Dunkirk: Remembering the Lived Experience of War

Dunkirk has three points of departure for the rich Nolan Cinematic Enterprise. Nolan firstly returns with a historical adaption of the Dunkirk evacuations during the Second World War by small shipping trawlers of four hundred thousand men, as the survivors at the end of the movie reading off a newspaper, Churchill's statement to the British Parliament as a monumental failure on the battlefield inspite of a successful evacuation. The soldiers after coming home greeted by an old man as 'Well Done', while the soldier exasperated spits out 'All we did was to survive', the old man who is visually challenged reverts: ' That is enough' and continues saying well done and bravo while he distributes food to the oncoming soldiers. Unlike Interstellar and Inception, he has taken on archival material rather than applied his craft to the world of science education, space and subconscious theft and imaginary worlds folding and collapsing surreally. Real events have a narrative truth bandwidth to adhere to and the artistic licence can be rather limited.

Dunkirk was one of the theatres of the Second World War mapped across the globe. But, this plot is unusual for two more reasons; the movie withdraws from the grand geopolitical master narrative to focus on the human elements of war, one of civilisation's vehicles for destruction. Thirdly, this is a losing battle, an evacuation of the British soldiers from a theatre of war, where there is no victorious element to round off the film. The movie liberally borrows from the Nolan film tool box with excellent background music from Zimmer and grand but muted/detached surreal cinematic visual treatment with critical juxtapositions.

The film is stripped off war movie tropes of high energy war sequences such as Black Down Down, where the action sequences are in the face. The three sub parts of the movie are enmeshed with an air bombing stream, a boat stream which is most touching with two young men rescuing an air pilot and sailor in Mid sea and a ship rescue track.

The captain of the moonshine boat who has lost his pilot son in the war, is sailing the boat to Dunkirk with his younger son and a young man who joins the journey to win favour in his fathers eyes as a war hero, dies on the journey and is ultimately feted in the local paper as a war hero as the captains son makes sure his efforts are not in vain.

War movies are exercises in popular history and particularly in this digital era, where history is unimportant for the tech class as attention spans and delusions of the future captures contemporary attention: History is synonymous with silence, erasure and memory. There has been considerable online debate on the erasure of voices of soldiers from the colonies in Britain's war effort in this movie as can be read in Dr Raghavan's book on India's involvement in the war effort.

Representation and Cultural Appropriation are contested issues in visual art. But, this movie succeeds in bringing out primal instincts of soldiers to survive in a war environment; French versus British and an effort to escape the action. 'Survival is Greed and agreed is Selfish' is told by a soldier in the movie.

War changes people and changes them forever, as the captain of moonshine boat says as he speaks with his son who is trying to serve tea to the rescued sailor, and he is to too shocked by his experience to accept the warm gesture of the tea offer, in Mid sea. Lived experiences of war is the strength of the film.

In this age of low intensity conflict and wars raging all around and being numbed by violence; Dunkirk is an incredible remainder that is beyond the political, war is intimately personal. Must watch for all history buffs.



Bhutan in the Gulf

Met a Bhutanese national for the first time who is fluent in Hindi at a Canadian Cafe in Muscat. Asked her how she knew India's so called national language as I heard her speak to her south Asian colleague and the tall yet petite woman quipped in a shy manner 'I am a big fan of Bollywood and especially Salman Khan movies' I then asked her how did she find Tubelight (the latest Salman Khan release, and she was emphatic that Salman did not suit the role and that Hrithik suits such emotional roles better. Globalisation is cross cutting with intersectionalities, as soft power and newer avenues for migrant labor open up as far as Thimphu.


Meaningless Binaries

India has entrenched binaries
Metropolitan Elite versus the hinterland
Vernacular versus Cosmopolitan
Now, Secular means Graft
And Development for Majoritarianism
Definitions are being reframed
Although the basics stand still
Food on the plate
Roof on the head
Job to support the family
These are a few of everyone's favourite things

Tanking, a Poem

Nation Building is synonym for sacrifice
Rituals and Totems of the Nation State
The Flag, The Anthem, The Parliament
Are all vital
Academia is as well
Human Development indicators matter
A Tank is not one of them
No wonder we trail our neighbours
As progress is blinkered
And the Nation Is an imagined community
With people at its core
Which is often forgotten/foreign, conveniently


Temples of Post Modern Aspiration 

Frames lifted from a Science Fiction work

Delight anticipated, rather than dystopia 

All wired and plugged into a perennial data performance dashboard 

Where everything is smart


Even the Cow

Where prejudice is baked in to deep fried data

Where are the questions of Memory and Heritage

Culture and Social Inclusion

Oh, Smart. Is itself a Digital Culture 

Erasing the non progressive past

A vanguard for Digital Modernity

Baby Driver: A Movie Review 

Baby Driver is a different car thrill and chase film. It’s cute, with a heart and great fun watching the film. The film’s anchor is in urban freeways and music and the iconic iPod is a symbol of urban culture. As an underworld, gun totting and horse power fuelled visual narrative, it does not have the cool appeal of FF franchise, but tugs at emotional strings for traction. A Good Samaritan who does crime to survive while caring for his step father and lives in the memory of his singer mother. A transporter who moonlights as a DJ. An out and out American road movie. 

Globalisation’s Child: Cafe’s 

Hipster Boutique Cafes in my neighbourhood in Muscat. I still prefer my Karak Chai for 10 percent of the cost of my double expresso shot machiatto though. Globalisation as I quip often, comes in various shades, rather weird. This picture is so geographically mundane that it could have been taken in Mumbai, Jakarta or elsewhere. Joining the global economic grid comes with such creature comforts. 
The steep pricing structures will however be a dampener for individual entrepreneurs trying to bring in the Seattle Artisanal Coffee Culture to the Gulf as this region has an independent coffee shop culture typically south Asian and Turkish. 
Al Khuwair is not Tiong Bahru. @boomba_oman
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