Monday, October 02, 2006


Venturing into cine halls to relax the mind has meant that people have taken it upon themselves to laugh their way out. "Lage Raho Munnabhai" falls in that category of movies. It talks of two conmen-more like a Laurel and Hardy- changing their ways from dadagiri to gandhigiri. That takes an average Indian movie goer to fal back and realize the importance of Gandhi in today's context. This attempt by me is not to pass any value judgements on the Mahatma's role and his leadership to the Indian freedom movement. On the contrary, this is to look at the issue in both ways.

The Gandhian mode of struggle- Satygraha, Hunger Strikes and Boycotts have now become models of protest against the authority and resist diktats from the higher ups. This mode of protest has its own suuesses and failures. As a student activist, now involved in the student movement in JNU, the method of Hunger Strike is not the best from of protest, but it is definitely a popular form of protest. It gets credence from a big majority of the student community and has stood the test of the time. A large mobilization of the student community is possible for such a type of protest. But as a Marxist, I have serious objections to only sticking to this model due to the fact that even the highest form of hunger strike may be unable to give you that decisive victory. So, other modes like gherao may also have to be adopted. But this can be done only a concrete analysis of the concrete situation. Also, the act of boycott cannot impede the mass production of goods. In fact, the production conditions have to be changed on the whole.

Gandhi's emphasis on Non-Violence is correct to a large extent; but in a society ridden with contradictions and where a fundamental transformation is required, a mass overhauling is imminent. It means to put things bluntly a Revolution. A non-violent revolution may not be the outcome always, for the ruling classes would never give up their power willingly and so, the Class Struggle is a concrete reality. Gandhi's basic idea is Status-Quoist, while the Marxist framework stands for Change. The best case scenario is on the question of Caste, where Gandhi felt that giving leverage to the opressed sections-Dalits and the Tribals- would lead to such assertive demands also from the higher classes and so, any attempts to transform the situation would be problematic. This logic has often been criticized by Ambedkar, which I also feel is a correct interpretation. The very idea of receiving a slap on one side of the face and showing the other side is a faulty proposition which is even laughable in this era. What needs to be done is to take on the attacker with full vigour and thus, is the defiance of a rebel reflected.

The ills of corruption, poverty, gender violence, caste abuse, etc which is still an issue in this country, where the common man still can't find his basic needs fulfilled, where successive governments have brought in Neo-Liberal era with the withdrawal of the State from key sectors of the economy like Health and Education, where rural distress has already claimed the lives of 50, 000 farmers, where students are forced to commit suicides unable to pay exorbitant capitation fees, where foodgrains lie rotting in FCI godowns for rats to feed, where malnutrition has led to infants dying early, where India Shining is restricted to a certain Elite class who live in glass compartments, where the Government has faulty line to define Poverty, where Chief Ministers visit Microsoft in US more than the farmers dying in the nearby districts, where financial packages become a mere farce and where a Government on the diktats of IMF-World Bank-WTO keep kowtowing to Imperialist agenda and fall prey to Great Power politics, this question certainly needs to be asked whether the Gandhian model would be to deliver the masses from all these ills. May be that could be the decisive assertion in the whole debate.

Also, movies like Munnabhai and Rang De Basanti have turned the popular and commercial cinema into an iconic status. This cult figure syndrome has led the people to think that may be 'a new look' has to be put in place. But at the end of the day and as film reels wound to a stop, we need to look back and ask who has really gained from the movie? The Audience or the Movie Itself. For me I would not need any second guesses. I would go for the Latter.

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