shahrukh khan's detention has been a great jolt for india's brahminized classes, as i said in this post. this is all quite ironic considering how hard the shahrukh-karan johar duo have been, since the mid-nineties, trying to bring normalcy to indian cinema, seeking acceptance from the west. check the photographs. look at how the extras, who looked so poor, dark, indian in the first photograph blossomed into such svelte, light skinned, normal people in the second. until a decade or so ago, it wasn't indian or foreign models who played the roles of extras (or junior artistes) in hindi movies. now normalcy has become such a rage that lighter skinned actors have moved from the song sequences to even lead roles in many movies. and shahrukh himself has become the icon of normalcy.
normal is fair, normal is successful, normal is healthy. normal is also the west. i had watched a part of a movie (kismat konnection) recently in which a young architect sacrifices everything he has to build a community center as part of a new mall. it's a disturbing film- no, not because it offers some new, profound insights into indian society. it's disturbing because it plucks indian society, or parts of it, out of india and plants it in the west. the community that the architect intends to save in the film consists of indians and others who are mostly light skinned people. let me try to restate all that in one sentence: the filmmaker rejects one community and saves another community. which means what? the filmmaker doesn't like community? or he likes community?
like cutting india out of shree 420 and raju ban gaya gentleman. the film conveys the message than an indian community is impossible. if shree 420 held out the possibility of such a community, raju ban gaya gentleman outlined the difficulties in building that community, kismat konnection drops the idea altogether.
khalid mohammed says, in his review titled raju ban gaya canadian:
Right off, it has to be admitted that director Aziz Mirza’s Kismat Konnection avoids vulgarity and viciousness. It’s about little people who are as chaste as the morning’s toothpaste. They want decent jobs, protect senior citizens in their community centre, dream about featuring on the cover of Time magazine (Newsweek won’t be pleased). And above all, they are absolute Business Shark-a-haris. No mean-`n’-meaty tactics for them.he could be talking about the brahminized classes who make, distribute and watch hindi films. or how they'd like to think of themselves. no vulgarity or viciousness. chaste and shakahari. work hard in decent jobs, and save enough to protect senior citizens (if they've not been shakahari enough and saved something). smart enough to aim for global recognition.
an indian community is impossible, so let's take it outside india. let's create our own geography, free of viciousness and vulgarity. a community that's chaste and upholds shakahari ideals. that works hard and preserves its traditions.
look at these other reviews of the film: [the telegraph], [times of india], [dna] and [rediff]. notice how most of the reviews don't notice the change in location? yes, the brahminized media too has internalised these normal, extra-geographic ideas of india. as liberalization etc has let loose more people from the brahminized classes upon an unsuspecting world, and as we hear more of the globalized indian, have they given up the idea of an indian nation?
let's go back to the movie- in the last scene the young architect, in a community meeting, tries to convince businessmen financing the proposed mall of the need for a community center. the meeting held in a large hall evokes very strange feelings- most of the community members doing the talking are indians, while a large section of the audience, the other members of the community, mostly white or black, are all silent. exactly like india before mandal and the rise of the bsp.
the brahminized classes don't like an audience that talks back. the pen, the mike, and now the camera are things that they hate sharing or giving up. like the hindi the architect and other interlocutors in the scene i described use, their language too isn't for sharing with any audience- if it can't be sanskrit, it has to be highly sanskritized forms of hindi and other indian laguages, or english.
the scene is a throwback to the nehruvian liberal discourse running through shree 420 with a major twist, of course. the audience in that movie too doesn't talk much. they listen and dance- the main character does most of the talking, singing and preaching. the mostly listening audience could be a part of the community the nehruvian liberal envisaged. now, he doesn't like the cacophony they create in parliament.
this distaste is also reflected in the cinema of the brahminized classes- they seem to dislike the unchaste others so much that they don't even wish to see them as a market. so they have mostly moved their product to cleaner, more meritorious spaces in the multiplexes. the more chaste among them wish to protect themselves even further: they want to move their homes, sometimes, into their own trishankus within unchaste india.
what the indian filmmaker tries to see in the west is a reflection of how he sees himself. the wealth, success, merit of the west- that's what he likes and that's what he thinks he shares with the west. and as long as the west doesn't talk back, community with those normal people is a fine idea.