Mera Rang De Basanti Chola

Mandal Commission Protests Spark

dam nikale is desh ki khaatir bas itna armaan hai
ek baar is raah mein marna sau janmon ke samaan hai
dekh ke veeron ki qurabaani apna dil bhi bola
mera rang de basanti chola

In October 1990, Rajiv Goswami, a student of Delhi Univeristy (India), attempted self-immolation (and later died after a prolonged illness) protesting against the implementation of the Mandal Commission’s recommendations. His action sparked a series of self-immolations by college students and led to a formidable movement against job reservations for backward castes in India. I was in school when the Madal Commission protests swept across. At that time, I was unaware and unconcerned with the intricacy of the situation. To me, like most other students my age, it was more centred around exams being exempted by the school authorities due to the riots and an unconditional promotion to the next semester. However, years gone by, and as I now recollect those events, there is a difference between taking your own life and putting one’s own life at high risk for a purpose. Soldiers and fire-fighters, for example, are willing to risk their lives for their country or to save others’ lives respectively, but their motive is not to become “martyrs”. It takes fortitude to risk for a worthy purpose.

Where I’m going with this prelude is that the evolution of youth commences from a paathshala (school class room), a starting point in one’s life for imbibing knowledge. There-after, how we grow as people, what freedom means to us, how does responsibility shape, what we learn from that youthful energy, what we do with that whole experience, how we handle the real-world situations and when we realize the social perspective to it all, are some questions that the youth congregation must, if not does, face. Trapped in the “mouse trap” cubicle’s in call centres today, the youth of India may not generally ponder over these questions. Because life is good for now – carefree, “happening” – friends, parties, flings … sab bindaas hai aur sab chalta hai! Yes, I’ m no one to condemn or preach.

Maybe patriotism, for the youth of modern India, is left to cheer a win for the country in a cricket match Or wishing they grew up as heir’ to Lakshmi Mittal (with all due respect, who’s nationality is non-Indian and merely pertains to an Indian origin) Or wearing a dashing tri-color khaadi kurta to the college (by the way, is that a permitted fashion statement by the democratic Government “freedom of speech” India?). Patriotism is a state of mind, an experience in itself. However, patriotism is not just about how the world look’s up to your homeland but also about how your own country-men and women see each other. JFK’s words hold quite true, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country”. So, when I went to watch a largely anticipated Hindi movie, aptly titled “Rang De Basanti” (Paint it Yellow?) [IMDB], I was reminded of what JFK’s speech highlighted, right from the times of Indian history to the modern era.

Having a charming student of International Development with me last Sunday for a movie on domestic under-development — is not an over-statement. The first 30 minutes or so of the movie oozed energy, and that too energy of the modern Indian youth. The music, the attire, the characters and the unfolding story line had ENERGY written all over it! A story about a couple of college friends from Delhi University and their journey to salvation amidst the corrupt political structure of the country is what the script aims at. Me and my companion could quickly relate to the Delhi University student day’s, where we both had studied, although it was bizarre (at least for us) to see the India Habitat Centre displayed as the Delhi University premises. The stepped pond (kund) filmed in the movie where the protagonist’s hang out & frolic nearly resembled the one location in the movie Paheli . The motion sequences filmed in Delhi were a nostalgic trip. Aamir Khan’s “Dilli da punjabi puttar” character was a delight to watch – with loads of funny sequences during the first hour or so. But then this one movie is not about Aamir – its about the youth of India and more so – for the youth of India! Age is just a number anyways and patriotism is a deep-rooted emotion for those who believe in it, so I propose everyone (if not nearly one billion of us) should go watch the movie in theatre.

The story line intervenes a colourfully modern time, a sepia-tone pre-independence era, and a gray-scale Jallianwala Bagh massacre. As one of the movie reviews better described, “the director draws parallels between Indians ruled by the British and Indians ruled by corrupt politicians today”. The film entices a freedom struggle of a different sort, and factors evident in modern day Indian youth do hold back the characters of the film to engulf in the freedom struggle, until they eventually get involved. The USP, as per me, is the film’s non-preachy non-documentary style portrayal, unlike another relatively good movie – Swades. Having said that, I still feel that yet another film – Yuva did comparatively better in its adaptation on inducing social responsibility to the modern youth. Ironically, I haven’t voted in any of the political elections in the country while I was there. Things must change, and the change starts with me! Where does the change start for you? Maybe, just maybe, watching this film (or another for that matter) will help you discover? Why just a film, anything might help start the change. This particular film may or may not achieve arising the consciousness of today’s youth but its an honest effort — cinematically bad or good is up to personal opinion.

*** Spoiler *** Talking about another aspect of the movie, the film lost its value for me after the assassination incident outside the house of a high-profile minister. The incident actually changes the course of the film as well, and hence instrumenting an incident of such importance look so sluggish and easy in a high security VIP area of the city was impractical for a film depicting a practical view-point. Not a special matter of criticism but even few of the events after that, like the guys taking siege of the radio station and the finale shootout seemed somewhat “bollywood’ish”. The actions of the protagonist’s seemed juvenile and worthless in a larger context. Did they have a purpose? Did they achieve anything? Well, Rajiv Goswami may have! Basanti remains to be the color of sacrifice.

And I can’t defy it, this rambling is partly influenced by the decibel levels of the NRI nationalism. “And then, something happened. I let go. Lost in oblivion. Dark and silent and complete. I found freedom. Losing all hope was freedom” (quote from Fight Club).

Coming to an alluring ray of thought that has engrossed my mind for the past 2 days; Ajwain is uncommon, healing, curative, pungent yet soft, and alleviates discomfort. Ajwain with hot water stimulates the heart, and it gets milder when cooked. Awadh cuisine from the city of Lucknow, makes wide use of ajwain seeds. Well, not left to be abstract anymore.

[Listening Listened to Deep by Binocular about 100 times since yesterday]

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