While the jury is out on the recent statement made by a leading actor, the whole nation seems to have slid into a collective form of frenzied palpitation. I personally have nothing against Indian movies (I avoid most of them), but I find all this brouhaha about the release of Padmavati highly frivolous. All the ruckus seems to be a stage-managed show, scripted and acted out with the collusion of the people who stand to benefit from it. And since the opposition parties in this country have been virtually rendered jobless by the Modi juggernaut, they are creating their own narrative on this non-issue. Some have even gone to the silly extent of proclaiming that this issue proves how polarized we have become as a nation!!!
Sometime back “intolerance” was trending. Everyone from local shopkeepers to diamond-dripping socialites were chanting this. It soon became a status symbol for many who misused it to prove their (pseudo) secular credentials. Government-granted awards were returned with aplomb (maybe they finally realized that they did not deserve it!). Reams of newspaper and prime TV time was needlessly expended commentating and debating by a few left-leaning individuals and the above-mentioned “secularists”, creating a contrived atmosphere of scepticism and mistrust. In the bargain, realism became the inopportune casualty of the banality that got purveyed in the guise of analytical journalism. The latest trending word is “regressive”. All the old narratives have been dug out from dusty shelves, find-and-replace done, and “regressive” has conveniently supplanted “intolerance”. That these things come up just when a state election is around the corner is surely coincidental! A fringe group, who no one had heard of, raises cudgels against the “immoral” depiction of their “queen”. Before anyone could say boo, the media and self-styled upholders of artistic freedom, have declared it a monumental failure on the part of the Prime Minister (???) and an unconstitutional endeavour at curbing their freedom of expression. At the other end of the spectrum, pretentious “nationalists” have labelled the movie a salacious attempt at elevating a historically-established tyrant to the Bollywood version of a hopelessly lost lover-boy, while maligning their “religion” in their process (!!!). And all this without either side having viewed the movie (amazingly, at the time of writing this, even the Indian film censor-board has not). As a consequence of this preventable free-for-all, a fringe group gets their moment of glory, and even before its release, the movie can safely be declared a colossal hit. The actors, producers and director superfluously playing the anger / sympathy / regression card are just grist to their detractors’ mill.
According to me, true regression is when Indian movies justify heroes eve-teasing or molesting women openly; regression is also when an educated heroine is shown as a meek housewife, silently accepting all the physical, verbal, mental and other vile abuse thrown at her; it is when men from the film industry conveniently convert their religion to legalize bigamy and validate their contumacious libido; when celebrities literally get away with murder because they are powerful enough to subvert the due process of law; it is when actors shy away from naming the numerous producers / directors who have audaciously exploited them (as is being done in Hollywood), for fear of being shunned by our flagitous movie industry; it is when any woman is molested and bystanders are busy uploading pictures rather than helping her; it is when we break laws and grease palms to get away with it; it is when people accept sixty years of mismanagement and moral corruption of the nation by a particular political family and still want to see them back in power; it is when unverified reports, one-sided lies and half-truths are furnished by the media, stoking the already smouldering embers of disquietude – a recent case is the one where the government dropped two movies from their annual film festival (they were well within their rights to do so), but it was made out by the media (and celebrities) to be another attempt to subdue (mostly incompetent) artists; it is also when the common man’s mind is made the playground for political games, with religion as the goalpost; it is when an abhorrent politician or celebrity disgustingly questions the integrity of the very army which ensures that these cretins sleep peacefully in their homes; it is when we refuse to have faith in ourselves and lose hope for our country. Above all, regression is when we the people of this country accept it all and move on to consume the next divisive item served in the abominable menu offered to us by vested interests.
Every country has its unique set of problems, which in our case is augmented manifold due to overwhelming population and dynamic polyglottism. India is an idea whose time has come, and we as a nation need to have fidelity towards this idea. Forget the politicians and forget the nay-sayers – till we individually do not clean up the cobwebs of our minds, we will continue to allow such deplorable spiders of degenerating thoughts, to manipulate and make their cosy homes within us!