USUALLY, I read the papers on a Wednesday morning and then write my diary. The first item is always political, based on what is making the news. When I read the papers on Wednesday, September 4, I was so disgusted, the headlines were so depressing, that I have decided to skip the political item. Instead, I am going to write about one of my favourite film directors, the Austrian-born Jew, Billy Wilder. Among the many films he made, three stand out in my memory. Sunset Boulevard, Some Like it Hot and The Apartment. Working with Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot nearly gave him a nervous breakdown. To shoot one simple piece of dialogue—“It’s me, sugar”—the inept Marilyn made Wilder do 17 takes. But on screen, he would say later, she was “pure magic”.
My favourite Wilder film is The Apartment, made in 1960. I had the pleasure of seeing it again recently. It is described as a “poignant comedy” and stars Jack Lemmon and Shirley McLaine. The Apartment beautifully captures the bizarre corporate life in the America of the 1950s. Four company managers serially use Lemmon’s bachelor apartment for their extra-marital liaisons. For this service, Lemmon gets promoted steadily till he falls for the elevator operator (Shirley McLaine), who is being screwed by one of the managers in Lemmon’s apartment. Lemmon decides to stop the renting. The Apartment won five Oscars—best director, best picture, best art direction, best writer, best editing. At the end of his career, when he got a lifetime Oscar, Wilder, a master of quotable quotes, told the Academy, “Oscars are like haemorrhoids. Eventually, everybody gets them.” One more: “I have ten commandments. The first nine are, ‘Thou shalt not bore.’ The tenth is, ‘Thou shalt have the final cut.’”
A couple of days ago on the BBC, I watched a live debate in the House of Commons on whether to send British troops to Syria in view of the sarin gas attack. It was a fierce, rowdy debate with Prime Minister David Cameron taking on the Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband, head-on. Voices were raised, tempers displayed. However, one word from the Speaker and every MP fell in line. So along with heated passions, one witnessed exemplary decorum. The rules of the House were sacrosanct.
Consider the goings-on in our Lok and Rajya Sabha. Parliament in India is beyond a joke. It is a farce. The highest form of parliamentary protest seems to be disruption. If a political party feels strongly on an issue, the best, most effective way of showing loyalty to that issue is not to let Parliament function. That has become the acid test. Politicians frequently ask why the general public holds them in such low esteem, and then quickly blame the media. If all that the aam aadmi sees MPs doing in Parliament is threatening the Speaker, tearing up bills, walking into the well, and, increasingly, coming to blows, is it any surprise they are perceived as dangerous clowns who the aam aadmi treats with contempt?
I caught David Frost’s first edition of the iconic satirical show That Was The Week That Was in 1962, and followed him ever since. Kitty Muggeridge, wife of the naughty Malcolm, put it best: “He rose without a trace!” And Peter Cook, who started Private Eye, confessed the biggest mistake he made was to save Frost from drowning. Among his more cerebral contemporaries, Frost, who died last week, was a figure of fun largely because he had left them far behind.
Frost pioneered a style of interviewing which was relaxed, gentle and non-hectoring. He introduced the “hanging sentence” in his interviews which paid him rich dividends. He would ask a tough question in his inimitable style, the interviewee would give a bland reply. Instead of rushing in with the next question, Frost would let the reply hang for a couple of seconds. In that gap, the interviewee would step in, feeling he had to add to his reply—and say something he never intended to say. That is how he trapped Nixon into the “I let my country down...” remark.
A Frost joke. He had interviewed Nixon’s vice-president, a useless fellow called Spiro Agnew, much lampooned in the media. Frost recounted, “Agnew told me, ‘Who says I don’t serve the President usefully? Why, this morning I served him fruit juice, boiled egg, toast...”
Leaks from sleuths are counterproductive. They must stop. Currently, the information offered to the nation allegedly from the mouth of Messrs Tunda and Bhatkal will surely be denied by the two in court—and make the sleuths look silly once again. Why do they do it?
I read a wonderful quote from Borges: “I write for myself and for my friends, and I write to ease the passing of time.”
Vinod Mehta is editorial chairman, Outlook, and its founding editor-in-chief; E-mail your diarist: vmehta AT outlookindia.com
Apropos of Mr Mehta’s comments on Parliament (Delhi Diary, Sep 16), our democracy is still much more about form than substance, it is still a thin veneer on a deeply hierarchical people. What we have is an “elected monarchy”. As for our Brit fixation, in spite of 200-plus years of association, as much as some of our self-hating brown sahibs would want it, we can’t be like them. And thank god for that.
In Britain 30 tory MP defied the whip (anti war vote), and voted against the Govt. In India this would not have happend because of the anti-defection bill, so every time the govt wins in India.
In Uk the PM leads the debate, how may times MM Singh opened his mouth ?
Thats why the opposition has no way to win the argument.
So dont compare apples and oranges.
37 D Ramki
You have missed Murthis point completely, and not bothered to address it.
Along with so much budget money on feminist welfare, the gender casteist govt is wasting on pension schemes for woman.
The BJP policy would probably to continue this policy too,( though I cannot believe Sushma could well have a hand in its crafting ). But nothing is unbelievable, knowing Sushma derives her powers from the Bellary gangsters
VNK Murti >> Poor elder males pension is snatched away by Passing PFRDA Bill with the actual connivence of Sushma.
* 90% of people who work in unorganized sector dont have any pension even after decades of socialist policy rule. So this bill is not making things worse for this 90%
* And for 10%, the pension burden on budget is increasing so much, that is why NPS is designed to give greater returns to common people based on contribution.
* The communist created EPF is already in big deficit and public money cannot be wasted on this, given that just 10% of people benefit from it..
* The idea that govt should give high pension to everyone when they turn 60 is not possible in india,where only 3% of people pay tax and
* The NPS is giving people the choice to decide. If you save 40% of your income and contribute , you get higher pension. So indivduals can decide. Not a politburo run by karat or yechury or D Raja .
* And for share market thing pls dont repeat the lies of your party and make yourself sound silly. The investment choice is individual. As a individual i may like to invest in sensex or i will avoid. All information is there in internet. Why should a politburo decide what is good or bad for me?
* In kerala, even communist voters dont put their money much in government (small savings) but invest in gold and real estate. Let the communist first convince their voters to trust the government mandaded savings.
VNK Murthi >> Why you forgot to ask Ramki The role played
by Sushma swaraj in Conniving with Sonia
to get the bills become ACT?
Both sides of the coin look alike.
BJP was always for passing the pension bils because as a responsible party it knows that the current pension system where govt funds the gap is not sustainable.
And for other acts, it is well known that the game is by Saint Sonia to force things through allies. BTW, CPM also supported the food security bill. They were the ones who were demanding universal food security bill, a flawed idea because not everyone wants to eat the same PDS food.
VNK Murthi >> Thanks for the education. As for NPS the three options,I too, read.
but its all like "Statutory warning" Printed on Cig Packs.
After all the contributed moey is going to share market.
well, You atleast admire certain principles of Communist.I too do.
Why are you repeating the same lies of communists? The money contributed goes to share market, only if you want. Yes, i as an individual dont mind my money invested in sensex. What is the problem with communists? Should I outsource my freedom to the politburo of Karat and Yechury? Will karat and yechury help me out when i need money to go on that vacation to Darjeeling or take a ayurvedic treatment?
And your comparison with the warning on tobacco is so outrageous to say the least. Tell us why is government controlled LIC investing in share markets. Your communists want to nationalise everything and control the lives of all of us through a committee, but sorry rest of indians do not want that. Even in kerala, the people there mostly invest in gold and real estate and not put their money in government (small savings). Let Communist first convice their voters on this
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