CONTINGENCIES OCCASIONED BY POPULAR CULTURE PART 2

The following are other instances of how art imitated life and left this writer with potent estimations of truth. In the second part of a series I had started earlier , here are the important exemplars.

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THE CLIMACTIC MORAL/ IDEOLOGICAL HEART TO HEART IN AAKROSH

AAKROSH (RAGE, 1980) is an Indian cinematic touchstone owing to its distinct ability in expressing a voice for subalterns, a social heirarchy in which tribals from forested reserves occupy the farthest, lowest rung. In this stirring screenplay written by Vijay Tendulkar, a playwright first and foremost responsible for fronting an ideological torrent in his own right with each work he penned, the Govind Nihalani directorial looks at the dehumanisation of poor, hapless tribals who subsist on bare minimum and are duly exploited by anyone who accrues a higher rank than them. The value of simmering rage is in the brilliantly realised, silent, dialogue free world essayed legendarily by Om Puri as Bhiku whose wife Nagi ( the great Smita Patil espouses its screaming soul in a cameo) is brutally assaulted and then killed by local authorities. He is eventually jailed for the crime he didn’t commit.

The moral crux of the tale is in the dilemma of the lawyer ( the always brilliant Naseeruddin Shah) who represents Bhiku and in his client’s sustained silences and withdrawn demeanour, complete with bulging eyes always fixed to the ground, discovers depths to which none from the educated middle class ilk will ever dive into. He takes it upon himself to collude facts and painstakingly search for the truth, eventually uncovering the wordly police – politician nexus that becomes hell bent on torturing him psychologically with threats and fear of imminent violence, literally leaving him to cower like a prey taking cover from absolute beasts. He bumbles and trips, thinking of the inconsequential manner of waging a good fight in this backwater by the seaside.

In the final portion of the film, both Bhiku and Bhaskar, that is the righteous lawyer come to see the accumulated darkness of societal ills that have been persisting for centuries. Bhiku hacks his sister to death to save her from the clutches of leery men who wouldn’t bat an eyelid before handing her the same sentence as Nagi and Bhaskar witnesses that first hand along with the distressed, lonely tribal’s feral scream of anguish, a howl of repressed rage against the system for which he is nothing, not even part of a statistic.

Bhaskar then has a climactic conversation with his mentor and senior (Amrish Puri), a man who always went with the tide and had advised his protégé to stray clear from controversies and local factions, in other words take his duties not too seriously and definitely not in the vein of changing the world. Here Bhaskar confronts him with mechanics of the world people like the senior lawyer themselves have helped perpetuate. The ‘experienced’ man tells him that his own consciousness cannot alter entrenched beliefs or wrongdoings. The young man feels the weight of letting influential people of the town get away with murder and worse, with characteristic impunity. He cannot do anything alone, says his mentor. After this heart to heart, Bhaskar has the revelation that the detached sense of respect that one accords on seniors has to be discarded. Ambiguous as this journey to get Bhiku justice is, he walks out and declares his intent to do it alone, as the film ends with a freeze frame, the most effective form of an open ended conclusion. This act, to this writer, echoes the lines by Rabindranath Tagore, ‘EKLA CHOLO RE( YOU WALK ALONE)’

The irony is that the mentor himself belongs originally to the tribal classes but with education, professional success and clout among the majoritarian all male club has renounced his past and integrated himself with the higher life, practicing amorality that comes easy to many in the field of law and in general terms as well. It’s a bold statement on the stinging cumulative effect of counter hypocrisy from even within the set of people who have historically been subjugated .

Bhaskar’s struggle is one that almost every righteous individual, fighting for the cause of justice, has to mount against the odds stacked up against her/ him. AAKROSH sublimates that sense of outrage with the slow path towards realization. I am sure every crusader for truth will identify with Bhaskar especially given the final frames. It has stayed with me, haunting the very core of this writer who can feel the pain of those shunted out of the conversation whether by virtue of their status or by voicing out against prevailing norms.

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FATHER TO SON LEGACY IN ALBERT PINTO KO GUSSA KYU AATA HAI?

ALBERT PINTO KO GUSSA KYU AATA HAI ( WHY IS ALBERT PINTO ALWAYS ANGRY, 1980)? is another uncompromising take on the life of the titular protagonist and those around him, all hemmed in by their statures of belonging to the minority Christian community, the working class ethos that is unforgiving and the personal evolution of Albert. His anger is more for the everyday, expressed in fits of irritation on the way a post colonial, third world structure doesn’t justify his modest ambitions and informed largely by his belief that through his hard working ways ( he’s a sought after auto repair expert in a garage) and friendship with few upper class clients who trust him with their automobiles, he will get a breakthrough. Of course there is his sister ( the great Smita Patil again) who acts as a foil to his lofty estimations of others and even calls him out gently and firmly for his naiveté as gadha (donkey)

It’s a funny predicament where his naiveté and genuineness meld together but the earnest core of his personal station is shaken when he realizes his father, a factory worker and labour union leader, had been right all along for protesting against the apathetic, capitalist apparatus that treated men and machines in the same vein. Albert had railed against his father’s( Arvind Deshpande) ways earlier because to him those who were better off and held reins of the economy could not be such two faced louts, not above petty trickery to deny labourers, toiling day and night in the factory furnace, their due. But the truth is stark and visits to their homes reveals the deplorable conditions they live in. Do humans live like this, a senior lady asks him on one such visitation. Hence, the fire of protest gets stoked and the father to son legacy gets passed down. This dynamic of male bonding within a familial unit is oftentimes uneasy and fraught with generational differences of opinions yet a transition like this happens when ground realities beckon and the child puts her/himself in the parent’s shoes for the first time.

ALBERT PINTO KO GUSSA KYU AATA HAI does that wonderfully, maintaining a static funk and then building up to a resonant coda where actions get the better of our man in the title. To me, it is a realistic approximation of the ANGRY YOUNG MAN syndrome that swept the post 70s generation and is reminiscent of the literary efforts of John Osborne whose works like LOOK BACK IN ANGER delved into the same phenomena with acuity.

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BOMAN IRANI’S LEGACY IN LAKSHYA.

A similar arc is present in the epical tale of the protagonist at the heart of LAKSHYA ( AIM, 2004) who becomes a decorated army veteran at the height of the Indian Kargil War of 1998 – 1999 ( a feat that is celebrating its twentieth year and so feels extremely topical here)

THE difference being that the father ( BOMAN IRANI) is a rich businessman while the son ( HRITHIK ROSHAN) is a drifter, a classic man child who would rather watch JURASSIC PARK than aim for the future. This film lets us look at the other side of privilege as in a crucial scene, the father relays how as a teenager post the Indian subcontinent’s Partition into two halves, he had to make do with meagre jobs to bring food to the table for his family members and how that sense of responsibility and fear of stagnation drives him to work hard at sustaining his business. He started young while his son has the luxury to laze around. The underlying theme here is on taking responsibilities for one’s life or else time waits for no one.

It’s a powerful moment, a wake up call that involuntary serves to instill self enquiry in the protagonist and feels personally close to director Farhan Akhtar who, himself, didn’t know a career path in his early years. We often deem our parents to be insensitive towards our failures. Here, like so many instances of tough love, the father wishes to let his son realize that life is no bed of roses and that nothing by way of our actions comes without a consequence. That shot in the arm sentiment of patriotism within the film and personal awakening is informed greatly by this instance of honesty that still echoes in my mind.

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THE M. F HUSSAIN PAINTING THAT INSPIRED MY POEM GOODBYE AUTEUR.

MAQFOOL FIDA HUSSAIN SIR has always been an undying inspiration to me, with his distinctive brushstroke and use of colours.

Around the year 2015 when I began to compose poetry and self publish it courtesy the worldwide community Wattpad, one of my earliest poems was GOODBYE AUTEUR, written in the wake of his death. His iconic painting on MOTHER TERESA was the trigger point that allowed me to put my thoughts in place then. The contingency was that on a visit to an acquaintance’s home, I was sitting in one of the rooms adjoining the garden and all of a sudden I saw the painting. Whether it was in a frame or on a calendar page, I don’t recall but the impact was immense. The visit was around 2012. That singular memory lingered in my mind and I took pen to paper three years later to be inspired by not just one work but, in essence, the influential grip of the man and his artistic oeuvre.

I guess being a doctor, the painting of another soul who contributed her life’s worth to service of the destitute, the image meant a lot to the man who had it, as he followed the same principle of selflessness . Till today, it is an event I cherish and it humbles me.

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