Friday, February 03, 2006

Kuch Rang Kachche Hote Hain-- II

One final thought on this: Rang de Basanti made me appreciate Yuva/Aayudha Ezhutthu all the more. In the latter too we were given a representation of a diseased system, yet there the response of the characters played by Devgan/Surya and (ultimately) Vivek/Siddharth was to subvert the system by joining in. Yet Ratnam does not give us a breezy, optimistic denouement in its entirety: by film's end, we see that Abhishek/Madhavan is where he was when the film started (albeit in a deeper circle of hell), and we hear Om Puri sneering at Devgan that getting into the State Assembly is one thing, but cleaning out the stables quite another. The "system"-- represented by Om Puri-- has lost a battle, but there is no reason to believe it will lose the war.

I submit that this conclusion is more in synch with the messy business of democracy (in general, but certainly in India) than most other films about corruption/systemic problems etc. Because, over the last two to three decades, precisely as India's urban and upwardly mobile classes have become ever more disenchanted with the polity (many going so far as to hanker for authoritarian dispensations a la Singapore, China, etc., anything as long as the market economy's upward trajectory is "guaranteed"; a trend that I might add first manifested itself during the elites' shameful acquiescence in the Emergency), the clamor for participation among those formerly excluded-- or at least marginalized/subordinated-- has become ever louder. Ratnam's film is not addressed to the latter group but in fact to the former, and might be read as a plea for engagement.

Sadly (from my perspective at least), the fact that Yuva was mostly trashed in the reviews (Aayudha Ezhutthu had a kinder fate, both in the film reviews and at the box office, but then Tamil audiences have often been more discerning than their Northern counterparts), whereas many have found Rang de Basanti inspiring, speaks volumes about the extent to which Ratnam and his ilk seem to be removed from the pulse of their target demographic, which apparently prefers the caustic self-immolation of those who are surprised to learn they can feel* over those, like Ratnam's Michael, who have never seen engagement as a choice.

*[Consider the Rang de Basanti song Roobaroo, clearly intended to be in synch with the film's lead protagonists (given its youthful tone one might imagine this as the internal anthem of one or more of the characters-- I suspect DJ); consider, in particular, the following lines:

Naam-o-nishaan-- Rahe na rahe
Ye kaaravaan-- Rahe na rahe
Ujaale main-- pee gaya
Roshan hua-- jee gaya
[Whether any trace remains of me or not
Whether the cosmos remains or not
I drank up/absorbed [perhaps even "used up"] all the light
I glowed [literally: "became alit"] I lived

Killing the Defense Minister sounds like it has more to do with the characters' self-actualization (enabling, as Roobaroo attests to, the lead characters to finally "access" life itself, to "really" live) than with reforming the establishment.]

Great post and interesting comments here.

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