Monday, October 06, 2014

Kashmir and kid gloves

10 months since I wrote anything here. And I guess it takes a true work of art to inspire the creation of something else that in my opinion masquerades as art. Anyway, this weekend, after having read a dozen dependable favorable reviews, we trooped over to go see Haider. Yes, I am extremely apprehensive, given the travesties that pass off as Hindi movies these days - old man romancing a terrible tam accent pyt, or a refuse-to-accept-I-am-old actor choosing to act in a ridiculous rip off of The Prestige, the list is endless. I honestly cannot remember the last time I saw a truly good movie and I am glad I broke that jinx with Haider. Before you conclude that this is yet another, albeit late review of the movie, NO, it isn't.

So, while I consider the movie a true work of art, and one of the best possible takes on Hamlet, the subsequent cries of foul, hashtags asking for a ban on the movie, serve the role of a comedic element on a grander stage. Hamlet remains one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, for sake of the sheer fallibility of the hero. Again, if I were to start penning the various virtues of the story of Hamlet, I would go ranting, a little like Polonius, so, no Oh! Hamlet is soooo good, over here. But in a nutshell, Hamlet is about a betrayed young man, fighting a crisis of ethics. He cannot understand how the mother he holds in high esteem could so hastily marry his uncle, who he has always had scant regard for. He is unable to decide whether the ghost of his father claiming betrayal is true, or just an object meant to lead him astray and cause his own downfall. He is unable to decide whether vengeance is the end to all problems, or whether it is but a start to a new cycle of problems. And it is this conflict that adds beauty to the story.

Being very true to Hamlet's premise, the story of Haider has all these elements - betrayal, death of innocence/ trust, questioning the very meaning of existence, despairing helplessness at the turn of events, quest for the high ground, while questioning the virtues of this high ground. A million sources would extol the performances of the protagonists and settings and so on. But the beauty lies in the audacity of the plot. For years in India, or in the minds of any Indian, Kashmir is a taboo topic. Article 370 of the Indian constitution, or the granting of special status to the state gives it that whole 'handle with kid gloves' caveat. Which suits everyone, the neighbors, the higher powers, and also the internal politicos of the state, their allegiances notwithstanding. And today, after all these years, the issue is out in the open. Again.

Only this time, the open secret is out. That excesses have happened in the past. Power exists to be misused at some time or the other, as has been proven right from the time of the Mahabharata. So why the whole brouhaha? Excesses did happen, people were frisked, checked, ID cards were required at all time, and for good reason. Till just a few years ago, people were expected to take off their shoes only at a temple. Not at every airport security checkpoint. But security guys did not just suddenly wake up to decide on a weird procedure. Some devious mind thought this through. Just like how Hamas decided to send its terrorists to civilian populated areas to perpetrate attacks. So people with their own agendas in J&K or even entities desirous of fomenting unrest in the region would throw in the odd wolf in the sheep's clothing! But that does not in any way detract from the pains and perils of everyday life in J&K. And that is beautifully brought out here. What I don't get, is why the apprehension towards calling a spade a spade? Yes there were terrorists. Yes, to some extent, some entities were seeking vengeance against what was taken to be the face of power. Personal rivalries piggybacked on larger inter-country disputes. But one terrorist in the midst of civilians does not make the whole state a terrorist state. Likewise, the acts of some people in the armed forces, does not make the entire force evil.

Crimes had been committed against Muslim Kashmiris. Crimes had been committed against Kashmiri Pandits. Even today, for no apparent reason, armed forces going in to help flood victims are pelted with stones. Why? Everyone screwed up some time in the past! This is like the old fable of a lion going to hunt a deer going to drink at a stream. When asked why it was being killed, the lion replied that the water downstream was being polluted by the deer. The deer replied that it had no hand in it, to which the lion said that if not this deer, some ancestor would have done so, and so this deer would have to pay the price.

Which is exactly the apparent case in Kashmir today. But the call for a ban on a movie that artistically tries to depict what might have been the case, is a regressive step towards the whole treading on eggshells that has happened thus far. The first step towards fixing an ill is recognizing the existence of an ill. While there has been a movie depicting one man's personal fight in the backdrop of excesses - Polonius heartlessly murders 3 people and brands them as terrorists to fetch himself some money, or one officer's car horn deciding the fate of a man and his family - maybe it is time to reconcile, agree and decide to move on. Maybe we stop dealing with Kashmir as the Indian outcast and treat it as the crown of India as it once was! Ban the movie, because you lack the guts to see what might have been true, not because it hurts some non-existent sentiments.

1 comment:

shreya said...

I have seem Haider 3 times almost and loved the film each time I saw...Actually I completely agree with u. The film portrayed the true scene of our Kashmir....Thanks for the wonderful review....