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BY SUGANDHA RAWAL
From “Avengers: Endgame”, “Joker”, “The Lion King”, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” and “Captain Marvel” to “Jumanji: The Next Level”, 2019 was Hollywood’s big year for superhero films and big franchises.
It was a year to break records and make new history in Hollywood, with “Avengers: Endgame” ending the decade-long reign of “Avatar” by emerging the world’s highest-grossing film of all time, and “Joker” becoming the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time.
There were some anticipated follow ups including “X-Men: Dark Phoenix”, the revamped version of “Charlie’s Angels”, the musical “Cats” and “Men In Black: International”, which turned out to be duds.
Despite the misses, hits were plenty and made it up for the duds. Robert Downey Jr bid farewell to his Iron Man avatar while breaking hearts and cinematic records, actor Joaquin Phoenix turned the story of a mentally unstable loner and failed comedian Arthur Fleck, who picks violence to find calmness in his life, into a blockbuster.
Before the year ends, IANS takes a look back at the hits of Hollywood.
It was an epic conclusion of an era and a historic achievement for Marvel. Every Marvel superhero from Iron Man and Thor to Captain America and Black Widow, assembled one last time to save the world from the supervillain Thanos with “Avengers: Endgame”, which shattered several box office records. Helmed by the Russo Brothers, Joe and Anthony, the film marked the end of the third Marvel phase.
It was an emotional affair for the fans as they lost some of their favourite heroes, with Iron Man sacrificing his life for the world, Captain America (essayed by Chris Evans) passing on the shield to Sam Wilson, aka Falcon and Black Widow giving her life so that Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) could secure the Soul Stone. It opened in April.
The film’s star-studded cast also includes Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Danai Gurira, Bradley Cooper and Josh Brolin. In July, “Avengers: Endgame” dethroned “Avatar” to become the world’s highest-grossing film of all time.
Joaquin Phoenix as the new Joker had a good laugh at the box office. From the way he uses violence to fight his inner demons to his chaotic laugh to his illusions to his revelrous dance, Phoenix won plaudits for transforming into the mentally unstable loner Arthur Fleck in the comic book drama. It narrated his journey of becoming supervillain Joker.
The 45-year-old star is being considered as a contender of Best Actor Oscar this year for the Warner Bros. project, which has become the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time, and has crossed the $ 1 billion mark at the worldwide box office. In fact, the impact is deep as it has sparked conversation around mental health. A follow-up to film is also in the works.
SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME
Tom Holland came back on the big screen as the iconic webslinger Spider-Man along with his friends to rule the box office. The Jon Watts directorial follows the aftermath of “Avengers: Endgame”, with Iron Man having a strong influence on the narrative despite his death.
From Holland’s Peter Parker/Spider-Man grieving the death of Iron Man and trying to move on by going on a school trip to the world mourning the demise of their enigmatic superhero — Iron Man comes back to life in the film — through his persona, legacy and technological inventions. Along with some imprints from the past, the film brought forward another adventure and enemy for Spider-Man in form of Mysterio (actor Jake Gyllenhaal).
Globally, the film swung past the $1 billion mark, becoming the first instalment in the franchise to do so. It’s also the first “Spider-Man” film to reach the milestone, and Sony’s second film to do so after “Skfall”.
Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson’s “Captain Marvel” had a smooth take-off in the superhero universe. The project introduced the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) first standalone, female-franchise title character, Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel, essayed by Larson. It follows Danvers’ journey as she becomes one of the universe’s most powerful heroes. It was released in March.
Breaking the misconception that female superheroes can’t hold strong on their own at the box office, the film joined its superhero counterparts (“Avengers: Infinity War”, “Black Panther”, “The Avengers”, “Captain America: Civil War”, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Iron Man 3”) in the ‘billion dollar’ club in April.
Disney’s live action film “Aladdin” brought back nostalgia, weaving a success story with the thrilling and vibrant adaptation of the loved animated classic movie, which took the world by storm in 1992 and established a legendary status amongst fans, especially with its blockbuster music.
In the film, directed by Guy Ritchie, Will Smith stepped in the shoes of late Robin Williams by taking on the role of larger-than-life Genie. Mena Massoud was seen as Aladdin, Naomi Scott as Jasmine and Marwan Kenzari as Jafar. It was yet another Disney project to enter the $1 billion club this year.
THE LION KING
“The Jungle Book” fame director Jon Favreau took audience for a walk down the memory lane by re-imagining the world of Disney’s 1994 classic to bring alive a live-action film. “The Lion King” follows the adventures of Simba, who is to succeed his father Mufasa, as King of the Pride Lands, and narrates a tale of how he rises up to the occasion despite several attempts to bring him down by his villainous uncle Scar.
Big names are attached as voice stars. In the Hollywood version, Donald Glover, Beyonce Knowles-Carter, James Earl Jones Chiwetel Ejiofor and Alfre Woodard were leading the cast.
From casting Shah Rukh Khan and his son Aryan to bring to life the characters of King Mufasa and Simba respectively to Sunidhi Chauhan and Armaan Malik lending their musical touch to the story — the desi elements were embedded into the Hindi version, which widened the film’s reach. The film entered the $1 billion club with a loud roar.
“Frozen 2” opened another adventurous chapter from the lives of princesses Anna and Elsa.
Set in fantastical land of Arendelle, “Frozen” is a story of two sisters Elsa and Anna who are on a path of finding acceptance and love, while trying to save their kingdom infused with heart-touching music and emotions. Elsa is struggling to accept her magical icy powers and effervescent Anna is trying to find a bond with her sister. “Frozen 2” brought back their story as they continue on the journey of finding their own self, by tracing their past and piecing it together with their present. The tale was infused with an environmental message.
The Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee project has crossed the $1 billion mark at the global box office, setting a record by becoming the sixth Disney release of the year to do so and the eighth title of 2019 over all.
The film opened life story of singing legend Elton John stitched together with music. Described as an “epic musical fantasy about the incredible human story of John’s breakthrough years”, the film follows the journey of his transformation from a shy piano prodigy Reginald Dwight into an international superstar. Wrapped in a package of sex, drugs and rock-and-roll, the movie highlights struggles of John, and his life beyond the sparkling glamour.
Directed by Dexter Fletcher, the film, distributed in India by Viacom18 Studios, stars Taron Egerton as John, Richard Madden as John Reid, John’s manager and one-time lover, and Jamie Bell as Bernie Taupin, John’s famed songwriting partner.
JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL
“Jumanji: The Next Level” took back actors Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan and Jack Black back into the jungle for yet another adventurous and chaotic ride. The body-swapping twist added to the fun of the film, and attracted cinema lovers to the theatres.
It is a sequel to “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”, which brought forward the world of Jumanji with a modern twist with a group of high school students getting lost in the jungle after laying their hands on a video game console featuring a version of the game. The film picks up where the 2017 film left off, but with some glitches and updates. The Sony Pictures Entertainment project also stars Nick Jonas, Awkwafina, Danny DeVito and Danny Glover.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD
Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” was his love letter to Los Angeles of 1969, and it was loved by all.
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is a fictional story of fading stardom told through aging star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Tarantino has woven real life stories into the plot with the infamous Charles Manson murders, including actress Sharon Tate, as a backdrop to make it more intriguing. Star power of two biggies, the Hollywood factor and ‘Tarantino’ treatment to a historical criminal case left everyone with a dazzling yet disturbing emotion.
Other notable releases included: “It: Chapter 2”, “Doctor Sleep”, “Gemini Man”, “Toy Story 4”, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”, “Knives Out”, “Bumblebee”, “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw”. (IANS)
Tenali Ramakrishna, or Tenali Raman as he is more popularly known is Birbal's equivalent in South India. A court jester and a scholar exuding great wisdom, Tenali Raman was known as one of the greatest courtiers in King Krishnadevaraya's court.
The Vijayanagar Empire ruled a large part of South India between 1336 and 1646. In the 16th century, the kingdom rose to prominence under the eminent leadership of King Krishnadevaraya. His continuous victories against his enemies ensured a successful and peaceful reign for his subjects. As a patron of art and literature, many crafts and cultural assets thrived in the empire.
Krishnadevaraya's beloved courtier, Tenali Raman is the finest example of the splendour of the Vijayanagar empire. He was born in Tenali, a town in Andhra Pradesh. He lived here until he lost his father, after which his mother brought him to Vijayanagar. He was discovered for his excellent wit and wisdom, and appointed in the court. He was one of the king's ashtadiggajas (collective name for the eight poets and scholars).
A statue of Tenali Ramakrishna near a Municipal Office in Andhra Pradesh Image source: wikimedia commons
Tenali Raman as a scholar, published great texts of wisdom, which have now become artefacts of the Kingdom of Vijayanagara. But his fame does not lie in these achievements. He is known for the mischievous jester that mythical folklore portrays him to be. Through stories, many writers have used jokes to impart wisdom and morals to many generations of people. The stories of Tenali Raman are almost legendary in the Southern peninsula.
Textbooks have been written with his moral stories in mind, and these days, many self-help book are also incorporating his wisdom. His most popular stories are, 'Mother Tongue', 'Cursed Face', 'Saluting the Donkeys' and many more. Through these stories, Tenali Raman, in some way, brought about social justice. Perhaps this is why he is most beloved by many people even today.
Keywords: Tenali Raman, Vijayanagar empire, Krishnadevaraya, Jester, Wisdom
It must be noted that different religions and societies in Southeast Asia have alternative narratives of Ramayana, one of the greatest epic.
Here are some of the versions of Ramayana!
Dasaratha Jakarta: The Buddhist Version
Interestingly, this version of Ramayana does not mention Ravana at all and in fact, there’s no mention of Sita’s abduction, too. In this version, Dasaratha is the king of Benaras and not Ayodhya. Also, Rama and Sita leaves kingdom and go to the Himalayas and not forests. Then, after twelve years, Rama and Sita return back to Benaras and get married.
Paumachariya: The Jaina Version
In this version, Lakshamana is the killer of Ravana and not Rama. Here, Rama is an ardent follower of Jainism, and so he cannot be the killer of Ravana. Also, this version states an army of warrior and not monkeys, as stated in Valmiki’s Ramayana. Another interesting feature of this version is that Ramayana is not shown as a villain, rather a magnanimous king and follower of Jainism.
Gond Ramayani: The Gond Version
Gond is an adivasi clan belonging from Madhya Pradesh in India. Interestingly, in this version, the story begins from where Valmiki’s Ramayana ended; when Sita is rescued from captivity. Also, Bhima, one of the Pandavas from the epic of Mahabharata, is mentioned in this version. Unlike Valmiki’s Ramayana, Rama is not the protagonist in this version.
Ramakien: The Thai Version
This is considered as Thailand's national epic, and is still taught in some schools in the country. In this version, Ravana is shown as a learned scholar and a noble king in this version. Also, Ravana’s pursuit for Sita is depicted as true love. There are a lot of similarities between this version of Ramayana and Valmiki’s version, but this version lays a lot of emphasis on Hanuman.
When a baby is born in an Indian household-they invite hijra to shower the newborn with their blessings for their blessings confer fertility, prosperity, and long life on the child. But when that child grows up we teach them to avert their eyes when a group of hijras passes by, we pass on the behaviour of treating hijras as lesser humans to our children. Whenever a child raises a question related to gender identity or sexuality they are shushed down. We're taught to believe that anything "deviant" and outside of traditional cis-heteronormativity is something to be ashamed of. This mentality raises anxious, scared queer adults who're ashamed of their own identity, and adults who bully people for "queer behaviour".
Hijras are a community of people who include eunuchs, intersex, and transgender people. They worship the Hindu goddess of chastity and fertility, Bahuchara Mata. Most hijras, but not all, choose to undergo a castration ceremony known as "nirvana" in which they remove their male genitalia as an offering to their goddess. The whole community is vibrant with hundreds of people with hundreds of ways of expression, the true identity of a hijra is complex and unique to each individual. In India, hijras prefer to refer to themselves as Kinner/Kinnar as it means the mythological beings who excel at singing and dancing.
Hijras worship the Hindu goddess of chastity and fertility, Bahuchara Mata.homegrown.co.in
The hijra community works systematically, the community separates itself from the outside world and teaches lessons to the young ones in secret. Each community has a guru and the other hijras are their disciples or chela. The "hijra ways of life" are taught to the disciples in a secluded environment where they leave their families and live with other hijras in the community. More often than not hijras are thought of as nothing different from transgender and often referred to as transgender; however, scientifically these two terms denote a different class of people. Hijras are a part of the whole community of people with various identities and of spiritual and cultural values meanwhile, transgender merely refers to those people whose gender identity differs from the sex assigned to them at birth, they are a part of the community and do not represent the whole community.
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Historically and culturally the community has existed in the Indian subcontinent as long as the civilization has existed. There are mentions of hijra in The Mahabharata, a holy book of Hindus. Shikhandi who was neither male nor female is a mythological legend. In another version of Mahabharata Arjuna, one of the Pandavas was cursed to be the third gender by Urvashi, when he refused to be sexually involved with her. In a story by Padma Purana, it is seen that Arjuna transforms into a woman to take part in Krishna's mystical dance which only women can take part in. The Hijra figures are prominent in Indian Mughal History as well, referred to as Khwaja Siras and known for their loyalty to the ruler, they worked as the sexless watchdogs of the Mughal harems. They held important positions in court and various facets of administration during Mughal-era India, from the 16th to 19th century. The Hijra community is a testament to the sexual diversity that is integral yet often forgotten in Indian culture.
If the whole hijra community was looked upon with enamor and respect in our history, what happened that when we come across the community we look at them with contempt and are filled with a mixture of negative, fear, laughter, and odd emotions. It's owing to the fact that under British Raj, the Criminal tribes Act 1871 hijras were criminalized and the law was made to eradicate the whole community. However, these acts were abolished by the Indian government after independence, and by 2014, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh all had officially recognized third gender people as citizens deserving of equal rights where the third gender means individuals categorizing themselves as neither male nor female. Even though the progress is slow but in 2015 Madhu Kinnar became the first hijra mayor in India was elected in the city of Raigarh.
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Although the hijra community was revered by society and is invited to births and weddings for religious and spiritual ceremonies, they still become victims of abuse and discrimination. Violence and hate crimes against the community have become common. They are deprived of education, job opportunities, seating in restaurants, etc. leading them to live in poor conditions barely surviving. They often have to resort to begging and prostitution to earn a daily living. The government has tried to address this issue by introducing bills for the protection of the hijra community, with prison terms and other punishments for those offending them, but there is little to no less effect on the social stigma against the community.
In India, the hijra community comes under the umbrella term LGBTQ+ and we notice that they lack voice and representation when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights. We need to understand that when we fight for LGBTQ+ rights we fight for the whole community, we fight for hijras who have been victims of violence, hate crimes, and disrespect from none other than the people of our society. And although hijras are a part of the LGBTQ+ community as a whole, they have an independent subculture of their own. It is worth every effort to know about them, to study about them, to befriend them, and to smile at them for they are every bit of human as we are and they have nothing but blessings in their heart.