Musings of a Spectator

Location: Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Rang de Basanti - II

Note that in my previous post I was careful to argue that the Director of the movie does justice to all the characters and their characterization in the movie and that one does not find anything to take inspiration from as far as reality is concerned- in the movie.

Columnist Sagarika Ghose writes an interesting analysis of the movie. She says

Rang De Basanti does a terrible disservice to the nationalism of India's young people. It wilfully paints modern day patriots as unthinking anti-establishment killers. It foolishly creates a myth known as Gen Next which does nothing but drink and dance. And it promotes a leviathan media as the ultimate interpreter of India. The fact that Rang de Basanti is a hit shows just how catastrophically distant we are getting from reality, where we're happy to live from media image to media image, from frame to frame, without realising the depth and profundity of "ordinary" human dramas.

You may read her comments here

This movie was given what people call as "rave" reviews which entice the audience to see the movie. And one flaw that the reviewers did in the process was to give weightage to the case of some 5 guys and their rage in the movie a wider scope and show it in the angle of waking up the pulse of people towards nation's cause.

I must say that even Sagarika makes the same mistake - of trying to see of "RDB" as a source of inspiration for youth. Let me remind you the quote from Soha Ali Khan - whose categorical statement that "RDB is a quote unquote commercial movie" is something that I am very happy about. Whatever anyone else says - just ignore it.

Enjoy RDB for good production values, brilliant colors, good acting, and the characterisation and all that you expect for a good entertainment. While you go to watch the movie, either keep your brains aside and see the movie or watch it with great care so that you would not mistake it to be an inspiring movie.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Rang de Basanti

A close of mine said - "You may not like this movie" - another said - "It'd be interesting to know your views on this one" - I was waiting for an opportunity to decide for myself. At last, I ended up watching this high-voltage movie called Rang de Basanti.

If you are looking here for a good review of the movie, I suggest you to take a look at this one.

I completely agree with Soha Ali Khan when she points out that "...RDB, quote unquote (is) a commercial film".

Commercial movies are not obliged to carry a message with them. So I do not want to fall into the trap of calling RDB as a movie with a message.

It was an honest effort from the Director to portray the lives of 5 young people searching for a path in life. The actions of the youth speak of their age and reasoning. I feel that the Director has succeeded in showing their lives - their thoughts - and reactions to taking a decision at towards a common good and sticking to it. It was great fun watching the movie, it does generate a lot of passion, since it has got lots of energy associated with it. Hearty Congratulations to the Director to have done full justice to the characters in the movie.That's about it.

If the Director wants to convey (I hope not!) that he had a message to convey, and the message has been conveyed through the actions of Aamir & co. and through that last 5 minutes of the movie where Siddharth answers the calls from all over the place - then I must say that he utterly failed in conveying the message.

As a student interested in History, I feel that the viewer is expected to exercise great amount of care in understanding the Director's way of portraying the lives of great revolutionaries like Chandra Sekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh and the intellectual depth that their decisions carried. The viewer also must be careful in interpreting the actions and the dialogues conveyed by Aamir and co. in the second half of the movie.

Notice that, in the movie, Alice Patten comes to India to make a movie on these revolutionaries through the eyes of her grandfather - as she finds it in his diary. tice that the movie is narrated as an experience of Alice Patten. Therefore the movie that Alice wanted to make is not about showing what exactly happened at that time.
As we come to know from the movie itself, none excepting Atul Kulkarni (to some extent)has an idea of the life and times of Bhagat Singh or Azad. The film does not show the actors going on a study of the characters and the life and times. It is Alice who tries to convey to them from what she understands from the diary.

It is obvious that the characters played by Aamir & co. were influenced by the film that they acted in, and started to imagine themselves to be in similar situation as the revolutionaries of yester era. But the judgement on whether the situations were similar or not requires from them - a greater sense of understanding about the reality - which certainly seems to be missing in them.

I am not sure if some reels have been cut from the movie to reduce the total time of the movie - but if what I saw in the theatre was the movie without any cuts - one does not see the rationale behind holding the Defence Minister as the target for a technical snag in MiG airplanes. The point of corruption in terms of the defence deals is as well not established for the characters. More importantly, drawing parallels between General Dyer and the Defence Minister is ridiculous - and let me stop here.

The question of nation-building is something that requires deeper thought, proper understanding of the circumstances and history, a firm conviction towards the tasks ahead, courage to stand by what you stand for - and it is generally a gruelling process.More on this later.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Voltaire's Story of a Good Brahmin

This story ,that I came across in as I was trying to locate some of the writings of Voltaire, is something that has had a great impression on my mind or so I believe (with a fond hope that when I say so - I am not ignorant of my state of current understanding about what my impressions are and how they influence me to act). The story is interesting.

One of the commonest criticisms of philosophy is that it doesn't bear fruit -- that despite years of speculating and reasoning, philosophers have very little to show for themselves. Science can of course make headway on a myriad of fronts, leaving footprints toward any number of desired destinations, but not so for philosophy. Some even believe it the better part of wisdom not to probe too deeply into the nature of things. "To question everything is the beginning of wisdom, until one questions the wisdom of questioning everything," a professor of mine once said to me. There's the example of those who live their life in the usual pragmatic way, undisturbed by rumination, who are "happy" by every outward appearance. No one obviously needs philosophy to do well in life -- to fall in love or to succeed in business or to derive pleasure from leisurely activities.

Voltaire's "Story of the Good Brahmin" is an eloquent defense of the lowly philosopher. On the one hand, the Brahmin is upset that so much time pondering the big questions has left him nowhere; but on the other hand, he wouldn't trade places with his happy but unknowing neighbor. Here's a condensed version of the story, lifted from Durant's Story of Philosophy:

* * * * * * * * * * * *
"I wish I had never been born!" the Brahmin remarked.

"Why so?" said I.

"Because," he replied, "I have been studying these forty years, and I find that it has been so much time lost...I believe that I am composed of matter, but I have never been able to satisfy myself what it is that produces thought. I am even ignorant whether my understanding is a simple faculty like that of walking or digesting, or if I think with my head in the same manner as I take hold of a thing with my hands...I talk a great deal, and when I have done speaking I remain confounded and ashamed of what I have said."

The same day I had a conversation with an old woman, his neighbor. I asked her if she had ever been unhappy for not understanding how her soul was made? She did not even comprehend my question. She had not, for the briefest moment in her life, had a thought about these subjects with which the good Brahmin had so tormented himself. She believed in the bottom of her heart in the metamorphoses of Vishnu, and provided she could get some of the sacred water of the Ganges in which to make her ablutions, she thought herself the happiest of women. Struck with the happiness of this poor creature, I returned to my philosopher, whom I thus addressed:

"Are you not ashamed to be thus miserable when, not fifty yards from you, there is an old automaton who thinks of nothing and lives contented?"

"You are right," he replied. "I have said to myself a thousand times that I should be happy if I were but as ignorant as my old neighbor; and yet it is a happiness which I do not desire."

This reply of the Brahmin made a greater impression on me than anything that had passed.