How far a writer should go to trigger emotions?
Recently, Netflix issued an injury warning about the viral fad spawned by its thriller The Birdbox wherein people blindfold themselves and walk into walls and traffic. No Indian film has led to such crazy response on a mass scale but there have been films which deal with serious issues like suicide melodramatically? There was a time in Hindi cinema where a girl molested by the villain had to either pick a gun or embrace death to inspire the hero. As a teenager, films like Aakhree Raasta and Mera Jawaab left one tormented. The innocuous ceiling fan suddenly started to look deadly. No doubt, they were awarded an adult certificate but in the late 80s, theatres didn’t follow the CBFC norms strictly.
Recently, Shankar’s 2.0 was discussed in great detail but the impact of the opening scene, where the villain of the film, played by the highly influential star Akshay Kumar, embraces death by hanging himself from a mobile tower, on children was hardly dissected. The film was awarded a U/A certificate and even on IMDB, an online database of information related to films, suicide doesn’t feature as one of the key plot points. Interestingly, it is there in case of the above mentioned films.
We learn Pakshiraja was an ornithologist who wanted to save birds from mobile tower radiation. In short, he was a good man who didn’t have the physical power to take on the insensitive world. However, after the unnatural death, he not only becomes powerful but also gathers negative energy. For impressionable minds, it could create a false impression about suicide. First, that it could give power and second that those who attempt suicide become evil. It could false perceptions at a time when attempting suicide is no longer a crime in India. The film expects us to invest emotionally in a robot and then allows the villain to dismember it. The scriptwriters might say if they care for such concerns, they might not be able to write compelling narratives. Does a writer just need to get into the shoes of his characters or should he also aim to care for the mental health of his prospective audience? It is an unending debate but a little more sensitivity from the writers of blockbusters will be helpful.
Now playing politics
Towards the end of the year, we were reminded in no uncertain terms that the first half of 2019 will see election fever at the box office with political parties using cinema to swing votes. If 2018 was about pushing the ideology and policies, 2019 is about invoking political personalities to swing the tide. The quality of films notwithstanding, trailers, clipping and debates on social media will ensure that the agenda remains on top of the mind.
Vivek Oberoi as Narendra Modi
The Accidental Prime Minister where Anupam Kher is playing former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh is an interesting case. Based on Dr Singh’s media advisor Sanjaya Baru’s book, the film promises to show the Gandhi family in a bad light by creating a halo around Dr Singh. How it will mar Congress’ image remains to be seen. By the way, Kher has already begun canvassing for an Oscar! He could have a contender soon as another outspoken actor Vivek Oberoi is stepping into the shoes of Narendra Modi. It has come as a surprise as for a long time Paresh Rawal was expected to play the Prime Minister. Meanwhile, Nawazuddin Siddiqui has quietly transformed into Bal Thackeray after playing Manto with distinction. Scheduled to release later this month, Thackeray, backed by the Shiv Sena, will present a white-washed image of the party founder. Through him, the party seems keen to press its hardline agenda. Nawaz has been trolled for playing a part in this excercise, but the actor told this journalist last year that a true actor should not face any such moral dilemmas.
Also on cards is Yaatra, a biographical drama about Y.S.Rajashekara Reddy. Mammootty is playing the former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister whose son Jagan Reddy is trying to build on his popularity. But the first out of the block is N.T.R. Kathanayakudu which seeks to revive memories of N.T. Rama Rao. Like our polity, it seems our political films are also getting personality-oriented.
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