Perhaps the fundamental problem is that I had very high expectations from this movie. The blogosphere was raving and ranting about it. How brilliant it was. How different it was. And how it took their breath away.
It is different. I’ll give it that. But it isn’t brilliant. When you shift a complicated idea like interleaving two stories with themes of justice, death and revolution onto celluloid – there are so many ways you could be killing the very core of the movie. This is what the movie does. However, it did have its moments of *goosebumps*. As always – this is no review of the movie, but a set of immediate reactions.
I have to admit, I loved the first half. The non-righteous one. Delhi, with its undeniable Punjabiyat. So what if they used India Habitat Centre as Delhi University, and decided to keep shifting geographical points of monuments. The problem is that the movie does an over-kill. Just because a story has a million possibilities – doesn’t mean you have to indulge and explore each of them. Everyone has repeated the story a million times – but in short the movie traces the life of two women and five men as they begin directing/ acting in a documentary that explores the story of revolutionaries such as Bhagat Singh and Chandrasekhar Azad. In a sense the movie attempts parallels – overlaying the theme of anti-establishment and youth.
At a more meta level, it is severely unfair to compare the lives of revolutionaries and these young men. These young men who are mostly brats seem to have a fluffy existence. Amir Khan with all his cheek fat is somehow supposed to be a college kid, till somewhere in the movie you are told that he graduated from Delhi University a good five years back and is too scared to go out into the world. There is something essentially wrong with his character. I am not going into stereotypes. But if you know Delhi University (DU) and around – you know what I am talking about it. It’s a fake character. He’s got no intellectual pretensions. He has his high points where he leches like any good Delhi man and sprinkles his conversation with various references to your sister – however he’s not genuine. As a student in DU, I frequently met people who should have technically been outside the campus years back, but stuck on to do course after course, those who were extremely intelligent when it came to quoting texts but were uncomfortable to put their ideas to test in the “Real World”. (Aside – Who’s to say that a Campus is not real? It is. Terrifyingly so.)
But coming back to the mismatch. These young men are not nudged into revolution because of what they perceive to be a larger systemic injustice but to avenge the death of their friend who dies in the infamous flying coffin (Mig 21). They don’t sit to understand the larger notion of corruption. They don’t even pay attention to some of the final words of their now-dead friend – That one has to enter the system to make the change. They decide to go the “revolutionary” way and kill.
It pisses me off when people abuse the notion of Inquilab (Revolution). The notion of a revolution being bloody has Marxist legacy but is not necessarily true. Revolutions can be silent, passive, reactive and slow. Revolutions are about paradigm shifts.
The core of the movie should have been the helplessness of the situation. Which red tape seas could they have waded through? But, they don’t even try. It confuses you – are they after some sort of justice, or some sort of revenge? They don’t even attempt reaching out to people and places where they could have communicated their anger. When they decide to kill the Minister who they think is the pinnacle of that particular case of corruption, it is almost amusing. What were they thinking? What were they going to accomplish? And what about all that storming of a Radio Station? Eeww! Credit me with a little more intelligence next time.
It’s also interesting that nouveau patriotic movies have a recurrent theme of an “external” catalyst. In this case it is the documentary maker Sue, and in the case of Swades, a man who is influenced by some notion of “American” values. This movie has nothing to do with the supposed awakening or enlightenment. Violence is violence. It’s how you perceive it. I am not judging violence here. However, one cannot shroud violence in righteousness.
Was this movie about purposeless of youth? Because if that area interests you – please go and watch Lakshya. One of the few movies devoid of patriotic jingoism, which focuses on that merging point between personal aspirations, the exploration of self and the notion of patriotism – and finding purpose somewhere in between. Incidentally – what is the core of the purposelessness experienced by some of the characters and are they supposed to be indicative of this generation? Do they really think that nobody is aware of the Indian Independence Movement or that people find “Vande Mataram” a tongue twister. Is it easier to make a movie on morons?
There are parts where the movie shimmers and shines. Its gentle humour, the irony of situations, the disconnect between politicians and most of India, the comfort felt with confidants and the vast expanse of Delhi. But that doesn’t make a movie, not beyond the intermission anyway. If this is the answer our generation finds to our problems, it’s a very sad world we’re looking at.
PS – Oh yes! I completely dug the music, especially two to three tracks. And who would have thought that Daler Mehendi and Chitra could sound so good together!