Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Three Films and an Apostate

The other day on television at home I saw the Hindi film "Hazaron Khwahishe Aisi". The name of the film is taken from a couplet by the famous Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib - "Hazaron khwahishe aisi ki har khwahish pe dam nikale, bahut nikale mere armaan lekin phir bhi kam nikale" which translates roughly as - A thousand desires so captivating that one could die for each of them, many of these have been fulfilled and yet I hanker for more. The title of the film is a brilliant allusion to the desires that drive mankind at various levels and these are portrayed very well in the film. Even though the main story is that of the romantic idealism of Maoist rebellion set against the crass materialism of a profit and money oriented society there are many other small stories interwoven in this main narrative that subtly portray the inter play of desire. It is a realistic film in that it shows how difficult it is to bring about revolution given the tremendous play of desires of various kinds that drive human thought and action. The TV channel had screened a sanitised version for home viewing devoid of one lurid scene of love making which I later found on the internet while looking to listen again to the song sung by Shobha Mudgal that goes with it and which too had consequently been edited. This has reduced my appreciation of the film somewhat as I feel that this scene was unnecessary. Nevertheless the film is a good portrayal of the complexities of human existence and especially that of rebellion.
The seeing of this film took me back almost thirty years to my college days when I had seen another Hindi film "Aakrosh" or anger. This was a dark film that portrayed the horrendous oppression that the poor in India are subjected to and the futility of trying to fight the oppressors. It was a much more depressing film than "Hazaron" but yet it had one character in it of an activist who was trying to help the poor who was abducted by the goons and probably killed. This character had intrigued me a lot and eventually inspired me to opt out of the money making rat race and choose a life of activism among the Bhil tribals. In this respect the main activist character in "Hazaron" is much more inspiring as he has a central role till the time he finally opts out to weave his way back into the mainstream while his wife continues to work in the rural areas. But what really made me think was that the wife sends their son off to her upper class parents for his upbringing while she continues to work in the field. This brought me up close to the dilemma my wife and I faced. Our son was conceived accidentally when we were still very much active in the field. Earlier my wife had aborted in such instances but this time she went through with the pregnancy and our son was born. My wife had to leave activism and then later I too had to scale down mine after spending two months in jail with my wife somehow managing to avoid arrest with our son only seven months old. Both of us are now a shadow of our fiery days and are engaged in what I call percentage activism - pushing the state to only that extent to which it can be pushed without putting us in jail.
"Hazaron" also reminded me of another great Hindi film, possibly the greatest, which too has had a lasting impact on my life. This is "Pyasa" or thirsty by Guru Dutt. I saw this film set in the immediate post-independence period of the early nineteen fifties only much later in the early ninteen nineties and was bowled over by its idealistic romanticism and spirit of rebellion which is set in the context of man woman relationships.(Just to make a point here the man woman relationships in "Pyasa" are much better portrayed than in "Hazaron" without the use of explicit scenes of love making. Similarly love is portrayed much more powerfully in the film "Casablanca" than in many modern day Hollywoood films whose directors seem to think that there is no other way to depict love without picturising the protagonists having sex.) What even today moves me whenever I see this film is the tremendous power of romanticism embodied in the hero who despite many bruising skirmishes with the crass materialism of the real world never gives up on his ideals. Like "Hazaron" this film too has tremendous symbolism in its name. Pyasa can mean being thirsty for love, for truth, for a cause. This film does not directly have a connection with the lower classes or revolt but there is a constant undercurrent of criticism of upper class exploitation and skullduggery. This is the best of the three films discussed here and of all Hindi films ever because while realistically underlining the futility of fighting for lost causes it nevertheless eulogises this fight. It is this romantic idealism that has sustained the human race. And of course the lyrics and songs are simply superb. Sahir Ludhianvi as lyricist, Sachin Dev Barman as the composer and Geeta Dutt, Hemant Kumar and Mohammad Rafi as the singers have together produced music that remains nonpareil even today. "Pyasa" came at a time when there was still a lot of romanticism and rebellion in the hearts of the masses in India and so it was a box office hit. Not so the later films of "Aakrosh" and "Hazaron" which flopped badly at the box office and just did the rounds of the film festivals. Anyway what this viewing of "Hazaron" and the resultant recall of the other two films has done is focused the limelight for me on my own idealism and apostasy. While I started off as a rebel and apostate from mainstream thinking inspired by "Aakrosh", the viewing of "Pyasa" was at a time when I had more or less given up hope of ever over turning the materialistic society and it provided me with a reason to continue trying to do so regardless of the inevitable failure. "Hazaron" on the other hand comes at a time when I am into old age and secretly makes me proud of the fact that I have persisted with my activism for so many years and still retained my joy for life. I, like Ulysses (as portrayed by the poet Tennyson), yearn to drink life to the leas and like him I do not want to rest and want instead to continue to roam with a hungry heart in search of more beliefs to become an apostate from.


anish said...

wonderful reviews! saw a very beautiful italian film that is in a way in the genre of these films - 'The best of youth'
tells a parallel story of idealism and how the different characters choose their paths after getting disillusioned. a very wide canvas - as it tells about the events of many decades in italy through the lives of the main characters (the movie is 6 hours long). will send a copy if i can rip the dvd..

Rahul Banerjee said...

It is very difficult to carry the idealism and romanticism of youth into middle and old age. Only a few people can do so and so they become heroes. The weight of the mainstream corrupt society is very difficult to carry on one's shoulders. However, the great thing is that every generation has such dreamers and rebels.