The Dark Knight Rises, but that has a lot to do with all the fluff.

To be honest, I think it’s a victim of the success of the last instalment. But whichever way I look at it, it’s a poorer film than the last one. Not just thematically, but otherwise as well.

The Dark Knight, I thought, was a fantastic film. And while I admit that it would be very difficult for a sequel to live up to that, one would have expected Nolan to have done a better job.

As is often the case, the problem starts with the script. For starters, unlike the last time, when we were confronted with the question of how to deal with Evil that exists purely for the thrill of doing evil, and with no other ambition or motive, this time we are treated to an unconvincing Revenge Drama reminiscent of dhishoom dhishoom Bollywood.

As if this weren’t bad enough, clumsily woven into the narrative from the very beginning is this angst of the 99% against the 1%, starting with Hathaway spouting her equivalent of  the “main chor paida nahin hui milord, mujhe samaj ne chor banaya”  dialogue. That strand is picked up later, culminating in the liberté, égalité, fraternité bits, complete with the storming of the Bastille and Guillotine sentencings.

The characterisations are nothing to write home about either. The whole Bane thing was another throwback to the good ol’ Hindi flicks of the 70s and 80s, where villains like Shakaal, Mugambo, Kancha Cheena and Whatsisname terrorised the local population until they had their comeuppance. That scene in the stadium was reminiscent of Evil Thakur holding sway in Village Square, with Hirsute Henchmen terrorising Helpless Villagers with their Double-Barrelled Guns before spiriting away Voluptuous Village Belle on horseback. Please, Nolan. Been there, done that.

And while it is par for the course today for a movie to have that obligatory twist in the end, must Nolan have fallen prey to that clichéd and desperate attempt of filmmakers to extract some more oohs and aaahs from the audience?  And if it had to be done, it should at least have been done well. As it happens, I guessed the twist(s) fairly early on. Yes, all of them.

Even the action was not as great as it was the last time. Remember the moments leading up to the revelation of the Batpod in The Dark Knight? Nothing close to that here. There’s an extended sequence towards the end with the Batpod, the Bat, a Truck and some other armoured car type thingies that’s good, but not great.

So – not a great script, no great action, mostly pedestrian acting. All in all, a disappointing effort. Coming from a director whom I really admire, the only rationalisation I have is that Nolan is fatigued.

He is fatigued because a franchise kills your creativity. How do you excel in your craft when you are constrained by the specifics of the franchise, hemmed in by the constructs of the initial instalments, and yet under pressure to match not only your own previous works, but also the other I-am-a-Superhero-battling-my-own-demons-and-flirting-with-the-dark-side franchises that seem to be crawling out of the woodwork?

And that’s the problem with The Dark Knight Rises. It’s a product of fatigue. Nolan’s fatigue is evident, as is Bale’s. And when the director and the star both seem to be going through the motions, what more can one expect?

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It’s official. We’re now a banana republic. I had this sneaking suspicion that we were well on our way when Kapil Sibal started his machinations last year; no doubts remain now that a Professor at Jadavpur University has been arrested for “spreading” a cartoon that shows Mamta Banerjee, Dinesh Trivedi and Mukul Roy in “a poor light” (sic)

Poor light? Really? Newsflash, Didi. Idolising their subjects is not the way cartoons usually make people laugh.

Arresting somebody for expressing his views to people on his email list? Is that the kind of country we have become? First it was obscenity or “offending religious sentiments”. Now it seems you can be imprisoned for cartoons that express dissent, disapproval or just a different point of view.

The way we’re going – corruption, institutional decay, rising intolerance in both the private and public spheres, the economy down the crapper – I seriously need to contemplate emigration. Perhaps a country which, over the next couple of years, might be in a place better than where we’re headed.

Quirkynorthkorean? Has a nice ring to it, I must say.

My disdain for CNBC and the pundits on it has prevented me from making millions.

I discovered this sad truth earlier today, when some talking head on the channel let slip the secret that’s been eluding me – and I am sure, many others like me – for years. “The trick to making money in the stock market” he revealed, “is to buy stocks cheap.”

No shit, Sherlock.

I was feeling kind of left out. I had already missed two opportunities to save Indian democracy, and I was hoping that I’d have a chance to redeem myself.

And hey presto – I was suddenly assaulted by this rising tide of noise, this mindless chorus about Amitabh Bachchan’s presence at the sea-link inauguration, and the shrill and sanctimonious outrage over his decision to be the brand ambassador for Gujarat. It was a sign, all right. My time had come. Redemption was nigh!

I could now take another step closer to full membership of the “I-tell-people-what-they-should-think-and-do” Club for Loud Liberals, a membership accompanied by the perk of being able to pass off our smug, moral opinions as facts.

Some of my fellow members saved democracy by watching a trashy film. Other members struck a blow for freedom by changing their chaddi-banian brand. I will save democracy by not using the sea-link, tainted as it has been by association!

I’ll also save a few bucks in the bargain, but my fellow frat members do realise that it’s not about the money, right? Let’s not trivialise my activist moment here. It’s quite a high!

I am loving it.

Turnip: Welcome to the Crapola News Network. Today-today-today, we try and predict who will form the next government. That, quite literally, is the billion dollar question. The Co-Co-Congress, to keep the BJP out, will ally with anyone, including the Left, Amma and Behenji, unless each of these decides to ally with someone else, like the BJP or the Third Front, except that the Left will not ally with the BJP, even if they may ally with anyone else to keep the Congress out, unless they want to keep the BJP out, in which case they’ll ally with the Congress as well, unless the Congress wants to maintain its alliance with Mamta, in which case they won’t, which means that the BJP will ally with anyone willing to ally with them to form the government, including Mamta, Amma, Behenji and Naveen Patnaik, unless some or all of these decide to ally with the Congress to keep the BJP out, or with the Third Front to keep both the Congress and the BJP out, which means the Third Front constituents will ally with whoever is willing to ally with them to keep everyone else out, unless they ally with the Congress to keep the BJP out or with the BJP to keep the Congress out…and that will bring us back to Do! Sharad Pawar and Behenji will ally with whoever can increase their respective chances of becoming PM, though Behenji could also be swayed with the promise of a thousand statues. Mulayam will ally with anyone who can dismiss Behenji’s democratically elected government, Laloo will ally with anyone who will withdraw the cases against him, allot him the railway ministry again, and allow his family to run riot in Bihar, Amma will ally with anyone who will take down the DMK government and lob a few shells across the strait. Manmohan Singh is the UPA’s candidate for Prime Minister, unless allies like Sharad Pawar decide otherwise, in which case he is only the Congress candidate, unless Janpath decides otherwise, in which case someone else will be the candidate unless Rahul Baba says ‘yes I can and I will’ in which case he will be the Congress candidate as well as the UPA candidate. Simple, isn’t it?

Charkha: Yes indeed, Turnip. Clear as mud. But the simple-minded viewers we cater to don’t really get it. They feel this whole process is confusing, convoluted and badly in need of reform. Whatever. Anyway, to appear fair and even-handed, we also want to present the other point of view. So, exclusively on Crapola News Network, we have Quirky Indian to explain a process of electoral reforms he has in mind. QI, thanks for swinging by.

QI: No problem, Charkha. I was hanging at a nearby tree. Well, my ideas are very simple. First, let the electorate in every constituency decide how much their collective vote is worth. This is the reserve price, and the constituency is then auctioned to the highest bidder. The money received is then equally distributed amongst the voters who voted to decide the constituency’s worth.

Once all constituencies are auctioned off, there will be a grand auction where bidders can win the right to form the government. There will be a Minimum Qualification Fee to form the government, as well as additional fees for every ministerial post the new government wants. The money thus collected again goes back to every citizen who bothered to vote…….

Turnip and Charkha (interrupting): But QI, your suggestions, apart from ensuring that every citizen has an equal share of the monetary pie, so to speak, actually make democracy in-in-infructuous, and will only lead to the complete corruption of democracy. Do you realise what this means? That people are paid for their votes, that their votes will actually be bought, with no thought to issues or governance or performance. That parliamentary support for government formation and ministerial berths will all be paid for and these democratic assets will be traded like in any other market, that there will be no accountability, no focus on development and governance and that elected representatives and ministers will now seek to recover the money spent on these various auctions … ……wait a minute, isn’t that exactly…….

(Very, Very Long Pause)

Turnip: Ummmm, thank you for watching the Crapola News Network.

Edited to add this link to a well-thought out and equally well-articulated piece on this issue of increasing intolerance by Vir Sanghvi.

Turnip: Welcome to the Crapola News Network. In our top, in our top, in our top story today, we bring you a frightening exposé of how the Islamic fanatic in India is discriminated against, even by us in the media. In a stunning revelation of deliberate marginalisation, we show you, ex-ex-ex-exclusively on this channel, how an Islamic fanatic has to work thrice – yes, you heard that right – thrice as hard to get the same media exposure as his privileged counterpart, the Hindu fanatic. Charkha.

Charkha: Yes, thank you Turnip. Police in Kolkata arrested editor Ravindra Kumar and publisher Anand Sinha of the Statesman for reprinting an article by Johann Hari, “Why Should I Respect These Oppressive Religions?”, after Islamic fanatics rioted in protest. Surprisingly, this bit of news has not got any mention in any mainstream Indian newspaper, channel or website, even though it has to do with the freedom of the press and freedom of speech. The leader of the rioters, Nunu Khan, is understandably upset at this discrimination.

“What does the Islamic fanatic in India have to do to get his voice heard?” he roared to his fellow rioters, his voice choking with anger. “Look at the fine work we have done in Kolkata. No coverage. Look at the negligible publicity we got when we attacked Taslima in Hyderabad and forced the Communist government to throw her out of Kolkata. We got almost no headlines when we drove Kashmiri Pandits out of their homeland. We protested against Shah Rukh’s song, and he got more footage than us! But look at the coverage these Hindu fanatics get. There is vandalism over some paintings, a film shoot is violently disrupted, and look at how much attention they get from the press. This Muthalik fellow and his Hindu goondas beat up innocent girls, and he gets the kind of publicity we can only dream of. Brothers, this is discrimination. We are treated like second-class citizens. Hey – don’t we beat up people, riot and destroy property? We have equal rights, and deserve our moments of fame too!” So you see, Turnip, there is enough evidence that the mainstream media are prejudiced against Islamic fanatics and do not give them their fair share of publicity and coverage. Everything seems to be about Hindu fanatics, and this politics of exclusion has given rise to a very dangerous situation, and deep-seated resentment among the Islamic fanatics. It is very goose-bumpy. Turnip.”

Turnip: “Yes, indeed. Thank you for exposing the vertical fault-fault-fault lines created by the media in this country. Charkha, I’m impressed with Nunu’s work – his rioting actually managed to get the editor and publisher arrested. More effective than sending legal notices to bloggers, eh? Ha ha. But this is a very sobering thought: can the fourth estate actually shirk the great responsibility it has in enabling secular Indian democracy to flourish? We should respect the rights of every hoodlum equally. All rioters and goons, irrespective of religion, should find equal coverage on our platforms. Give every fanatic his due. Unless that happens, Indian democracy cannot move ahead, and everything is infructuous. But don’t go away. When we come back, the pigeon tells us what it was like to go pub-hopping with Sonam, Deepika and Ranbir. Only on the Crapola News Network.”