5 shades of jingoism: From 'Raazi' to 'Simmba', how Bollywood played with your mind in 2018
There’s a thin line between nationalism and jingoism, and in 2018, Bollywood leaned precariously to the other side
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What is 'jingoism'?
Apart from being a cool word I love dropping everywhere, jingoism stands for ‘excessive nationalism.’ Why is it bad? Well, you know how in a relationship, you like it when your partner is possessive — but when they get ‘over-possessive’ is when you start looking for ways to break-up?
In Indian cinema, nationalism works.
We lap-up every last drop of 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai'-type dialogues. We love Swades because Mohan Bhargav (Shah Rukh Khan) decided to renounce his high-flying job and come home. We love Lagaan because it combined nationalism with cricket.
Far subtler is when a nationalism-evoking song is injected in an otherwise unrelated plotline — Ghar aaja pardesi in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. You get the drift. This, of course, apart from the out-and-out let's-make-war films.
But in 2018, we saw jingoism take over. And these films — albeit, there are plenty others — surreptitiously propagated the message.
When fighting comes naturally, there must be a problem. (Source: DailyO)
In this 'native' vs 'invader' story, at one point, Shahid Kapoor mouths perhaps the most important dialogue of the year. Trembling in rage, Shahid says, “Chinta ko talwar ki nokh pe rakhe, woh Rajput ... ret ki naav lekar samundar se shart lagaye, woh Rajput ... aur jiska sar kate phir bhi dhad dushman se ladta rahe, woh Rajput.”
Oh, the heady concoction of valour, honour and a fighting spirit! And yet, how misguided it all is.
Do you really want to leap before you look? Like, let reason take a backseat, and let rage drive you? Also, how is it a smart move to challenge the ‘sea’ when all you have is a ‘sand boat’? I mean, this is clearly a suicide mission. Of course, it is but a metaphor, but it’s still a self-destructing move! But then, if it’s about honour and valour, you know you have to die fighting, because you’ve already bid adieu to reason. Alas!
As Baaghi 2 opens, you see a stern-faced Tiger Shroff driving an army jeep through a particularly hostile area with a ‘terrorist’ tied to the front of his jeep. If that doesn’t remind you of the incident of Farooq Ahmad Dar being forcibly used as a human shield by Indian Army Major Nitin Leetul Gogoi to deter stone-pelters in Kashmir, you clearly haven’t been reading the papers.
Fortunately, this scene was criticised — unfortunately, it wasn’t criticised enough. The incident itself garnered flak worldwide, but Bollywood just went ahead and glorified it.
The worst part is that we cheered for Tiger.
When not propagating 'extremism' and 'xenophobia', Bollywood subtly instructs you take the law into your own hands. Be the judge, jury and the executioner, because Indian courts only hand you tareekhs, not justice. In Simmba, this emotion was triggered after a rape — and rapists have to be ‘thodo-ed’ because that’s the only way they’d learn a lesson.
The problem is that this emotion is not going to remain targeted at rapists only. Soon, we’d choose this path to ‘teach a lesson’ to, say, someone who didn’t stand up when the National Anthem played in the theatre, or someone who loves their varied sources of proteins.
There’s no end, really, if we think it is okay to start imparting lessons ourselves.
Omerta is the story of a monster, so to speak. You cannot walk out of the theatre feeling sorry for Omar Saeed Sheikh, the protagonist brought alive by Rajkummar Rao’s brilliant performance. You hate him. But more powerful than that hate is a feeling of fear that stifles you — how can you possibly combat this evil?
While most may argue that the film actually promoted terrorism, what it actually did was just the opposite. Like chickens being chased into the coop, Omerta scared you into believing that the only way out is to fight back.
Alia Bhatt was a 'rabbit caught in the headlights' in Raazi, and that jitteriness worked to establish the dilemma most of us battle in our heads — isn’t the enemy human too? Yes, they are. And Raazi raised that point valiantly and made us think.
But only until it was time to drop that ball.
When duty calls, you answer. Collateral damage happens.
Sehmat delivers, however difficult it may have been for her. And you know that in the very first scene, when Kanwaljit Singh reminds us about the ‘sacrifices’ of those nameless hundreds in making India the India we know today. Because, as Alia says, “Watan ke aage kuch nahin, khud bhi nahin.”