Saturday, December 24, 2005

Lagaan..an interesting analysis and the movements..

I have always wanted to enter a blog on an interpretation made out of the Lagaan movie, by one of my closest friends, whom I consider should become a prominent theorist very soon.

The angle summarily goes like this: Bhuvan, the role played by Aamir Khan, is likened to Gandhi. The entire team that Bhuvan assembles is similar to the Congress Party....and so on...

The angle can be described thus: Gandhi fights the British by playing their own game.. The villagers are taught to play cricket...the Analogy...Contest the elections that the British call for...(its a non-violent game, after all).. the inner contradictions are done away with.. (note the structure of the Champaran village, the Mukhia's increased land holding, some holding much more land than others)...even the Britishers are given the benefit of doubt.. Note the British Umpires shown as upholding fairplay....The Muslim is also part of the team and plays an important, though secondary role...The Dalit is included too...but wait..he is weak, deformed and is guided by Bhuvan....Note the Independence movement analogy...The Untouchables are brought into the freedom movement fold, Gandhi fights hard to remove Untouchability, terms the Untouchables as 'Harijans'....Even the Raja is accepted as an Indian, after all, despite the fact that he suffers none of the ordinary villagers' plight in having to partake their earning, their food and their rations.. The Raja is also co-opted into the fight against the British, after all there is no "formal" compliant against him taking part of the villagers' hard earned money...and the Raja also supports the villagers' in their game against the British, well, in an informal way....Notice the similarity with Gandhi's position on the princely states..and the fight to overthrow the princes..he always took a much more moderate stand compared to the fight against the British...the Malabar/ Travancore movements are case studies....

The Lagaan team is a all-encompassing conglomeration, overcoming class, caste and religious differences.....Gandhi's greatest achievement as India's leading Congress freedom fighter was the same...he was the only person who could unite Indians as Indians against the imperialist British!.

Well...there is also the British girl who falls in love with Bhuvan....So did a host of Britishers who fell head over heels to the Mahatma's grace and charm as a non-violent freedom fighter (in the platonic sense...Meerabhai, C.F.Andrews...etc..)...

I am not sure if Ashutosh Gowariker is this big an intellectual to make a movie this deep in its thinking..reminiscent of the Congress' model of the freedom struggle, but the fact remains.. Lagaan symbolises the Indian freedom struggle, led by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi..the movie shows the Congress' role in the freedom struggle as a metaphor in the cricket game that is played between Bhuvan's team and the Englishmen....if Gowariker did this intentionally, then Lagaan would go down as one of the most astute symbolic movies of our times in India.

The interesting thing is that Sudhanva Deshpande in the Frontline also somewhat alluded to the same angle that my friend was talking about.

It would be remiss for me not to talk about Rajkumar Santoshi's "The Legend of Bhagat Singh" here...The movie surprises everyone for its remarkable candour and its depth. The best part of the movie when Bhagat Singh exhorts his comrades of Hindustan Republican Army (which he and his comrades rename Hindustan Socialist Republican Army) to fight not merely for independence but for economic independence...not to leave the country in the hands of "burre sahibs" after throwing the yoke of the "Gore Sahibs"....Surely this dialogue was confirmation that Bhagat Singh, the revolutionary was by heart the Communist...Its no fluke that most of Bhagat Singh's comrades, including Shiv Verma, Ajay Ghosh, and others named in the Lahore Conspiracy Case, later on turned out to be leading Communist Leaders in the country.

Interestingly, Harkishen Singh Surjeet, the senior CPI(M) leader of today started his revolutionary career as a foot-soldier in the Naujawan Bharat Sabha, the organization started by Bhagat Singh.. Surjeet, who used to cycle from Amritsar to Lahore to attend organizational meetings and to carry couriers, was arrested by the British for his role in an anti-British-rule incident..He introduced himself as "London Tod Singh" in his speech in the court later.. Its a pity that the bourgeois media pays scant respect to this veteran freedom fighter just because he is a communist..

I would put it emphatically that if Bhagat Singh was alive today, he would have been a torchbearer of the Communist Movement in the country. Pity, because probably the great Gandhi signed the Irwin Pact and didn't bother to ask for Bhagat Singh's release from capital punishment as a quid pro quo when he could have surely done atleast this...This is a huge blot on the widely accepted leader of India's freedom movement...that has never sufficiently been answered by Gandhians/ other Congress freedom fighters.

2 comments:

Varaha said...

Gandhi was opposed to violence in toto - so even if he could have sympathized with Bhagat Singh's motives, he would certainly not have condoned the process that Bhagat Singh chose to achieve his goals. To Gandhi, the process of achieving something was as important as the goal. The process also was a cathartic worm-hole for him (unlike the Russian commies who could slaughter the Czar and his family even after they attained control in Moscow)

- Varahasimhan.

Srini said...

Funny you say that, Simha. I am just coming from a talk on "". The speaker, Prof. Utsa Patnaik was just mentioning about how if the Soviet Union hadn't existed, it would have been impossible for all those decolonized countries to achieve independence. Do you think, if someone lies down in front of a tank in Baghdad today would be able to churn the moral innards of George Bush and get him out of Iraq?

The people who murdered the Czar and his family were local leaders in Ekaterinburg. They were not under the orders of the leaders of the Bolshevik Revolution. It is still debatable as to whether the orders to pull the trigger were from Moscow. There was a great anarchic situation prevailing after the Revolution, with the Bolsheviks themselves trying hard to gain control of the sequence of events, ergo, Lenin's call for the strengthening of the state mechanism, his call for a People's Army etc.

Another point, the Tsar who was killed, was responsible for the Black Sunday or was it Thursday in 1905..he was solely responsible for the deaths and misery of thousands of Russians who were forced to go to the Imperialist war fought between the Rajas and Maharajas (all cousins/ co-brothers what not) of the European nations, a fight over the loot that these nations were getting outta their colonies. The Tsar if tried in an Indian court today or even in Hague would have got a death sentence for his innumerable crimes. I have no sympathy for him or his debauched Tsarina whose concern for the demon Rasputin was greater than that of the suffering Russian people.

Coming back to Gandhi. If he was opposed to violence, why didn't he stop the violent end of Bhagat Singh. Yes, he was a misguided revolutionary, who wanted to prove to the British that "you need a bomb to make the British hear". Yes, his methods were wrong. He himself realised it. Read Bhagat Singh's "Why I am am Atheist" for the same. But Gandhi could have used the Irwin Pact as a quid pro quo to bail Bhagat Singh out of the hanging (of course, Bhagat would have refused to do so himself notwithstanding). Thats the point of critique I am making against Gandhi.