Le Scaphandre et le Papillon ( The Diving Bell and The Butterfly) is one of the most remarkable films I have seen of late. It tells the the true story of Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby who suffers a stroke and has to live with a totally paralyzed body except his left eye which remains unaffected. Helped by two caring and sympathetic therapists along with an immensely patient and understanding scribe he succeeds in dictating the story of his life, all conveyed through the fluttering of his solitary eye-lid. The director, Julian Schnabel's sensitive depiction of such mournful a human tragedy is both heart-rending and introspective at the same time. Mathieu Amalric, who plays Bauby (Best known for playing Dominic Greene in Quantum of Solace), has only his eye to act for him and he does it to perfection, driving his audience to tears with his restless manouevers and naked helplessness. This film is not a journey of faith nor a story against insurmountable odds where the protagonist comes out triumphs. Rather it is a story which makes one ponder one's own way of life, how he/she treats his/her loved ones; for there could never be a chance to make amends tomorrow. This sense of foreboding fills us with dread as we see Jean-Do struggle to convey things we so take for granted in our lives everyday. We feel belittled by the impact of his infirmity, to watch how an ageless mind is trapped inside the rigid carcass of a dysfunctional body. Though Bauby dies only 10 days after his book is released, we are told, his story does its bit in putting a seed of consciousness in the heart of its audience and that for a film of mere 107 minutes is an enviable achievement.
A ennobling film based on an extraordinary story which tries in its own little way to make better human beings of us all; all it asks from us is a little empathy to truly appreciate and "live" its message of love and compassion.
Reason : People are flocking to their outlets, seeking the latest in "deep-impact" sneakers and aerodynamically designed chappals to greet their netas with, first thing in the morning. Brands like 'Sree-leaders' and 'Hurl-puppies' are turning out to be the biggest gainers in this segment while activists under the banner of "Nanga-Payr Susth PrashashanManch" get more vocal with popular backing burgeoning.
Effect : More and more small-time netas are being accused of clandestinely distributing cheap sandals to their supporters before the start of rallies where they are being instructed to hit the podium from various angles and at equal intervals between their "hate speeches"- readily transforming them to "hit speeches" - getting day-long TV coverage and political mileage for free. The add-on includes being catapulted to the status of figures like George Bush, Ahmadinejad, Wen Jiabao and now L.K Advani with a single sling of footwear. Speculations are rife within political circles that the leader with the most number "hits" at the end of the campaigning might stake his/her claim to the PM's post on the basis of popularity. Amar Singh has stoked fears with his,"Negative publicity is also publicity" remark in the mould of the redoubtable Rakhi Sawant and the ever "resourceful" Mallika Sherawat. The Congress is agitated now that the BJP seems determined to field Narendra Modi from at least 10 Muslim-dominated Lok Sabha constituencies following recent developments. Their possible ploy of fielding both Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler from Punjab is being hailed as a masterful counter-move by supporters and detractors alike. On the other hand the CPI(M) politburo has expressed concern that several of the Trinamool MLAs were spotted in queues outside prominent shoe-stores at Lindsay Street in Kolkata. The Speaker of the West Bengal Assembly has promptly issued a directive to all members of the House - "to be divested of all footwear and other associated instruments of protest before entering the Assembly Hall" to which Mamata Banerjee has responded with her characteristic ferocity. The TMC plans to launch its "Khali Paaye Khali Gaaye Andolon" (Naked Feet Naked Torso Agitation) for an indefinite period of time before the directive is revoked and fair chance is given to all MLAs in taking aim at their opposite numbers inside the Assembly. A petition bearing the signature of 60 MLAs has already been forwarded to the Governor in this regard.
Side-effects : The Election Commission is contemplating a blanket-ban on shoes during elections. Anbumani Ramadoss has promised to ban shoes if he is returned to the Lok Sabha.
Nike and Adidas has cut-down prices drastically to come "within reach" of the common man.
India goes to vote in less than 24 hours from now and in what promises to be a fascinating exposition of democracy choose who rules the country for the coming five years.
Though the latter part of the above statement might be an oversimplification the average Indian will keep pegging his hopes at seeing a stable government installed at the Centre. Here are some reasons he might get disappointed in the near future:
Each of the UPA, NDA and the Third Front combines fail to reach the magic number of 272 and we get a hung assembly, which in all possibility we will. The following situations might surface :
1. Congress emerges as the single largest party. DMK does well in Tamil Nadu to lend respectability to whatever little remains of the UPA . RJD-LJP-SP perform well enough in the cow-belt to be profitably realigned with the UPA with more bargaining power than before. Sensing the current towards this fledgling front NCP throws in its weight and the UPA is resurrected, dangling cabinet posts for more new friends, willing them to join in. The southern-settlement negotiated with the likes of PMK and MDMK the Congress still seems to be in need of additional support.
(i) Mr. Karat says "No" and the UPA is looking at weaning away Mayavati or Jayalalitha from the Third Front. The presence of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Karunanidhi in the UPA makes cohabitation an impossible exercise for these two mercurial maidens of legendary whim. In comparison, taking in Deve Gowda might be easy but it will hardly serve the purpose of meeting numbers.
(ii) Mr. Karat says "Yes" and the Left Front reverts back to its "We had to do it to keep the communal forces ( read BJP) out". Considering the projected losses of the Left in West Bengal and Kerala come out to be real, even after their support the UPA will enjoy a very thin majority and be liable to seasonal fluctuations of temper and policy. Add to it the disturbing apparition of Mamata Banerjee and the CPI(M) in the same front and you know Mrs Gandhi's hands are going to be more than full this summer.
2. The BJP emerges as the single largest party and JD(U), Akali Dal does well in Bihar and Punjab respectively. Seizing the opportunity TDP, AIADMK and BJD bolster the NDA and with time more friends emerge from nooks and corners. The Third Front disintegrates and both Sonia Gandhi and Prakash Karat are left sulking in their dens. That leaves the NDA humoring cabinet-berth demands of Jayalalitha on one hand and wooing Mayavati, just in case the wheels wobble mid-way.
3. The Third Front bags 125 odd seats and proves to be uncharacteristically cohesive in the post-election scenario. The Congress having conceded its single largest party status in the House to BJP is left with few options but to support a Third Front Govt. from outside "for the sake of secularism". Mayavati becomes PM with BSP bagging 40 odd seats and the country becomes one huge caste-cauldron in the mould of U.P and Bihar with reservations becoming the top priority in a Dalit-Muslim oriented Pan-India agenda. The Congress looks to pull the plug on the govt. at the first opportunity which presents itself and the cabinet lives precariously, formulating policies for survival rather than progress.
Any fair judge of the situation would recognize the fact that the probability of any of the three major fronts forming a Govt. at the Centre is equal. But one thing is certain considering the mutable nature of political alliances in election season this summer and that is: " Don't vote for any Front. It might not be there come May."