Sunday, February 05, 2006

Not the same, all the same - Rang de Basanti, being a Hindu, uniform civil code, and Hostage – in that unrelated sequence

I watched ‘Rang de basanti’. That, however, is not the point. Everyone now wants to go to Delhi and cruise around in jeeps at night. And that too is not the point. I need to say something. That, really, is the point.

‘Rang de…’ is a good movie but frankly, I’ve seen better. I’ve seen ‘Yuva’. It is creditable, though, that the movie could say what it did without using the ‘sage on the stage’ (as we say in Instructional Design) approach. The movie does have a couple of ideas that I have been besotted with for a long time now.

One is the life of a story. There is the germ of an idea about men who go to their deaths cheerfully. There is fascination about what could inspire such courage in ordinary people. That story lays inside a diary for a long time.

How long? Long enough for history to play itself out and begin the process of repeating itself. A nation goes the ‘Animal Farm’ way – humans out, pigs in. The story lays untouched – fermenting in latent vigor.

Then someone discovers it. She is moved by this story and decides to tell it. The story now awakens and agrees to being told. It finds its actors – unwilling though they are. The actors read the story. More importantly, the story reads them. It finds those crevices in the mind, which it fills quietly. It is set hard and firm with periodical help from the reality in which it must be told.

And then finally, it’s out.

I truly believe that one cannot read anything – anything at all, and remain unchanged. There was this Greek philosopher (I forget his name) who said something like this – when you put your hand in a river, the river changes and so do you. Change, therefore, irrespective of extent, is inevitable.

It’s fascinating how thought builds upon thought. It is believable that the men would be so influenced by the story that they would want to replicate a reality like that. That is why some books or movies are banned in the first place. There is a fear that life could get that close to art.

As I watched the film, I wondered what would have happened if Sue wanted to make a documentary on Gandhi? Perhaps she would have got different actors. Perhaps they’d have been influenced differently. Perhaps they would have dealt with the politician in another way.

In fact, one parallel that struck me was that we got Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, and Chandrashekhar in response to the British. We got DJ and the gang in response to Sue.

The next arresting thought was the character of DJ. The guy for all his bravado is a really scared man. For five years, he sticks around in the University despite graduating, simply because he’s afraid of being lost in the crowd. Who’d know him in the world outside? It reminded me of that prisoner in Shawshank Redemption who commits suicide on being released because he doesn’t know how to live outside the jail.

Every person has that ‘University’, I think – home, job, marriage, relationship – an acceptable rut where you have your ‘aukaat’.

I think DJ’s is the most important psychological profile in today’s times – where with a little change, so many feel adrift.

Then there is this other scene, which for very erratic, personal reasons I found disconcerting.

The gang has gone to a club to celebrate Soha’s engagement to the pilot. Atul Kulkarni (how fantastic is that man?) is very uncomfortable in that setting. He sits slouched, holding a bowl of peanuts in his hand, not making eye-contact with anybody. He doesn't quite know what is expected of him in that world. His body language pretty much underlines the ‘not fitting in’ message. It’s rather similar to our discomfort with certain notions of religion.

For some time now, based on my interactions with certain people, I’ve been getting this impression that it’s unfashionable to be a ‘Hindu’ in India.

To start off, I have observed that of all the religious communities, Hindus are the most clueless about their religion. I went to a convent school. We had a Moral Science period where the Christian students were taken to a different class to read the Bible. The rest of us had a common text book with chapters on cleanliness and helping strangers, etc. My Muslim friends would go home and study the Koran with their Maulanas. My Hindu friends, like me, would probably just light incense in the evenings and eat Maggi. We were never mandated to learn Sanskrit or read the scriptures. Hinduism, to many of us, was our heritage (something you take for granted), not our religion (something you take seriously). We were Hindus because we were Hindus.

This cluelessness becomes rather apparent and in fact, jarring, when one is in a relationship with a non-Hindu. More often than not, the partner will know more about his or her religion than the Hindu counterpart. And since any religion is interpreted through its people, the interpreters of Hinduism are usually inarticulate in matters of their own theology. I think that’s why there’s this notion that Hinduism is only about idolatory, ritualism, and casteism. It’s not.

It’s getting a little problematic discussing this with some people of other religions. I get the feeling that just because I’m a member of the ‘majority’ community, I shouldn’t get too bothered about Hinduism being misinterpreted. What could possibly go against me? It’s not as if I’m going to be headhunted anytime soon.

Maybe there are prejudices against all religions, but I feel that I’m allowed to have fewer prejudices about theirs than they are allowed to have about mine. Why is it okay to ask, ‘What’s with the polytheism, man?’ and not wait for an answer. Why is it difficult to accept a religion because it does not have clear cut tenets all neatly listed in one book? And why is it wrong to think this way and be deemed to be a fanatic from the RSS squad?

Yesterday, a friend told me that other religions had only one God and were therefore more evolved than a religion that had 64,800 Gods. I told him that we believed in 1 God too – the deities were only manifestations of certain facets of God, etc. etc. He wasn’t listening. So I simply asked him that even if this were a polytheistic religion, why should it be deemed lower than the others?

He then asked me if I was happy being a Hindu. Truth be told, that was the very first time I thought about it. ‘Yes’, I said. ‘Typical’, he replied and changed the subject.

Since I didn’t get a chance to explain myself then, I’ll do it now and hope that my pal reads it.

Like everyone, I see my religion through my prism. To me, Hinduism is benign and tolerant. It allowed me to seek my own level in it at my own pace and when I was ready. I never had to do anything compulsorily – learn shlokas or listen to priests on an assigned day every week. When I got curious about certain mysteries of life, when I felt that man does not live by bread alone, when I felt empty inside, I read the Geeta. I found some solace there. I think I would have believed in ‘karma’ irrespective of what religion I followed. But I got my answers in Hinduism without any co-ercion or ritualism. And that’s why I am happy to be a Hindu. If you think that by thinking this, I believe Hinduism to be better than any religion in the world, then you’re right. And I also hope you are better at spotting sarcasm than understanding what is actually being told.

I would be wrong if I thought that Islam was only about having four wives and slaughtering goats. I would be stupid if I thought Christianity was about Santa Claus and eating beef. Similarly, Hinduism is not that kookie religion that advocates astrology, holding cows sacred, and breaking coconuts in crowded temples. And if I think you are way off the mark in thinking this, it doesn’t make me intolerant.

Conversations get heated. I remember how I was first enamored of the idea of a Uniform Civil Code (hereafter referred to as UCC). In reality, I do not think that all religions are equal. They may be the same in essence, but they are not equal in status. Or as Atticus Finch said of people in ‘To kill a mocking bird’, ‘Some are more equal than others.’ In different contexts, some religion will feel short-changed and some other will feel like it’s bending backwards to overcompensate the others. By virtue of this, the personal laws scenario just gets to be an appeasement gimmick.

In a country that is truly secular, UCC shouldn’t be a problem. In a country that isn’t, it could be the only solution.

From the looks of it, people will always be in the dark about somebody’s God (or Gods, as the case may be). That’s why you need one code to rule them all, one code to find them, one code to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.

I also watched ‘Ho(hum)stage’. As gripping as a greasy handshake and just as avoidable.



37 comments:

Ashish Shakya said...

I loved a lot of things about Rang De Basanti, but what struck me most was the film's ability to make you think.And not along the 'ask-what-you-can-do-for-your-country' lines, but on a much more personal level - about dealing with change,finding a purpose in life...

I haven't been to a temple in 10 years and I'm neither proud nor ashamed of that fact.I'm probably more in touch with Hinduism than many of my friends who have to attend grand pujas because their parents make them.
In the end,all religions are about being true to oneself.

Pareshaan said...

Though you write so well about DJ's profile, I guess the character that really got under your skin was Laxman Pandey.
I loved your post, and I think that the questions you raise are valid. I for one believe that Hinduisms biggest pro is also it's biggest con. As a religion today it gives you the freedom to decide what you want to take away from it. But this also means that you may come away with little or nothing at all. I guess it's upto us. And that will always be a good thing.
Also religion is a very personal thing, and one would be losing focus, if one is trying to determine wether or not it is fashionable.
I think Hinduism is necessarily open-ended and designed to make us think.
Well, I have nothing else to say except that I loved your post, it was well written and I am glad that people are talking about this and not worrying about being labeled as fanatics.

Santosh said...

Is your pal arrogant? I hope not.

Like you said, perhaps he feels adrift, or uneasy when asked to consider the realm of possibility outside of his own. This is not to say that Hindus would never face the same problem.

It is not unfashionable to be a Hindu. When I read the Gita, I feel as if I would cite the Gita every chance I got - but I would never do so because Hinduism never requires me to evangelize or proselytize either.

It is unfashionable to not be tolerant though! That little bit has not changed?

Ameet said...

Mukta

Enjoy reading your posts. You make some succinct points about religion that not many people dare to broach.

I didn't really understand Hinduism until I lived outside India and was forced to rationalize my traditions and values against a majority Christian world. I now treat it for what it is - a way of life, governed by the collective wisdom of a civilization that went through some profound experiences.

I haven't been to a temple in years and do not blindly worship a God (or Gods). However, I have a better appreciation of the fundamental forces that govern humanity - forces that are personified as Hindu deities. I read verses from the Gita the same way I would read Nietsche or Jefferson - with my rationalizing glasses on.

I too have been hard-pressed to explain to my non-Hindu friends the significance of Hindu rituals and holidays. They are often amazed that we know so little about out religion. They do not buy my explanation that these rituals are simply a way of life, not codified by any laws, but practices that have been carried out for centuries. That it doesn't really bother anyone (too much) if I eat meat on Ganesh Chaturthi. That we don't feel compelled to build bonfires in our backyards on Holi.

Quizman said...

Finally, as blog where one doesn't apologize about being Hindu. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. [And it could have only from from a Maharashtrian!]

doubtinggaurav said...

Simply great post.

I will second quizman :-).

Regards

PS . Apologies for link soliciting
, but I too rambled here

chitra said...

Yup...the essence of RDB lies in the fact that how far can the youth be influenced by the past so as to enact the same in the present. Beatiful thread of thought linking it to Hindusin though!

Nandan said...

Nice post...one question, though: isn't 'some are more equal than others' the most famous quote of Animal Farm?

Lost-n-Found said...

m so happy too see you writing this risking to be labelled fanatic.
yes ... why is it that the "secular' parties are against uniform civil code? Because tehy have nothing to dod with secularism so uniformity in society, just power n appeasement for votes. why is it that in India Hindu/hindusim bashing is equivalent to being secular?
Dont people know wat secularism means?
For one it doesnt ask you to allevate one and debase other.
so why is it being done here?
aint the ucc the most secular code?

cynical nerd said...

Mukta: Nice post. Have'nt seen Rang de .. but loved your second. Hindus need be excessively assertive nor cocky, but simply confident, comfortable in their own shoes just like you.

regards,

Neelakantan said...

What you say is so true and is etched out exactly the way you say even in RDB. Being a hindu is out of fashion If you are hindu, it means, "Oh I dont go to temples, I dont believe in anything". I need not say what it means for other religions, where they are all "card carrying members".
Garv se kaho hum hindu hain needs to be resusticated, but nobody will ever do that because today in India being Hindu is out of fashion.

Manasi said...

Wonderful post. Very well written and honest. Even I have this feeling at times that people around us are ashamed of calling themselves 'hindus'. It is certainly a sad state of affairs for i think it stems from a very poor understanding of one's own religion, respect for it and the idea that has unknowingly been imbibed in us that talking about hinduism, applauding it, supporting and encouraging is comparable to Hindu fanaticism! I wonder why?

Mukta said...

Hi phoenix,

Have you seen Lakshya? That's a very, very good movie too.

And about the religion bit, I think being true to oneself is the beginning, not the end. :-) But perhaps, you have a point there. That if you are forced to attend a temple or sit for a puja, then probably the religion will just mean something very different to you than if you are allowed to explore it on your own.

Hi Pareshaan,

Laxman Pandey was the best role in that film. I loved that guy's character, his body language..Man! He was so so good.

You are right about how we have the choice of not taking anything away from Hinduism. That seems to be a choice many make. You indeed are very right about that. I mean, if I choose to stay ignorant of my faith, why hold anyone else responsible?

Hi Santosh,

Actually, my pal is a very good person. (Also great cook and that explains our enduring friendship, but that's another matter. he he!) Yep..it is unfashionable to be intolerant. Actually, I didn't mean 'unfashionable' as in out of vogue or something. I just meant that it's regarded as peculiar if one says anything to defend this faith. And that's it. Like if I say anything about Hinduism, maybe I don't say it right. It does sound like proselytization. But that's not what I'm doing, yopu know. All I'm trying to do is remove a misconception and I just never seem to get a fair chance to do that.

Hey Ameet,

So you read Jefferson and Nietsche, eh? Very impressive. Didn't Nietzche say, 'If there is a God, why am I not God?' Hmm, I read that off a T-shirt. :-)

Actually, if someone asks you about your religion open-mindedly, it is one thing. I mean, it is very understandable that Hinduism should be seen the way it is mostly. My only grouse is that the mind is made up, you know. Then, really, why ask?

Hi quizman,

I'm not Maharashtrian. I'm Oriya. he he!I get that a lot, though. :-)And this post could be up there because I had that experience. Others may not have written (although I'm pretty sure it must be written about somewhere) because they may not have had this experience. And that's great, na?

Hello doubtinggaurav,

Thank you. Out of curiosity, if some day, you get the answers to all your questions, will you change your handle to 'allknowinggaurav' or something like that?

Hey chitra,

Thanks!

Hey nandan,

I think the quote is from 'To kILL A Mockingbird'. It's from that argument that Atticus Finch makes in the court. But, I'll look it up when I can find those two books in one of my many suitcases. :-)

Hi lost-n-found,

I think we are more than ready to accept the Uniform Civil Code. Have you taken a look at those inheritance laws for different communities? Oof! Really!

Hi cynical nerd,

For starters, your comment just didn't do justice to your handle but that's a relief! he he! And I think I have a long way to go before I can be comfortable in these shoes. I have just found them :-)

Hi neel,

I think it's about to respect your faith. And it's not necessary to flaunt that, right? You learn, you practice and you live in peace. That should be enough.

Hey manasi,

Personally, I think that a lot of talk that happens with respect to religion happens with a lot of emotional intensity but without the knowledge to back up the claims. I suppose that's human behavior. :-)

cynical nerd said...

Mukta:
We don't write on religious or social issues. Just came across your post and wanted to send a note of appreciation.

best,

vulcanfly said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
vulcanfly said...

Mukta,
Loved reading this blog, I agree RDB was a thought-provoking movie, but somehow the sequence of events potrayed in the picture was in bad taste.
I did not like the way he tried to potray a particular political party in the movie. I am not a major supporter of any political thought process. But try to be impartial when you are making movies which touch a very sensitive subject.
Some of the history facts were wrong, there wasnt ample research probably. Incident in Jallianwala bagh where ppl jump into the well. There wasnt any water , to the contrary well had abundant water in the movie.

One more thing, I did not like in the movie was the sequence of events , protests , lathi-charge and other set of events shows our democracy in a very bad taste. I dont think so, even with our state of political affairs these things happen.

My 2 cents... :)

Santosh said...

I agree, I may have missed out.

Anyhow, I think your point that one isn't forced to Hinduism, rather the reverse is bang on target. I was never coerced into reading the Gita or other related works. More evidence to support.

Maybe Hindu's are deeply polarised, those that don't see the need to correct misconceptions, and those that preach - fanatically. Maybe the former need to actively correct misconceptions. At least this would disallow the latter to dominate?

What I will take from this is that Hindus need to step up, even if it means that we have to begin every sentence with "..and I'm not preaching, but thats not how we really think...".

Chaitanya Gupta said...

Beautiful Article. That's all I need to say...

Mukta said...

Hey cynic,

Thank you!

Hi vulcan,

I didn't catch the reference to a specific political party. I'm rather clueless when it comes to that.

There was this other film that dealt with women jumping into wells during the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. It was directed by a Pakistani lady. It had Kirron Kher and a whole lot of other Pakistani actors. Very very good movie.

Hi Santosh,

Right again. :-)

Hello Chaitanya,

Thank you!

New Dik On The Blog said...

Mukta,

Khamosh Pani.

Roy said...

Hi…I’m Roy, just start the journey in the blog-world. New..... so learning the tricks by peeping in others blog without any prior permission (sorry for that!!). Heii, why not take a look to my blog: (http://comeonroy.blogspot.com/) & tell me where I need to improve. Most important, maybe you can also get something new & interesting stuff…..maybe!!
Hoping to hear you..
Roy

Mukta said...

Hi new,

Thank you!

Hey roy,

I hope you enjoy your stint at blogging. :-)

tablemannered said...

tagging u

Jayesh said...

Although I havent seen RDB, I found your views on Hinduism very relevant. The line between seen as a Hindu fanatic and being a person concerned about Hindu religion is so thin nowadays that I was surprised that a few intellectual bloggers reacted so violently when I raised some concerns on my blog earlier. I guess Hinduism is a classic case of having a flexible approach for its followers visavis commitment followed by other religions. But if you look at USA today, Christainity is again aggressively marketing itself. We are again 5-10 yrs away from that once the materialistic excesses of GDP growth seek a spiritual succour.

Khakra said...

Guess each person has a different viewpoint. Stay within the religion and try to spark up a discussion with a real RSS person about Hinduism and you'll see where exactly it is radically wrong. They know the religion well but the oath of celibacy perhaps drives them nuts. Veda interpretation and governance is an issue, so is multilaterism with other religions (Disrespect Buddhists because they destroyed Hindu literature in Nalanda libraries?? Calm down RSS man!!).

I'm a Hindu too, but it's just a religion I was born into. I try best not to let it hinder my life.

The Wanderer said...

First of all, your writings are amazing! Second, in RDB Aamir might definitely be the central figure, but my favorite for reasons of my own is Karan Singhania.

About Hinduism, if you are really esoteric about religious philosophies I'd suggest you take a look at Sanatana Dharma, the essense of Hinduism.

Oh by the way, I'm now at Lionbridge, your earlier workplace! :-)

vishal said...

Hi Mukta,
Hate to sound like fanmail, but I love every word that you write.
Cya
Vishal

Anonymous said...

Hi Mukta,

I read your blogs very often-though never commented till date, I like the way you express things and the passion you put in it.

Regarding hinduism:

For most religions, their religion is about community as much as it is about god ... in that I really appreciate Christians, Muslims and all and it is something that we( Hindus ) might want to learn.

Hinduism more than religion is a way of life, it is about the values that you learn and follow, there is so much wisdom in our vedas, upanishads etc., which we only like to brag about but always think its someone else who should do the reading.

Hinduism does not force things, that makes it more important that we be more responsible as a community and ensure that the legacy is not just admired but learnt and followed in its true spirit. May be we should have more satsangs and things like that.

May truth always triumph !

Pradeep.

Mukta said...

Hi tablemannered,

Have sent you an email. And thank you, thank you, thank you!

Hi Jayesh,

I didn't understand the bit about the marketing of Christianity.

Hi khakra,

You are right. No matter how open or closed a religion, it always has room for fanatics, I suppose. :-)

Hey wanderer,

Great! I hope you enjoy yourself there! By the way, how did you know I was at Lionbridge? I hope I cleared all the canteen tabs before I left. Wouldn't want to be remembered for that!

Hey vishal,

Thank you. And don't worry about sounding like fan mail. That is NEVER going to be a problem. he he! :-)

Hi Pradeep,

Hmm - the community aspect is interesting. You should comment a lot more.

GhostOfTomJoad said...

I guess I'm a bit late here... would've loved to have debated this. Especially about this Uniform Civil Code thing and how I think you're wrong. Maybe another time :-)

But I just hope you've thought your argument through about the UCC - just how will this civil code be uniform? Will a new code be enforced on the country or will it borrow heavily from one religion? Who gets to decide this? You said you'd be wrong if you thought "Islam was only about having four wives..." but I think that's pretty much what you're doing - reducing Islam and Christianity to one or two things. (Incidentally, Santa Claus has nothing to do with Christianity. It's more a cultural thing - and now marketing too - and has no religious basis.) I'm not sure about your statement "In a country that is truly secular, UCC shouldn’t be a problem. In a country that isn’t, it could be the only solution" but, either way, do you realise that there is not another country in the world that has the diversity that India has. Forget religions, here, food habits, languages, dialects, clothing styles, landscape... everything changes after every few hundred kilometers. Whose code would you like to see imposed? The North's on the South and the rest of the country? Just as the whole language thing was imposed on them? This amounts to saying that Hindi should be the national language. Why should it be the national language? Are you aware of the mind boggling number of communities we have in India? You think it’s okay to impose your will and style of living on them? You know, this argument basically boils down to ‘One size fits all’. We just can’t tolerate others being different from us. Just think abut it – where will this lead us and where will it end? Our problem is not that we don’t have a UCC but that we have lousy, self-serving politicians, who lack the spine to do anything. And, equally, we deserve those politicians.

I’d like to take you up on quite a few things here, such as your remark about how Hindus are "never mandated to learn Sanskrit or read the scriptures", "being in a relationship with a non-Hindu" ..and plenty of other things but I’m not sure you’ll be visiting this post again. So, maybe, it’s all going to waste anyway.

Just one more thing before I stop...there’s something else you said, which is precisely why I do not believe in religion (one of the reasons, actually). That you think your religion is better than the other religions of the world. It’s not a competition, friend. And, yes, I was born a Hindu...am not any more.

Mukta said...

Hi ghost,

I do not think that my religion is better than any other religion in the world. In fact, that statement in the post is meant to be sarcastic.

And as for UCC, here's what I think. Despite the diversity in cultures and codes, we have a universal criminal code, don't we? If we, despite varying regional differences, can agree that perjury is wrong, why can't we agree that perhaps marriage needs to be conducted this way or after death, property must be divided in such a manner? Personally, I think that the problem with the UCC is not diversity but vested interests.

GhostOfTomJoad said...

Hi,

To twist your last sentence around a bit, the problem, as you said correctly, is vested interests and not UCC. I think most of us, for no real fault of ours, are so cut off from the reality of our own country that, sometimes, we are unable to fathom the magnitude and complexity of some of these issues. It is easy for us to say that, because we have a uniform criminal system, we should also have a uniform civil code because, perhaps deep down, we know that such an enforcement is not likely to affect our way of life. Because, like it or not, the ones most affected will be the minorities, and I don’t mean only the religious minorities. Because, like it or not, we like, and find comfort in, commonality and sameness. Which is why, when anybody or anyone attempts anything unconventional or different, we are not immediately able to appreciate or accept it. Besides, look at the way Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism are treated, even by the so-called Hindu religious leaders. They are still referred to as extensions of Hinduism. Buddha, these scholars insist, was an incarnation of Krishna or Vishnu. Ask any Buddhist, Sikh or Jain and they’ll squirm at the suggestion that their respective religions, basically, are the same as Hinduism. Look at the way we’ve treated the poor tribal folk. They have their own outlook on life and their own ‘religion’. Yet, we insist that they’re all Hindus. They’re not! The reason we have a uniform criminal code is because, universally, certain acts are recognised and treated as wrong. Acts like stealing and killing, etc, are two such agreed-upon areas, among many others. But it is unfair to paint the different ways of life in one colour. Vested interests, as you said, are the problem. It is the self-serving, corrupt, morally bankrupt, inefficient, power-hungry, and shameless politicians we really need to worry about. We don’t need UCC but what we do need to do is to bring about gender equality, greater education, equal rights, more job opportunities for women. We don’t need UCC but reforms within various religions and the way they look at crucial aspects of life.

Rhyncus said...

That point you make about the life of a story is intriguing. Does a story have an end? Or simply reincarnations and manifestations? I wonder if there are only a few basic storylines and infinite manifestations of the same across ages and generations.

cOnvoLutEd MUsinGs said...

pretty lucid chiffonesque.. i mucho liko. a bit strange for a person with an impressive collection of favourites on the literary end not to have something on similar lines in the fav movie category!!!

hell, rock on....

Nandhu said...

Hey this is a review of Rang...that i posted on my own blogsite

Rang De Basanti
There is an unwritten line that every good director of patriotic movies tries hard not to cross, a line that divides cheap, jingoistic patriotism and the real thing. Rakesh Omprakash Mehra is aware of this line, but nevertheless crosses it a few times over. The success of the movie is in hiding this cleverly from the viewer, opening him up for the message: Get up, get out and save the Nation. It’s my job to point out the obvious: while you are out improving your country, Rakesh and his team are raking in the money.
Had the message been subtle and the implications of the story left to the viewer, Rang De Basanti would have been much better. But that subtlety is lost upon Mehra. He has actually worked in the message into the script so much, that it becomes a part of it. He relies on two extraordinary men to carry the movie with him, Aamir Khan and A R Rehman. Apart from the brilliance of the editing, the production and sound design and the cinematography, these are two artists who hold the movie together.
Aamir is confident enough to let the other actors steal the best lines and scenes from him and then, with all the mastery of a great showman, pushes the envelope to go one up. The other actors, particularly Atul Kulkarni and Siddharth, seem to have good roles written for them, while Aamir seems to pull his performance from pure ether. His mastery over the Punjabi accent; the scene in which he cries to Sue (Alice Payton) as struggles to eat the first bite of his roti; his snarled, angry, almost evil looking face as he performs an assassination, Aamir, in a just few key scenes that he has, infuses the movie with depth.
Rehman is inspired and inspiring. The jingle that begins Sue’s journey in India, is repeated in so many hues that by the end of the movie, it has moved from being a soundtrack to its emotional core. Most of the songs are packed in the first half, but with every song the movie seemed to have progressed a little further. But the cuts in between the songs to dialogue are meaningless and lay bare the director’s insecurity in filming the songs as, well, just songs. Karan’s (Siddharth’s) first meeting with his industrialist Dad played by Anupam Kher is scored in such a way that it darkly foretells the fatal end the characters are going to meet with eventually.
Mehra cuts back and forth between the two main threads of the story: Sue’s attempts at making a film on five Indian revolutionaries, including Bhagat Singh and Chandrasekar Azad, and the second, the film that she creates. The technique of having a film within a film is difficult and Mehra seems to struggle to get it right. The drama of the revolution against Britain is so great that Mehra needlessly shows us too much detail of this. The cursory manner in which the Jallianwallah Bagh Massacre and the ``Simon Go Back'' protest is dealt with is bad enough, but even worse are the silly parallels to contemporary politics.
The ensemble is so large, that actors like Om Puri seem to be wasted. Kiron Kher is typecast again. Alice Payton, who turns in an impressive performance as Sue, and Soha Ali Khan are entrusted with bringing a feminine touch to what is otherwise a movie on male bonding. The sound design is too rich and the editing too slick.
The different strands have to come together at some point and they do so predictably in an emotion charged climax, beautifully written and enacted. But a little willful suspension of disbelief is needed to digest most of the second half.
The scene, among the last few, in which Waheeda Rehman comes back from coma, is perhaps a metaphor for the slumber of corruption and murky politics that the Great Indian State is awakening from.
Siddharth plays the archetypal Hindi film hero leaving the more refreshing role to Aamir, who seems to be again in a movie that doesn’t on the whole deserve him.

Jaidev Jamwal said...

Hi, I had written one article with the title "Unfashionable to be a hindu" and was searching for it while came across your site. While mine was written in a fit of angry exasperation and as such it is amateurish and "offensive" to the secular brigade, your's seem quite well presented. Thanks for writing this

Jaidev Jamwal said...

Hi, I had written one article with the title "Unfashionable to be a hindu" and was searching for it while came across your site. While mine was written in a fit of angry exasperation and as such it is amateurish and "offensive" to the secular brigade, your's seem quite well presented. Thanks for writing this