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What happens when Oliver Stone interviews Vladimir Putin? Empty banter and immense silence

Rather than insight into the Russian president’s controversial policies, what we get is a puff piece.

Since the election of Donald Trump as the American president and the leaking of revelations that the Russians may have played some part in helping him win, Western politics has refused to bow to neat ideological categories. If Trump is conservative, what is the ex-KGB Vladimir Putin doing assisting him?

Oliver Stone, who has never shied away from his Communist leanings, has now added his own spice mix to this whirling paradox. In The Putin Interviews, Stone sits across from the Russian president and gets him to answer a series of questions that are intended to give us a deeper peek into the mind of one of the world’s most devious politicians.

Play
The Putin Interviews (2017).

The Showtime series, divided into four episodes of one hour each, takes us through a panoramic view of Putin’s life, an account that is suitably embellished by Putin himself. (Stone speaks no Russian and hired the services of an interpreter to help him conduct the interview.) Most of the facts about the President are well-known: he was born in Leningrad (now St Petersburg) and took an early interest in judo; he rose quickly within the government first in St Petersburg and then in Moscow; he was chosen by Boris Yeltsin himself to take over the Presidency in 1999, a position from which he has never strayed too far in the interim.

Stone allows Putin to list his political achievements with candour, often egging him on. Over his two terms as President (2000-2008), Putin stabilised the Russian economy and brought poverty numbers down. The problem – and this is not restricted to the economy – is when Stone lets Putin get away with gross falsehoods. At one point, Putin speaks of his success in ridding Russia of oligarchs, and Stone nods sagely. This would be funny if not for the serial assassinations of critics of the state that well-heeled Russians have financed in other countries.

Play
The Putin Interviews (2017).

This policy extends to other realms. Stone fawns over Putin as the latter speaks at length about media freedom and LGBT rights, topics on which the President’s version of reality is dramatically at odds with that of his compatriots. There are no questions on Russia’s support of North Korea, its annexation of Crimea or its ruinous meddling in West Asia.

Rather, Stone, who famously makes movies about conspiracy theories that he perhaps believes to be true, gets into friendly banter with Putin about the “ways of the West”. It is one thing for the acclaimed director to believe that the West is still trying to dominate Russia and turn it into its own image. That’s Cold War territory which gave Stone some of his most exciting ideas.

But it becomes something of a parody when he gets the President of Russia to wax eloquent on how the West is out to get him/his country with nary a thought spared for the changed geopolitical dynamics since the 1990s or the very real consequences of Russian expansionism.

Not everything is a letdown, though. There are some interesting takeaways, such as Putin’s defence of granting asylum to whistleblower Edward Snowden while also clearly enunciating that what Snowden did was wrong. Likewise, he channels Machiavelli when he says he did not help Trump in the election because a change in the leadership means little when it is the bureaucracy that runs government.

Stone has been defending Putin in media interviews since the release of the documentary. There is no stronger evidence that he has been played than the fact that even people in his camp – the Leftists, say – are turning away from his strident advocacy of a man who they find singularly responsible for installing Trump in the White House. Now that’s a conspiracy Stone should have explored. What we get instead is a political puff piece.

Play
The Putin Interviews (2017).
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Advice from an ex-robber on how to keep your home safe

Tips on a more hands-on approach of keeping your house secure.

Home, a space that is entirely ours, holds together our entire world. Where our children grow-up, parents grow old and we collect a lifetime of memories, home is a feeling as much as it’s a place. So, what do you do when your home is eyed by miscreants who prowl the neighbourhood night and day, plotting to break in? Here are a few pre-emptive measures you can take to make your home safe from burglars:

1. Get inside the mind of a burglar

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— Som Pashar, committed nearly 100 robberies.

Burglars study the neighbourhood to keep a check on the ins and outs of residents and target homes that can be easily accessed. Understanding how the mind of a burglar works might give insights that can be used to ward off such danger. For instance, burglars judge a house by its front doors. A house with a sturdy door, secured by an alarm system or an intimidating lock, doesn’t end up on the burglar’s target list. Upgrade the locks on your doors to the latest technology to leave a strong impression.

Here are the videos of 3 reformed robbers talking about their modus operandi and what discouraged them from robbing a house, to give you some ideas on reinforcing your home.

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2. Survey your house from inside out to scout out weaknesses

Whether it’s a dodgy back door, a misaligned window in your parent’s room or the easily accessible balcony of your kid’s room, identify signs of weakness in your home and fix them. Any sign of neglect can give burglars the idea that the house can be easily robbed because of lax internal security.

3. Think like Kevin McCallister from Home Alone

You don’t need to plant intricate booby traps like the ones in the Home Alone movies, but try to stay one step ahead of thieves. Keep your car keys on your bed-stand in the night so that you can activate the car alarm in case of unwanted visitors. When out on a vacation, convince the burglars that the house is not empty by using smart light bulbs that can be remotely controlled and switched on at night. Make sure that your newspapers don’t pile up in front of the main-door (a clear indication that the house is empty).

4. Protect your home from the outside

Collaborate with your neighbours to increase the lighting around your house and on the street – a well-lit neighbourhood makes it difficult for burglars to get-away, deterring them from targeting the area. Make sure that the police verification of your hired help is done and that he/she is trustworthy.

While many of us take home security for granted, it’s important to be proactive to eliminate even the slight chance of a robbery. As the above videos show, robbers come up with ingenious ways to break in to homes. So, take their advice and invest in a good set of locks to protect your doors. Godrej Locks offer a range of innovative locks that are un-pickable and un-duplicable. To secure your house, see here.

The article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Godrej Locks and not by the Scroll editorial team.