Sunday, April 23, 2006

Ramblings inspired by RDB

So some thoughts on the message that the movie Rang De Basanti held, rather than the movie itself.

Any young revolutionary looking for inspiration would do well to look elsewhere. The movie, while it certainly raises some pertinent issues, makes the one big mistake every one seems to make nowadays. This whole idea of instant gratification has caught the populace's fancy, but is hardly representative of most success stories.

In general, we always talk about ideas like a lightbulb switching on instantaneously. However, a truer picture would be a really, really slow flourescent lamp, that takes years of coaxing and cajoling before it emits the slightest hint of light. Most scientific flashes of brilliance, including Archimedes's famed jumping out of the bath naked, screaming Eureka, were preceded by years of thought, experimentation, and debate. Similarly, in the context of the movie, Chandrashekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh had spent months, if not years, drumming up support for their cause and their movement, before they took the plunge. It wasnt a matter of waking up one fine morning and deciding that sacrificing their lives would change the world. There was a significant amount of groundwork that led to these flashpoint events. I am not really going to blame the movie for this, because its hard to make a comprehensive movie that sells, but still the message is slightly off. I still do think however, its deeply offensive to those freedom fighters, who sacrificed so much, to a ragtag bunch of kids, whose leader dint have the balls to leave college because of his insecurities. But thats besides the point.

My question is, would a revolution, of the sort described in the movie, really work? Assuming that all the necessary groundwork is performed? Its not really a question I have too many answers for, since there is hardly any historical perspective. Most comparisons from more than 10 years ago, are rendered irrelevant due to the proliferation of media, and the internet. So I can only speculate. My belief is no. Not unless there is a significant rural support for this. And the revolution described in Rang De Basanti (with the NDTV appearances and all), seem like they would only ring a note with the urban youth. This is a powerful group, mind you, but it is held back by 3 things. 1) It is not the majority of people. That would be people living in villages and small towns. 2) The members of this group do not grow up facing physical hardships. They dont have the mettle, (not because of any inherent traits, but because of having lived relatively sheltered lives) to fight an armed rebellion. 3) They have too much at stake. The country would have to undergo a significant shift downwards, for it to make sense for this group to revolt. However, I think the hope of the country lies in galvanizing the illiterate, uneducated and poor of the country. The first thing is that they have the numbers. Second, they dont have much to lose, while having the chance to gain a lot, at least for their kids. And kids can be a pretty motivating factor. Also, since this group would provide numbers, the few that do choose to revolt, from the educated group, would be sufficient to lead for a few battles. After a few successes, as the odds get better, then more would join in. So the numbers would come predominantly from the 'lower' groups, and the brains predominantly from the 'upper'. And contrary to my earlier statement, such a revolt does have precedent. In fact, we dont have to look much further than our own freedom struggle, to find some historical support. The leaders were mainly British-Educated lawyers, and doctors and the like. The masses were the generally the poor, unemployed, and uneducated. The Lower classes, rather than the middle class.

I think, in the new India, there is a tendency for the middle classes to dismiss the lower classes as irrelevant. However, and I think the politicians realize this, real power rests with them,( primarily because of numbers, but also because of lower stakes, and the fact that they tend to be people of action, rather than words)which is why, things havent really changed much in the country. We have not been appealing to the right groups.

Another thought that crossed my mind, is the effect that such a movie has on real people, in their real lives? The only way to empirically, measure such a thing, would be to see if there were any significant increase in the number of anti-government protests in the months following the movie's release. Based on anecdotal evidence after the release of Yuva, it seems to me that while a movie such as this would lead to more discussion, it would not lead to more action. People would bitch more about the Government and the 'System', but that did not ever, in my experience lead to action. Whatever the truth may be, my concern is that, such a movie provides a secondary, worthless channel for people's frustrations. Its like the valve on the pressure cooker. Someone sees the movie, discusses the MOVIE wildly, and that releases a lot of their frustrations. Kind of like the matrix situation. Zion (is that the right name) and its war with the matrix, exists as a way for those people's frustrations to be channeled away from the damage that they might create from being part of the system. I might be way off here, but its an interesting thought. (However, even if it turns out that such movies are the reason that the country is struggling, please dont ask for them to be banned or shit like that. We need more freedom of speech and expression, and not less, and bans are fundamentally opposed to all that is freedom).

A third point is the prevalence of generalities. Words that only have vague, abstract meanings, can really hurt public discourse, because they prevent real worldly images from forming in our mind. Such images could actually lead to action, but when I say system, it really does not mean anything. This is very amply demonstrated in the USA. The, at the risk of being the guy in the glass house, 'Conservatives', bandy about the phrases liberal, left-wing agenda, and democrats as if every 100 times they use their words, they would live a year longer. So basically, anyone who disagrees with them, becomes part of the left wing agenda, although that individual could be as right wing as you can get. What happens then, is that right wing people's faults and follies are associated with people who are perceived to be left-wing, Democrats in this case. So the democrats end up bearing the brunt of every bad statement, Chicken wing regardless.
So its about time we stop using generalities like the System, and the Politicians, and start being more specific. If you think Policemen suck, say Policemen Suck. Dont say the system is fucked up. The system is a bogey man. A straw man. An entity with no well defined existence, which takes the blows that our 'democratically elected leaders' go out of their ways to earn.

1 comment:

Anuj Gosalia said...

Hi Prasado!

Reeely thought-provoking and yeah i do have my plans to blog on RDB cuz my comment mite jus b longer than ur post... so i'll keep u posted on that one.. Thanks for commenting regularly on my blog. I shall do the same henceforth. Btw, i used this post of yours on the Rotaract Message Board to foster discussion. Here's the link to one of the replies. Sorry to copy-paste it w/o acquiring your patent rights:). Anyway here's the link action=read&id=1146250647&user=rcnmc