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Apropos your cover story The New Republic Of Auteurs (Jan 15), Hindi cinema has undergone something like a revolution by coming out of the dynastic era of few heroes and heroines, fewer directors and producers mostly delivering the same formulaic movies revolving around the eternal love-triangle. Now the new breed, literally, of directors and producers mostly delivering offbeat movies on unconventional, at times startling, themes have pitched some of the most lucrative, not to mention cost-effective, tents in the Bollywood landscape. Along with them have come raw and refreshing faces as actors. All this change is indeed good, but I wonder if these new age plots and faces have that timeless quality that the actors and directors of yore had. Hrishikesh Mukherjee, one of my favourites, and comedian Mehmood come to mind as creators of timeless entertainment. Now, all is in abundance and there is hardly any such craze for either directors or actors. There are many new storytellers, but their stories are heard, viewed and forgotten. The era of classics—such as Sholay and Mughl-e-Azam has passed. Gone are the days when movies would run for weeks, months, and years celebrating silver, golden, and diamond jubilees in theatres across India.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
This refers to ‘When I Wrote Kahaani, Everybody Ran Away Faster Than Usain Bolt’. Producing movies has become a lot cheaper and streamlined. Even small/mid-budget films are now making decent money at the box office, thanks to the maturing of the multiplex age and the demand for good content from the new age audiences. I, however, have always thought that film-making is not just about making a living. Film is art. There are so many fine films that failed to get their due at the box office, but they remain as fond memories in the hearts of so many people. So many things come together to become a film; from production to storytelling, narrative, characters, actors. Leaving a piece of history that has the potential to influence people’s lives or their perception towards the world around them is an amazing and fulfilling job.
Mark D’Souza, On E-Mail
Unlike Hollywood, Bollywood, which was deeply invested in nation-building narratives earlier and then became a representative of various nationalistic aspirations, has had a huge sway on the masses. Hollywood has at best been entertainment from a distance for the American audiences, but the kind of ‘fan cultures’ Bollywood has cultivated in India has been a peculiar phenomenon. With the coming of multiplexes, mass cinema consumption ceased to be a thing, unfortunately. But the multi theatre system has finally diversified the entire range of content in the Hindi film industry. Small town stories of people of different shades are now coming to the forefront. The moral fabric of narratives used to be rather monochromatic earlier in films, but now a rangoli of has spurted out. This festival of different moral colours can at times confuse, even baffle, people. But then, these are curious times.
Mahesh Kumar, New Delhi
The Bollywood citadel may have been breached but the multiplex is a classist fortress too.
Anil S., Pune
This is about Outlook’s package on the abysmal system where unscrupulous profiteers in India’s private healthcare system mint money at the expense of ordinary citizens (Misery As A Terrific Biz Opportunity, Jan 15). Our abysmal healthcare is well-known—according to the WHO, India is ranked 187th out of 194 countries, carrying 20 per cent of the global burden of diseases. About 70 per cent of Indians spend an inordinate portion of their income on healthcare, driving many to penury. It’s this high cost of medical access that is driving quackery, over-the-counter treatment and proliferation of private hospitals. A poor country like Cuba, where healthcare is a fundamental human right, is able to deliver good care at a fraction of the cost. Rising private healthcare costs and falling public investment in healthcare in India are driving this crisis.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bangalore
Health and education are the primary responsibilities of a government. Only if people are healthy can they form part of the productive population, instead of being a burden on families, society and government. The Centre over the years has failed to focus on healthcare and education--no new government hospitals, health centres, schools and colleges have come up; the entire burden of a fast-growing population was conveniently passed on to the private/corporate sector, leading to a mushrooming of private educational institutions and colleges. Indeed, there are many cases where brain dead, terminally ill or even dead patients are retained in hospitals for months, giving hope to their families and fleecing them ruthlessly.
M.Y. Shariff, Chennai
My family too has had bad experiences with private hospitals. Some time back, my sister-in-law was being treated at a well-known private hospital in Tiruchirapally for a brain haemorrhage but the specialist was not in station. So she was just treated on the basis of the specialist’s advice over phone. He came after two days of the procedure only to tell us that there was no hope. She was kept in a ventilator till then with exorbitantly priced medicines being administered to her, but she never recovered. In another instance, more than Rs 1 lakh was paid to a Chennai private hospital where my daughter-in-law was admitted for her delivery. After the delivery, her child developed some complications and was kept in a secluded glass room for about a week. Each day of the week cost a bomb. Sadly, the newborn could not make it. But it was kept on ventilator for three whole days! I’m not a doctor, but I have my doubts that in both these cases, the hospitals saw huge money-making opportunities and unnecessarily prolonged the misery of these two patients, my kin.
Mahaboob Hussain Alla Baksh, On E-Mail
This refers to The New VC. The medical profession and corporate hospitals have come in for a lot of flak recently. Indeed, it would appear from this barrage of loud criticism that all Indians are immortal till they are killed off by greedy doctors. Yet, doctors are only the workers, landless labourers tilling the fields, if you will—small, though essential, cogs in the machine. Analysis of recent ‘high’ bills show that the doctor’s take rarely exceeds 10 to 12 per cent of the total. Yes, corporate hospitals overcharge. But for what? They cannot bill for the HEPA filtered air that patients breathe, for RO water that is drunk, for the clean, sterile sheets, the nurse to patient ratio of 3:1 in ICUs room. These are given. So, to keep the place going, they have to mark up rates of commodities that can be charged. True, implants etc need to be regulated, but to compare private ventures with government hospitals is just not right. Another popular grouse is that private hospitals were allotted subsidised land, so they should not overcharge. Five star hotels were allotted such land too, yet it’s nobody’s case that a cup of tea there should cost as much as the neighbourhood chaiwallah’s. And private schools are allotted free land too! Are their facilities and fees comparable to government schools? The truth is corporate hospitals exist because we need them to exist, in the same way as we require cars made by multi-nationals or guns made by Bofors. If you need robotic surgery or cyberknife or stereotactic brain surgery in the country it is the private players who can provide these, not municipal hospitals. These imported items cost serious money and this money has to be recovered. Business is never charity.
Medicine as a profession is different from others. There are too many variables that can affect a patient—a rotten tooth can ruin a good knee replacement, someone’s immune system may just fail or the body may stop producing a certain type of cell. Harmless bacteria in the colon can suddenly multiply, and there are lifestyle diseases to complicate matters. Then, you can’t turn away a patient because of a diseased liver or dicky heart. Though there are innumerable professional treatment guidelines, randomised trials and multivariate analyses, mortality can never predictably be zero. A specialist doctor’s life is more complicated than most people imagine. He is forever making subconscious notes while listening to you; conflicting diagnoses are churning in his mind, as are hastily remembered guidelines. And he is supposed to deliver his judgement on the spot. And be right every single time! Compare this with the learned judge who can sit back and ponder over months, sometimes years.
Dr S.V. Kotwal, On E-Mail
Your editor needs to sit through just one business review meeting of any corporate hospital in the country to realise how difficult it is for it to make profits (The New VC, Jan 15). I hope you know that a lot of them are being taken over by bigger groups for lack of funds. Customers are willing to pay Rs 25,000 for just one night in a star hotel room, but it pinches to pay 50k per day in an ICU with high-fidelity machines and clinical experts. Quality comes at a cost, sir. Let us not forget that, okay?
Pearl Fernandes, On Email
Your magazine’s unrelenting quest to demonise the medical profession leaves me wondering about the state of journalism in these times. Surely, the moral high ground Outlook’s editors take when criticising doctors and hospitals disappears when it comes to the news media, which is as corrupt and as involved in corporate deals as the medical community, if not more. Let’s look forward to an investigation of media scams and shams in one of your future covers, shall we! I highly doubt this will ever happen though.
Kothari, On E-Mail
I write in response to Outlook’s timely story on the encroaching sea eating away at the vitals of the ecologically crucial area of Sunderbans (Graveyard of a Land, Jan 15). Over the years, successive governments have failed to address the issue of serious erosion in the Sunderbans river islands, resulting in several of the islands disappearing into the sea, affecting human lives as well as flaura and fauna. In the last decade alone, around a hundred islands have disappeared. The threat looms large for the metropolis of Calcutta. Luckily it was not in the path of the tsunami a few years back. It’s time for the central and state governments to seriously take up the issue. The delta is an extremely precious natural zone that we cannot afford to lose.
Lt Col Ranjit Sinha (retd), On E-Mail
The range of reactions that Rajnikanth’s confirmation of political entry has evoked is as fascinating as some of the roles of the superstar (New Dawn Or A Lit-Up Screen, Jan 16). His decision to contest all the 234 constituencies in the next Tamil Nadu assembly elections has brought cheers to his fans and large sections of people who were looking forward to a change from five decades of corruption and the incompetence entrenched in the Dravidian parties. Yet, one fails to understand why Rajni set the rider that he would renounce politics within three years if people do not accept him as a leader. That said, the political parties in the state are in jitters. Some have set their eyes on his non-Tamil nativity as a point of attack. Now, that is too cheap a tactic.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
It is a disgrace to reduce Rajni to a Karnataka-raised Maharashtrian. On his part, the actor has sought to lend an air of lofty idealism to his political philosophy by characterising it as “spiritual”. It’s a smart tactic, given that it will stand directly in conflict with the atheism ingrained in Dravidian parties. No doubt given the personality vacuum created in the state (due to Jayalalitha’s death and the advancing age of Karunanidhi), Rajni’s timing could prove to be a political masterstroke.
Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee, Faridabad
It appears that Rajni wants to reap the fruits of power and being an advocate of soft Hindutva. The BJP may be pushing him to the edge with its own desperate designs to gain a toehold in Tamil Nadu politics. Tamil people have been ruled by many cine stars, but mere stardom may not help Rajni. It is very crucial for the superstar to articulate his vision for the state, and take a clear stand about the BJP and other challenges facing the state. Rajni’s political foray may not be an alternative to the state’s Dravidian politics, though there is bound to be some churning in the field.
Lal Singh, Amritsar
Tamil Nadu elections aren’t due till 2021, although there is a strong likelihood of them happening earlier. The DMK looks tired, the AIADMK is torn between factions, the Congress hasn’t been a force in the state for 50 years, and the BJP never was. Indeed in 2018, for voters in that state, Rajnikanth is likely to come across as a rare and refreshing option. It is interesting that, like M.G. Ramachandran and J. Jayalalitha, the two most popular chief ministers of Tamil Nadu, Rajni too isn’t from the state. The Karnataka links and the Maharashtrian roots will be exploited by his political rivals, making him vulnerable over a contentious dispute like the Cauvery. All the same, it remains to be seen what star power can outshine.
P. Arihanth, Secunderabad
It might be too early to say that Bitcoin is an accessible option for money laundering in India (Coins of Change, Jan 15). But the cryptocurrency has surely shown a potential for becoming an alternative money stacking space. What’s scary is that there is no international body governing the use of Bitcoin. Now would be a good time to take preventive measures against what cryptocurrencies are capable of doing in the future. India should frame laws to regulate the use of cryptocurrencies. If Bitcoin rates continue to rise as rapidly as they are doing now, it will be in proportion to the rise in its credibility. In the next few years, we may be looking at a completely new economy in the making. One outside, and even above, the purview of nation states.
Kamal Anil Kapadia, Mumbai
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