Opportunism, Bollywood style

After the announcement of a film starring Anupam Kher as a thinly disguised Manmohan Singh, comes the trailer of Madhur Bhandarkar's Indu Sarkar.

 |  Rough Cut  |  3-minute read |   16-06-2017
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How is history rewritten? One opportunistic film at a time. Close on the heels of the announcement of a film based on The Accidental Prime Minister, starring Anupam Kher as a thinly disguised Manmohan Singh, comes the trailer of the film Indu Sarkar.

Directed by Madhur Bhandarkar, it deals with Indira Gandhi. But not the 1971 war. No abolition of privy purses. No Green Revolution. No Pokharan. No Aryabhatta. No diplomatic victories. No sir. It deals with the “black chapter” in India’s democracy, the Emergency, with a starring role for a Sanjay Gandhi clone played by one man with three names, Neil Nitin Mukesh, who utters evil edicts with alliterative flourish — "Sarkar challenges se nahin, chabuk se chalti hain; Emergency main emotion nahin mere orders chalt hain". From vasectomies ("aaj se 350 nahin, 700 nasbandi hogi," says the Sanjay Gandhi clone) to the Turkman Gate demolitions, the movie will leave no stone unturned to destroy Indira Gandhi’s legacy, one stone at a time.

Part of the reason why the Emergency has to be highlighted is that it best demonises the Gandhis. The other is that it best showcases the role of several BJP leaders in fighting for freedom — since the Sangh Parivar cannot claim to have fought for India’s freedom in 1947, at least it can proclaim it fought for it in 1975.

Indira Gandhi makes a brief appearance in the trailer of the film, out on July 28, with the trademark white plume and cotton sari saying "kisi ek group ko control karte hain to kal koi doosra sar utha leta hai".

Anupam Kher is a sort of George Fernandes/Subramanian Swamy clone, who goes underground and becomes the resistance, exhorting people to fight against "Bharat ki beti jisne desh to bandi banaya hai (India’s daughter who has imprisoned the nation)".

Kriti Kulhari plays a journalist with a stammer, who has to give up her children, but defies that with a suitably mythological analogy: "Arjun ke iraade hil sakte hain, ghayal Draupadi ke nahi." She ends the trailer with the immortal line, which no doubt will become Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s slogan for those who wish to vote against him in 2019: tum log zindagi bhar ma bête ki ghulami karte rahoge. No prizes for guessing who the 21st century ma-beta are.

Now Bhandarkar is a man with some talent — he has after all pioneered the genre of ripped-off-the-headlines-middle-of-the-road middling films. His lasting contribution to the racism discourse in India was the horror with which a drunk model, played by Priyanka Chopra, woke up next to a black man she had picked up at a party. His other lasting contribution to cinema has been to reduce gay people to caricatures much before Dostana was a gleam in Karan Johar’s eye.

And his third lasting contribution was to triviliase the print media much before the word presstitute was invented by showing them in bed with the rich and famous inhabitants of Page 3.

Bhandarkar has been on the fringes of this government for long, and was given a Padma Shri for his efforts in 2016. No honour will be too small for him after this.

But those who wish to rewrite history — or rather show only one aspect of it — must remember this, history is cyclical. Those portrayed as the oppressors in one era may well be the oppressed in another.

"Yeh behri sarkar sunne wali nahin hai, hame ab kuch bada karna hoga," says one underground rebel in the movie. Hmm, doesn’t it apply equally well to the current regime?

Also read: Five life-changing lessons from Madhur Bhandarkar films


Kaveree Bamzai Kaveree Bamzai @kavereeb

Editor-at-Large, India Today Group

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