Tag Archives: Journalism

Book Review: The Leopard and the Fox (2006)

LAHORE, PAKISTAN, APR 08: Punjab Assembly Opposition Leader, Hamza Shahbaz leaving
after court case hearing, at High Court in Lahore on Monday, April 08, 2019. The Lahore High
Court (LHC) granted Punjab Assembly Opposition Leader, Hamza Shahbaz pre-arrest bail till
April 17 and restrained the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) from arresting him in cases
pertaining to ownership of assets beyond means. (Babar Shah/PPI Images).

WHO IS TARIQ ALI?

Tariq Ali is a well-known British political activist and author of many significant political and historical books like 1968 and After: Inside the Revolution (1978), Clash of Fundamentalisms (2002), Bush in Babylon (2003), 5 novels of his Islam Quintet, and many more.

Born to a Pakistan Times journalist Mazhar Ali Khan and one of Communist Party of Pakistan (CCP)’s founding members Tahira Mazhar Ali Khan, Tariq Ali inherited Marxism and journalism from them. But more than that, Tariq Ali came to prominence through activism and being part of some social and political rallies. He became part of the New Left and also joined the International Marxist Group in the late 1960s.

Tariq Ali was the president of the Oxford Union in 1965 where he met Malcolm X. He also conducted an interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono for the Red Mole newspaper in 1971. The Rolling Stones’ most political song “Street Fighting Man” was written for Tariq Ali after he participated in the infamous 1968 anti-war rally at London’s US embassy. He also wrote a screenplay for Oliver Stone’s 2009 documentary ‘South of the Border‘.


THE BIRTH OF THE BBC PROJECT

Tariq Ali’s book ‘The Leopard and the Fox’ was published in 2006 but the inception, of what became a British problem for the broadcasting company tackling with the foreign policy, occurred twenty years back. In mid-1985, BBC’s Head of Drama, Robin Midgley approached Tariq Ali and commissioned him to write a three-part limited series about the trials and execution of Pakistan’s former prime minister and the founder of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The author agreed and worked on the story for the next few months.

At the beginning of the next year, Tariq Ali had completed his writing. In fact, the discussions went to the next phase about the casting for the political characters where Ziya Mohyeddin and Naseeruddin Shah were opined to play General Zia-ul-Haq and Bhutto respectively. Further discussions suggested that the makers wanted Angelica Huston and Sian Thomas to play Benazir Bhutto and Nusrat Bhutto respectively. But things stood without motion and in a few weeks, the proceedings halted when the hierarchy of BBC took the rounds of reading Tariq’s script in its entirety and asked Tariq to meet and discuss.

Eventually, the meetings failed to reach some agreement and the project was shelved after the script made the big bosses uncomfortable. The fire that was to rise, the spark that was to shine, the flame that was to ignite, all watered down.


WHAT WERE THE ODDS?

The most obvious reason for that the BBC dodged and overlooked the production is the interference of the government who didn’t want to bring their position on the West fighting the Russians in Afghanistan in jeopardy. General Zia was the US’s most valuable ally and airing a limited series about Zia in a negative portrayal would have risen the political eyebrows and questioned their government about their cooperation and commitment.

The American interests came between the productional body, and the environment within the BBC became more political than the upcoming BBC show. This gives an impression that perhaps BBC wanted to air a show that pleases American friends. But they made the mistake of offering the project to Tariq Ali. Maybe because they were not aware of his rebellious nature. Tariq Ali had been in the rallies against the Pakistan military and the US wars in the past. So I refuse to believe that they were not aware of him. It is just an assumption.

But it is quite awkward from the British part that BBC will make a mistake to offer him. Tariq Ali landed on British soil for the very reason of his anti-military nature. His military uncle warned his parents that he will not be able to protect him if he continued his lobby against the military. Therefore, his parents moved him to the UK and admitted him to Exeter College, Oxford to study Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE).

If things were not going in BBC’s way, they could also have changed the writer with a new script draft instead of shelving the project. So I am not sure about the circumstances.


THE BOOK, THE BAD, AND THE UGLINESS

106 scenes in 167 pages were written about the final days of Bhutto. I am believing that all that was written was not at all true but partially fictional. Because if 80% of what is all written in the book is accurate, the book richly deserves to release its television adaptation.

Being a film critic myself, reading a script based on Pakistan’s infamous political event that set the example of the most brutal military dictatorship and authoritative enforcements made me visualize how the military meetings and suppression of the Bhuttos in the book would have made it on the camera. Imagining Rawalpindi aerial shots with the demonstrators clashing with the police, the sound recording of the bullets firing on the roaring protestors, and the sound of tear gas would have given adrenalin if the chosen director would have shot this with meticulous care. Imagine someone like Oliver Stone, Roman Polanksi, or Ridley Scott shooting this demonstration scene.

Bhutto’s parties were written that develop a dubious environment where chess players find corners to establish evil whispers and understand the political game. Whiskey was a common drink in the entire book and it is an open secret that Bhutto was addicted to drinking. The military is portrayed not as a powerful force but puppets who are to follow the orders of the outsiders and change the political environment. The military maintains innocence and tries to convince that they have no ambition in politics. Bhutto has a dark theory since the start of the book that they wanted their head and bottoms out of leadership for purpose.

 Reading this book got exciting when the script began to scream where Bhutto was losing his strength as the country’s leader and the military was about to take the advantage of his jaw-dropping speech. The intensity of the story from scene 33 is unusual. The buildup of the military’s takeover and Bhutto’s first two arrests are written exceptionally well. It gives you that horror that you do not ask for while you try to say peace at night and suddenly all hell breaks down. The application of that hell was gripping.

Some references were funny, interesting, and thoughtful. Like Bhutto mentioning Kissinger’s curse, and the wife of a famous politician who stole panties in Marks and Spencers. No name was mentioned in the book as the incident was enough to guess who brought shame with this crime of shoplifting. It was Wali Khan’s wife Nasim Wali Khan who was caught red-handed at Kensington in the late 1970s. There is an interesting guess when the Chief Justice asks the judge if he has a nephew in the army. That would be the author Tariq Ali himself who was a nephew to a military uncle.

The courtroom scenes were pretty short and Bhutto’s episodic speech ran with the change of dates. Here, I expected broader detailing because a story like this humongously demands an enormous courtroom scene where the trials and tribunals make the reader (and the television audience) pessimistic and thoughtful at the same time. A specific courtroom scene edges you to incline on one part of the theory but the book in its entirety is strictly biased towards one side. I feel some portions of writing must have compelled both the leopard and the fox to challenge the goods, the bads, and the ugliness of their characters. I am on Bhutto’s side but as a reader or an observer, I wanted to see both the parties being judged on the same scale, I wanted to see the wrongs of Bhutto and the rights of General Zia too.

I also wanted to realize how the episodes were separated. There is no division of episodes at all. Pretty sure the story didn’t conclude well. I mean the reader knows how the story will end but unfortunately, the technical finishing was missing. After all the buildup of Bhutto’s final days as the leader, the trials, and Zia’s martial law, the story abruptly ended in a jiffy.


CLOSING REMARKS

The book holds a lot of questions. Reading both the appendices is a must. Because when you read those appendices, a lot of theories and questions give birth. The value of the subject is computed. The assumptions and probabilities from the trials and the military meetings are figured out. The complexity of the global politics that was played in the 1970s, the conflicts that were raised from the West, USSR, Gulf, and the South Asian countries were vast and the talks were unprecedented. Writing aside, a history check is a must.

Why do the Americans want Bhutto’s ass out of the equation as the ruling head? Was the then US government giving orders to the generals in Pakistan? Was Bhutto’s execution necessary? Were the judges involved in the conspiracy?

Anyone can read this book. The book has a simple vocabulary. No strong advanced literature. It is a script, you may imagine as a theatrical play. The Leopard and the Fox is not a history book but a play about history. So you may say that the writing is inspired by true events.

Is reading this story important? See, if you are looking for some answers, you may not get it but reading about this infamous event will give birth to an idea that changed Pakistan’s political situation forever. For those who seek, they can learn a lot of deal about one segment of international politics.

It doesn’t matter if you were or are on the leopard’s side or the fox’s because the painful fact is that between the lines of Bhutto-Zia political rivalry and the interference of the then American government, it was Pakistan as a whole that met social, cultural, political, and economic damages and couldn’t ever recover after that.


FAVORITE SCENES

06, 09, 14, 18, 19, 22, 24, 28, 32, 36, 39, 41, 43, 45, 56, 59, 64-72, 75, 80, 81, 85, 88, 89, 93-96, 101, 102


TV Review: The Morning Show

(Before I commence passing my review, I would like to inform the readers of the future that the show is judged after watching the first two seasons. To date, the third season has been announced.)

After fifteen years of television dominance and winning eight Emmies, Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell) is fired by the UBA Network when the news breaks of his being responsible for multiple incidents in sexual misconduct. His on-air partner for fifteen years, Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston) faces difficult challenges to maintain her professional stature as the show struggles to retain its domination on the American viewers. And during all this, the network hires a shocking replacement of Mitch in Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon), an outspoken field reporter whose creative ideas do not match with Alex. Thus, starts a very interesting phase of the news network.

Apple TV+‘s The Morning Show is the epitome of excellent writing about corporate corruption, abuse of power, sexual misconduct, and the struggle of women empowerment. This phenomenal piece of writing reminds me of Aaron Sorkin‘s, the audience is fully sold to watch the sensationalism of the making of news programs. The functioning of the news network is detailed with meticulous care.

One of the highlights where the show surpasses the quality of presentation is giving a proper dramatization of female employees working under the same roof after one major controversy bombs the reputation. TMS is picturized in the time period of America’s socially most critical period that is the rise of the MeToo wave in the first season followed by the global pandemic in the second season. Therefore, the show heavily focuses on the impact of the MeToo movement on this news network and the mental challenge the employees have to face after Mitch is fired.

In the same given period, TMS successfully decorates the professional rivalries in both upper and lower levels and daily political games between the network biggies. The parties, the glamour, the pride, the ego, the insecurities, etc. are all crafted with command. Employee love affairs, professional secrecies, work ethics, and heated arguments are credibly natural.

I think the recently concluded second season, despite superb writing and direction, is drier than the first season to some percentage due to lack of potential continuity. Mitch/Stella and Bradley/Laura takes a lot of minutes and are not even the core concerns of the main subject. The only plus about the writing of the second season is the build-up of the global horror that knocked the American life – the coronavirus. All the related content writing about the upcoming pandemic really breaks the buzz.

If the audience observes at dramatizing of employee relationships and scuffles, this will remind you of USA Network‘s Suits. Another excellence is handling the tragic events of the California Wildfire and the Global Pandemic magnificently. The productional dynamics and dramatic changes in the continuity are so compelling that the viewers can easily go into the heart of the show and grow in it.

The Green sisters of Friends, Rachel and Jill, reunited in The Morning Show.

And why not? The show is blessed with a potentially favorable cast of Steve Carell, Jennifer Aniston, and Reese Witherspoon in the lead, with the splendid support of Billy Crudup, Mark Duplass, and Karen Pittman, giving powerful performances. The Green sisters of Friends, Jennifer and Reese, were not only reunited but also became the first actors to be paid $2 million per episode.

There are numerous intense and brilliant argument and speech scenes. And this is what the audience wants, make a show blended with a favorable cast, fabulous writing, hot topics, hard-hitting dialogues, all orchestrated under a supervision of a thoughtful team of directors.

TMS has an interesting plotline, an exciting setup of aesthetics, a wise application of dark comedy, a very sound direction to build our enthusiasm for the show. And holds a lot of promises for the next season; and like me, I am certain that all the TMS fans are wishing that the new season happens this year instead of another two-year gap.

Film Review: Dhamaka (2021)

TV news anchor Arjun Pathak gets his biggest break when he interviews a terrorist who has just tried to blow a bridge alarming the national security sensing a high-level terror attack. With time, catching the terrorist becomes complicated due to his demands and Pathak struggles to find the solution to end this madness.
Dhamaka is the official remake of the South Korean film, The Terror Live. Directed by Ram Madhvani who made Neerja. There is no doubt that just like Neerja, Dhamaka is another top-class nerve-building intensity and the first half is the clear proof. The film lifts up the attention in a few minutes at the start and successfully attracts the audience and builds curiosity.
Dhamaka offers a few scenes that have been shot with careful direction like the entire build-up of Arjun struggling to recover after he vomited. Or another scene of giving a hope of possible reunion that ends up with a tragedy when the bridge collapses.
Technical excellence? Impressive sound design throughout the film and compelling screenplay and direction in the first half. Amruta Subhash had an impressive supporting role and Mrunal Thakur is one of the new talents who are serious about the profession and trying to make the name. This has to be Karthik Aaryan‘s best performance to date and maybe one of the best leading performances of the year. His expressional timing and behavioral attitude were sharp and handled with delicacy.
But handling the continuity of such a potential plot towards the last phase lowed the anticipation. A well-settled first 40 minutes into the film held a lot of promises but numerous plotholes raised the eyebrows.

SPOILERS ALERT!!!

One major problem is the dramatization of a typical newsroom trying to break a news on air. The seriousness and hullabaloo of the room get an odd feeling about the authenticity over covering a national outcry of terrorism. If the terrorist is so prepared to blow the proportions of the building, how come he believes in a theory that a minister can come to the show to apologize when he could have asked for forgiveness from any platform. If he was eventually hiding in the building, how come the anti-corruption unit did not spot out and took so long to trace out? The film shows that the call on the phone was coming from the IT room. How come no one noticed that?
When Arjun depicted that his earphone had the bomb, the police began to solve the mystery of who would fix that in his ear. I don’t understand how come no one in the newsroom identified the possibility. This is their daily routine and they all know each other who is assigned what work. What politician doesn’t cooperate with such sensitive issues on air and put the lives of many at-risk after suggesting that he must not enrage him? A journalist died in the bridge collapse and there were no injuries when the body was found. Really?
Yes, the film successfully shows the reality behind the news media politics and all the black efforts that are made to dramatize/sensationalize the events. But Dhamaka will be remembered for Karthik’s performance who looked like the captain of the sinking ship. If the efforts were made in dramatizing more compelling writing on the situational tense and newsroom drama, this may have been one of the best films of the year.
Ratings: 6.5/10

THE ART OF WAR – Paris Attack & the Proxy War

Predictions can meet your opinions and social media brains can vow the lost words framed in the past. It is an emotional rectifying bond of unheard whispers with uninvited gunshots. So when the music is loud, you are at temporary betrayal of daunting hope…

Unheard of your cost, the weapons had its say and the case was dismissed in the court of shadows. When bad things happen, word of mouth has no protection. The reason why yours and mine opinion differ is because we use our own brains for the textures to follow, to the faith we believe and methods we retrieve. Same methods are voiced to the readers and listeners, they tweet you and become a league. From here, if brain was wrong that day, you cannot expect the league today has its ideal foundation towards the solution. It will certainly drive a wrong road. Non-classified u-turn is unhygienic for melting egos.

A Friday night of many thousands of travelers, visitors, spectators, musical ear-folkers, sports-addict and concertgoers met their horrors in major European city – Paris. Gunfire and blasts were heard and the terror was installed by night. A series of mass shootings and suicide bombings has so far caused lives of 130 civilians and gashed around 350 others.

Locations were;

1) La Belle Equipe – A very popular Bistro, which was of full capacity when the shootings happened and killed at least 12. One witness said that the shooting at this site lasted for three minutes!

2) Le Carillon/Le Petit Cambodge – Former is café-bar and latter is a Cambodian restaurant. Both are located directly opposite to 408-year-old Saint-Louis Hospital. So far at least 12 are reportedly dead.

3) La Casa Nostra pizzeria – at this location is reported that a man with a machine gun fired on its terrace and killed 5 people.

4) Stade de France – creates massive center of media attraction due to the fact that a friendly football match between France and Germany was played and three explosions were heard after 30 minutes of the first half. The detail more worth is that French president Francois Hollande was seated there. He was rushed to safety after the second explosion. Continue reading THE ART OF WAR – Paris Attack & the Proxy War