Friday, November 10, 2006
Intolerance and indigestion
The Telegraph, Sunday October 8, 2006. Bharathi S. Pradhan writes about Dor:
"When you first watch Nagesh Kukunoor’s impressively shot Dor, you want to simply applaud it as good cinema. (I even sent him a text message that I loved the film and its performances.).."
"Whether it’s Ayesha’s award-worthy performance or Shreyas’ amusing moments, the credit marks pile up in favour of the director who has made engaging cinema out of a story inspired by the Malayalam film Perumazhakalam.."
I haven't seen the film (it was not even released in this city), so I can't comment on this. I'm not sure I'd have checked it out even if it were running here. I had given Perumazhakkalam a miss, after seeing some of the newspaper promos. But the article is titled "Kukunoor’s minority report". May be there are some interesting observations.
As it turns out, the observations are not just interesting. Funny, ridiculous, alarming..? Or may be all of these.
"..once you stop the gush of compliments and ponder over the film, you realise that Nagesh Kukunoor has a definite agenda other than just entertaining his audience."
[Well, what could it be?]
"He did it very subtly in Iqbal where he set the deaf and dumb aspiring cricketer smack in an agrarian Muslim family. It was done so casually, it could have been any other normal Indian family with its cricket-loving mother and sister, and a hard working farmer-father opposed to the game. There were no Allahs, subhanallahs or mashallahs punctuating every sentence. Except for one scene taken outside a mosque, there were no namaaz versus cricket practice debates either."
[Oh, that's certainly not acceptable! Wonder how we missed it in Iqbal! This guy is so clever he is pushing an agenda in such a casual manner that we don't notice!]
"In short, other than introducing the lovable little family, Nagesh never reminded you that this was a Muslim family. On hindsight, one understands that his agenda was to show a Muslim as no different from someone from the mainstream. So far, pretty fair."
[Ok, that would pass, even if it is not entirely fair.]
"But after watching Dor, one suspects Nagesh was only testing the waters with Iqbal."
[Wow! That one sentence takes the cake. "testing the waters with Iqbal". Checking whether we, who are being taught continuously by Ms. Pradhan and others how dangerous and fanatic these Muslims are, can take one film with a "normal" Muslim family!]
"In Dor he goes further and draws a stark contrast between the ‘progressive’ minority community and the ‘regressive’ Rajasthanis (read that as Hindu). Nagesh’s Muslim family has a lively, spirited heroine called Zeenat.."
[But how dare he show a lively, spirited girl in a Muslim family?]
[some storyline details snipped]
"..Very sweet, very innocuous. Except when you move to Rajasthan and contrast Zeenat with Meera, the widow whose signature must be got on that pardon-nama. It is here that Nagesh’s determined agenda to show the Muslim as progressive, independent-spirited and far-from-marching-backwards-into-the-dark-ages, moves into top gear.."
"Zeenat befriends Meera without revealing who she is or what she wants from her. If you think about it, it’s actually a con, winning the unsuspecting widow’s confidence when there is an ulterior motive behind the hand of friendship."
[Thanks for telling us.]
"But Nagesh strives to ensure that you don’t lose your sympathy for Zeenat. And then, he has Meera go through all the humiliation that a traditional Hindu setup gives its widows. Most of it is unfortunately true, for widows do get treated like sub-humans in the land of sati, dowry and female infanticide.."
"However, Nagesh cleverly chooses this backward-thinking traditional family as a contrast, even going so far as to have Meera’s father-in-law, otherwise a proud man, strike a pimplike business deal where the payment is his widowed daughter-in-law’s youthful body! Sure, that happens too, but it looks a trifle mischievous to take the worst elements of this (Hindu) society only to paint a glorious picture of the (Muslim) other.
Go ahead with your agenda Mr Kukunoor, we applaud any story of a normal progressive Muslim family. But must it be at the expense of bashing another community thus?"
That surely we can not take. We'll portray Muslims in general as terrorists, pimps, villains, bad guys, religious fanatics in may be all of our movies but we can not take if a not-so-pleasant picture is portrayed of one single Hindu man or one regressive community (we know that happens but thats not the point..) in a single film. We sure can not tolerate this. We can not digest this. Sorry, no Hajmola, no Gelusil will help.