Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Church of Cinema and the Da Vinci Code

The Church of Cinema and the Da Vinci Code

The film Da Vinci Code has once again brought into focus the issue of censorship – this time not relating to sexuality but religious sentiments. This film, some fear, denigrates Jesus, portrays 'untruths' and thus hurts the 'true' believers of Christian faith.
The Central Government overreacted to the issue (if only they were as proactive with regard to other issues?) with the Minister himself arranging a preview for select representatives (obviously incorruptible 'representatives' from the community - people who can make out fact from fiction and cannot be influenced!) to seek their approval as it were before sanctioning the commercial release of the film. Apart from creating an unhealthy and totally undemocratic precedent of bypassing the institution of the Central Board of Film Certification (which itself is a redundant body awaiting its natural death) and thereby violating established norms, this act has also set a dangerous example of sorts for other communities and groups increasingly becoming belligerent in our midst. Now anyone can demand bans or at least a preview of a film that purportedly portray them or their beliefs! Every other film will have to seek the approval of the 'affected' or depicted community. And no one would be able to tell where the hurt starts or ends. This is nothing but considering the public at large as an idiotic lot incapable of judging what is good or bad for them, or as children, to be protected both from the pleasures of sex and the pains of truth.

Most interesting point is the question why the Church and the self-appointed true believers are worried about such redundant tools like censorship in the age of internet and DVD revolution. Considering the publicity the book, and later the film, has already received, its DVDs are going to circulate widely. The book has already sold millions worldwide multiplied by its pirated editions. The Malayalam translation of the book has also come out. So, thanks to technology, it is no longer possible to check accessibility to the book or the viewing of the film any more. But why is the Church still worried about the commercial release of the film in theatres?

This is a question that brings into focus the defining characteristic of the medium of cinema. What is cinema but a Church where people congregate at fixed times to worship images in the dark? We go to an enclosed space, dark and womb-like, sit in rows just like in a church, and wait prayfully for the images of light to unravel before us; these images we hope will deliver us from the darkness around and transport us into another world. At a deeper level, it is this congregatory and occult-community nature of cinema that seems to trouble the Church more than the content of the film itself. Hence the soft attitude to the other media like the book, the DVD and the internet. Those are private and lonely pursuits of individuals as against the Church of Cinema. This church that is global the rites are universal and the entry is not reserved for the elite.

C S Venkiteswaran

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

campus films from kerala

Where are the girls, the bikes and the mobiles?
Our campus films – Some Random Notes

‘Never in history has there been such a glaring contrast between what could be and what actually exists.”
- “The Joy of Revolution,” from Public Secrets: Collected Skirmishes of Ken Knabb (1997).

Recently, I had the opportunity to watch a cross section of video films made in Kerala campuses in some campus film festivals. And the immediate feeling I had was that barring a few exceptions, they all seem to occupy spaces that are faraway and cut off from the everyday life at the campus or our lived-in environs.

It seems the ghost of ‘art films’ of the 70’s is haunting our campus films. They obsessively and adamantly want to be ‘serious’, ponderous, and angst-ridden and are terribly anti-body in their worldview and approach. They abhor local dialects, any kind of humour and all kinds of fun. In their search for the serious and the high, they dread simplicity and directness, life and liveliness.

Leave alone their slavery to the printed word, most of them are obsessed with mind and memory, something baffling from ‘young’ image-makers from the campus. In film after film, you see various forms of reminiscing that try to capture something already lost. For, why should the youth apparently living an ‘adi-poli’ life (as was evident from the student delegates who attended these festivals) compulsively hark back to ‘remembrance’ and be nostalgic for a past that never was, or is yet to be? Why this desire to dwell upon the mind, rather than body, and the happenings around and here & now. Why this compulsion to hark back to memories/thought rather than depicting or dwelling upon surface, body, life and world And all signs of contemporariness, like dating, cell phone, bikes etc are barred from the films. (Or, is it that only those who are averse to such things want to engage in such ‘serious’ activities like filmmaking?). Most dangerously, most of the films hold very conventional notions about man-woman relationship. You invariably find the condescending ‘intellectual-man’ and the demure, follower-female’ in campus films too where it seems to be the dominant pattern (The thinking male and blabbering female!) Many of the films drown within the closed world of the male protagonist’s mind

Another feature that stands out is the almost total surrender to technology and non-linear editing. Whatever is shot seem to be placed at the foot of the editor who uses all kinds of NLE techniques according to his sweet will and pleasure. This penchant for push-button methods reflects upon the end product, in which techniques stands out, and one is forced to feel that effects are used just for effects’ sake, just because such effects are available..

In almost all films, there is an utter lack of sensitiveness to the use of sound. Very rarely is music used with any ‘insight’. Lack of politics is another significant feature that stands out.. There is an evident lack of ‘something to say of one’s own’. The young filmmakers are not against any aesthetic/dominant form of life, politics or art. So, naturally there is no revolt in form or content, and the treatment tends to be wholly driven by technology and editing. All of them are looking UP to the existing modes of narration and treatment rather than looking BEYOND and against

Everyone seems to want to make a FILM rather than use the possibilities of VIDEO. Everyone seems to be dreaming of becoming a Maniratnam. It is ‘video vainly dreaming of being a feature film’. And what we get are ‘campus films that are nostalgic about ‘campus’?!!

malayalee male heroism

Male Heroism and Family at the Verge

Interestingly, the narrative centre of two recent films, Thanmatra (Blessey) and Achanurangatha Veedu (Lal Jose), is the middle class malayalee family. In both films an accident or an unexpected turn of events swirl the otherwise complacent and well-knit family out of control and into deep chaos. Families in both the films are patriarchal, with a 'proper' man at the head as the sole earning member; it may not be a coincidence that both are also middle level government employees. While the mother is a housewife in Thanmatra, in Achanurangatha Veedu, she is only a memory, someone who has left behind three girl children to the care of the father. The coincidences do not end there. In both films, the fathers have placed great hopes upon the future careers of their children; both ultimate Malayalee dreams, of making their offspring a doctor and an IAS officer. While the dream is shattered in the case of the daughter in Achanurangatha Veedu, it is a near-possibility in Thanmatra. In both cases, dreams are displaced onto the next generation; unlived lives and unrealized dreams haunt both the families, or more exactly, the patriarch-fathers. Significantly, the family in the former film is a dalit Christian one (converted one), and in the latter a middle caste.

The tragic end that the Idea of the middle class family meets with in both films, hints at the wider and deeper social despair in our society. The solitary unit of the middle class family, (the word 'nuclear' gains ominous resonance in this context) plunges into a dark despair in both instances; and it is not able to reach out to or connect to anything social or humane, from which it could draw some sense, of meaning and sustenance. The frenzy of the community prayers of his adopted religion on the one side and the occultism of the community that he left on the other side, in Achanurangatha veedu, is a stark and chilling reminder of the very impossibility of community in the real sense. It seems to be something that can be felt or reached only in a frenzied state, something that one has to furiously work up; curiously, it is a space where one is one with the transcendental but utterly alone socially or physically. Look at the shots of the frenzied prayers, where each one desperately tries to 'get lost' in oneself or dissolve oneself to reach the ecstatic state of togetherness with the divine. In the case of the hero of Thanmatra, it is through memory and memorizing that he tries to keep the world around him and his sense of identity and self-respect together. Once he loses that faculty, the world crumbles around him like a pack of cards.

To say that the withdrawal of the individual into the shell of nuclear units reflects and amplifies the inhumanity of the System itself would be a cliche. May be it is more significant that in both the films, it is basically the loneliness and despair of the man, the patriarch, the 'head of the family' that constitutes its essential tragedy says a lot about malayalee modernity and post-modernity. More significantly, though both of them are men and patriarchs, their journeys have been radically different. For the hero of Achanurangatha Veedu it is a journey from the idiotic occultism to frenzied prayers and utter lack of hope, for he is totally devoid of any dreams at the end; for the middle class/caste hero of Thanmatra it is a long journey of displaced/postponed dreams, which at the end, when it approaches realization, finds he himself as dead vegetable. Another interesting feature of both films is the lack of or cancellation of heroism. While the hero figure in Thanmatra is systematically stripped of any kind of heroism, the similar is the case with Achanurangatha Veedu, where even the potential heroes (like the wronged youth played by Prithviraj or the upright police inspector) fail the conventional narrative demands. Despite all the shortcomings, this total absence of male heroism and the impossibility of man-woman relationship/romance in the background of an impotent and indifferent System, bring these narratives especially of the latter to the verge of something radical.

Elephantine Celebrations

Of Elephants and Malayalee Celebrations

Elephants are an ubiquitous presence for the central keralites during the 'festival season stretching from November to April (starting from festival at Tripunithura Temple to the one at Koodalmanikkam, Irinjalakuda). During this season, one comes across elephants everywhere; on the road, trudging their tedious way through the burning macadem roads, making a very precarious journey atop trucks, and at festivals, carrying the image of god and His or Her henchmen with all kinds of paraphernalia, in front of the teeming population of festival celebrators, percussionists and the huge multi-pronged torches blazing in front of them. Flex boards with huge pictures of elephants abound by the roadside announcing the impending festivals, and also the contribution-seekers in advance. Such demand for elephants is a recent phenomenon, with every temple vying with each other to field as many of them as possible in their festivals; every festival in central Kerala wants to be a Trichur Pooram, thus erasing their difference, local identity and colour. Every festival looks the same now, with the very same 'ezhunnallippus', paraphernalia and even the same percussionists and programmes. Everywhere it becomes a spectacle imported from outside, a copy of something grand, always yearning to be something it is not.

Elephants are a very popular stuff of local folklore and mythology from time immemorial. Kottarathil Sankunni wrote a series about the legendary 'kombans' in his 'Aithihyamala' bringing to life myths about elephants for generations to come. One of the popular non-story serials in Malayalam television now is about elephants (E for Elephant). There are a number of books being still written about legendary elephants (recent one being, 'Paramekkavu Parameswaran' by C A Menon). Films have also been made with elephant as the central character (like Guruvayur Kesavan). Above all, the elephant is supposed to constitute the typical symbol and embody the culture and tradition of the malayalees (whether it be the logo of the state government, its agencies, or our tourism promos).

For all this love for this majestic pachyderm, are we really kind to them? Do we have the right to parade them for endless hours for our pleasure? Do we really care for them at all? These are the questions that the heart-wrenching documentary of P Balan (18 th Elephant – Three Monologues) tries to raise. Structured as a series of monologues and with constant reminders about various such species similarly extinct, the film delves into the way elephants are actually treated by us. The goriness of some of the sequences in the film may be extremely painful to watch, but the emotional and intellectual impact these searing visuals have on the viewer is undeniable. The film virtually tears apart the façade of our much celebrated love for these poor beings, something that also throw curious light upon the contradictions of malayalee life and attitudes. We parade them with golden accoutrements in our festivals, but employ them for the most tedious of tasks. The film in fact looks behind the façade and into their lives beyond the 'ezhunnallippus' and into the dark realms of their real life (ours and that of these poor beasts) beyond the 'festive visibility' of our festivities.

18th Elephant – Three Monologues is a film that every elephant-lover in Kerala should necessarily see.

Televised Kathakali

Kathakali - From Television to Video and Beyond

The establishment of Kalamandalam way back in 1930, at the initiative of the legendary Vallathol and Mukunda Raja, was instrumental in preserving art forms like Kathakali and Koodiyattam and bringing it out from the claustrophobic spaces of the temples and elite households. Kalamandalam played a great role in secularizing and popularizing the art, taking it around the world and the country.

In the last decades, the emergence of Television has done something similar to such art forms, especially Kathakali. Television in fact revolutionized the very act and manner of viewing and enjoying the art, as well as preserving it for future generations and patronizing it now. The first to recognize such potential was Asianet who after covering a number of Kathakali-related events like the saptati of Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair, went on to organize the Kathakali Samaroh (produced by M R Rajan, whose contribution to 'filming of performing arts' in Kerala is yet to be properly recognised) for three consecutive years (2000-02). These Samarohs not only showcased the performance of almost all the major kathakali artists, but for the first time created a slot for kathakali in television. Those hundreds of hours of performance preserve the state of kathakali at the turn of the century for generations to come. Another innovative turn towards popularizing the art was subtitling, which broke the barriers of the art's supposed-to-be-obscure language of angika-abhinaya and mudras. It is a pity that Asianet withdrew from the project. Ironically, the footages of the Samaroh are still being telecast through its News Channel to the delight of Kathakali lovers worldwide, and even finding a place in TAM ratings! Kairali TV took up the Samaroh for one year before backing out, and now Amrita TV has taken a similar initiative. Our channels are yet to realize the archival value of such recordings, apart from its sheer economic sense, that of creating sufficient and interesting software that is amenable to repeated viewing unlike almost all the other TV programmes. In other words, it is just like buying the exhibition rights of films.

On the other side, the televising of kathakali also had its impact on the practice of the art. Apart from preservation, it also made it possible for the first time for the kathakali artists themselves to watch their performance, which was impossible earlier (This point was brought to my attention by K C Narayanan) This facility to view one's own performance, helped a great deal in improving and improvising the same later. Though many films have been made on legendary Kathakali maestros, they could have never imagined the reach that television gave it.
The popularity created by television and the creation of a niche market, is evident from several contemporary initiatives in the visual media. For instance the Vazhenkade Kunchu Nair Trust which was also instrumental in organizing the Samaroh, has brought out a series of VCDs 'Masters' Masterpieces' – of Banayuddham, Utthara Swayamvaram and Thoranayuddham featuring masters like Ramankutty Nair, Nelliyode, Kottakal Sivaraman Padmanabhan Nair etc. According to sources, the first edition of these CDs was sold out in no time, which is an indication of the demand for such products. Another initiative is by Vedika, Trichur, who have brought out the Kottayam Kathakal (Bhaka Vadham, Kirmeera Vadham, Kalayana Sougandhikam and Kalakeya Vadham) in the DVD and VCD format with English subtitles.

These initiatives will definitely go a long way in promoting Kathakali, and one hopes this trend will spread to other classical, ritual and folk art forms of Kerala which are on the verge of extinction for lack of patronage, proper exposure and informed appreciation.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Remembering Pavithran

Remembering Pavithran

Pavithran may have made only a handful of films in his three decades long career, but his presence and now his absence can never be measured by it. Even in this seemingly small oeuvre, marked by long spells of inaction and revelry, there were all kinds of films – personal, milieu, realistic, historical, farcical etc. This diversity itself marks him off. But more than that, life itself was his medium par excellence.

Enamored of films from his teens, he went to Pune to join FTII. But institutions were always allergic to him, and he couldn't get admission. So he was forced to hone his skills outside the ramparts of the Institution. Evidently, he was after something radically different, which one finds reflected in his early works. In a period when everyone crawled when asked to bend, he and his friends like Backer and Chandran made Kabani Nadi Chuvannappol. It was a very daring film and one of the few films made during Emergency that dared to revolt.

His first independent work Yaro Oral (1978) is undoubtedly one of the most significant works in the history of Malayalam cinema. One of the very few 'personal' films in Malayalam, it was a film that broke all the rules. It was a quintessential Pavithran film, with its dark, pungent humour, utter disregard for naturalism, deep sense of humanity, total negation of realism and linearity etc. Though it was a typical film of the period with its long static shots and extended spells of silence, no other film had dared to take it to such extremes, and the critics hailed it as a 'surreal fable about death'.

In his next films, Uppu (1986) and Utharam (1989), he indulged in the very same realistic styles he spurned earlier. But he did it with a definite style and mastery over form and narration, something that further validated his rejection in a way. Uppu still remains one of the most sensitive films about the Muslim milieu in Kerala, and Utharam was a fast-paced psychological thriller parading all the stars of the period. In his last work, Kuttappan Sakshi, he tried to develop his own style further and make it address the challenges of the changing times. It was a hilarious but severely critical journey through the history of Kerala, looking at the life of the subaltern that has remained unchanged beneath the glossy surface of Kerala's progress and progressiveness. Made with a shoestring budget, this very disturbing and introspective film didn't get the exposure it deserved.

But beyond these handful of films, Pavithran will be remembered for his warmth, his vitriolic sense of humour, his ability to make every moment of life into a celebration, his keen understanding of music (this was something that was lacking in almost all the filmmakers of his generation, especially of the 'new wave' group. Incidentally, he did the music score to TV Chandran's Krishnankutty), his anarchic love that transformed the life and understanding of many of his friends like me, for his total indifference for recognition of any kind, and above all, for the way he valued friendship and camaraderie over everything else.

Adieu, Pavi..

The Oscars

Hollywood & Its Suprises

For all the antagonism one may harbour for Hollywood – for its unabashed Americana, its worldwide hegemony over other cinemas, it sheer size etc – once cannot escape the fact that it succeeds in producing surprises. These surprises are not merely technical or technological alone, but also thematic in the most disturbing and soul-stirring ways. Take for instance the recent Oscars, it most celebrated annual event. It in fact celebrated Hollywood's multiculturalism (an Asian, And Lee, bagged the prestigious award) its penchant for diversity and thematic freshness. The films that occupied the centrestage say a lot about its eclecticism (something certainly confined to English-productions, which mean Hollywood itself) and hunger for thematic diversity. Ang Lee's 'Brokeback Mountain' is about the relationship between a gay couple, Paul Higgis' 'Crash' is about the underside of racial relationship of a multi-racial US society, 'Capote' is based upon the life and times of the legendary writer, and Memoirs of a Geisha is an exotic look into another culture, this time the life of the geishas in Japan. While the latter looks out, the others – the major Oscar contenders – take a hard and deep look into American society, at its social innards, enigmatic paradoxes and suppressed sexuality.

Interestingly, Brokeback Mountain is a very typical and conventional love story by all means. The lovers meet in an idyllic and desolate circumstance, fall in love, the exigencies of life force them apart into different paths, and years later, when the old lovers meet, and rediscover their passion, love erupts leading their life to a tragic end. It is like any other quadrangular love story. Only that in this case, the lovers are both male.

The way homosexual love is placed in the narrative is interesting. For one, its origins run back to 'primitive' times (the wild west, the cow boys..) and to an untamed, virtually animal nature. It stands in very sharp contrast to the claustrophobic and planned urban landscapes and interiors of the second half of the film. While the heterosexual love in the second half is firmly placed within the urban family context, homosexuality is placed in a rural, wild, all-man past (no females at all in the first half that is dominated by immensely vast mountainscapes foregrounding the solitary togetherness of the duo). Evidently, the move, transformation or 'progress' from the 'unruly' freedom of nature (or natural freedom) to the restriction of culture or civilization is also one from a homosexual to a heterosexual love, though it erupts at the first provocation. Kudos to Ang Lee who dared to deal with an intense gay relationship in a very frontal and direct manner, never letting us to lose our involvement with it.

Though Brokeback Mountain deals with an intense theme in such daring ways, one would be more deeply shaken by Crash (Paul Higgis' debut film) for its complex and heart wrenching portrayal of the way racism works in US society. Maybe it didn't win the 'race' probably because it is an 'old theme' and has been dealt with by many talented filmmakers earlier also.


Remembering a Master – Devarajan

The departure of Devarajan master is the passing away of an era in Malayalam cinema and popular music. He and his fraternity like K Raghavan, P Bhaskaran, Vayalar, Dakshninamurthy, KS George, KPAC Sulochana, Janamma David, Abdul Khader, Mehboob etc virtually brought in a new medium of expression and exuberance for the malayalee.

Before their time, music was something confined to defined communities whether it be an elite preoccupation like karnatik classical music, the wandering ghazal singers of Malabar or folk expressions of endless variety all over the land. These music forms addressed and entertained a very defined and exclusive community of listeners. With the coming of secular art forms like theatre and later cinema, there came into being expressions and creations that attempted to speak and reach out to the 'malayalee' as a whole. It had to both address and create a 'malayalee' audience, so it had to invoke certain memories and images, render tunes from all traditions, and employ arousing lyrics to do so. In the process, it blended traditions that were insular earlier and were confined to certain spaces and groups, whether it be the temples, the sadirs, the churches, chambers or the community rituals. The new popular music took freely from all these. Karnatik ragas, Hindustani renditions, ghazal tradition, folk songs, mapilla songs – all these found a place in it.

These songs addressed and thus created a new secular malayalee society and nation through its imaginations of collective memories, images, narratives, symbols and imageries. Through these songs malayalee gazed at the 'golden sickle' afar. The caste and class boundaries crumbled in the 'talkies' and the theatres where people rubbed shoulders and spirits to watch and listen to the new imaginations about an idyllic agrarian past, struggles against caste oppression, the dreams of a faraway socialist fatherland etc

It was people like Devarajan who gave raga and voice to this malayalee yearning for freedom and togetherness, a common past and a future. And he freely used all strands to create an exciting texture of music that stirred popular imagination of the time. And those were times when songs had longer life. Those were times before the advent of tape recorder and the umpteen media that went to create a situation where one doesn't have to wait to hear the music one wants. If one doesn't have to wait, one also doesn't have to remember. Hence the undying attachment to the generation of Devarajan, who also represent the only period or continent of remembrance for the malayalee, an era in which there was still hope, and an equitable society was in the near future.

Television and Electioneering

Television and Electioneering

In his 1964 classic, Understanding Media, Marshall McLuhan makes a very perceptive observation about the frustration people experience with the medium of Television and its "self-imposed silence" on great issues of the day. According to him, "as a cool medium TV has … introduced a kind of rigor mortis into the body politic. It is the extraordinary degree of audience participation in the TV medium that explains its failure to tackle hot issues". For McLuhan, radio is much more of a medium of frenzy, it is "the major means of hotting up the tribal blood of Africa, India and China" while "TV .. has cooled Cuba down, as it is cooling down America. What the Cubans are getting by TV is the experience of being directly engaged in the making of political decisions". One wonders whether he would stand by his words now.

This experience of "being directly engaged" is the most intriguing factor. If one looks at the last decade of TV in Kerala, it is obvious that this medium has played a decisive (or even transformative) role in day-to-day politics in the state. (Now any budding politician has to train himself or herself to be a TV personality also). During recent times, many a political wave and swing was created by live telecasts, and many a persona made iconic or abhorrent through it. True, it has succeeded in keeping certain issues alive, raking up certain others, sometimes witch hunting and at other times, idolizing. But when one looks at it closely, has TV been able to shape or influence the political agenda in Kerala? Has it helped in making our civil society more vibrant and responsible? Has it empowered people in the real sense, enabling them to ask informed questions about issues of public interest?

Take for instance, the coverage of elections and electioneering in Malayalam. Beyond the haggling over seats and the intricate arithmetic of coalition combinations, has television probed or pinned political parties, leaders or fronts making them address questions of vital and immediate relevance to Kerala society and polity? Has there been a serious attempt at analyzing the Election Manifestoes, making leaders to adhere to it and to review the promises made in its earlier editions? And most importantly, where do the youth (who constitute a very large and unpredictable constituency in the elections) figure in all this? Beyond roads and bridges, does life-and-death questions regarding issues crucial to the youth of Kerala like higher education, cost of education, perspectives about future ICT scenario, employment etc find a place in our election discourses?

It is a pity that our election analysis and discourses are markedly middle-aged. They voice and address the aging demography of Kerala's life and imagination. The youth are beyond its pale of understanding, something that is sadly reflected in our 'predictions' and predilections.

Friday, May 12, 2006

VS enigma

Media's Own VS

The ways media work are enigmatic. Take for instance the case of a political leader like VS who was considered a not-very-powerful faction leader within CPM a few years back turning into a virtual icon in recent weeks. Obviously, in one way he personifies the yearning of the people at large for some sense of justice and ethics in politics, their desire for a no-nonsense voice (when is the last time we heard a political leader say publicly in such blunt terms, "lechers won't find place in our front"?) among their politicians, whose empty rhetoric they are fed up with. On the other, the kinds of issues VS has fought for (again with the help of media), even in the face of opposition from within his own party, like environmental issues, crisis in the agricultural front, gender justice, corruption, and mafia-controlled politics etc has struck a chord with the people. Added to this is his image and style of speech that is very obviously rustic and down to earth. An image of a rurality and rusticity that is immediately and easily associated with the nostalgia that is communism now – that glorious era of peasant uprisings and courageous leaders fighting their way forward bravely, with all those Vayalar & ONV songs in the background!

The most paradoxical thing is that even though the image of VS is closely bound with the pre-modern (and a dogmatist within the party, again a premodern affair within communist party politics), it is the new media and the youth that played a decisive role in making an idol out of him. During that tense week when his candidature was in doubt, the whole campaign for VS was fought in the arena of the new media – mobile phones, websites, television etc. Several websites and discussion forums were launched to vent public anger and discuss the "VS issue" which was accompanied by a flurry of SMS messages that made rounds seeking his candidature. People, especially the youth and women, suddenly found a martyr and a saviour in VS. And the polit bureau usually known for sticking adamantly to its "considered decisions", had to listen to the 'voice of the people', this time amplified by new media. Again, it was the 'new generation' PB members who turned the tide.

. Many political commentators said at that time that a monolith like CPM won't budge from its decision, for the party has seen such rebellion even before also by the likes of even greater stalwarts like M V Raghavan and Gouriamma. But they didn't realize that times have changed, or rather the media environment in which the malayalee lives has changed radically in the last few years. Eventually, they had to eat their words and found to their great astonishment the PB itself going back on its words! For, those ousted leaders, whatever may have been their stature and public support at the ground level, were fighting against their party during times when media was not as inflammable and impressionable as it is now.

So, the enigma of VS indeed belongs to the new media, a persona that also reflects the malayalee ambivalence between an idyllic notions about politics and power on the one and the fascination with new technologies on the other. An ambivalence that is also reflected in the duo of VS and Pinarayi also, two positions and world views that enchant and pull us at the same time but in different directions.

exit poll as election campaign

Exit Poll or Election Campaign?

According to a minister in the outgoing UDF government, fortunes of his front in at least 15 seats in the second and third phase of the Polls have been reversed or negatively influenced by the exit polls done at the first phase, and the wide publicity it got through the media. Though media especially television has been playing a very decisive role in the electioneering process, totally redrawing its contours and transforming its content and style, the results of the exit polls gave it a very different dimension. It was just like announcing the election results in advance! Such exercises very much gel with our times when speculation is part and parcel of our lives, whether it be in the stock market or real life and polity.

It is really unfair on the part of law to have allowed such exit polls to be conducted and its results announced especially in a situation like this where the election process is staggered into three phases. It will definitely have an impact upon the succeeding phases, for according to social analysts a certain percentage of votes go with the winners. Moreover, such celebration of the exit poll results would definitely affect the morale of the campaigners also in a big way. Moreover, in a state like Kerala, the fate of many constituencies is more often decided by a very slender percentage of votes.

But is there a case for banning such exit polls from announcing results in the middle of the election process? Would it be an infringement upon freedom of expression or that of the media? What if such exit polls are cooked up as an electioneering tool? Is there any check on the veracity and methodology of these exit polls? Are they – the media or the agency who sponsor and conduct such polls in anyway accountable to the public? These issues can be overcome only by restricting the announcement of the results to the end of the election process.

Actually, the accuracy of such exit polls can be verified only after the results come in. But by that time it would have become totally pointless. So unless some modalities are worked out on the conduct of exit polls, the very exercise will soon become an absurd affair. For, in the coming elections, every front would come up with an exit poll to show them in a favourable position. In other words, exit polls would become yet another election campaign tool