Issue 12

Censorship in India and the Abolition of the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal.

On April 4th, the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) was abolished by the Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Services) Ordinance, 2021. This Ordinance abolishes several tribunals and hands over their functioning to the High Courts (why anyone would add to the High Courts’ already burgeoning burdens is a discussion for another time). The Ordinance was earlier a Bill introduced in the Budget session of the Parliament this year, but since it wasn’t considered and therefore not passed, the Centre brought it into instant force in this way.

The FCAT, set up under the Cinematograph Act, 1952, was the last stop for filmmakers who did not agree with the decisions of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). Often colloquially dubbed the “Censor Board”, the CBFC’s guidelines and suggestions for cuts have occasionally been met with distaste from filmmakers. If the CBFC’s Examining Committee did not pass a  film, it went to the Revising Committee. And if the filmmaker was dissatisfied with the recommendations or decisions of both bodies, they could approach the FCAT. Generally, it was found, the FCAT ruled quickly and in the filmmakers’ favour.

The ostensible reason for the abolition? To create a smoother process, to save resources spent on infrastructure that wasn’t able to sustain itself. It is true that many tribunals have been suffering from indifferent members and numerous vacancies. But the FCAT’s committee/jury, though headed by a retired judge, consisted of professionals from the film industry as well. This meant that the filmmakers who took their grievances there could be hopeful of being heard by people who knew exactly where they were coming from and had an understanding of film. Sharmila Tagore, who headed the CBFC from 2004 to 2011, had even made suggestions to strengthen the FCAT, hoping that it could also entertain the various film-related PILs that are filed in the courts. But instead, it has been abolished.

The blow, as always, will be felt by the smallest filmmakers with the least resources. The FCAT charged an affordable fee to view the film and to hear both sides of the dispute. Filing a case in the High Court is far more expensive. Additionally, with the number of cases the High Court deals with, it is entirely possible that arriving at a decision will take much longer. While large production houses might be able to afford the delay, it will be death for small films that depend on a quick release to recover their costs.

It is also important to remember that, unlike with the strictly legal High Courts, the FCAT could view the film as a work of art as well. That meant that the jury would also consider how the CBFC’s recommended cuts would affect the film as a whole. It is tough to imagine that in the High Courts such considerations would be made at all. Judgements will naturally be arrived at based solely on legal grounds.


In truth, the abolition of the FCAT is being seen as part of a series of efforts on the part of the establishment to restrict filmmakers’ free artistic expression. Since the beginning of the year, two big cases have confirmed this belief.

In January, the release of Amazon Prime Video’s web series Tandav was met with an uproar from several members of the BJP. MP Ram Kadam claimed scenes featuring actors dressed as Hindu gods hurt (his) religious sentiments. Another member of the BJP, Kapil Mishra, angrily said Tandav was “spreading massive hate”; it is useful to point out here that Mishra himself made several hate speeches last year during the Delhi riots. Tandav’s makers and stars were subjected to at least two police complaints, and given increased police security.

In March, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) sent a notice to Netflix asking it to stop streaming the series Bombay Begums because of a scene in which a teen is shown taking drugs and then losing consciousness. This move followed two tweets by viewers of the show who claimed the series did not portray children correctly. In their notice, the NCPCR referred to “the inappropriate portrayal of children in the series” as grounds for removing the show from Netflix.

Neither Netflix nor Prime Video took their series down, although promises were made to make cuts to Tandav. For these events to be followed by the dissolution of the FCAT – it becomes clear why it seems like more than a simple coincidence. 


Film censorship has long been a contentious issue in India. The current charged political climate has only brought it into greater relief. Most supporters of free speech agree that censorship cannot exist in a true democracy. In January 2016, the government instituted the Shyam Benegal Committee to inquire into the functioning of the CBFC. The Committee’s report recommended a more progressive view on the certification-versus-censorship debate and upheld artistic freedom. However, the report has since been entirely forgotten.

What is worrying is that what were earlier fringe outbursts are now becoming mainstream. In 2016, the CBFC demanded over ninety cuts in Udta Punjab, which it claimed portrayed Punjab and its drug problem negatively. This caused a brouhaha that died down once the Bombay High Court cleared the film with one cut.

In 2015, the CBFC denied certification to MSG: Messenger of God, directed by Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, a religious leader since convicted of rape and involvement in murder. Singh went to the FCAT and the High Court of Punjab and Haryana, both of which cleared the film.

In 2017, Lipstick Under My Burkha (directed by Alankrita Shrivastava, who also made Bombay Begums) was refused certification by the CBFC. In a badly written statement, the CBFC – then headed by Pahlaj Nihalani, an open supporter of the BJP – described the film as “lady-oriented” and condemned it for displaying the sexual fantasies of women. Shrivastava took the film to the FCAT, which cleared it with a few recommended cuts. Shrivastava said, “Of course I would have loved no cuts, but the FCAT has been very fair and clear. I feel that we will be able to release the film without hampering the narrative or diluting its essence.”

Shrivastava’s words are clear: the FCAT was a filmmaker’s last resort against the restrictive recommendations of the CBFC. Obviously, the CBFC itself needs to be re-evaluated and have its existence questioned for many reasons (as Varun Grover, who was “absolutely delighted to know about the scrapping of FCAT”, tweeted, “Next logical step, scrap CBFC”). In the meantime, though, it is crucial to note the importance of the FCAT, whose sudden dissolution is both upsetting and dispiriting.

Photo Courtesy: Prime Video

Sahir has a BA in English from St. Xavier’s College, lives in Mumbai and writes about the movies. 

Issue 9

What’s in Your Pocket – Your Office or Your Sanitizer?

“Kaske joota, kaske belt … kandhon pe zimmedari, haath mein file, mann mein dum, meelon meel chalenge hum …” (Wearing shoes and a tight belt … with responsibility on shoulders, with a file in hand and a courageous heart, we will walk miles and miles … the song continues) – was how one’s work life looked like in the pre-COVID era. The imagery produced through these lyrics remain relevant in the post-COVID world, except the song now stops at these four lines because you have reached your workstation – the table beside your bed.

The world of work, with all its stresses and gossips, shifted to homes as lockdowns began to be imposed in several countries with the outbreak of COVID-19, in early 2020. A year which has often been declared “cancelled” in our daily conversations, 2020 has come to be defined as a form of “disruption,” “an imbalance,”  as well as a “pause.” It is you and your socio-economic standing  that decides your position on this ideological spectrum. However, one aspect of our lives that cannot be concretely placed within this spectrum, and moves across it based on its fluctuations, remains ‘the professional.’ One’s economic, political and social behaviours surrounding the professions they were involved in came to be impacted due to such a drastic shift. Restrictions on travel and social contact became sole reasons that hindered work from an office desk and forced professionals to stay indoors and work-from-home.

The purpose of office spaces in the corporate world is social. Remote work has had a significant impact on workplace culture, besides dealing with the spread of the virus. “People find meaning in their daily rituals of getting ready to leave home, commuting, grabbing their cup of coffee, and filling their water bottle before sitting at their desk,” claims Thomas, a partner with the Strategy& Middle East, part of the PwC network. This process of meaning-making has transformed while working from home in a way that people find it convenient to attend office from their beds, without deliberate focus on these necessary rituals. A separate corner for the employee to organize official meetings and conferences is reserved within the four walls of one’s  house, often attended to in half-worn attire and a too-close-to-be-combed hair. The collaborative nature of tech-tools promoting remote work-culture has replaced the in-office coffee-machine gossips and hiccups. With dogs or family members walking in the background, remote work-culture on one hand offers relaxed workplace standards and is being lauded to have added “humanity to us.” On the other hand, a series of boxes and closets earlier criticised by an eminent American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, for preventing democracy and freedom, seems to have returned, though in an avatar enclosed within the four sides of our laptop screens.

This dependency on online mode of work highlights the discrimination that has operated through socio-economic hierarchies, with factors such as class, caste, gender impacting one’s access to certain privileges – be it technological or social. Access to stable internet connection? – a plethora of opportunities waiting for you out there; while a family engaging in unhealthy arguments all the time? – a full stop to important participation on the workscreen. This scenario threatens workplace democracy and freedom by considering one’s ability either to sail or fail – advocating for means that only benefit a specific population of employees. 

Moreover, the boundaries between two spheres crucial to the life of an employee – work and home, got blurred with time. While multiple online sources guide one to a productive and healthy work-life balance during the lockdown, a year into it, conversations are shifting to that of an eager return to the workplace. Opinions on the way “this is the end of the office as we know it” along with changes that could be observed in a post-pandemic world of work have been put forward by many organizations. Emphasis on the need for technological tools such as access to video-conferencing softwares, skills to operate new-age computer programs, a stable internet connectivity etc. to facilitate online work, have increased with time. However seamless and productivity-efficient it may sound, it has pushed employees into the never-ending loop of being “online,” resulting in time confetti. Time confetti, a term coined by Brigid Schulte, “amounts to little bits of seconds and minutes lost to unproductive multitasking.” A constant influx of work-related notifications, messages, emails, etc. from a co-employee or your boss has the possibility of disrupting one’s leisure time and preventing the user from engaging in physical face-to-face interactions even while at home. 

Although online communication between the employee and the employer provides flexibility and a certain degree of control over those interactions, it is often known to result in an autonomy paradox. A work-efficient mobile device is essential for one to ‘connect’ to the office. The term ‘work-efficient’ here would mean being accessible anytime and anywhere, adding to one’s personal autonomy. However, professionals seem to have channelised its usage to working “everywhere/all the time, thus diminishing their autonomy in practice.” An example of this dilemma would be – “if we are trying to be a committed parent while our work email goes off, we can’t help thinking we should be working on our next deadline. This conflict makes us feel like a bad parent and a bad employee.” During the pandemic-enforced remote work-culture, one could find similar scenarios evident of the work-home imbalance, promoting toxic-tasking more than ever. The guilt associated with not working from home and ‘wasting’ time on other unproductive and non-economic ventures, even for a second, overpowers our ability to arise out of this imbalance. 

Moreover, our means of leisure have shifted online – with free webinars, birthdays, weddings, get-togethers, graduations, funerals, all happening over our laptop screens. While some are looking for measures to avoid Zoom fatigue online, the talk about returning to the workplace is on the rise with recent unlocks being witnessed in different parts of the world. Several assumptions about how the workplace would look like in a post-pandemic world are being made – with ideas about AI-operated lifts and doors, segregated desks, increased use of dividers, floor signs, lesser number of employees working from office, assuring employees of their safety in the physical workplace. The world, now understanding the meaning of the phrase, “six-feet-away,” appears to be set to enter the physical workplace. Crucial safety measures being implemented in such spaces involve less coworking spaces, more private and personal spaces, regular sanitization of desks, chairs, common areas, and documentation to provide employees with the necessary information to protect themselves from associated risks. 

However, considering the merits associated with work-from-home narrative, there exists a decent push to create a balance that would allow willing employees to work from home and others from the office. As Rashmi Dhawani, Founder of the Art X Company puts it, these merits revolve around increase in trust and accountability between employees and the employers, fluid leadership possibilities due to new technologies being easily adapted by younger professionals as compared to experienced bosses, in addition to success in what companies were hesitant about earlier, that is, enhancing employee-productivity while at work from their homes. People have also cherished their ability to work in different environments and adapt new skills beneficial for their work. But, with employees connected through their mobile devices to the office while walking their dog in the park, the question, ‘what’s in your pocket – your office or your sanitizer?’ becomes necessary.

Ariba is a student of English and Media Studies at Ashoka University.

Picture Credits: BBC WORKLIFE

We publish all articles under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noderivatives license. This means any news organisation, blog, website, newspaper or newsletter can republish our pieces for free, provided they attribute the original source (OpenAxis).

Issue 9

Issue IX: Editors’ Note

As the world approaches the one-year anniversary marking the global shutdown due to COVID-19, it is important to reflect upon how life has been altered at its behest. The ninth issue of OpenAxis, hence, attempts to encapsulate the various spheres of human functioning that have been reimagined and transformed in the light of the pandemic.  

Rithika Abraham discusses the stakes for the State in supporting heteronormativity in society in the aftermath of the Indian government’s argument in the Delhi High Court, which deemed same-sex marriages to be against Indian ethos. Mali Annika Skotheim draws parallels between Thucydides’ account of the Athenian plague and the happenings surrounding the unfolding of the COVID-19 pandemic in present time. In the background of the Unnao poisoning incident, Shreyashi Sharma evaluates how law enforcement responds to the intersectionality of gender and caste-based animosities on-ground – in ways that may contradict the spirit of the law itself. The misinformation campaigns targeted towards poor and minority communities due to the pandemic are discussed by Maya Mirchandani. Saaransh Mishra dissects the inappropriate mechanisms underlying the selection of Nobel Laureates, many of whom tend to behave in ways that directly oppose the significance of the award.  

The role of the pandemic in democratizing art galleries and museums, and debates about whether these effects will persist in a post-COVID world are discussed by Muskaan Kanodia. Gauri Bhawkar assesses how the health of economies is maintained by antitrust laws – legal provisions that aim to protect consumers and small businesses from the dominating activities of large-scale firms – as well as documents the chaos that can unfold in the absence of the same. Akhil Gogoi’s significance in Assamese politics, as well as the future of the Assamese political landscape is analyzed by Jyotirmoy Talukdar, as India approaches the state’s assembly election. Avantika Bhatia examines the advent of online therapy in the context of the pandemic, including its implications for a post-pandemic world. Questions pertaining to the significance of campus food outlets are raised by Devika Goswami, who also explores how the pandemic has altered the campus dining experience for students, as well as those operating these food joints.

Rujuta Singh examines how fashion trends come into being, and discusses how fashion collections adapted to peoples’ moods and opinions during the lockdown. The pandemic brought about significant changes in the ways people interact with each other, in light of which Harshita Bedi reflects on love and relationships during the pandemic.  Kartikay Dutta critically examines the legacy of Novak Djokovic, the esteemed tennis player, and asks the age-old question: “Can art ever be separated from the artist?”. The significance of gossip – and the lack thereof in the course of the pandemic – for human interactions is discussed by  Akanksha Mishra. Tanisha A captures the experience of filmmaking during the pandemic, by documenting her journey of working on her short film, Under the Precipice Rolls the Sea. 

Triggered by the pandemic, the process of re-imagining responsible and sustainable travel in India is examined by Tisha Srivastava. Deeksha Puri explores mental health and emotional concerns, and how they have been affected by the pandemic. The privatization of vaccine distribution in India is analyzed by Anjana Ramesh, who evaluates its consequences and implications for the country’s COVID-19 inoculation drive and its public healthcare system. Finally, Ridhima Manocha explores human relations further by analyzing how wedding commemorations and other celebrations shifted to video calling services like Zoom.

The past year was marked by chaos, confusion and a complete unraveling of current understandings about human life. As we ease into 2021, it is our hope that Issue 9 helps unpack, explore and analyze select features of the past year that make it unforgettable in contemporary history.

– Aarohi Sharma, Madhulika Agarwal, Rohan Pai and Saman Fatima

2020: Year in Review

Issue 9

Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge On Zoom?

What was described as a recession-proof industry by Forbes, hasn’t proved to be a pandemic proof industry. The Wedding industry, which was estimated to be worth 50 billion dollars in India, was badly hit by COVID-19 in the past year. According to an estimate by hospitality firm OYO weddingz, the volume of wedding events in 2020 was at 40-50 per cent compared to  the number in the previous year and  guest lists shrunk by 60 per cent due to COVID-19 restrictions. Several brides and grooms who dreamt of a “big fat wedding” had to make peace with the imposed restrictions, while others cancelled their weddings in the hope of things becoming better. India in particular saw the highest cancellation of wedding globally with 23% couples cancelling or postponing the celebration. However, some couples found innovative ways to cope up with the pandemic —Zoom weddings!

“When I decided to tie the knot with my partner, I imagined that at the very least, my family and friends would be able to attend.” Spardha, 29, who got married in the month of October 2020 said as she added “deciding to get married on a Zoom Call wasn’t an easy decision, however, if anything, COVID taught us to expect the unexpected and take charge.” Several couples like them made the decision to broadcast their wedding for the friends and families who couldn’t join. They also participated in several firsts — a wedding without event planners and baraat, no large gatherings or a fancy venue or what Dilli waale would call ‘show-shaa.’ As we mark a year since the lockdown was announced, it becomes pertinent to ask then, will COVID-19 leave a lasting impression on how we plan, attend and celebrate weddings in India? What stands to be the future of the wedding industry?

There is no way to predict the future and whether weddings as we know them will permanently change. However, consumer and behavioural research can offer some insight in this matter. Consumer behaviour is contingent upon several factors such as time, place, location and culture with exposure of a consumer playing a major role. With the onset of pandemic, it is disrupting patterns of how the consumers would traditionally buy or engage in experiences by offering new exposure to those migrating to virtual environments. Behaviour and habit changes have a direct correlation to the extent of exposure to new environments. Research proves that it takes anywhere between 18 to 254 days to form a new habit, while on average it takes about 66 days. As the study by Swiss Re Institute shows consumers are settling into new patterns of behaviour for considerable lengths of time as a response to multiple waves of pandemic. Therefore, it’s quite likely that people will continue relying on technology to facilitate their wedding as the momentum to shift to technology for organising weddings was building up even prior to the pandemic.

The wedding industry also rapidly adapted and transformed to meet the needs of the consumers who were and continue organising online weddings in the light of pandemic. For instance, matrimonial sites have been introducing new features to account for the lack of a physical meet-and-greet. now has a video profile feature while launched a special app for video calling purposes called, ShaadiMeet. The company is also organising virtual social get-togethers for its users for the first time. Both and Bharat Matrimony have also launched their initiatives, ‘Weddings from Home’ and ‘Home Weddings’ respectively to offer end-to-end services to customers to facilitate marriages over videos. What seemed far from truth has become possible as the wedding industry scrambles to adapt to the challenging circumstances. 

Of course, one can’t help but lament what will be lost if  weddings start happening online with an intimate gathering. The sound of loud dhol blasting in your ear, the tangy taste of gol gappas, awkward smiling as the photographer clicks your pictures while eating the messiest foods; the hugging, talking,  and  gossiping, gets missed by the guests attending online. Without these experiences, attending weddings online seems more of an obligation than an experience that one looks forward to. However, considering the social relevance that weddings hold in Indian society, it is unlikely that people will change their consumption pattern as quickly as their other items in the consumption basket. In fact, an ongoing consumer sentiment analysis study by McKinsey and Co. reveals that in China and India, spending is bouncing back beyond grocery and household supplies, and consumers in India might be more willing to spend on certain categories such as festivals and weddings. If it so happens, then once again, it will be reiterated that the big-fat Indian weddings aren’t so easy to do away with, and while pandemic might be a hiccup, it cannot efface the socio-cultural significance of weddings in India. 

Ridhima Manocha is a final year English and Media Studies student at Ashoka University and has authored the book, The Sun and Shadow.

We publish all articles under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noderivatives license. This means any news organisation, blog, website, newspaper or newsletter can republish our pieces for free, provided they attribute the original source (OpenAxis).

Issue 9

Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience

Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is a 20,000 square foot, light and sound show. It is a two-story projection of the artist’s most compelling and famous artworks. With a 360° view of the paintings in high-dimension, the Immersive Experience is one of the most captivating experiences in the 21st century. It is an art exhibition that not only introduces you to the life of Van Gogh but also immerses you in his world. The multi-sensory experience gives you an escape into the world of Gogh’s beautiful paintings, allowing you to be a part of them, even if it is for a few moments. 

A one of a kind Virtual Reality Interactive, the Immersive Experience gives you a taste of the brilliance of the artist by taking you on a ten-minute journey through a section called, “A day in the life of the Artist”. Walking alongside Gogh, you experience a rich and peaceful journey and inspiration behind eight of his iconic works including, Vincent’s Bedroom at Arles and The Starry Night

The Immersive Experience is open to guests of all ages. This rare experience, however, is held in multiple cities globally for a small amount of time. Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is something one should at least experience once in their lifetime.

To catch a glimpse of what is Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, visit: 

Picture Credits: Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, Museum of Modern Art

Issue 9

BTS Does It Once Again! : A Review of ‘BE’ – the Album

There is a reason Bangtan Sonyeontan, better known as BTS is the biggest pop group, dominating the world with every song they release. With songwriting so heartfelt that it resonates with millions of listeners worldwide, BTS proves time and time again, that the power of music transcends language and time. 

Much to everyone’s delight, last year after the release of their smash hit ‘Dynamite’ — the song that took over the music world and the multiple charts with its vibrant music video and retro funky music, the South Korean pop group surprised their fans by announcing the making of their new album ‘BE’. 

The name “BE” as suggested by RM, the group leader is a translinguistic word play between the Korean word bi meaning rain and the english word be, suggesting the album is like a downpour that lets some steam off the pressure that the pandemic has built up in everyone’s lives and acts as a solace that helps the listeners just “be” and exist as how they are, even if it is just for a couple of hours. 

Released on 18th November 2020, to no one’s surprise, BTS’ album shines through and sets itself apart from the other albums released in 2020 by not falling into a similar cycle of producing tunes of broodiness and melancholy. 

The album consists of 8 tracks, all of which are vastly different from each other. The title track, ‘Life Goes On’ filled with sentiments of hope. It is a vocally rich alternative hip hop track, with light and playful instruments backing up the poignant lyrics that sing of the time we are approaching. The bilingual chorus suggests “Time goes by, without any apology, and so should life”. The sombreirty of the song also comes through its music video that is directed by one of the vocalists Jeon Jungkook, himself. 

While the A side sets the mood for the album, the rest of the B sides’ aura can be split in half, with ‘Blue and Gray’ an R&B inspired soulful song talking about the depressive episodes during isolation, ‘Fly to my Room’ talking about the artists’ resignation from touring the world to being confined within the four walls of their rooms being the mellow and wistful. 

The second half of the B-side includes tracks like ‘Dis-ease’, a power packed 90’s inspired hip hop track that starts with J-Hope’s iconic trap style rapping and about the increase of burnout syndrome, ‘Telepathy’ a funky retro disco hit, is like a love song to their fans whom they are so excited to reunite with soon, as suggested by Suga, another rapper of the group, who is also the lead producer of the song. The next song on the album is ‘Stay’, a party style glitter pop, an EDM track produced by Jungkook, an energizer for the next song in line, the iconic ‘Dynamite’ — the song of the summer, that has been topping music charts worldwide, including Billboards, ever since it came out. There is an additional track on the album, ‘Skit’, which is just a simple voice recording of the members celebrating Dynamite’s first of many wins on Billboard Hot 100. 

The album, like almost the entire of BTS’ discography, is versatile in each of its tracks that somehow come together, just like the members come together and fit each other so perfectly, despite having music styles that are so different from each other. It is BTS’ most collaborative and personal project yet, where the members were directly involved in processes beyond music making. 

Check it out here :

Issue 9

Apartment Upstairs

If you are looking to break the monotony of your everyday pandemic routine with some feet tapping, rhythm-driven beats and rock, tune into hearing Apartment Upstair’s new single, ‘Mahua’ available on Spotify and YouTube Music. 

Starting out as two college students at Ashoka University, who shared the love for making music and ‘How I Met Your Mother’, Rohan Pai (singer-guitarist) and Shourjo Chatterjee (drummer) came together in their first year of college only to deliver constant bangers, one after the other. While it is no doubt college demands quite a bit of effort, the duo has been able to produce their first EP titled ‘Two on the Line’, mainly indie-rock music and is currently working towards exploring further genres of R&B, jazz and hip-hop.

To create their music, the pair first comes up with a vocal melody and beat which is then supplemented with relatable lyrics that take the listener to a different world altogether. Mahua released in February 2021, captures the essence of escapism that various individuals might be feeling with this prolonged pandemic of wanting to “pack up my bags and go living my dreams”. 

Their music tends to speak to the audience, because of how they share their experiences, making it personal yet relatable. They aim at actively taking part and achieving recognition in the independent music genre in India. 

While there is some hope for the pandemic to come to an end, the duo provides us something more to look forward to with their upcoming single ‘Star tonight’ going live at some time end of March 2021.

Issue 9

The Shining – The Book, the Movie and Everything in Between

Published in 1977, The Shining is still considered an iconic novel in the Psychological Horror genre. It’s a story about a couple, Jack and Wendy, their 5-year-old son, Danny, (who possess ‘the shining’ – a unique psychic ability which allows him to experience clairvoyance) and their time at the Overlook Hotel, a prominent, isolated hotel with a dark and ominous past. King skillfully creates a compelling plot by divulging into the psychology of each character. The hotel itself is another character in the story. With multiple entities, ghosts and cursed objects acting as a hive mind, the Hotel tries to possess Jack and drive him to harm his family. 

Upon its release, the book immediately attracted a large following of people who contemplated its details and various interpretations. These discussions and fan theories increased exponentially after Stanley Kubrick released his film adaptation in 1980. 

Drawing on the smallest interactions that the characters have with each other and building on their dialogues, Kubrick managed to envision and portray a whole new side of the story. However, a lot of fans noted that there were numerous inconsistencies in the film. For example, the furniture would mysteriously disappear and appear, or the direction of objects would change in the same scene. But given that Kubrick himself was so involved in the cinematography and the editing of the film; it was hard to believe that these mistakes were overlooked. By nitpicking on these little inconsistencies, people came up with multiple fan theories. The countless theories on YouTube go on to illustrate how complex human psychology can be if you start tearing it apart. 

Upon revisiting the novel after watching the film and listening to fan theories, one can identify all the elements and dialogues in the book which give way to these different interpretations. These elements act like a gateway into the world of The Shining, allowing the readers to conjure their own theories.

Thus, The Shining, not only offers its readers a tantalizing horror story but after watching the film, the audience is further introduced to a unique way of engaging with its narrative. It’s the kind of story that will make you regret drinking that last glass of water before going to bed. And the kind of story that will make you ponder over its multiple interpretations as you lie awake in bed, too scared to enter your washroom. But at the end of the day, Stephen King’s brilliant story coupled with Stanley Kubrick’s genius imagination makes it all worth it. 

Issue 9

Papers, Please

A critically acclaimed indie game by Lucas Pope, Papers, Please offers a unique insight into the conflicts that arise between national allegiance and morality. 

Players are assigned the role of a border inspector in the fictional nation of Arstotzka – and are tasked with approving the entry of legal citizens of the country, as well as visitors from neighbouring nations with valid visas. 

With each passing day, increasingly stringent rules and regulations are placed upon the player, as the state of affairs between Arstotzka and its neighbours rapidly deteriorates. They encounter a variety of moral quandaries – such as having to decide whether to allow illegal migrants fleeing their home country in fear for their lives, or in search of their long-lost families. To add to the weight of the players’ dilemmas – each time they allow someone into the country incorrectly, their income and their family’s food rations are slashed. Thus, players must make important decisions each day – with their family’s life and their nation’s fate hanging in the balance. 

Papers, Please offers a uniquely accurate insight into modern insider-outsider narratives, the use of calls to ‘nationalism’ for masking State supported oppression, as well as the moral  dilemmas that emerge as a result of the same.

Picture Credits: Steam 

Issue 9

The Growing (In)Significance of the Nobel Peace Prize

“War makes for bitter men. Heartless and savage men”, said Ethiopia’s current Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in his acceptance speech, while being conferred with the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. Merely 18 months into his tenure, Ahmed received the Prize in 2019 for introducing sweeping reforms to undo the authoritarian legacy of his predecessors.  He freed political prisoners, enhanced press freedoms, mediated regional conflicts in the Horn of Africa but most importantly, his historic rapprochement  and resumption of diplomatic ties with longstanding rival and neighbor Eritrea is what fetched him the prize.

Fast forward to present day, the northern region of Tigray in Ethiopia is witnessing a gargantuan humanitarian crisis with 2.3 million people in need of urgent assistance. Surprisingly, Ethiopia’s Nobel Laureate and “Champion of Peace” is at the centre of this. 

Ahmed’s intentions to “unify”  Ethiopia by bolstering federal powers and mitigating regional autonomy caused uneasiness among Ethiopia’s ethnic groups, especially the Tigrayan Peoples’ Liberation Front (TPLF). TPLF, which was the dominant party in Ethiopia’s ruling coalition until Ahmed’s election in 2018, openly resisted by defying the government and conducting regional elections despite all elections being postponed because of coronavirus. At the behest of Ahmed’s retaliatory orders post elections, the Ethiopian National Defense Forces have carried out aerial bombardments, sexual violence, ethnic-based targeted attacks and large-scale looting in the region. The government-imposed lockdown and communications blackout in the region has massively affected internet and telecommunications access. Resultantly, the humanitarian aid agencies have been unable to reach the local population that is in dire need of assistance. Media seeking to gauge the extent of atrocities in Tigray has been denied permission. Additionally, journalists in Ethiopia have faced threats, been harassed and  detained

With his cardinal role in the Tigrayan pogroms, Ahmed is the latest entrant in the extensive list of controversial Nobel Laureates that have fetched incessant disrepute for the Peace Prize. Henry Kissinger won the Prize in 1973 for his efforts in Vietnam, despite his alleged ordering of a bombing raid in Hanoi while negotiating the ceasefire. Months into his Presidency, Barack Obama was awarded the prize in 2009 as an “anti-war” candidate in the hope that he would withdraw the United States from its violent commitments in the Middle-east. As it turned out, even though Obama shied away from active military-intervention, he indulged in covert drone-warfare and left an exceedingly controversial legacy in the region. Similarly, Aung San Suu Kyi was hailed as “an outstanding example of the power of the powerless” when she was awarded the Peace Prize in 1991 for her persistent efforts to democratize military-ruled Myanmar. However, in 2017 Suu Kyi disappointed her international supporters as Myanmar’s de-facto leader by not only refusing to condemn the genocide against the Rohingyas but also offering a defence for the army’s actions at the International Court of Justice. 

So, why does the Nobel Committee have a tendency to pick unsuitable candidates recurrently? There is no single explanation to this. Yet, the solution lies in scrutinizing the process that is followed to declare the winner. 

The decisive criteria for the prize are working towards fraternity between nations, abolition or reduction of standing armies and holding and promotion of congresses. The problem here lies in the ambiguity of these criteria. These are open to interpretation for the Nobel committee. Suu Kyi was an intelligent, well-read, articulate and vocal leader who was a perfect symbol of democracy, making her a seemingly perfect candidate for the Prize. To most people, Abiy Ahmed’s vision of medemer, an Amharic word connoting ‘strength through diversity’, sounded alluring and perhaps evoked the hope that he would work towards quelling ethnic strife in Ethiopia. Many argue that Obama’s initial commitment to discontinuing with George Bush’s brutal Middle-Eastern policies is what earned him the Nobel. It is undoubtedly a herculean task to bring about rapid change internationally but making a few impassioned speeches to raise awareness and elucidating on one’s vision without actually having made substantially quantifiable progress could also be considered as “working” towards the aforementioned goals. Therefore, tangible achievements inevitably take a backseat in the selection process. 

Secondly, despite the Nobel Prize’s global significance and far-reaching political implications, the selection process is appallingly exclusive. The award is administered by the Norwegian Parliament through a committee of 5 Norwegian individuals that are understandably oblivious to the deeply entrenched political narratives in different parts of the world as the examples of Myanmar and Ethiopia vividly suggest. Owing to the complex narratives of ethnic rivalries in the country, Suu Kyi’s vision of a democratic Myanmar was bound to blatantly exclude the long-persecuted Rohingyas. Correspondingly, Ethiopia’s rapprochement with Eritrea had primarily to do with Ahmed’s and Eritrean President Afwerki’s common foe, the TPLF, as is suggested by the massacring of numerous civilians in Tigray by Eritrean soldiers. A comprehensive understanding of the subtleties of politics in these regions could have helped avert the handing over one of the most significant prizes in the world to these personalities that have ceased to stay peaceful. 

Lastly, strict rules of secrecy that disallow revealing the details of each round of consideration for 50 years should be removed. It is imperative to transform the selection process by incorporating transparency to ensure the non-existence of any biases or prejudices and to enhance accountability. The lack of transparency makes the process susceptible to international pressures and the furthering of selective global narratives as can be gauged from China’s warning to Oslo against granting the Peace Prize to protesters in Hong Kong. It is also speculated that Barack Obama’s surprise win in 2009 was an international rally to mend America’s international standing that was at the nadir after Bush’s tenure. This unavoidably and unfairly takes away this significant honor from other more deserving personalities. 

Nobel laureates are meant to be harbingers of peace in this excruciatingly peaceless world that we inhabit. In order to set healthy precedents, the onus is on the Nobel Peace Committee to award this significant honour only to the ones that can leave a legacy for future generations to follow, and currently it is miserably failing at that.

Saaransh Mishra is a graduate in Political Science and International Affairs. He is deeply fascinated by geopolitics, human rights, the media and wishes to pursue a career in the confluence of these fields. In his spare time, he watches, plays, discusses sports and loves listening to Indian fusion classical music.

Picture Credits: Wallpaper Cave

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