Sunday, February 19, 2006

Rang De Basanti!

I watched the movie (Rang De Basanti) last night with some of my friends. It was a good movie. I would like to watch it once again. Aamir Khan and other actors were good and it was nice to see a movie where a single protagonist doesn’t take complete credit.

An interesting debate ensued after the movie when we were having tea late night on MG Road (Bangalore). I thought it was a good movie but not a great example. (Imagine every disgruntled youth taking up a gun and shooting down people) I went a step ahead to equate Bhagat Singh, Chandrasekhar Azad, et al, to modern day freedom fighters/militants who blow up things or kill a figurehead to make a point. You can now imagine the kind of onslaught I got from rest of my friends – who of course have great respect and reverence for these ‘revolutionaries’. Not that I don’t respect those revolutionaries. I just do not agree with their methods. I believe they set a wrong example in the larger context. In my opinion, a revolutionary who believes in an ideal has to see it through- test with time, and change the methods if needed, and sail through rough weathers to get the required support from people to bring the change.

On this score, I do not have a great opinion on the martyrs who do just one thing in their life- like, kill a president or a leader, following which their contribution stops (because they are dead or convicted). Most of the time they are too young or suddenly get emotional to act in haste. In some cases (like many terrorist and militant outfits out there), they are just bums who have no direction and suddenly realize this is the only way to make a mark in their otherwise ordinary lives. They just don’t know how to go about convincing people or taking the message across – because that’s goddamn hard, and therefore employ the only effective way that they have at their disposal- kill someone or blow up something, cause sensation, and hope their message is delivered. (Most of the terrorist outfits have whole lot of guys who think on this line).

I definitely do not approve of the methods employed by the carefree-but-suddenly-became-committed youth in this movie. I cannot imagine where every death or assassination is being justified over All India Radio. How do you actually know if the Defense Minister is responsible for MIG-21 crash (causing death of Madhavan, the pilot)? It’s a subjective argument. One has to resort to legal or journalistic investigation to prove such things. This is no different from terrorists sending out a video/audio tape to justify why they kidnapped or a slit throat of a captured journalist. The whole argument is subjective and very farcical. One has to fight the system employing right methods and it is usually a long and arduous task- there are no quick fixes for bringing in a revolution. An act of assassination because one of your good friends got killed is more an act of revenge that an act of a cause. Such actions don’t set great example. If ever they do, they encourage the youth to continue to be carefree hoping that one assassination will make up for their lack of seriousness and commitment. The youth in this movie are not driven by a cause. And their means employing a slapdash solution without knowing the long-term effects reflect plain immaturity.

When we are at crossroads in our lives, most often we do know what is the right path, but it is goddamn hard to take it, and most of us just take the easy path, and pretend that it was the best path available.

The path taken up by Mother Theresa, or the guys who hugged the trees to stop deforestation in India, or the guys who went to Rajasthan and dug canals to bring water to villages, etc, are hard paths and the right paths. It takes immense strength and energy to be part of the system and fight the system. Instead, just blowing up the whole parliament doesn’t get us new dams, new railroads, protect our forests, or bring people out of poverty. In many societies it’s called terrorism.

A good example would have been where one fights his/her way through the system to change the system- ‘become a politician, or join IAS, or become a police officer’ as the pilot says in the movie. I would have loved that example, but then I guess it would not have made a ‘sensational’ movie. Death of a Defense Minister is ‘sensational’ enough! We may have to live with that for the sake of sensationalism.

The debate that followed this discussion was even more interesting where in we touched on various topics including Gandhi vs. Bhagat Singh, etc. I shall write my thoughts on this subject in my next session!


  1. Nice post. Lots of intersting points made along with unnecessary inflamatory comments. Having a different view of thier ideology is acceptable, but calling them bums in the same breath would be hardly prudent. Its downright insulting actually. And I hope we all know that we can do with those kind of irresponsible statements.

    Not that I disagree with your point of view. I do fully agree with the ideals of peace, non voilence, taking the hard part and standing the test of time. That is also an idelogy, which if had been adopted more widely, the world would have been a very different place today. Nobody would question that IMHO.

    But dismissing someone's heroism as an act of emotinal bravdo is taking things too simplistically. If you take thier point of view, then maybe sacrificing thier life for the cause was the hard path! And to conclude that with their death thier contribution stops, had that been the case RDB wouldnt had been made I guess. Its easy to dismiss their contribution just because they took the path of voilence and glorify the non voilence part of the Indian Free dom Struggle, but sacrificing one's life for a cause means something. Only those people who can believe in it can do it. Yes, even the suicide bombers do blow themselves up for a cause. To their own community they are the heroes. And there's a big difference between those erstwhile revolutionaries and todays terrorists. They did not terrorise people and take innocent lives. They were not killers. Yes, they took lives. So do our soldiers when they are are protecting us. So are the cops who battle those terrorists.

    Going back to the movie, i think that its just a story. The methods employed were wrong and the protagonists accept that. To say that the defence minister was responsible for it, again its a story. He might not have been, but thats again another story. To conclude that act of assasination was an act of revenge, yes it was. Since they believed that he was responsible for it, they made sure that he paid with his life. The also do not set set a great example, and this is as per their admission. Does it reflect their immaturity? Yes it does. The story is about youth remember.

    But with all these questions, its easy to lose sight of the central message of this story. The protagonists revolted against opression, explotiation and misrule of the authority. They had thier backs to the wall and they had nothing to lose. The moving experience that they had been through (the movie being made by Sue) inspired them and they committed themselves to redeem the life of thier good friend, Ajay. Thats hardly what you would call carefree-but-suddenly-became-committed bunch of misguided youths. Put those revolutionaries in the same position and the result would have been pretty much the same. Its all falls into place if you try and follow the story line.

    Voilence always has been sensational. Its a natural emotion, a reflex action. The only more overpowering emotion known to man is love. Maybe that explains why the number of movies based on love is more than the number on voilence. To single out this movie, just for that reason, it plain unfair.

  2. I didn't consider Bhagat Singh, et al, to be bums. I changed the text a bit in my article to reflect this.

    I wanted to highlight the case of martyrs - some are indeed bums as seen in most of the terrorist outfits out there. They think blowing up oneself is heroic. Blowing others in the process is heroic as well. Osama Bin Laden is a great hero to many- and so are the pilots who flew the planes into twin towers. Those who attacked Indian Parliament and got killed in the process are heros to a population bigger than France.

    Case of giving up one's life for a cause or a revenge is debatable. 'one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter' as Ronald Reagan put it.

    Its a movie I agree.
    Is it a message? I really wonder!

    Construct roads, make people literate, go to villages and till the land, become a lawyer and fight the case, create a political party to change the law. Do something constructive.

    Killing is too easy - and I don't find anything heroic about it - including our revolutionaries - that's my opinion!

  3. That was good reading.

  4. RDB never says that you need to kill people.

    It only shows that youth of today also have the same energy and enthusiasm which the youth of yesteryears had.

    It says that youth of today can as well be patriotic if time demands, unlike the usual misconception that pattriots existed only in 'those' days when we were fighting against british.

    And the movie also brings the fact that in yesteryears we were fighting against british and now we are fighting against our own political system.
    So nothing has actually changed

    The movie doesn't say that you need to kill everyone and that becomes clear with few dialogues like
    karan saying 'we are sorry' to his professors and also saying that 'how many people can we kill like this. people need to join army, politics....etc' at then end of the movie

    My old blog post on it here

  5. Anjana Ramamoorthy:

    RDB never says that you need to kill people.

    Indian Politicians NEVER say that you should be corrupt. They iterate that one should NEVER be corrupt.

    But what they DO is very different from what they SAY.

    The assassins of this movie are not very different. They may have said many times that it is NOT right to kill, but they actually resort to it to solve their problems. Instead, setting the right example would have been - if they went to court and brought down the Defense Minister proving he was corrupt. (but then RDB would not have been able to con the people and rake in the money).

  6. Sujai,

    Well, we need to decide if we are reviewing the movie, or reviwing the essense of the movie.

    if it's just the movie, then obviously all movies are made for money.

    But if it;s the essence of the movie..., then in the society we have always had extremists and moderates. And both have seen and shown and success in there own fashion. RDB movie talks of extremists in the beginning, whereas appreciates and promotes the moderates at the end.
    It's for individual to decide which part of the movie influences him the most.

  7. Anjana ramamoorthy:

    Well, we need to decide if we are reviewing the movie, or reviwing the essense of the movie.

    I am reviewing the cult that this movie has set in India. Now TOI glorifies it. The youth in India idolize it.

    Every movie which catches attention of masses has a message. For example, To Kill a Mockingbird has a message - that we tend to punish an innocent because we are biased, and that a rape victim can say she is raped for many other reasons.

    Lage Raho Munnabhai has a message - that Gandhian values are still relevant in the modern world.

    In the same vein, Rang De Basanti has a message- that the youth should resolve their issues using violent means when they believe the state is not doing anything.

    I am criticizing the message here, which seems to have caught attention of millions in India.

  8. well, then i think Rang De Basanti has a directional flaw for sending different messages to different people.

    Because i never interpreted RDB the way you have interpreted.My interpretations are in my previous comment.

  9. "I cannot imagine where every death or assassination is being justified over All India Radio."

    --- Amen. We would have to get rid of all the regular programming to accommodate the RDB wannabes around the clock.

  10. Though I hated the movie for the same precise reason:- The killing of a single politician is retarded and childish. For that matter I found that the attempt of erstwhile Revolutionary Bhagat Singh of getting himself arrested was too childish.

    But I am sorry I will have to disagree on the last sentence of yours "A good example would have been where one fights his/her way through the system to change the system- ‘become a politician, or join IAS, or become a police officer’ "

    Sorry Sujai a revolution basically means an overthrow of the existing system.


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