Glum scenario, hit cinema

A report in today’s Times of India celebrates the fact that political cinema is back in vogue amongst the audience weaned on candyfloss cinema. But is that so?
Rajneeti, even by Bollywood standards, hardly qualifies to be counted as “political” and “realistic” cinema. In real-politic, people are more often than not likely to be bought off rather than bumped off as they are in Prakash Jha’s latest. What happens there is mob violence, and not politics. But the fact that Rajneeti indeed has become perhaps the first blockbuster of the year after collecting a staggering Rs 54,00,00,000 in its opening week and is likely to earn more than all of Prakash Jha’s past films put together. Ironies of the box office are not lost to anybody.
But the fact that crowd lapped up this masala image of political machinations in the country is a worrying trend, as at one level it points out the fact that the common man on the street considers politics to be dirty, full of sex, violence and corruption. Although one might find himself to be hugely outnumbered while trying to be an apologist for the Indian politicians, all I want to say is hold back on your cynicism for a bit.
For any democracy to flourish and function a litany of checks and balances need to be in place; these help in ensuring that the lawmakers (the politician) as well as the law enforcer (from a beat constable to the police chief) toe the line of propriety. A film like Rajneeti has portrayed the worst that the Indian polity has to offer, while the redeeming act is just too weak to register with the audience – haven’t met anyone who has seen Rajneeti and spoken about the climax, most talk about the dropping pallu and exploding cars.
The ringing bell at the cash register of the Box Office points out towards a sense of vindication that the public felt while watching an otherwise lacklustre film; people went inside the theater, saw what they thought Indian politics was and came out with a smug sense of triumph that told them, “you know it all”.
This self validation might have the producers and distributors grinning ear-to-ear but the fact that perception of Indian polity within the minds of the electorate is so glum does not bode well for a functioning democracy. In a country where calls for separatism, coupled with militant Naxalism, are growing by the day, a dejected electorate is the last thing that the country needs. For someone who expects nothing out of their leaders, someone offering two hoots might turn out to be the man who gets the vote. The TINA (There is no alternative) factor ensconced within the minds of the people needs to be fought with vengeance by the civil society and artists alike. Hopelessness can prove to be a really fertile soil for human hope to take root, but for that to happen someone needs to be around to play the part of a watchful gardener.

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