I am a citizen of India who was brought up on the staple diet of Hindi films. As a person who edited and published the first Hindi Film & Video Guide of Hindi Films – Collections in 1989 that saw 6 editions over next 8 years or so, I can claim to understand the industry thinking to a certain extent.
I saw many films with a sense of guilt as a Hindu when he saw that priests were nearly always greedy, lustful rotund people who didn’t mind raping a lady even in sacred temple precincts. I appreciated Rahim chachas, father Patricks and an alcoholic Anthony with a golden heart and felt deep in my heart why our despicable priests couldn’t be like them. I felt a pang of guilt when films lampooned or caricatured lovable Parsis.
I am sure, many of my age group would identify these films and characters easily. So, for people of our generation in their fifties and sixties a PK or a Haider fell into the same pattern and we were hurt but not agitated but don’t howl in protest. I too would have remained silent as I belong to a generation who were taught in schools under secular education system conceived by great leader with scientific temper, Mr. Nehru, that there was something basically rotten with Hindu society which resulted in horrors of caste, superstition, poverty that finally resulted in slavery under benign rule of Mughals and British.
Poor performance of economy was called ‘Hindu rate of growth’ though it was Nehru’s socialist rate of growth. Nehru’s half baked knowledge of history written in good English as ‘Discovery of India’ was the beacon light for history writers. The left secular hijacking of history under Indira Gandhi completed this sense of loathing for anything Hindu. If anything good like Yoga or Science was ‘discovered’ it was to be dissociated from Hinduism and presented as something that sprung up in spite of anti-human, inequality based Hindu dharma not because of its universal scientific philosophical system that encouraged open minded enquiry.
With this background we were not surprised or hurt but ashamed when we saw such archaic cliche ridden images of Hindus in movies. Of course, makers too came from the same social background so they also found it convenient to nurture ‘secular’ fabric of India. There were brave producers and directors who went deep into social evils of Hindu society with sensitivity. One can recall Chetan Anand, Bimal Roy, V Shantaram and Raj Kapoor amongst others. But, the ‘safe’ commercial formula ruled the roost.
With christening of Hindi film industry as ‘Bollywood’ this cleavage between west oriented film industry and traditional society became pronounced. Industry was no more rooted in Indian ethos. But, the embarrassment of being Hindus inspite of trying to exhibiting their western orientation didn’t go away. So, we saw a new breed of movies like OMG – Oh My God where Mithun caricatured, rather lampooned one of the most respected Guru Sri Sri Ravishanker for no rhyme and reason. We had Singham Returns where the villain was an incarnation of evil under the garb of a sanyasin or Guru. And then we had Haider and PK too.
These movies disturbed me but I kept quiet as a ‘good’ ‘modern’ Hindu. Unfortunately, the new self- confident aggressive generation that has seen rise of India as a power in technology and science cannot stand such a depiction. They are outspoken, blunt and impatient. So, many of them have spoken out, a few in a manner which is termed ‘lumpen’ by our social elite. Though, why such description is not used for violence by other religious followers is unfathomable.
Surely, Hinduism is most open to self criticism and self correction, so such movies should not lead to violence. There are better ways to register unhappiness and complain about being pushed around for being ‘good boys’. May be Hindus should have sent you ‘Get well soon’ cards like Munna bhai.
“What is wrong in pointing out wrongs in a society?” – hurt producer/directors ask. Right sir, but people probably find it wrong the way you do it. To my mind, the sense of hurt has less to do with pointing our wrongs in Hindu society, but the lack of balanced, secular approach to the problems of our society in throes of tectonic changes and sensitivity of all its communities.
You can take out a march and get a film banned that shows a padre lusting for a woman or a padre hungry for money. You can get a movie song removed or a large chunk of movie cut because it hurts the sentiment of Muslim community due to perceived threat of violence. One can get a TV serial banned just because it is written by Tasleema Nasreen. But, nary a cry of freedom of speech! You keep quiet about this naked threat to freedom of speech.
Whatever PK wished to convey, could have been conveyed using different religious practices. E.g. if going to temple is out of fear, but then so is going to church or offering namaz. (it is a different issue that ‘God fearing’ is an English term, Hindus have no such term, it is ‘Prabhu premi – God loving). If pilgrimage is superstition, it is so for all religions. If so called godmen are spreading superstition what are ‘changai sabhas’ or ‘miracle sessions’ of evangelists?
Vishal, coming to your laments about ‘freedom of speech’ and his fear of security, he refuses to acknowledge that he showed Indian army in poor light. He showed atrocities on Kashmiri Muslims but failed to amplify that this was one of the consequences of barbarian ousting of Kashmiri Hindus and an attempt to separate Jammu & Kashmir from India.
No sensitive director in his right mind would use one of the most sacred temple to film dance of devil there. A Hindu like you, Mr. Vishal, would never have dreamt of shooting this song against the backdrop of a Church or a Mosque and rightly so. But, Hindus are ‘good boys’ and can withstand any misrepresentation in the name of liberty.
No government can allow any part of its land to be cut off like this. Army was doing its duty in a very tough and hostile terrain during this critical time. To demoralize and demonize it and show it in poor light is almost an act of treason to the national cause. Remember, for India, J&K as an integral part of India is proof of its secular credentials. Do jawans need no sympathetic hearing?
Please talk to army men and hear their side of the story too before passing off such anti-national presentation as cinematic liberty. Perhaps you could take a leaf out of Hollywood movies whom you love to hate but whom Bollywood copies shamelessly. They produce macho movies to cover up their embarrassing disasters of their Vietnam and Iraq etc. Here our secular Bollywood converts even successful campaigns into embarrassment.
A recent article in The Guardian on 25th December, 2014 asks- “Why is Hinduism the driving philosophy from Interstellar to Batman to Star Wars?” Writer, Nirpal Dhaliwal quotes Petar Rader, the producer of first Matrix movie, “It’s a yogic movie. It says that this world is an illusion. It’s about maya- that if we can cut through the illusions and connect with something larger we can do all sorts of things.” But before Nolan, before the Matrix, before, even, the iPad, there was Star Wars.
It was the film, with its cosmic scale and theme of a transcendental “force” which opened up mainstream American culture to Indian esotericism more than anything else. A philosophy to which many are keen to subscribe is what makes religions successful. But, alas, Bollywood has no balls or brains to understand the supreme beauty of Hinduism and use it to produce movies that could enlighten the society. So, they keep raking up the rancid old muck and recycling the same crap formulae to rake in their moolah.
Let right to freedom of speech be equal for all – whether somebody wishes to criticize Hindus or any other religions, or wishes to draw an image of naked Hindu gods and goddesses or prophets; or question birth of Jesus, or be dissenter of any faith; or for one wishing to lampoon character of charlatans of any faith.
John Stewart Mills noted more than a century back that, ‘your liberty to swing your fist ends where my nose begins’. This is the basic principle of responsible social liberty and democracy. I request Raju Hirani and Vishal Bhardwaj and his Bollywood ilk not to bloody the nose of Hindus to show off their liberty.
~ Ratan Sharda, citizen Journalist, Author, Marketing Consultant by profession and a keen observer of the country’s political scenario.