Free Press Journal

Do not go gentle into that good night…


The festive spirit comes with a message that reminds us about how even the Gods triumphed over evil and why good will always be flagged high. VANESSA VIEGAS talks about the films that vanquished many a social evil, thus helping us to lean into the light. 

So it’s that time of the year, when India in her luminosity and vigour can give all the stars in the night sky a run for their money. Rows of diyas flicker in unison to adorn our porches, windows and gallis, the neighbors are way more accommodating, everyone is pleasantly red-carpet ready, our pockets are unusually full and our stomachs fuller. Amidst this feasting and celebration, our culture is replete with symbolism about vanquishing evil and wanton nature, and about having reverence for all aspects of life and even for the inanimate objects that contribute to our wellbeing.

While righting the wrongs that insidiously permeate our society could take a lifetime or ten, it is the power of cinema that ignites the flame of an uprising in these dark times. You know you are a part of a social awakening, when you have had the three longest short hours of your life in a theatre, and come out the other side, enlightened and enraged! These are films that make us want to stand on our two feet and clap till our hearts resound with it.

One such film among others is Umesh Shukla’s brilliant drama OH MY GOD. Not taking away from the fact that we Indians are a notorious bunch, the Gods must love us for our unquestioning faith in all things God-appeasing, as also the reverence we show towards our obligatory religious duties. And just when you thought God’s services were unlimited and free, this film hit us right between the eyes. OMG busted the long standing business of crafty god-menby bringing to light the way prayer and worship has been commercialised, without being preachy.

c glam anchor 2Going by the sayings of the numerous venerable sages, we’d nod in agreement that humanity is the best religion of all and it was Salman Khan’s BAJRANGI BHAIJAAN that played the merry tune this time. Moon-walking its way into the Rs.300 crore club, it did have a million dollar message, after all. Talking about the forbidden Indo-Pak rivalry, it went on to show us that besides sharing a lust for spicy food and cricket, the two countries share the same emotions. And that the Hindu-Muslim divide is but a mindless discourse. Matter of factly, religion has killed more people than any other cause ever has. The one thing to take from this film is that while letting bygones be bygones, we should not allow religious propaganda to decide the type of person you are and the person you want to be. It’s Bhai way or the highway, say what?!

Moving on, the current reigning QUEEN of Bollywood, Kangana Ranaut defied the chauvinistic middle classIndian mentality in the blockbusting film QUEEN that also went on to become her ultimate claim to fame. And while it got the thumbs up from all the women in town, the film rightly turned the tables on gender equality, without sympathising with the woman in question. Give her wings to fly and she can make the whole of London, thumakda!

Another such hard hitting evil that we’ve been conveniently ignoring is how we take our homemakers for granted. Exhilarating as it is, ENGLISH VINGLISH pays an ode to all the home-makers that foster our dreams, while putting aside her own. When the protagonist played by Sridevi stumbled upon a word she has never heard before – judgmental, she unwittingly described the monstrous breed we are today. A common housewife that always fell short in front of her husband and daughter because she couldn’t speak English, she may well have not had the opportunity to learn it in the first place. As is often said, while the husband is the head of the family, the wife is the neck that can turn the head around. We are nothing without our homemakers. Respect her not because she builds your home, but because she’s a force to reckon with, irrespective of whether or not she took up that English crash course.

They say the future of a country lies in the hands of its children, but what if the answer to India’s prayers is stuck in a child trafficking barter? It was Rani Mukerji’s MARDANI that took a stance against child trafficking in a heart wrenching way. A firebrand cop, she unearths the dark secrets of child trafficking when she initiates a search for a missing girl and fights a drug kingpin and a smooth talking dalal, like a true hero. Giving us a blow-by-blow account of the operation, on one hand, Mardaani invokes the spirit of that mythical fount of feminine invincibility, Goddess Durga.

On the other hand, Aamir Khan’s TAARE ZAMEEN PAR was the answer to the prayers of the many children that failed to make their parents understand they weren’t being stubborn or dull. The film beautifully paved a path for kids when it introduced befuddled adults to the medical term ‘Dyslexia’.  As for parents and teachers, it helped them to not only help children suffering from Dyslexia but to also recognise the signs in the first place. The film was instrumental in revolutionising our lagging educational system.

But there are other films that have brought out of the closet subjects that society doesn’t deem evil. Domestic violence hit a new low with Vikramaditya Motwane‘s coming-of-age film drama film, UDAAN.  A tyrant of a father Bhairav (Roy) is a control freak and doesn’t shy away from getting physically abusive to ensure that his point of view prevails. If that wasn’t enough, his son has to address him with the title ‘Sir’ and not Papa; and while a large part of us think it’s too unlikely a parent would do that to his child, UDAAN tells the story of innumerable youth from a cross section of Indian families.

Talk about fighting the system, it would be a crime to not mention Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s RANG DE BASANTI. The movie definitely had us at ‘Abbhi jiska khoon na khaula, khoon nahin woh paani hai… joh desh ke kaam na aaye woh bekaar jawani hai’. Digging at the system from its roots, the message spoke to us on a retrospective level. The film effectively transferred its patriotic vibe, serving as a portal into the past by recreating historic scenes of our glorious freedom struggle, fluently merging it into the present.