Earlier this week, on Monday evening, while in an Uber, I chanced upon one of Mumbai’s radio stations playing back-to-back songs from one of India’s highest grossing movies Hum Aapke Hai Koun. The radio jockey, in a voice that was so beautiful that it surely couldn’t have belonged to a face that didn’t adhere to the gold-standards set by humans for beauty, reminisced about the movie that released on this very day 24 years back.
Those who have not worked in media, and have not been privy to its unreasonable pressures of coming up with a new story to tell, every single day, would mock the radio jockeys for making a big meal of a rice grain. I wouldn’t. The pressure is real. Many times, a media person, is just glad to have scraped through another day of cut-throat competition, to have just survived another day of the sword of ever-dipping TRPs hanging over their heads.
Hum Aapke Hai Koun, just happens to be one of those movies that I have a very vivid memory of having watched, in my mother’s hometown (1483 kilometres away from where I was brought up), with my mother, my maasis, maami (aunties). And my brother.
I distinctly remember how boring I found the movie, barring the final scenes in which the lead characters’ sister/sister-in-law dies. I recall how surprised I was to see my mother and my aunts gushing about the movie.
But more than anything I was thrilled to see my mother so happy with her sisters. There was a joie-de-vivre about her. In our small flat in Mumbai, she was a trapped bird. Juxtapose this with the movie Bombay that we went to watch a few weeks later, again in the same town, but this time with my father (he had come to pick us up at the end of the summer vacation), my mother, my cousin sister and my brother, and you would know what I am talking about. Oh the domestic squabble, the insinuations, the pleadings. I often wondered in those days of intense domestic squabbles, which would commence the moment my parents would be out of the extended family’s earshot, “Why can’t my family just be normal and happy?”
It was only much later, during my very first exposure to Tolstoy, his preface to Anna Karenina, that I appreciated the impact that an unhappy family can have on a mind’s development –
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
Maybe it made me more sensitive, more observant, more caring, I would reason with myself.
Back to Hum Aapke Hai Koun. The movie released in August 1994. And it was running in the theatres till our summer vacations in April/May 1995 for me to have watched it then. Must be quite a hit.
After the movie, we even went to shop for sarees in a few shops close to our house. I particularly remember the day because later that night, I was allowed to watch the movie ‘Suhaag’ that played on DD National (if the names of these Hindi movies have bored you, endure for a couple of more lines, we will get straight to the point of politics of delusion), late into the night, in the company of my maternal grandmother (oh, her love for the silver screen). And in the company of my brother. I do not know if that was the night he had decided that he wanted to be an actor. I wouldn’t know. The 10-year me was a bully. We would always be at each other’s throat. I wouldn’t miss a chance to make fun of his stuttering problems. If only, I could have a word with the younger me. Sigh.
Anyway, Hum Aapke Hai Koun’s massive success did reflect India’s love for movies that were delusional. I did not think on these lines, till my boss at a newspaper in 2008, a big fan of the Economics and Political Weekly, asked me to read up the below article:
It is sad that we should be celebrating the century of cinema in India with a superhit so vacuous as ‘Hum Aapke Hain Koun…!’, a film devoid of any illusion worthy of the condition of the millions of people who are at once the primary patrons and victims of its vision. This is a film that is obviously in tune with the ‘liberalisation’ of our times, while being thoroughly grounded in the signs of a homogenised, upper class, upper caste Hindu constituency. – Rustom Bharucha
One can argue that the movie did capture the reality of one section of the society, and there is nothing wrong in it. There isn’t. But if the movie does indeed capture the reality of one section of the society, then it is a little worrying that a section of our society, so big that it is represented in our movies with glaring regularity, is so isolated from the reality that most of this country lives. It is almost like the movie asks the rest of the country, far removed from its setting, Hum Aapke Hai Koun?
One can argue, “Maybe we like our movies like that. Why just HAHK, the fictional world in the movies is not representative of India in most of Karan Johar movies, even in the coming of age, Dil Chahta Hai, for that matter.” And one wouldn’t be wrong.
Why blame the movies whose primary job anyway is to further build on a temporary suspension of disbelief.
That said, the reality itself is fragmented.
There is an India, on my whatsapp groups, in my Facebook friend lists, in my extended-family’s discussion forums which seems completely oblivious; if not so then at least completely indifferent; if not so then only vaguely concerned, about the worrying events that seem to be unfolding in various parts of the country with glaring regularity.
The largest selling English news dailies (can’t comment on the newspapers of regional languages), the most watched English and Hindi news channels almost make it sound like the problems raised by the anti-establishment voices do not really exist, and that they are in fact trying to build a fake narrative.
Over the past three years, incidents of targeted mob-lynching, often in the name of cow-protection, seem to be occurring in certain parts of the country with worrying regularity, if one were to believe the anti-establishment voices. If one were to view the reports, what is worrying is that with glaring regularity, the police and the state machinery also try to make light of/condone these incidents – either by registering a murder/lynching case as road-rage, or by not conducting the Test Identification Parade of the accused in the stipulated time-frame. In a couple of sting operations carried out by one of the news channels (which has already been deemed as anti-national), the perpetrators of the crime have made extra-judicial confessions on record, and the police still doesn’t seem to have taken cognizance of the same. Fortunately the Supreme Court is likely to hear the issue.
Only last week, as many as 40 lakh individuals (the population of Croatia, runner-up in the Football World Cup) in the state of Assam were declared as infiltrators by the national president of India’s largest political party, BJP, because they did not make it to the first draft of the National Register of Citizens. Any expression of concern for such a large number of people that could end up becoming homeless, or being declared unlawful citizens in the least, is viewed as being anti-national.
Earlier this week, the Kanwariya’s (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanwar_Yatra) seemed to be wreaking havoc if any vehicle so much as brushed against a walker in their parade along the roads of the northern parts of the country (at least three incidents of vehicles being vandalised made it to the news). The police, in its show of solidarity with the holy pilgrimage, apart from using helicopters to shower flowers on the pilgrims, has also stated that no inquiries will be conducted into the transgressions till the holy festival of Shivratri is done with.
All of these news reports seem a little worrying.
And yet, from the front pages of the largest selling dailies, from the discussions on the news channels during prime time, from the discussions Urban India indulges in, it seems that these problems don’t really exist. Latest releases on Netflix and Amazon Prime surely gather more eyeballs.
If one were to glance through the largest read news dailies, the most-watched news channels, most of them regularly gloss over such incidents.
Certain sections of the media even have termed the others who voice concern on behalf of the victims as anti-nationals, as those who want to show India in poor light, as those whose intentions are not genuine, as those whose specific agenda is to topple the existing disposition.
It almost seems as if the problems, the police’s/government’s inaction/complicity wouldn’t really have existed if they weren’t brought up and that the problems have been manufactured with a very specific agenda.
And when it is proved beyond reasonable doubt that the problem, the inaction, the complicity actually exist, then it is pointed out that this is how the country has always been, and that the outrage expressed is selective. It is pointed out that there are equally strong counter-narratives – what with the mass eviction of Kashmiri Hindus, the massacres of the Sikhs in 1984.
The below video was shared in a group as evidence that the persecuted are the persecutors too.
In my opinion though, the below video, seems to be a case of illegal operators of slaughterhouses trying to shoo/bully the journalist away, aggressively of course. They should be booked for assault. But using this as a counter-point and comparing this with the communal lynching incidents, which as per the confessions on tape seem pre-meditated and planned, is like a drowning man clinging on to a twig.
Or am I trying to make light of an incident which is similar to the other lynching incidents, here? Is it healthy to sometimes concede that maybe you are the one delusional, and maybe the other person who believes in the alternate narrative, is not?
I often wonder if the disposition were to change, and if a different set of channels were to voice anti-establishment stories tomorrow, against the new establishment, would I be as concerned of the points raised by them? I hope I am.
That cab ride in which I was listening to HAHK songs, was taken to a psychiatrist’s clinic (Mental Health Lounge). We have been going to him for three years, after my brother fell into a depression, indulged in substance abuse of marijuana and cocaine for, many a month and lost sense of himself in stupor, in 2015. Over the past three years, my brother has been oblivious to his treatment.
He had been acting, writing, directing since 2008-2009. He did extremely well in his initial years, for a person with no contacts in the industry whatsoever – got second-lead roles in plays performed at one of the city’s best theatres, acted in TV serials, featured in advertisements. But that was not enough for the family, which would continuously put pressure on him to take up a proper job, work harder towards getting better roles. As a brother in self-chosen exile, I would stand by him whenever around. But that wasn’t enough. After a few rough incidents, substance abuse, complete withdrawal from social settings; we finally felt we needed to visit a psychiatrist. And since then, apart from the medication, we have been alternating between being extremely caring and trying to provoke him to go out there and prove himself.
On Tuesday evening, after a psychiatrist’s visit to our house, and after her detailed interaction with him (pretending to be a behavioral therapist who would help him with his acting), she confirmed that he is suffering from schizophrenia. “You guys are doing a great job with his medications, and are really caring a lot. He is really holding up very well. Continue the good work,” she said as she shook my hands at the entrance of the building (I had gone down to see her off). I thought I saw a glint in her eyes, as she quickly walked away. Maybe it was my mind playing tricks.
When I told my parents about this equivocally – that it’s possible that he is not just depressed but also schizophrenic – they were hardly affected. “He’s getting better. Can’t you see?” they reasoned. I didn’t know what to say. I nodded. “We are doing a great job with the medication. Let’s stick to it,” was all I could manage. And they agreed.
Later that evening, I had gone for a walk with my brother, in which he reiterated how he is reading, watching the right movies, the right interviews, focusing on his voice training, not wasting any time. And that it’s just a matter of one good break. He does go out of the house for auditions for two hours every alternate day. On most days in the past, I had given him suggestions about starting his YouTube channel, about using contacts to get roles, about joining film schools, about doing theatre, about taking more auditions. On Tuesday, I just nodded.
We will wait it out. He would be fine, one day.
The next morning, on my way to the airport, while reading up about Schizophrenia, I chanced upon this quote –
“There is no delusional idea held by the mentally ill which cannot be exceeded in its absurdity by the conviction of the fanatics, either individually or en masse.” – Hoche.
All around me I saw people suited up, in crisp shirts, wrinkle-free trousers, and shoes without a spec of dust. A long work-day ahead. Important targets. Important objectives. Who is not delusional? What does being delusional mean anyway?
To my dear friend who has decided to leave the country in search of better opportunities; to my dear friend who leaves the country, possibly for good, next week; to my dear friend who is most likely never going to read this post,
“We shall wait it out. India would be fine, one day. Au revoir”