When I recently heard that the Baahubali screenwriter KV Vijayendra Prasad is working on a script for a Hindi film on the history and achievements of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, cleared by Mohan Bhagwat no less, my first reaction was “LOL, what achievements?” But after a while I could see the logic in their choice of writer: of course, the Sangh would want a fantasy screenwriter to tell their story. After all, their contribution to this country has been nothing but a fantasy.
Baahubali was made on a budget of Rs 180 crore (which got it in the ranks of the most expensive Indian films ever made) because it spent a lot on costumes and VFX. The RSS movie also has a budget of Rs 180 crore which is mindboggling because what could possibly warrant such a big budget for so jejune a premise? What costumes are required except white shirts and khaki half pants (some designer suits may be required for when one of the RSS sevaks becomes the prime minister of India... also designer Italian sunglasses)? Baahubali had elaborate action sequences but what will be the action here? Overweight men doing sit-ups and running around shakhas with their pet lathis? What VFX is required except some Photoshop or special effects which can juxtapose the RSS standing next to people who actually did something during the Independence movement?
I can already imagine some of the sequences. KB Hedgewar making sure the Sangh did not participate in the Satyagraha of 1930, Savarkar writing his mercy letters to the British like a schoolboy in detention, MS Golwalkar worshipping Hitler and addressing RSS member by asserting that “if we Hindus grow stronger, in time Muslim friends... will have to play the part of German Jews”, playing gilli-danda during the freedom struggle and spending hours and hours doing swayam seva, Atal Bihari Vajpayee acting as British spy during the Quit India Movement, Nathuram Godse killing Mahatma Gandhi, RSS hiding during Emergency, RSS never respecting or hoisting the Indian flag at their Nagpur headquarters, RSS never respecting the Indian Constitution and adhering to Manusmriti instead, RSS helping orchestrate the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992, RSS helping spread communal hatred against Christians in Orissa in 2008, and finally helping get Modi into power along with all their other Hindu affiliates. Such a rich history that absolutely deserves to be documented.
The timing of the film is important. It is set to release right before the Lok Sabha elections next year. I have to hand it over to the BJP, it always bamboozles the public right before every election. The UP elections looking shaky? Demonetisation. Gujarat elections looking too close for comfort? "Sex tapes" and seaplanes. Nervous about 2019? RSS movie right before elections.
The problem with the Indian right wing is that they neither know how to pace things nor do they understand subtlety. Since Modi came into power in 2014 there have been several Bollywood films with nationalist overtones: Indu Sarkar (a hate letter to Indira Gandhi), Buddha in a Traffic Jam (a hate letter to a leftist) and Toilet: Ek Prem Katha (a love letter to toilets and Modi’s Swachh Bharat) to name a few.
Things have got so bad that even the producers of a dumb movie like Baaghi 2 can make a few extra million by simply including a scene in the movie in which a man is tied to a jeep (any resemblance to an innocent Kashmiri man who faced the same is not coincidental).
In this era of fake news where no one believes anything, video is quickly becoming the preferred medium for disseminating information. Text takes time to be consumed and always comes with a language barrier. Things also get lost in translation. The BJP is actively trying to rewrite history by doctoring school syllabi but the dividends for this will only be realised after a few years when these students are rendered stupid and vulnerable to doubting empirical knowledge. It is no coincidence that so many communally charged fake videos are being spread by the Indian right wing’s IT cell. The payoff is immediate. Earlier they were mostly found in rural areas, but now the spread is more visible in urban cities, which is a worrying trend because this means even educated and economically mobile Indians are actively spreading communal videos when they know them to be fake. The exposés on these fake videos may do some damage control, but ultimately prove to be futile because, as someone once said, a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.
And what better way to make your lie travel halfway around the world than a big budget movie? I don’t know about you, but I am definitely taking my family to the theatre for this one. It’s bound to be funnier than Golmaal Once Again Oh My God What is Wrong With This Country? or Kya Misogynist Hain Hum 4. I can’t wait to see Akshay Kumar or Ajay Devgn running around in khaki half pants and delivering hammy dialogues about serving a Hindu Rashtra. Whenever there is a serious scene in the movie which shows the RSS doing something remotely "brave", I will laugh and tell the audience that Golwalkar himself said that "the Sangh is an organisation of inactive persons, their talks are useless, not only outsiders, but also many of our volunteers talk like this".
When there is any scene where they show Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, I will quickly remind fellow movie-goers that he had supported the ban on the RSS because he thought they were “full of communal poison” and because they distributed sweets after Gandhi’s death. And when the movie ends on a triumphant note (as it no doubt will) and an overly nationalist uncle is clapping like a goddamn walrus, I will walk up to him and whisper into his ears what Ramadhir Singh told his son in Gangs of Wasseypur 2: “S**la Hindustan mein jab tak cinema hai, log ch**iye bante rahenge.”