Wednesday, February 3, 2010

It's cool to be free

Anonymity is a convienient mask- one which I've desperately sought since I can remember. There's a reassuarance in it that's hard to shake aside- this belief that you can just be there in the background observing. And contrary to popular belief, it doesn't make you a follower.

Opinions matter. Even if they are mine. Even if they are in an anonymous blog which will be read by some, commented upon by none and then forgotten.

There are some actions that infuriate you into action. One was a police officer smiling mockingly when he walked out of court having escaped punishment for abetting in a young girl's suicide.
The other was tonight when I watched Uddhav Thackeray eloquently shrug his shoulders on NDTV's 9'O Clock news- in response to a question as to whether the release of My Name is Khan would pass unhindered.

It was an action that repeated tales that I want to believe that my generation has moved on from- the chasm of regionalism.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't find the Shiv Sena's rhetoric preposterous. I do- not only is it utterly reprehensible but also it strikes me as extremely lazy politics. Which is exactly why the Sena is in the state they are in today. Gone are the days when people were taken in by proclamations of nationalism and pride- it has been almost 63 years of independence- and let's face it- to me and my generation, freedom means a good deal more than empty words. Which is exactly why it is lazy. A true opposition would have taken advantage of the woeful apology of a government that is Maharashtra's and swept into power. On real issues which would've made more sense than stopping the screening of a film or calling Chidambaram the Home Minister of Pakistan- a statement so laughably juvenile that you wouldn't hear it even in a school level debate.

Even that is fine- everyone can say what they want. But when you use muscle power to stop the screening of a movie because it's actor has said something to annoy you, you need to take a good look at yourself. And coming from me and my ilk that really is something- we- who are so used to being steeped in cynicism that ideals are far from our thoughts. But even in a generation of cynics, this marks a new low. Open threats on national TV aren't my idea of democracy. Actually they shouldn't be anyone's idea of democracy.

Of course 'Bollywood' (I hate the term, hence the quote marks) has notoriously pandered to the whims of the Shiv Sena and Bal Thackeray since- well forever. For some reason they've had a curious hold over the film business. Which in itself is disturbing, not to mention downright wrong. What riles me even more is not that they're against Valentine's Day or lesbianism (read Fire)- but the fact that they take it upon themselves to force that down everyone's throat. And tonight I sat watching amused, but mostly infuriated when the legal chief of the Shiv Sena says that the campaign against the movie is a 'movement' started by the 'people' and he could not guarantee what the 'people' would do when the movie released.

That's such a load of crap.

And they know it. They must be knowing it. Surely they aren't that self deluded to think that 'all people of the country' feel this way. And they're milking the issue for all it is worth. Which would be completely fine as long as they kept their hands in their pockets instead of on lathis and guns, and not calling up theatre owners threatening them with 'dire consequences' if the movie was screened.

I've been accused of looking too much into history before- maybe it's a disease- but all this rhetoric about 'people's movement' and 'people's anger' was exactly how Herr Adolf began. Or Mugabe. Or any other dictator.

I'm no admirer of Shah Rukh Khan. But I must say that what he's said is admirable. Even if it is a ploy to sell his film. Even if all he wants to do is to be on the news garnering publicity and even if it is the 'in thing' to hate him- despite all those things, what he's said is admirable. I'm glad he's not going to apologize. I do not want an apology from the Thackerays either. They can say what they like- anyone can- but coercion is just not done. And the self styled Tiger of the Sena Bal Thackeray needs to realise he's really being a mouse. This is the behaviour of cowards not leaders. Cowards who want to cling on to something rather than face political obscurity. Real Tigers would have constructively pointed out the missteps of the government, of which there is no dearth. It comes as no surprise that they aren't in power if this is the kind of crass, degrading politics they want to play.

The whole question of identity is curious. I am from Karnataka, born in Andhra Pradesh, schooled in Maharahtra, now in Karnataka. And I'm a Hindu and it has been so incidental. I've had-er- have wonderful friends who are Christians, a rather special half Muslim friend and it's never made one bit of difference. And yes I've loathed certain people who happen to be Muslim but not because of it- they were just gutter rats who happened to be Muslim. And at the risk of sounding too in-your-face, I'm proud to be Indian- which is what I am first and last. That's the only identity that really matters.

Which is why I don't get the Sena appeasement by the likes of even Amitabh Bachchan what with him organising private screenings for the self proclaimed 'Tiger'. Shouldn't he have taken a stand against this war mongering? And when asked as much by Barkha Dutt, a visibly squirming Jaya Bachchan said 'the film industry stands together in a national crisis.' Which implies of course that this isn't one. (More on that here

And yes, I've been called too liberal although I'm not sure I understand that. It is like saying 'too free'- one is either free or not. Can you be free one day and enslaved the next? One is either liberal or one is not- you cannot grade freedom or liberalism. But the difference is that liberalism is a choice I've made.
Freedom isn't- we ARE a free country whether you like it or not.

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