Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Of films and fatwas

I realised today, February 28, when all anyone can think about is the Budget, that this blog has fallen into deep slumber. No postings! Not even my own articles. And I have been writing.

But until I get the time to update the blog with my articles, here are a few thoughts.

Bal Thackeray announced today that he had no objection to the film Black Friday. In fact he recommends that people see it.

Why? Clearly because the entire film is based on the police chargesheet in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case where you see and hear Muslims talking about revenge. They seem indifferent to the fact that their revenge will kill hundreds of ordinary people. Although the riots that preceded the March 12, 2003 blasts are mentioned, you are left with images of men who seem to lack any remorse. And they are all Muslim. And apparently Pakistan is closely involved. What is worse is that the film is not a documentary and yet appears to be one. There are recognisable characters and there are others who have been introduced for the sake of making an interesting film. Only those who have followed the case, that has stretched over 13 years and is still concluding, will be able to pick the inaccuracies. For the lay public, this seems to be The Truth. Although the police are shown torturing people, in the end all this is justified by the police officer as essential to "break" the "terrorists". Was there another side to the story? Is the case really so cut and dried? What about the hundreds of people who were picked up, questioned and finally let off because there was no case against them? What do they feel?

Most important, the film fails to point out that even though 100 people have been convicted in the '93 blasts case, not a single person has been charged for the killing, looting and arson that led to the deaths of hundreds of people during the riots that preceded the blasts. It was Bal Thackeray who was indicted by the Srikrishna Commission for his hate speech. Yet, he continues to lead a life untouched by any of this. And the media continues to report his "fatwas" without question.

In contrast, "Parzania", that moving if flawed film on the Gujarat violence of 2002, can still not be shown in Gujarat because the Bajrang Dal says so and the Narendra Modi government silently endorses the ban. Here is a flim that should be shown in Gujarat. If a film like this had been made about the Bombay riots -- not Mani Ratnam's romantic film but a straight hard-hitting feature that documents those terrible weeks -- will we in Mumbai be able to see it? Unlikely, so long as the government and the media continue to pander to the man and the party responsible for so much hate and division in this city.

The media boasts of the way India is moving ahead. Nine per cent growth. Indian companies buying up major companies in the rest of the world. India has arrived on the world stage, we are told. But has it? If in its most "global" city, the "fatwa" of one man determines what we can see or not see -- where have we arrived? Or rather where are we headed?