Saturday, March 04, 2006

Rang De Basanti - A few reflections

It has been more than a month since Rang De Basanti has hit the screens and I assumed (wrongly as the first comment indicates) that this disclaimer was unnecessary. So here goes.. Those of you who haven't seen the movie yet, please be forewarned that this post, though not a review of the movie, does contain some spoilers.

Without doubt Rang De Basanti is a pleasant watch. There are a lot of fun-filled moments interspersed with some absorbing and thought-provoking ones. Since we went in a gang of 14 to watch the movie, I didn't get much of a chance to reflect after the movie ended. The other day however, I was listening to the 'Rang de basanti' soundtrack and it triggered a few reflections that I would like to share.

In the recent past and the not so recent past, several movies, the most prominent of which are "Gentleman", "Indian" (Hindusthani), "Mudhalvan", "Ramana" and "Anniyan" portray violence of some sort as a means of doing away with corruption. Not just violence but 'Glamorous violence' in which 'heroes' accept credit for gruesome killings as if they were being offered the bharat ratna award. While this glorified violence is stylish to watch, does it make any sense?

Rang De Basanti draws a parallel between pre-independence revolutionaries who sacrificed their lives in the freedom struggle and five youngsters who fight corruption after experiencing a mental awakening brought about by the untimely demise of a good friend. In the movie, five perfectly normal college students turn killers, which of course means that they weren't normal in the first place. It takes a lot for a stable human being to turn into a killer. A LOT.

If the movie makers are suggesting that we follow in the footsteps of the revolutionaries in our fight against corruption, they're wrong. In fact history suggests otherwise. It is common knowledge that our Independence was won through the non-violent MASS MOVEMENT rather than the scattered bursts of attacks by the revolutionaries. Keeping this in mind, the protest that Ajay Rathod's mother leads makes much more sense than the assassination of the Defense minister. The resulting lathi charge (I doubt if it would have happened in real life) would have made big headlines and garnered sympathy from all sections of society.

Anyways, coming to the issue of corruption itself..

So long as there is evil in the world (And I believe this will always be the case) corruption will exist in some form or the other. The question that begs to be answered is.. Why is corruption prevalent to such a large degree in our country?

Personally, I feel that a lack of deterrent is the main reason for this all-pervasive corruption in India. If people are caught for a misdemeanor they would much rather pay 50 Rupees to a policeman than 500 Rupees to the government. What do they care about where the money goes? Ditto for the policeman who would rather take 50 Rupees from the law-breaker than write out a ticket that would ensure that the 500 Rupees reaches the government. This is where the deterrent comes in. If the cost of 'attempting to bribe' is very high.. MUCH HIGHER than the 450 Rs that might be saved, most people wouldn't attempt to bribe. Obviously I wouldn't try to bribe customs if I KNOW that the minimum penalty would be a term in jail. Also, the bribe taker would think twice if his pension or job were at stake. With high cost deterrents in place the briber and the bribe seeker would be shit scared of each other even assuming the absence of all other witnesses.

I do believe we are making progress, albeit slowly. For instance when I turned 18, I wanted a driving license. Only, it was inconvenient for me to take the driving test because I was studying in Chennai at the time. Paying a few hundred bucks to a driving school did the trick. Note that I hadn't taken a single class from the driving school. The license arrived in my absence and my Dad signed for it! However, the very next year when my sister needed a license, even the driving school from which she had taken lessons for months could not get her a license without her taking both the written and driving exam. The cost of issuing a license without a record of an exam has gone up. Deterrents have been put in place.

I'm confident corruption will decrease gradually. Only, given the extreme differences between the rich and the poor and the high illiteracy levels in our country, it is going to be an agonizingly slow process. I don't see any shortcuts.. :-(. No amount of killing (glamorous or otherwise) is going to help.

If you ask me, Rang De Basanti may have been entertaining, may have resulted in an adrenaline rush and may have had some touching moments. But does it pass on a meaningful message for the general public? NO. Period.

*Today happens to be the birthday of a very close friend of mine..

Happy Birthday Murali!!! Thanks for all those great times we had*


LovingAndLosing said...

I did not read this post. Because I am yet to watch Rang De Basanti. I did gather that you had something to say against it. For that I say "BOO"!

Revathi R said...

First time a post with a responsibility. This shows you are not blindly supporting what the world supports!. I had already wrote about this
But, my friends called me over phone to remove the post!!!!

Prasanna said...

It does send a message although it mayb short lived, well short lived or not it is upto the individual! But there are some true incidents like manjunath shanmugam's which has inspired none...then wat can a movie do! But message it does send...u cant expect it to be too realistic and all..indian cinema has its share of commercialization...agreed somethings were surreal...but atleast it tells us dont whine and crap abt this is not right and that is not right...just take it in ur hands and do what u can abt it! If you dont see this msg from the movie!

naveen said...

Hey man...nice thinking!! i know tht violence takes u no Gandhiji has said once" An eye 4 an Eye makes the whole world blind".. But,the reason i rate RDB as the best films of Aamir Khan( better than lagaan or mangal pandey) is tht it touches ur heart!! v all need a source of inspiration..rit?? V all know tht corruption exists!! it is a fact.. but when RDB shows tht corruption exists,v get motivated!!! how does this happen?? I beleive tht it is the power of a movie!! Anyway,i rate this movie highly.. but again,it is one's own views!! nice blog!! i'll b visiting again!! Signing off with these" Koi bhi desh perfect nahi hota...use perfect banana padta hein..."

Leon said...

[Vids] Watch it by all means.. I enjoyed the movie too.. I was only saying the theme didn't make much sense. And btw.. "

[Revathi] "First time a post with a responsibility" Can I assume that you are following my posts then? :p Thanks.. :-)

Yeah.. RDB is popular with the public.. Without doubt my friends are going to rib me about it..

[Prasanna] "dont whine and crap abt this is not right and that is not right...just take it in ur hands and do what u can abt it! "

If by doing what u can about it, you mean kill someone, then I disagree. Are they saying that is the only thing people CAN do? If so, then not only does the movie not have a message, it goes one step further and sends out the wrong message, which is worse.

[Naveen] Thanks Naveen.. :-)

If you will note I did mention that RDB may touch your heart, may result in an adrenalin rush (equivalent to the inspiration/motivation you talk about).. but this is momentary. The instant you leave the theater, one tends to lose their inspiration/motivation because only messages with meaning stay embedded in our minds for long.

I totally agree with "Koi bhi desh perfect nahi hota...use perfect banana padta hein..." but I'm concerned about the way we go about doing it...

Prasanna said...

See I dont know why do many people are clinging to killing someone...yes i had agreed killing that they showed in the film was too filmy and cinematic! But if you didnt get the msg of "You have to take responsibility for your nation" then not much can be done! But again as i said there are many real life incidents which havent inspired many! RDB has sent a msg but how many ppl it made to take the positives out of it...i donno! And btw I dont have probs in killing some corrupt arses! But first i need to stop succumbing to corruption...oh then i have to kill myself! Nah...sometime later!

eterno_mutato said...

Even though India did get freedom through the nonviolent movement, which you stress on soo heavily, not much could have been done without the awakening that the young revolutionaries with their heroics produced
The people always need heroes, it has been unchangeable through history. The message of the film was not in any way that one should be heroic. it was that once you realise how much is going wrong, how muchis at stake, it takes a lot of courage to do anything about it.
Killing the perpetrator may be the easiest way, may not be the best way, but it is a step forward in that it is an awakening. and every step is necessary.

Unknown said...

I think the message in that movie was "Dont complain that India is not perfect. No country is perfect. We have to make it perfect." Siddarth says "Rather than complaining do something..become an IAS officer, join the army or form a political party and participate in governing this country" at the climax.
I feel that is the message conveyed.
Killing the defense minister is not the main focus of the movie. u may note they didn't show much of it.
We have achieved freedom by non violence. Accepted. Do u think any person would practice non violence if his/her mother is a victim Jallian wallah Bagh massacre? No one wants violence, but feelings/emotions may go out of ur control sometimes. Killing was just an outburst of emotions. They did not go about killing more ministers.
I think it depends on the way u see it and what u take from a movie.

Incognito said...

Vibha, that was put nicely. I agree with her.
Its not that they proceeded with violence, the second they heard about the crash, he shows them taking the candles to memorial.

Maybe, when it is one's own kith or kin, and not from a third person's point of view.. thats where it takes a turn.
He is not saying, youth should assort to violence. All he asserts is that, the change should come from within.

Camphor said...

If you live a play (or in this case, a documentary) enough, you begin to use the lines from that play in your normal life, with members of your cast... becomes something like an insider's joke.

The fusion of the characters they are playing,with thier person is believable because they are quite obviously open to influence.

That said, that movie was slightly jaded. Done to the death, literally. My friends cried buckets. It couldn't move me - at all - and that was its failing in my opinion... Mudhalvan was better made. Concept more real too, ditto with Indian.

What the kids did in RDB smacked of more self-delusion than awakening.
Or so I think. :)
*gets off the soap box*

Anonymous said... me... movie doesn make any sense..... i wrote a small note at
hope u agree to some part of it!


Leon said...

Well.. perspectives will differ.. I'm pleasantly surprised to hear that there are people who got SOME message out of RDB.

A lot of people seem to be quoting "Koi bhi desh perfect nahi hota...use perfect banana padta hein.."

Personally the best quote I got from the movie was..

"We keep one leg in the past, one leg in the future and piss on the present."

Not because I relish vulgar jokes but because it is soooooooooo true.. lol.

LovingAndLosing said...

Attn: There has been MAJOR change in the blog world. Make note. MAJOR change.

silverine said...

I read this day you posted.This is the best review of RDB that I have read. When the movie was released it had become a fashion to gush in glowing terms about the movie and almost a sacrilege to denounce anything in the movie. I agree with your analysis of the movie.It does take a lot for a normal man to turn killer. Killers are not made overnight. and this penchant of movie makers to show people turning killers at the drop of a hat is disturbing. Violence doesnt pay. And the Non Violence Movement for our Independence is the best testimony to the fact. I think a degree of social resposibility should be exercised by film makers especially in a film crazy nation like ours. I wish the film maker had shown the protagonists taking up a resolution to reform the society by entering politics, administration or social work etc. That would have been a powerful message indeed and a message that common people would easily identify with.

In Bangalore it is impossible to get a License without going through the manadatory Learners License and test. All thanks to Lok Ayukta who raided the RTO and cleaned up their act.

Sugee said...

It was a wonderful mvie Leon. I really dont think it was only for non violence we got our freedom. It was also becos of the revolutionaries that the British left us.
In our country a similar situation is arising, I feel democracy will lose its meaning in todays india and it wont be long if there will be a mass uprising against the govt.
I will take part in it, if at all it happens!

Anonymous said...

Hi Leon,

Thanks for your wishes on my B'day da. The only thing is I got it only today.

Ur review abt the film RDB is not all that right. As Prasanna said you can't expect Indian movies to be without exageration and commercialization.

The msg from the film was not to go and kill some corrupt leader off right away. It says that the country is urs. So stop sulking and take steps towards its betterment.

Ur best quote was:
"We keep one leg in the past, one leg in the future and piss on the present".
Now who is doing that? Its You me and our pals

Stop doing it and start cleaning up the mess. After all it is the place we are living in.

Niyantha said...

It was a crappy ending with all of them being killed at AIR. What message does that send? You get killed if you try to make the country better? Its a weird second half. They got it right till the part where ajay rathod dies but then they messed it up. If only they had a different would probably have been the best movie to come out of bollywood.

G said...

I agree with your post; it was fine while it was going on but once you'e out of the theatre n thinking back, what they're trying to say hits you. T'was definitely entertaining though.

Kripa said...

Hi Leon,
Got your blog site through orkut. Found this one a very intersting thought. Im frm chennai too n hence hav watched all those tamizh movies U R talking abt. Killing the politicians was definitely not the only answer to solving the corruption issue in our country. But I am of the idea tat to achieve some goal this big...there are various paths taken by various ppl which serve us. For eg. do U really think V got our independence jus cos Gandhiji's non-violence movement? Ppl like bhagat singh, subhash chandra bose didnt do anything to help the cause? Their efforts did us atleast a lil good. didnt it?


Sayesha said...

//But does it pass on a meaningful message for the general public? NO. Period.

Totally agree.

Anonymous said...

been such a lon time tat u updated ur blog...
waitin eagerly for tat :)

Sayesha said...

We demand an update! :D

Leon said...

[Silverine] 'Best review'.. (blush).. Thank you.. Thank you.. :-).. We seem to think alike, don't we? :p

[Sugee] I'm all for a mass uprising.. There is immense power in numbers, but five students can hardly be called 'mass'..

[Murali] "stop sulking and take steps towards its betterment." This is one basic message we all know..
But instead of providing one "RIGHT" step as an example, the movie provides one "WRONG" step as an example. I can think of hundreds of "WRONG" steps myself. :p

[Neon] One of the best maybe.. let's not forget DDLJ.. ;-)

[Gaya] Thanks gaya.. :-)

[Kripa] Yes. It did do a little good. But personally, I believe we would have achieved our independence even without the violence.

[Sayesha] Thanks.. :-)

[Anonymous] Thank you.. I have posted today but have no way of letting you know. Isn't that one good reason to leave your name? ;-)

[Sayesha] The next post is for you, Sash.. ;-).

Anonymous said...

ya a nice thought...but look at the effect it had had on the society.No one have yet gone on to violence,rather one of the reasons for the reservation protests(peaceful) were attributed to RDB.So its good if only +ve msges are taken

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