Saturday, June 26, 2004

Farah Naqvi on Dev -- the Sangh Parivar's "secularism"

Farah Naqvi on Dev in the Times of India.

I've been intentionally avoiding this film because I feared it would be like this. Many recent films promoting a version of 'secularism' have done so in a way that is actually extremely hostile to Muslims.

Sometimes when films investigate the painful elements of current events, it leads someplace interesting, as in Hey Ram! or Bombay. But other times, it's just ugly -- as in Gadar. I'd rather Bollywood not do films about communalism if the only films they make are the ones that pander to the complacency of the majority.


sudeep said...

I am planning to watch dev, have been postponing it merely as I think itll be fairly demanding at an emotional level. I think its important to understand that even if you do not agree with the film, it represents (or articulates) the thought or perception of the proverbial common man (or specifically, a common hindu man) about the current situation in the country. The other movie you talk about, Gadar presented the common mans perception of the partition and the events surrounding it, shorn of the high sounding and ideology inspired trappings. I believe its a little lazy to dismiss all this as ugly. These movies will remain important, if not as works of art, then as windows into a troubled time.

I havent seen the movie yet, so I cant really comment on farah naqvis objections to it. Even so, my feeling is she is being over sensitive to the movie.

For instance
>>>>>> Hamlavar ban kar aaye the, badshah ban kar raaj kiya ab gaddar ban kar aish karna chahte hain.

It is the bad cop who is saying this, not the hero, as for the *appreciative titters* in the theater, thats a reflection of the perception of the people watching the movie, NOT the director.

>>>>> secular moral narrative of the Hindu hero Dev (played by Amitabh Bachchan).

Why this insistance that the hindu hero be a "secular moral hero". Does Farah naqvi have a problem with the hero being a practising hindu ?

>>>>> The 'meaning' of a film is determined by its context, by how its audiences choose to 'read' it. Certainly in Gujarat, perhaps elsewhere too, Dev is being 'read' as the film version of the events of February-March 2002. And to those events Nihalani has done a grave injustice.

If the meaning of the film is determind by how its audiences choose to read it, how is nihalani responsible for a grave injustice ? The audience is free to relate the movie to anything they want to, Nihalani is responsible only for his creation. The important questions here would be, Did he demonize muslims in the movie ? Did he suggest violence towards muslims as a solution ?

>>>>> They (the Gujarat riots) were a one-sided massacre. And Muslims were a cowering herd, not a violent mob.

Thats debatable. The muslims who burnt the train coach in Godhra were certainly not a cowering herd. Also, 250 (?) hindus died in the riots too, that didnt happen without some kind of retaliation or police action. Ms Naqvis is simply refusing to come to terms with the possibility that muslims could "react" or "act".

>>>>> While the true facts of Godhra remain a mystery (which we hope our new and esteemed railway minister will soon unravel), Nihalani does not engage with such bothersome detail.

While the true facts of Godhra remain a mystery, everything else about who did the killing, who got killed, and what organizations were behind the killings is absolutely clear: at least in Ms Naqvis world :-D

>>>>> Secularism, the narrative seems to suggest, is not a matter of right but of patronage by a large-hearted and forgiving nation-state.

Naqvi doesnt realize that in a way, secularism is a matter of good will (what she mistakenly labels as patronage). In the absence of good will amongst communities, all debate about secularism will be over taken by events, and be rendered merely academic (as was the case in Gujarat).

>>>>> At another level, Dev is a narrative about an Indian nation whose salvation lies in soft, patronising secularism.

What is soft/patronising secularism ? And what is "hard" secularism ?

>>>> In this, Dev is India, a nation wounded by Muslim terrorists

and Naqvis has an alternate reality on offer ?

>>>>> Farhan (read as legitimate Muslim anger) is neutralised..

And Devs anger abt the loss of his son to a muslim terrorist is illegitimate ?

I think Naqvi has undergone serious trauma due to Gujarat, and this review is merely a side effect of that. Its not objective, or even coherent by any stretch of imagination.

May be she would appreciate watching Khaki (a film I had the misfortune to watch :-D ), thats also about terrorists, only all terrorists in the movie are hindus (AND I MEAN, ALL), and the police and the politicians are hand in glove with them. They are all hindu too.. The only muslim character is a doctor called Ansari (sounds like the doctor flo who went arnd planting bombs in BEST buses) who unfortunately is a victim of a conspiracy by hindu police and terrorists. Now thats a movie that would be "hard" on secularism and that Ms Naqvi would really like.

6:47 PM  

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