Tuesday, August 27, 2013

India’s need for another independence from thuggish politicians leads to Dabang, Signham and Rowdy Rathore being successful

Balanced on a knife’s edge

Not too long ago we celebrated our nth independence day. We waved a few flags, sent out customary greetings to our friends and family, enjoyed a day off and forgot all about the real issues that face our country today.
Make no mistake: India is at a precipice today balancing itself at a knife’s edge. Currently, the entire social fabric that weaves India together is about to be destroyed. And nothing can be more appropriate, more illuminating than the current crop of movies that are being churned out by Bollywood and are rip-roaringly successful.

Bollywood as a mirror of Indian society

Traditionally, Bollywood has always reflected India’s broader sentiment at large. In the 50’s and 60’s it was Manoj Kumar singing “Mere Desh ki Dharti” and Lal Bahadur Shastri saying “Jai Jawan Jai Kisan”. The era when the farmer issues dominated the on screen cinema personified by “Mother India”
In the 70’s it was the angry young man, Amitabh fighting against established social order be it Gabbar in Sholay or becoming a drug lord in Deewar. Of course there were Shammi Kapoor and Rajesh Khanna challenging the Indian societal taboo of love marriage.
The same was true of 90’s when India was being liberated and romances like Aashiqui, DDLJ, Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman were the rage.
Today some of the most successful movies in terms of collections are: Singham, Rowdy Rathore, Dabangg, Wanted, D-Day, A Wednesday etc. A common undercurrent among all these movies is the humiliation of politicians in some form or other. The omnipresent and most visible theme is the inevitable fight against corruption and indifference of those in charge of our system.
The not so successful mentions are Rajneeti, Aarakshan, Sarkar Raj 2, Policegiri, Zila Ghaziabad.
Of course, the above interpretation might just be a case of reading the runes the wrong way and the Indian cinema goers may have developed a taste for over the top action and the politicians might be easiest targets.

Callous, Indifferent and disinterested “leaders”

Although, I feel slightly differently. How often have you felt like slapping a certain politician or a self proclaimed Godman when they make their now customary assholic comments? How often have you found yourself cringing and wincing at the sheer callousness of our so called leaders?
The angst against our system is no longer exception to the norm. It is now the new “in-thing”. The fury is palpable, ubiquitous and spilling over. Just go to any online forum. See it for yourself.
The message boards are filled with fights between #feku and #pappu followers. Intolerance is rising and internet has now become a regular place for intimidation and hostility. Internet, the medium which once was founded as a way to communicate has become a channel to spread hatred and to gain one over “the other side”. A classic battle of gamesmanship at its very worst: that is today’s Internet. Where Julian Assange is forced to seek asylum and yet gets none; where Irom Sharmila is ignored and Anna Hazare is lathi charged.

The Zero Sum Game

All the debates today have just degraded into zero sum games. Either I am right or you are right.
Can’t there be: your truth, my truth and the actual truth which lies somewhere in between? Perhaps both of us are right and both of us are wrong? But no. that possibility is no longer there.
The politicians have taken the intellect and reason out of our debates and discussions. The debates have now degenerated into a loud cacophony of noise where the one who shouts the loudest usually wins. Where Arnab Goswami’s loud mouthed “the nation demands an answer”, Nidhi Razdan rule the roost and earlier versions of dignified debates of Rajat Gupta’s “Janta Ki Adalat” have been lost into obscurity.
Perhaps this anger is manifested in all forms and walks of Indian way of living. The road rage incidents, the audacity of rapes in broad daylight and trying to be right all the time.

Agree to Disagree

We have forgotten that one can agree to disagree. Even in marriages caste, religion, sub-caste etc. are the definitive measures of a match than the actual habits of the individual. India as a whole has forgotten to appreciate and celebrate differences: whether be it lifestyle choices or be it opinions of national concern.
Differences today are frowned upon than regarded as measure of a healthy and thriving democracy. This is why a film bashing the politicians is successful but a thought provoking movie is often ignored.
Today India is fighting for its very existence. Corruption is rife and everyday a new incident of degeneracy that now an integral part of Indian society. In a globalized world, such inefficiency will be punished more brutally and more quickly than ever. We have not reached the levels of Somalia but there are certainly pockets of areas in India that are inaccessible to us.
Rapes, scams, killings, hate speeches, division of country nothing shocks us now. Chinese soldiers can come to Leh and make temporary camps and we do nothing. Arvind Kejriwal’s candidate suffers “an accident” and we still don’t raise a hullabaloo.
We once had fought a war for independence against the foreign intruders. We now need to fight another war against our own kind and against ourselves also.

Everyone is guilty

Of course, I am also guilty of the biggest transgression of them all: Indifference and apathy. I never cared about the politics of our country till it started to bite me. I too am a part of the apathy that has led to today’s sorry state of affairs. Not proud to admit to it, but I can’t absolve myself of blame either.
The step begins with us. If nothing else, we can at least start taking an interest in India’s politics and burning issues and spare just half an hour from our self-serving lives to at least know the challenges faced by our country.

Start trying even if not actively participating

We need not jump headfirst into politics or even take to streets and start rioting and protesting. We all cannot be Kejriwals. But we can at least support people who are trying to make a difference. At least we can go out to vote. Ask questions about qualifications, vision and the future plans of our leaders. And involve not just ourselves but our cooks, maids, cleaners, peons also by asking their reasons for voting and get them to choose for the right person for right reasons. We won’t always succeed in our efforts to get a proper person elected. But at least we can start trying.
We don’t need new laws or overnight system overhaul. We don’t to implement radical thoughts but change our thoughts radically. We should try to appreciate differences and not suppress them. We should try to listen to the other side, keep an open mind and then make a decision than stay within our comfort zones.
Otherwise from a crouching tiger we will became a “bheegi billi”. We may always be “mango people” but we should not allow our nation to become any more a “banana republic” than it already is.
Otherwise we will still be watching a 60 year Salman bashing up yet another politician 10 years from now. J :P (NOM to Salman fans)