull Island” which is full of evil voodoo practitioners. Your job is to crack the codes in their hideout in order to rescue the daughter.  We had a blast doing it but on the way home I told my son the storyline kind of bothered me and that if I were Haitian I might have been especially troubled by it. First off, voodoo isn’t evil, it’s just a religion, and it’s only frightening to white people. Secondly, did you know the French colonized