Baran & Davis: The Rise of Media Industries and Mass Society Theory

Stanley Baran and Dennis Davis construct an argument and a critique of the mass society theory by tracing its development and inadequacies. The rise of industrialism in the late 19th century in Europe and United States, ushered investment and usage of new forms of technology, causing “functional displacement” of previous forms of technologies being used in media. The passage of information amongst large groups of people became cheaper, and the media industry capitalise on this to attract even semi-literate people to consume media in the form of comic strips, sports and exaggerated accounts of events. The idea of yellow journalism was initiated to lure more readers by reporting fictitious accounts and gathering sketchy details about events (akin to the contemporary “clickbait” culture of online reporting).

With technologies being rapidly replaced, several components of the media industries would take the support of lawsuits (copyright violations) to maintain a dominant control over the business of media. This is also evident in India when All India Bakchod, a YouTube channel media producer, claimed that they were disallowed to make a parody of a trailer by Yash Raj Films[1]. Moreover, according to Baran and Davis, a lot of research conducted during this time to critique television and it’s influence was driven by selfish interests rooted in profit-making intentions and instinctive fearful reactions. This becomes even more relevant because new media challenges the existing social order, and creates new institutions for self-regulation (like filtering of explicit content and offensive material on social media).

Baran and Davis list several assumptions that the mass society theory makes, which are mostly based in the dissolution of a stable social order – which protects individuals from manipulation and isolation. This can be remedied by a totalitarian social order that controls the media. However, the idea that masses can be easily manipulated was rarely supported by conclusive evidence, and that media was just one of many influences in larger lines of thought in society. Moreover, the changes in social order have challenged complex power structures, and emancipated previously marginalised communities. The idea that media is propagating the false narrative of nationalism in contemporary India is weak before also asking the question of why masses want to construct a national identity during a time of political division, religious and social turmoil, and rapid globalisation. The notion of a faltering high culture is deconstructed by questioning the cultural capital of the representatives of high culture, and the increase in representation with new media. However, the easy availability of hegemonic American media content across the world should still be a matter of importance.

The dichotomies defined by Ferdinand Tonnies and Emile Durkheim, whether between folk communities and modern societies, or mechanical and organic solidarity, deepen the chasm between theorists who yearn for a social order that existed in the past, and those who extol modern society for its power to perfect a democracy. The mass society theory has garnered little support during contemporary discussions, especially due to lack of concrete evidence. However, the monopoly and profit-driven intentions of the media industry is an issue still very relevant. For example, the film Dangal was directed by Nitesh Tiwari, who was a creative director at an advertising agency. The makers of this film were heavily invested in marketing for the film correctly, advertising aspects of the film that would appeal to various demographics, having a solid presence on various media (new and old), and capitalising on the “clickbait” nature of the video “Fat to Fit” uploaded on YouTube before the release of the film (which garnered over 17 million views)[2][3].

[1] All India Bakchod. 18 December 2013. 23:17.  https://www.facebook.com/IndiaBakchod/posts/645142952196369

[2] Srivastava, Prachi. “The Marketing Story Behind Aamir Khan’s Dangal” Advertising Age. N.p., 23 Dec. 2016. Web. 13 July 2017. <http://www.adageindia.in/marketing/cmo-strategy/the-marketing-story-behind-aamir-khans-dangal/articleshow/56125282.cms>.

[3] “Fat To Fit” YouTube, uploaded by UTV Motion Pictures, 28 November 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aVw1gZ9Ncg

[4] Baran, Stanley J., and Dennis K. Davis. The Era Of Mass Society And Mass Culture. Mass communication theory: Foundations, ferment, and future (pp. 44-70). Cengage Learning, 2011.

 

Theodor Adorno: Culture Industry Reconsidered

Right at the outset of the essay “Culture Industry Reconsidered”, Theodor Adorno corrects his previous work with Max Horkheimer by replacing the word “mass culture” with “cultural industry.” “Mass culture”, he articulates, suggests that the culture is being produced by the masses, which he debates is false.

Adorno’s inclination to argue from a Marxist perspective is clear; he is a harsh critic of commodity fetishism and the fact that the culture industry was serving capitalism. He argues that while cultural artefacts boast of being for the masses (the term mass-media suggests this), the industry that produces them understand the masses not as the subject of the artefact, but as the object. The culture industry assumes that ideologies that exist within the masses cannot be changed, and that the masses will consume what they desire to consume. The idea of commodity fetishism takes the form of art having value in accordance with its monetary worth, and not the art itself due to its intrinsic form. This blatant preference for profit while producing art, the planning and lack of spontaneity in art, are aspects that Adorno is uncomfortable with. For example, in India, the level at which Eros International Media Ltd functions, with operations in many countries and languages while making high revenue, is evidence of this. This argument is clear when he writes,

“Cultural entities typical of the culture industry are no longer also commodities, they are commodities through and through.”

While questioning the intention with which the culture industry manufactures cultural entities, Adorno also outlines how popular art standardizes the way in which masses perceive ideologies. He argues that culture produces encourages “eternal sameness”. His disdain towards industrialisation of art is apparent, especially when he argues that products of the culture industry seek to create illusions only as far as relieving the masses of the real issues that plague the world. Since the manufacturing of culture is so firmly rooted in technology, the correction of art does not lie within artistic boundaries (say, correction in the content), but in the techniques used to produce the art, which results in a lack of “aesthetic autonomy.”

When Adorno writes about popular art with skepticism, he underlines the fact that just because popular art caters to the masses, does not mean that the quality of the art cannot be questioned, especially when questioning makes the critic arrogant. In fact, the monopolistic nature is the reason why the culture industry needs to be questioned. Moreover, the industry cannot be allowed to exist freely without criticism simply because it provides the masses with social orientation during times of distress. Adorno is also inclined to believe that popular culture does have regressive effects on its viewers (“that steady drops hollow the stone”), even while admitting that such research has not been performed yet.

“The color film demolishes the genial old tavern to a greater extent than bombs ever could: the film exterminates its imago. No homeland can survive being processed by the films which celebrate it, and which thereby turn the unique character on which it thrives into an interchangeable sameness.”

Although Adorno’s essay was written in 1963, a lot of symptoms of the culture industry are relevant more so now than ever before. Adorno does leave room for the possibility of individual expression in the culture industry in spite of all the criticisms, but that has also been sandpapered away today. This is especially so because the individual human need to make art is lost, and behind every piece of art (film, music and television), there are contributions from many individuals whose primary purpose is not to make art, but to create an image that can be sold.

What Adorno is writing may be misconstrued as being elitist and uplifting “high culture”, criticising “low culture”, and asserting that only the former can intellectually stimulate people and fulfills all the needs that art can provide. This becomes especially questionable when high culture has generally been consumed by people with higher economic, social and cultural capital. However, in my opinion, Adorno assumes, in fact, that it is the culture industry that is creating the needs of the masses for profit-making interests. Does this mean that the mass audiences are “vulnerable” enough to not know what their true needs are, and that capitalism can misguide them into thinking that what they need are consumable goods? This raises the question of what Adorno considers to be art, and what art does to humans. Why do we have an inherent need to consume and/or produce art? And are new forms of media functionally replacing older media without also replacing all the needs that media and art fulfilled in the first place? The question of whether people today are more isolated than ever due to crumbling social order and transformations is an important one to ask. If the state of means of production in a neoliberal society alienates people from the larger picture of how goods are produced and what their contribution is during production, can the same be said about media and art? If we assume that we consume art as social beings, does the manufacture of art cause us to lose sight of our social needs?

Reference:

  1. Adorno, Theodor W., and Anson G. Rabinbach. “Culture industry reconsidered.” New German Critique 6 (1975): 12-19.

Dangal (2016)

Most Aamir Khan movies have one thing in common; his own character is a somewhat stoic, heroic and most importantly, a benevolent man who more or less does the morally right thing most of the time and this becomes the godliness in his being. This syndrome of certain male actors as being cast the supreme ‘hero’ of the film is not limited to Aamir Khan alone but seeps in in movies by Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan, and Akshay Kumar. Movies that come to mind where there are elements of such a phenomenon taking place is Airlift, Taare Zameen Par, Chak De India, 3 idiots, Dabangg, Fan, PK, and Talaash. Dangal was also a movie like that.

dangal_poster

The authenticity of the movie has to be appreciated at the onset itself. The village in Haryana, the language, the life of the Phogats, and the reactions of the villagers when Daya fails to give birth to a son, all set up the film quite well. I especially loved the performance by the two child actors who played Gita and Babita (Zaira Wasim and Suhani Bhatnagar respectively) which made the movie a very enjoyable experience. The music was easy on the ears, complementing the movie quite well.

After Chak De India, this seemed like the next easily digestible movie about gender (after the failure that had been Mary Kom), and it made me excited to be standing in solidarity with women who make it through the patriarchal world of sports. All through the movie, I was thinking about how much courage, perseverance and hard work would it have taken both Gita and Babita Phogat to make it into wrestling, a sport that has more connotations about gender than most other games. Unlike the movie MS Dhoni, this movie was even about the sport; with many wrestling matches being shown almost in its entirety. The moves, the techniques, and the way to play the sport was explicitly explained, which made a person averse to sports (like me) enjoy it quite a bit.

As a feminist, the first half of the film kept my adrenaline high. It was wonderful to see a woman wrestle her way to the top steadily, and I kept rooting for her during her matches against the men of the dangal. However, the fact was that the main character of the movie was definitely Mahavir Phogat, and not Gita or Babita Phogat. They were important characters, definitely, but they were secondary. We see the world through Mahavir’s eyes; we start with his story, his dreams, his aspirations, and his insistence on having his daughters achieve his dream of getting a medal for the country. When Gita is supposed to enter the dangal as a participant, the confrontation about her gender is performed by Mahavir himself. The most that the women are shown to face in terms of what they are choosing to do, is the rampant bullying at school, which they are not able to overcome anyway. It is Mahavir who takes the charge on defying gender roles; by FORCING his daughters to wrestle when they clearly have no interest in it, and maybe not just because they are women. We feel the sadness in the music and the overall mood of the film when Gita leaves the training of his father, and goes to the NSA. It is not an upbeat, cheery moment; but the withdrawal of a father’s influence from his daughter’s life.  It is Mahavir, a looming patriarch, leading the charge on changing how women are perceived in the society. There is nothing inherently wrong with this either; in a patriarchal society, it is important for the dominant gender to take charge to make life better for the rest of the society, and that is exactly what happens in the film. The bigger dream, however, was to win a gold medal for India, and that sense of nationalism is heavier during the latter part of the film (especially with the National Anthem in the middle of the film).

Although, in a way, the film takes a moral high-ground when Gita’s friend tells her that at least their father was treating them as his children, and not marrying them off as soon as they turned 14. It is not like there are only two options a father has when it comes to daughters; either marry them off at 14, or force them to undergo extremely rigorous training to become national wrestlers.

I would also like to draw attention to the double-standards of society in making fun of boys being beat up. When Gita and Babita beat up the two boys for calling them names, it is a comedic moment. When their mother chides them because they got beat up by two girls, most people in the audience laughed. There are several jokes about men not being ‘manly’ enough, which evoked several cringes from me during the movie. The upliftment of women does not necessarily have to bring insults and accusations of ‘femininity’ towards men; that way, there is no battle being won.

Personally, however, I would have loved to see a more focussed picture of what it was like to be Gita Phogat. What was she feeling when she had to step into a dangal for the first time, wrestle with men, being gawked at by men? Was she as confident as she looked in those scenes? This is a dangal where no woman has ever set foot in before. The first woman at a place like that must have something unique to share, an experience that I would have loved to see on screen. If nothing else, it has evoked in me a sense of curiosity about Phogat herself, and her struggles to become a female wrestler, coming from a small village in Haryana. Phogat herself admitted that 99% of the film is truly inspired from her own life and very accurate. However, glimpses into the minds of the women was more expressively done in Chak De India where you see a player’s tiff with her partner, with her parents, her in-laws and society. Maybe it just wasn’t possible with a film like Dangal, but at the end of the film, I was left asking for more.

The pressure that the girls faced in terms of how forceful their father was in training them was only natural. Any sport would require a lot of practice, even when the player themselves was not prepared for it. That is why sportspersons have coaches, to push them harder and to bring them to their full potential. I suppose that would have been the case regardless of the gender of the children of Mahavir Phogat. He is just as tough with Gita and Babita’s cousin, the narrator of the story, if not less, and in that way, Mahavir truly brings his own daughters at an equal standing.

Overall, Dangal is definitely a film that was worth the wait. It is a heart-warming story of how a man and his daughters, defy all expectations of society and set out to do what no one has hoped for (which the commentator during the matches mentions several times, quite rudely, if you ask me). Is it a better movie than Chak De India, a movie that set the standard quite high for all sports and gender related movies? Definitely not.

Cats and alterations in personality

‘If the mind is a machine, then anything can control it – anything, that is, that understands the code and has access to the machinery’

Let us take for example the orb spider. Typically, the orb spider weaves a web that is no less than an engineering marvel, a mosaic of spiral non-sticky web and a final sticky web line to hold the entire web together. It must be a matter of great pride for the spider to achieve such a feat in a matter of hours. However, these plans can be foiled by the Polysphincta gutfreundi, a small tropical wasp whose entire image is built on what it does to the orb-weaver spider. The female wasp lays an egg in the abdomen on the spider, after which a tiny larvae emerges out of it, deriving nutrition from its host’s body. However, that is not enough for the larva. The larva needs a safe spot to undergo metamorphosis and emerge a wasp, and what better than to use the extraordinary intellect of the spider in building itself a home. The larva imparts certain chemicals in the spider that makes it weave the web just a little differently. This “drugged” spider is under the influence of the larva, weaving to its tunes and constructing a web for the benefit of the larva. These webs are strong and specifically designed to keep the larva’s cocoon suspended and away from the sight of larger predators.

 

spiralorb

If the larva is removed from the spider’s body by human intervention, the spider lives and returns to its normal web-making abilities soon enough.

The rabies virus, too, evokes the feelings of rage in its host so that the host bites another living being, and transmits the virus to more hosts.

Such a parasite exists closer to home, and much more elusive than a rabies virus. Let us talk about the infamous Toxoplasma gondii.

This protozoan has a fairly complicated life cycle which begins inside a very common animal, and only inside this animal.

Cats.

Inside cats, the protozoan spends time reproducing and generally having a gala time, after which zygote-filled cysts are released along with the cat’s poo. From here on, it can go anywhere it wants – water, soil, food, other hosts, and even humans (but we will get to that later). Depending on who ingests this infection that is now free to roam the world, the infection is concentrated in various parts of the body. In pigs (if that is the intermediate host), they are mostly in the muscles, and in the case of rodents, they are mostly in the brain. Inside this intermediate host, the protozoan can’t really reproduce, so it yearns for a way out and into a cat again, where it can continue to reproduce more protozoa. However, this might not always be possible.

In rodents, this protozoan has evolutionarily built a great way of escaping. It has been proven, that rats infected with Toxoplasma doesn’t hate cats quite as much. In fact, the smell of cat’s urine even sexually arouses the rodent towards the source. It also makes the rodents wary of predators around it, and makes for very easy prey for cats. Most of what the rodents do after being infected is a way for the cat to devour the host, and as such makes it the protozoan’s doing. It can happily reproduce again in a cat’s body.

When the passage from the intermediate host to the cat’s body is not really possible, the protozoan just chills in the host’s body for as long as it can, which is generally the lifespan of the animal. Globally, 30-50% of humans are infected with Toxoplasma gondii. And it alters the personalities of humans too.

Other than decreased reaction times, the infected humans showed a lot of changes in terms of their behaviour. The interesting part is that it shows up differently in both men and women. To quote a study,


Compared with uninfected men, males who had the parasite were more introverted, suspicious, oblivious to other people’s opinions of them, and inclined to disregard rules. Infected women, on the other hand, presented in exactly the opposite way: they were more outgoing, trusting, image-conscious, and rule-abiding than uninfected women.

Compared with uninfected people of the same sex, infected men were more likely to wear rumpled old clothes; infected women tended to be more meticulously attired, many showing up for the study in expensive, designer-brand clothing. Infected men tended to have fewer friends, while infected women tended to have more. 


 

The underlying difference that the study found was how differently genders handled anxiety and emotional strain, and that is the kind of alteration that affected people when they were infected with the protozoan. Of course, if a woman is an introvert, Toxo would not turn her into a raving extrovert, just a little less of an introvert. But over a larger sample size, the evidence is shocking.

This brings up the question that if Toxo can affect and alter the personalities of so many without them even realizing it, would it affect the entire human culture as a whole? When 30-50% of the human population is affected by this protozoan, does it seep into the cultural and societal aspects of our lives?

References:

http://insider.si.edu/2010/01/drugged-spiders-web-spinning-may-hold-keys-to-determining-how-animal-behavior-is-controlled/

Flegr, J (Jan 2013). “Influence of latent Toxoplasmainfection on human personality, physiology and morphology: Pros and cons of the Toxoplasma-human model in studying the manipulation hypothesis”. The Journal of Experimental Biology. 216 (Pt 1): 127–33.

Webster JP, Kaushik M, Bristow GC, McConkey GA (Jan 2013). Toxoplasma gondii infection, from predation to schizophrenia: can animal behaviour help us understand human behaviour?”. The Journal of Experimental Biology. 216 (Pt 1): 99–112.

Lafferty, Kevin D. “Can the common brain parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, influence human culture?.” Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 273.1602 (2006): 2749-2755.

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/crux/2015/10/29/parasite-human-brain-control/#.WFe4GqJ95MI

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/03/how-your-cat-is-making-you-crazy/308873/

Sylvia Plath, the fig tree, and chick-lit

Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar is a piece of iconic feminist writing, which is dark, witty and extremely painful, outlining and diving into the experiences of a woman who is mentally disturbed and agitated with antiquated gender roles and stereotypes. There are several wonderful things that the book explains with a perceptive and smart protagonist, someone who is self-aware and yet, a part of a tumultuous society that just will not take her seriously. She is not the heroine of the story; instead she is a brilliant woman who is slowly sliding into the inner depths of her own psyche and losing touch with what matters most to her. Personally, the harrowing experience she narrates about being depressed is all too real, and palpably painful.

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In 2013, Faber & Faber came out with a new edition for the book The Bell Jar. The cover featured a lady powdering her face, making it a standard “chick-lit” novel that would be marketed specifically towards women. It hid the actual idea of the book in the recesses of its redness; one of a vehement fight against gender roles and the short biographic account of a ‘madwoman’, the kind that Plath had herself been. Chick-lit is generally defined as literature with a female protagonist whose womanhood is severely thematized in the storyline, and by this definition alone, The Bell Jar is, in fact, chick-lit. Jodi Picoult, author of My Sister’s Keeper and The Pact, says in an interview with The Telegraph,

“If a woman had written One Day [by David Nicholls], it would have been airport fiction. Look at The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. If I had written that, it would have had a pink, fluffy cover on it. If Jenny Eugenides had written it, it would have had a pink fluffy cover on it. What is it about? It’s about a woman choosing between two men. What is The Corrections about, by Jonathan Franzen? It’s about a family, right? And I’m attacking gun control and teen suicide and end-of-life care and the Holocaust, and I’m writing women’s fiction? I mean, I can’t tell you. When people call The Storyteller chick-lit, I actually break up laughing. Because that is the worst, most depressing chick-lit ever.”

The issue with calling books chick-lit is that it gives the false notion that the value of the books is only so far as the audience reading it is a woman. This idea, one that men’s books can be read by everyone, but women’s books can only be read by women, is toxic and unpleasant. When the story of the modern woman is narrated by a female author, the issues it addresses are considered to be frivolous, which is why reading chick-lit authors is a frivolous reading activity. Which brings us back to the definition of what chick-lit is – the fact that a book having a central theme as women’s issues is quickly shelved into “women’s fiction”; a book intended mostly for women to read. There is no real reason why a man should be interested in women’s issues or a female perspective, considering that most of these issues are swept under the rug with an air of silliness.

Shelving Plath’s The Bell Jar in a similar manner angers me. It can no longer be a classic produced by American literature, a testament to mental illness, gender disparities, and female sexuality; instead, it becomes a book intended for women to just relate to and keep men out of. It is a book that I would highly recommend to everyone, not just women, to understand the nuances of how depression can tear down an entire personality, about seething self-doubt in the mind of a brilliant writer, and the quirky enthusiasm of a person to end her own life.

A beautiful representation of one of the best quotes from The Bell Jar appeared in the Netflix original series Master of None, which is created by Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang. The show is a gentle reminder of Louie, which kept me captivated with its surreal style of story-writing, exaggerated humour, and the dark wit of Louis CK. Master of None captures the essence of a second generation Indian man living in the US quite well, and addresses issues related to race and ethnography in a humourous manner that I already loved Aziz Ansari for. The show is not merely funny though; the characters seem real and well-thought out, and in one of the episodes they made great use of a quote from The Bell Jar. A man quoting Sylvia Plath as a perfect depiction of what he is feeling at the moment felt to me like a step away from thinking of women’s fiction the way that it is at this point in literary circles.

A summary of what he feels his life could be like is perfectly described in the book with these lines, which is one of the best quotes I have ever had the pleasure of reading:

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

References:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/feb/01/the-bell-jar-new-cover-derided

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/11/opinion/the-snobs-and-me.html?_r=0

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/books/authors/jodi-picoult-its-really-hard-to-love-America-sometimes/

 

Stories by Rabindranath Tagore (Chokher Bali) (2015)

It is deeply satisfying to see that shows like Stories by Rabindranath Tagore by Anurag Basu are finding their way on television, and are being appropriately judged. This is a show that is now available on Netflix after being telecast on the EPIC Channel in India, and traces a few of the stories written by Rabindranath Tagore into a visual format. Anurag Basu is himself Bengali, and his wife Tani Basu led the team in creatively developing the authenticity of the Bengali atmosphere that has been created in the show. It is set in the early 20th century during pre-partitioned Bengal. Although this particular performance of Chokher Bali (which is shown in the first 3 episodes of this 26-episode long anthology of stories by Tagore) does not dwell too much into the politics of those times, it still manages to convey an idea of Bengal that might have existed back then in terms of the social and cultural commentary.

My perspective on this show is based purely out of watching the show only. Neither have I read the Bengali novel of the same name, nor have I watched the 2003 Bengali film by Rituparno Ghosh. Therefore, there is nothing for me to compare it with. By itself, I found the episodes to be brilliant – in terms of writing, cinematography and acting. The story has been slightly changed as compared to the novel, and that was the only part of the episode that I did not like. While we see Binodini to be a strong, realistically flawed woman with desires like any other person initially, she changes into a woman who sacrifices her desire for the good of who she loves. However, she is my favourite character in this particular story, and for good reason. Her desires take an important role in her life, and she breaks the rules that the society has imposed upon her by the mere virtue of her desire. She feels betrayed by Mahendra because it was him who rejected her hand in marriage because he was not sure, because of which she was destined to a life of widowhood. Her desire to have the life that Ashalata had been served was so strong, especially in the scene where she reads the letter the Mahen has written to Bihari. Binodini is fierce and wants to fulfill her wishes while trying to pursue them in a flawed manner, but you cannot blame her unethical behaviour because you know that her destiny is too bleak for her to accept it without any resistance. The way that Binodini has been shown in the episode is exemplary, especially so because one understands that even though her behaviour is unacceptable in terms of morality, one cannot dislike her for her flaws because they are very real human flaws. While this is the excellence of Tagore’s writing that such a character could be created, it is also important to give the show-makers the credit they deserve, for keeping the soul of the story alive in their episodes.

Radhika Apte is very realistic in her performance as Binodini as usual; she is a seductress who has a deep understanding of the world around her, and knows how to get what she wants, while also being torn when the only man she has shown any real love towards looks at her with disdain. I have always been a fan of Bhanu Uday (from the Aryan Khanna fame of Special Squad) and even though he has been given the role of the pompous Mahendra, he plays the role with great finesse, such that you will dislike the man by the end of it. With Sumeet Vyas playing the role of the good-natured Bihari, I have begun to believe that that actor can play any kind of role with such ease that is only rare in actors. There is some great writing also in the show, with certain scenes staying with you long after the episode is over. The scene with Binodini reading Mahendra’s letter to Bihari is one such scene, and the meeting between Binod and Bihari during the first few minutes of the show is also noteworthy.

The story is beautiful, and one of betrayal, deceit, love and lust. Chokher Bali literally means a mote in the eye, and that is what Binod is in the marital life of Asha and Mahendra, especially so because Binod and Asha describe their valuable friendship with those words. Binod realises the true value of their friendship much later in the film, and it is only Asha who is able to forgive her friend and who is truly good-natured woman in the story.

The music in the movie is sung by great singers like Arijit Singh, Shaan and Shalmali Kholgade, and one such beautiful song from Rabindra Sangeet is Amaro Parano Jaha Chay.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this series as one of wonderment and great film-making. It is definitely true, also, that Tagore’s works break the boundaries of time and are relevant and enjoyable after almost 100 years of its real setting.

My room is disintegrating

My room is disintegrating.

It is melting into a pot

Of empty plastic bags, litter, and dirty footprints. 

There is undone laundry,

A reluctant light bulb.

Tape holding the world (and the window) together. 

At work, 

They pass by and smirk. 

I am on page 52 of the same book

I was reading two weeks ago,

Since I started sinking into the hole.

Pull me out. 

Pull me out from the depth of this bed. 

The color outside changes 

Golden to pink – 

Pink ṭo navy – 

Navy to pearls on the rolling ocean floor –

To the stillness of the entirely hemisphere sleeping.

The darkness of the bed pulls me in. 

My limbs are paralysed. 

My surroundings are disintegrating. 

And I would like nothing more, 

Than to disintegrate with them.