Vantage point

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Why? Why? Why?
Why do movies made on historic personalities in India have to be a zero-sum game? If you want to glorify one person, paint the other in poor light.

Saw �The Legend of Bhagat Singh� today. This movie, starring Ajay Devgan and directed by Rajkumar Santoshi is based on the life of the most popular revolutionary during India�s freedom struggle. The movie was quite good, and it went along at a proper pace. There were too many songs though, prompting me to rename it �Legend of Bhagat�s Songs�. However, overall, the movie does make an impact. So much so, that now I am hoping Brazil defeats England in the quarter final =-). What made it even more interesting was the fact that most of the movie is shot in Pune. The first half has many scenes set in Fergusson College, where my sister studies, and the court scenes are set in my college, COEP in the main hall, which was built at the turn of the 19th century. But I am not fully happy with the movie.

I did not expect Santoshi to resort to painting Gandhiji in such a poor light, just to make Bhagat Singh look great. Bhagat Singh is a hero and he is respected, even worshipped, by everyone. Why drag Gandhiji down for it? Not only is the person playing Gandhiji a very effeminate and silly sounding man, there are also some serious factual discrepancies in spite of (or maybe because of!) Santoshi claiming to have researched the subject for years. Gandhiji has been given dialogues which are written to bring jeers from the audience and this disgustingly cheap way to get a few extra claps is not in good taste. Santoshi has also given Bhagat Singh credit where it wasn�t due. The movie conveys the impression that the �Poorna Swaraj� (total independence) declaration was made by the Congress and Nehru inspired by Bhagat Singh. This is the first that I hear for it. The movie also keeps on saying that Gandhiji wanted Dominion status for India and not independence. Now I am not a hundred percent sure, but it was the Congress that kept rejecting Dominion status till the end wasn�t it? The movie does no justice to all parties and rather than seeming like a fair and just look at the events, ends up as an entertaining movie designed to make the audience laugh and clap. Another peeve is the way Rajguru has been portrayed. He is almost the comedian of the movie, and is up to antics specifically intended to bring laughs. There was no need to clown-ify Rajguru.

This is not the first time that filmmakers have taken potshots at Gandhiji to make their central characters look. It has happened with Sardar, Dr Ambedkar and even the recent �Veer Savarkar� where the Mahatma is again shown as a weak, silly man spouting inane comments on �prem and �ahimsa�. I am not a Gandhian. In fact I disagree with most of his teachings. But I still respect the man for what he achieved and I don�t think any other man like him will indeed walk the sands of this earth again. Just disagreeing with someone�s ideals doesn�t mean you hate and ridicule that person. He did something none of the other leaders could ever do- shape that identity we call �Indian�. The true Indian. Where was that identity before he came to the scene? All activity before that was provincial. Even the Savarkars, Hedgewars and the Jinnahs of the world were busy carving identities for religions. Making people hindus and muslims, and just sidelining the Indianness. Gandhiji brought all the people together. He has inspired people far and wide, like Mandela, Martin Luther Kings and Aung San Suu Kyi. But in his own land, people in the cinema hall shout �abe takley� and �arey hijde� and a lot else when his character is shown. Disturbing!

Is something wrong with our filmgoer psyche? We keep making movies that make us seem better in comparison to someone else. Look at �Gadar�. It is such an overt jingoistic attempt to say �We Indians are much better human beings than those bad and evil Pakistanis�. Why? We don�t need a Talibanana republic to serve as a parameter to judge our growth as a nation.

Maybe that is what is going wrong. Got just one bronze at the Olympics? So what? Pakistan got none. Did not win the cricket world cup? So what? At least we beat Pakistan. Fortunately, this sentiment is not that strong in other walks of life like the economy where our corporate sector seems to scaling new heights.

Anyway, I am rambling. Korea beat Italy today. Yaaawn, another upset!!! It would be nice to see an expected result for a change eh?