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Some Ramblings - District 9
By Srinivas Kanchibhotla

There is a perverse pleasure in watching the hunter suddenly turn into the prey, at the flip of a coin, particularly when the game is seriously lopsided and loaded totally in favor of the aggressor. Besides the initial shock that the hunter faces at having the tables turned on him, the one emotion that he would eventually develop is empathy - a deeper understanding of the victim's psyche and a sudden revulsion to the game itself, which goes on to prove the proverb about walking in someone's shoes for a mile before judging the other side. There is an excellent segment about similar predicament in a yester year's classic - Twilight Zone: The Movie - where a racially prejudiced bigot in middle America, who has just lost his job and so rails on the minorities for their special treatment at the hands of the politically correct government, suddenly finds himself transported to Germany at the heights of the Nazi regime, and worse, finds himself mistaken for a Jew and hunted down by the SS police. Though the message of the segment is quite broad, it certainly offers an insight about how quickly things around can change, if one removes the crutches of racial superiority, social status, and financial well being from under one's arms, and made to compete with the rest of the under-privileged for the scraps. 'District 9' is about one such dramatic transformation, set against the squalid slums of Johannesburg, South Africa. Though the principal genre of the movie is science fiction, there is nothing fictitious or make-believe about the squalor, the discrimination and the prejudices.

The city has been in the news recently for exactly the same reasons as depicted in the movie, about the authorities trying to evict the thousands of the slum dwellers and relocate them to an obscure area, in the name of land development and face lift to the city, just in time for major international sports tournaments. And one doesn't need very fertile imagination to surmise how smoothly and in an ordered fashion, such events take place. The situations surrounding the relocation (both in the movie, and in real life) remind very much of the liquidation of the Jewish ghettos in Krakow, Poland during the end of the Second World War, except without so much bloodshed, as depicted in gut wrenching detail in 'Schindler's List'. And the fact that such acts of the apathy and cruelty when dealing with the lower sections of the society are a commonplace all over the world, will well resonate with anyone who passed by a shanty area and turned his head away in disgust. Call it apartheid (South Africa), oppression (Palestine) or discrimination (Mohajirs), the theme is universal and the plight, all pervasive.

The brilliance of 'District 9' is the seamless fusion of social commentary, naked realism and excellent special effects, all set against a science fiction backdrop. Now that is one impressive, confident and bravura piece of genre mixing and film making. The story set in the not too distant future, about space aliens somehow getting themselves caught on earth, and locked up in confinment camps that lack decent standards (even by human standards) and constantly being subjected to sudden interrogations and other police brutalities, doesn't seem too far fetched even for the present, if one were to replace the phrase 'space aliens' with 'illegal immigrants' or 'border crossers' or 'fence jumpers' or even 'non natives in a foreign land' (read, the Japanese-American internment camps during the Second World War). The quick rush to judgment by the locals, that the aliens are an unwanted burden to the society and its infrastructure, and hence shouldn't be allowed to join the mainstream and should in fact be excised from the society, sounds and reads all to familiar in the present day newspapers, talk radios, and television shouting matches. The movie sounds a warning bell to the society at large, in that if the issue of immigration/discrimination is viewed not as a challenge for homogenization, so as to provide a reasonable platform/framework for different peoples and cultures to integrate and assimilate, but as an opportunity for gentrification, which is currently the prevalent mode of keeping the unwanted in check, the future is not a shiny, glossy, and scientifically advanced variation of the present, but a bleak, frightening and a very much plausible nightmarish version of the same.

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More Ramblings on films
The Hurt Locker
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Slumdog Millionaire
Quantom of Solace
The Dark Knight
Wall - E
The incredible Hulk
Indiana Jones and the kingdom of crystal skull
Speed Racer
Iron Man
Jodha Akbar
There will be blood
Chrlie Wilson's War
No Country for Old Men
Om Shanti Om
Lions for Lambs
American Gangster
Michael Clayton
Happy Days
Chak De India!
The Bourne Ultimatum
The Simpsons Movie
The Grindhouse
Casino Royale
The Departed
Lage Raho Munnabhai
Superman Returns
The Da Vinci Code
Sri Ramadasu
Rang De Basanti (Hindi)
Jai Chiranjeeva!
Munich (English)
Sarkar (Hindi)
Mangal Padey (Hindi)
Kaadhal (Tamil)
Anukokunda Oka Roju
Batman Begins (English)
Radha Gopalam
Mughal E Azam
Virumandi (Tamil)
Lakshya (Hindi)
Yuva (Hindi)
Kakha Kakha (Tamil)
Mr & Mrs Iyer
Nuvve Nuvve


This article is written by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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