(Reposted from a write-up dated May 21, 2007)
Disclaimer: Every line in this essay is totally factual within the reach of the author’s scrutiny, which are his opinions alone and is never intended to hurt the feelings of anybody.
“Believe Nothing, no matter where you read it or who said it unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”
Movies are an exaggeration of the normal human life and that is a well known fact. But the level of acceptable exaggeration rests purely within the individual’s autonomy. A simple analysis of a movie is not just about reviewing its watchability but is more about trying to focus where, we as people of the society understand the essence of history and psychology that we have grown from.
When I watched ‘Lage Raho Munnabahai’, a movie that was portrayed to emphasize the Gandhian principles I could not help but notice how laymen like ourselves have become enticed into glorifying people for what they are made into and not what they actually are. To get the terms more clearly we make ourselves more emotionally strained in trying to idolize them rather than closely analyzing the pertinence of their principles in our lives.
Basically, the mainstream films of India aim to empathize themselves with the ‘sentiments’ of the larger public and 9/10 times the film succeeds not because of its cinematic quality but because they manage to score at places where the public is webbed into the awe of a meteoric radical change. What would that radical change be that could spark the attention of the masses making it viable for one to fill his pockets?
Corruption and Selfishness have always been the talk of any day. Everybody wants it to change but “How” – is the million dollar question. If politics of the 19th century is considered to be more professional and ethical when compared to the present, the deterioration of these moral values did not come overnight. It had sunk slowly and unconsciously and when everyone looked back after a certain period of time, the starting of that dark lane was totally out of sight.
With just 2 ½ hours allowed for a filmmaker to change an India from the drains to the palaces, he needs a medium to connect to his public, to give them that ‘awe’ and that’s where every layman’s fantasy of being a Hero comes to the fore. A fantasy where the Hero would vanquish the evil for the good, a fantasy where the Hero would rise above all others pulling the country from the trenches showcasing its greatness to the world, most important – “Single Handedly”. They tag it “A film for the society”, but the truth is – “an exploitation of every individual’s ignorance”. But no one complains. Those 2 ½ hours of jingoistic mirages provides every individual with a fulfillment of his own unseen but self-lived character. How much does he realize that the men on screen are just a xeroxed image of his cherished ‘dream’ Hero, who executes things his sub-conscious mind had fancied for years?
I would like to make a mention of an excerpt from Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” here. Dan Brown mentions “every faith in the world is based on fabrication. That is the definition of faith — acceptance of that which we imagine to be true, that which we cannot prove. Every religion describes God through metaphor, allegory, and exaggeration, from the early Egyptians through modern Sunday school. Metaphors are a way to help our minds process the unprocessible. The problems arise when we begin to believe literally in our own metaphors.” A simple instance: The idols in the temple are a symbol of what we consider to be the most powerful. How factual will our belief become if we consider the idol to be the most powerful?
What relevance does ‘Lage Raho Munnabhai’ hold to this almost incongruent essay till this point. What made me write something about how our Heros have been sustained more with the hype and hoopla than with their essences and ideologies. We glorify our martyrs and idolize them, but the question is, are we forgetting the reason that needs us to glorify them. Do we know Bhagat Singh as a Hero for his ‘courage’ or for the “revolutionary” tag given to him by the media? Do we know what Che Guevara is all about before getting obsessed to wear designer shirts with his cartoons? Do we ever realize if Abdul Kalam should make a good president politically or scientifically?
Rajkumar Hirani’s movie boasted to be an exhibit of the Gandhian principles and most of the magazines lauded the effort. But ‘Lage Raho Munnabhai’ is just a caricature of Gandhi than a platform to stress the importance of his principles in the present world. This Munnabhai sequel would definitely be a favourite to many of our patriotic enthusiasts, since with the number of publications and documentaries nowadays trying to dwell into the darker aspects of Gandhi; ‘Lage Raho Munnabhai’ comes as a shrewd flattery to their sacrosanct Hero.
The tears of phony emotions when Munnabhai gives a lecture in the ‘2nd innings’ house or the sequences when a rooted gangster, Munnabhai goes live on radio solving problems is nothing new to Indian cinema. The sudden change of hearts where all people start empathizing with one another, where love and peace starts seeming to live for eternity has been the traditional ruse of exploiting the human sentiments, but this terrain from time immemorial have been used and reused and every trial to take that path adds up to just another travesty.
However the director sufficing for these legal rules of Bollywood film-making makes sure he remembers to show on screen why he had actually started filming the movie. ‘Gandhigiri’ – the excuse this time for the tag of a “well-made and different movie”. A lead man, his love, the struggles to reach her is what India from the black and white days of the visual medium has dwelt on and ‘Lage Raho Munnabhai’ is that traditional Bollywood movie cashing on the ‘different’ tagline by strewing the sanctity of Gandhi here and there.
The biggest irony shows up when the director, who has so obviously fallen prey to the ‘Gandhi of the masses’ calls on this insistent sub-conscious character of the film to deliver punch-drunk dialogues of continuing his mission to help people in the future. Gandhi’s insistence of ‘Self Help’ being the best takes a beating here leaving us ignorant of the more plausible reason to considered him a Mahatma.
However there was one thing in this ‘Munnabhai’ comic that caught my attention. I’m not sure whether the director, knowingly/unknowingly, introduced it as a part of the entertainment quota or for the apt reason of being a more valuable suggestion. It is the part of the movie where Gandhi is realized as a sub-conscious character rather than a preacher. “The values and principles for a more amiable society breeds within the sub-conscious minds of every single person and he needs to realize it”. This is where every individual becomes the most special to himself and where every Hero is realized. The reach of understanding our own power stops when we start placing others incognito above our heads. We are all open to carry that burden, but ‘transfer’ is what is strictly prohibited here.
After all this bashing up of ‘Lage Raho Munnabhai’ pushing Gandhi into a room of candy floss Heroism, its time we consider why Gandhi is a Hero after all. Every child would quip that “He got us Freedom”. Here comes the chapter where we need to analyze why only Gandhi has been attributed to a Freedom that had cost the lives of so many unknown genuine fighters of our country.
An analysis from my base would be: “We are marketing Gandhi”. With India always feeling proud of itself on its grounds of ‘Culture and Heritage’, ‘Truth and Non-Violence’ is another feature with Gandhi as the ambassador. Every increase in the popularity of the ambassador increases the market-value of the product and in turn the reputation of the company. But what would happen if a celebrity campaigner for Aids awareness, say Sachin alone gets projected and the point of his campaigning takes the backseat? Gandhi’s popularity alone is sustained here while the reason for his greatness is being forgotten. This is precisely an example for the growing jingoism in the world be it caste, cinema or sport.
The power of ‘Truth and Ahimsa’ was not invented but discovered from the very heart of Gandhi. When many realized it within themselves, it showed its mammoth strength. Gandhi is a “symbol” of this virtue of ‘Truth and Non-Violence’. He is an “epitome” of a person who could live with principles that could enrich another person’s life. He is an example of the man who had realized the Hero within himself. But unfortunately Gandhi, as ‘The Father of the Nation’, as a man who bought freedom “Single-Handedly” is only getting infused into the sensitive minds of this country’s children. The importance of Gandhi’s principles is overlooked and the importance of Gandhi alone is sustained here.
With the growing hatred between countries, states, districts to individuals the ‘Peace and Truth’ emphasized by Gandhi is what becomes direly needed. Despite every man knowing these aspects, the emotional devotion towards his ‘idol’ Gandhi, refuses to give those qualities the upper hand. This causes the value of Gandhi alone to rise phenomenally while shadowing his principles. The most important question to ask ourselves is whether we attribute Gandhi to ‘Non-Violence’ or ‘Non-Violence’ to Gandhi? We need to understand that ‘Gandhi’ does not reside within every man’s sub-conscience but ‘Non-Violence’ does. We need not realize a Gandhi within ourselves, but we better realize his virtues. For questions in this essay not being enough, I have one last one for you. If given a choice between ‘Gandhi’ and ‘Non-Violence’, what would be yours?
– Tipu Vaithee Swaran
AUTHOR’S NOTE: The opinions relating to Gandhi doesn’t concern him alone, but is a narrow-analysis which is to be taken in a much broader perspective towards every other individual whom we consider to be our Hero.
P.S. Every single word that has precipitated out of this essay is purely from the author’s reasoning and there has been almost 0% physical research involved in this. All the analyses had been in bay and processed within the sole mind of the author by his everyday experiences and observations. People who find it conflicting or those who are totally against his views are welcome to lash him at any degree of their choice. To make that easier his mail contact is firstname.lastname@example.org. The address and location of his stay is withheld since, despite not giving the required adulation to Gandhi’s Heroic stature, he still respects and salutes the power of Gandhi’s principles and hence is strictly against physical assaults (Good for him!). So those who are interested in having a healthy conversation can express their views or suggestion through mail or through the comments link at the bottom since he himself is at the learning stage only. But he has requested that they try as much as possible to give a shape and structure to themselves in the conversation rather than quoting ‘Anonymous’.