By Samir Shukla
The Battle of the Dans
The unfinished business of electing the representative for NC's 9th congressional district is once again moving forward. The race should have ended with Election Day in 2018. But a new special election was called after the state elections board found last year's election was tainted when Republican Mark Harris used a political operative who improperly handled mail-in ballots. Harris, who narrowly led after November's votes were counted, opted not to run again. His opponent in that election Democrat Dan McCready is running again and didn't have any primary challengers.
Now, after a primary with 10 candidates, the Republicans have chosen their candidate and the battle lines are drawn once again. Call it the Battle of the Dans. The Democrat Dan McCready is running against Republican Dan Bishop. This special election is attracting national attention. Lots of money is being poured into both sides. The district has been in Republican hands since 1963. It would be a huge embarrassment for the NC Republican party if McCready wins.
The special election for NC 9th District will be held on September 10.
Here are a few helpful sites to help find your Congressional District or Representative:
The Democratic Debates
There are now 23 folks running for the Democratic nomination for President. It is the most diverse field ever. Women, men, white, black, gay, straight, old, young, non-Christian and bi-racial folks are running. Clearly, it's a brawl with 4-5 major candidates and the rest trying to figure out how to get their names and heads above the water line. Joe Biden is clearly the guy to beat at the moment.
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) will host 12 official debates, set to begin in June 2019, with six debates in 2019 and the remaining six to be scheduled during the first four months of 2020. The debates will be split over two days as there are so many candidates.
Upcoming Confirmed Democratic Debates:
June 26 & June 27, 2019: 9–11pm Miami (NBC)
July 30 & July 31, 2019: 9-11pm, Detroit (CNN)
Film Review: Photograph
By Samir Shukla
Sanya Malhotra and Nawazuddin Siddiqui appear in Photograph by Ritesh Batra
-- Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios
Directed by Ritesh Batra
Cast: Nawazzudin Siddiqui, Sanya Malhotra, Farrukh Jaffar
In our video-driven world, a still photograph can still impact lives. The film Photograph is a quiet tale of friendship and romance opened by a single photograph. A very subtle entanglement of the characters guides the film, written and directed by Ritesh Batra (The Lunchbox). He takes time unfolding the story. Rafi (Nawazzudin Siddiqui), a struggling photographer, and Miloni (Sanya Malhotra), a shy middle-class student, cross paths at the Gateway of India in Mumbai. Rafi convinces a hesitant Miloni to take her photo and prints it out on a portable printer in his backpack while she waits. He loses track of her when she is called away by a family member, taking the photo without getting a chance to pay Rafi.
Rafi is working in Mumbai to help pay off family debt back in his native village. He lives in a dark, grungy room with several male roommates while saving money to send back home. His grandmother, dadi (Farrukh Jaffar), meanwhile writes to him that she refuses to take her medicine unless he finally finds a wife. Rafi decides to track Miloni down and asks her to play along and pretend she is his fiancée, so dadi will resume her meds. Miloni goes along with Rafi's scheme while living out her life, even meeting potential suitors her parents arrange for her, in her comfortable middle class home.
In the meantime, feisty dadi decides to visit her grandson and meet his future bride. No, the film doesn't turn into a comedic farce at that point. Batra deftly guides the story and characters further into a study of friendship, longing, class and caste differences that inform people's lives. Both Rafi and Miloni keep up the charade to please dadi, who of course in no amateur in such matters.
Rafi and Miloni begin to develop a friendship that slowly suggests a budding romance. Photograph is a nuanced, slow strolling film. It's the space between the silence and subdued conversations that make it tender without being coy or corny. Interspersed with Hindi and Gujarati dialogue, the film unfolds ever so gently, while navigating cultural differences, societal expectations and the invisible forces that attract two people.
The film gives nods to classic Bollywood while Batra and the cinematographers capture the daily lives of street denizens of Mumbai - the taxi drivers, chai sellers, vendors, small shopkeepers. The densely packed lives of Mumbai streets come alive where the different inhabitants in Rafi's local street market all have heard that his grandmother wants him to find a wife or she will not take her medicine.
Somewhere along the way I was expecting tense moments, conflict between the two protagonists, maybe harsh words being exchanged, some physical action even, but Batra sticks with a serene mood. Both Siddiqui and Malhotra, respectively playing middle aged man and young student, work their parts with subtle warmth. Jaffar steals more than one scene as the world weary grandmother.
By Samir Shukla
It's the slow thickening of summer. The soft spring is rapidly dissolving. The road to the 2020 American election is also hardening month by month. Special Counsel Robert Mueller released his report in April, and reset the political parameters. I'll let you make up your mind, and, sure, there's no smoking gun pointing to President Trump on matters of collusion. But there are layers of untruths, most of them unnecessary for governing, surrounding this most amoral of a president. The ball will continue its roll, history will judge.
Bernie Sanders did a townhall on Fox News and it was a hit for him, he is on a roll and already making other candidates as well as the general Democratic political establishment nervous. Joe Biden has now tossed his name in the ring, further shaking up the Democratic tree.
This historically diverse slate of candidates is now gathering money, chatting up talk shows, and will go into next month ready to prep for the first two Democratic debates…slated for late June on NBC and late July on CNN. Each will be spread over two days. It is yet to be determined how the Democratic National Committee will mix up the batch of candidates to make the debates fair to all. Each of them will have shorter times to explain their agendas. Trump was the “way off the grid" outlier in 2016, Bernie is already emerging as the expected outlier of 2020.
Will the new generation of Democrats elbow their way upfront and take the reins or will the old guard tamp down the youngsters and emerge as frontrunners saying, “Not so fast young'uns."
The first order of business is the tug of war between the young squad and the “we're saving these seats" squad of grizzled political veterans, namely Biden, Warren, and Bernie. There are many intriguing characters in the young squad. Finding the balance between exciting the activists and partisans and getting noticed by the wider mainstream is the challenge for all here.
In the meantime, India is in the midst of its massive election. The voting will wrap around the third week of May and the Commission will announce victors a few days later.