As a follow up to his earlier brilliant documentary ‘In the Name of God’, perhaps the initial aim of Anand Patwardhan behind making this film was to make its audience aware and think about the ugly, thoughtless face of mass hysteria that spread violence in the name of religion and followed the blind bandwagon of rampage and riots soon after demolition of Babri Masjid. But as they interviewed the mass, checking and counter checking opinions of mass and started gathering the material it also becomes a significant & thought provoking document of prevalent mythical Indian masculine concept (read ‘Mardangi’) ingrained in collective psyche and consciousness of long patriarchal society. It begins with documenting the Mumbai riots as aftermath of Babri Masjid demolition. Shops were burnt & looted, a shocking captured reality of a burnt dead body lying in the middle of the road where people are commuting while having an indifferent glance at hard reality. But what’s more horrifying is the recorded voices of mass proclaimed that they really enjoyed doing this mad violence. The recorded reaction of one of youth is - “Achcha laga, majaa aa raha hai. Enjoy kiya bas. Wo Karenge to hum bhi karenge naa! Sab ko chance mangta hai iss duniya mein…humne chudiyan nahin pahen rakhkhi hai.”
The film is divided in two parts. The first part titled as ‘Trial by Fire’ is direct reference to Sita’s Agnee Pariksha; a questionable dogma seeded in Hindu epic. This part raised many pertinent questions & key points about how this concept of violent and virile man took the shape of dominance and made the opposite gender servile under their power and dominance. It scratched the history & showed us how the earlier society that worships the feminine gender as divine mother feeling the threat in later years and established patriarch society replaced with various religious symbols and types all over the world including
In a follow up, it focuses on incident of Roopkunwarji’s Sati case that shook
the nation. The camera captures the helpless brother who remained unaware about
her sacrifice till it happened but ultimately surrendered to his fellow
community members while forcefully joining the bandwagon to call that being
Sati her sister transformed as universal mother.The divine Hindu intervention
empowered and dominated by patriarch society felt sudden insecure fear that
made the stronghold of caste system and gender inequality programmed in the
mindsets of people stamped with religious dogma and cultural purity. Behind
those dogmas of child marriage, sati sacrifice or veiled woman and many other
atrocities against women for long. It also documented another controversial
case of Shahnaz bano and portrayed the questionable Muslim law of divorce
juxtaposed against constitutional rights of Muslim wife.
The second part satirically titled as ‘Hero Pharmacy’, pointed out how religious warfare driven by Hindu fundamentalist syndicate Shiv Sena and fascist provocateur Bal Thackeray idolized Shivaji to encash vote banks and gain unchallenged power in 90s post Babri demolition. It not only gave Shiv Sena an unchallenged ugly alternate power establishing but also ignite the flame of enmity between two communities. It is quite ridiculous to watch the man who became a known face while playing Duryodhana in India’s hugely admired popular serial ‘Mahabharata’ addressing the crowd with Shiv Sena sloganeering- “Garv se kaho ham hindu hai” and then he added for what he’s called- “if you are Hindu and if you want to live fearlessly, your vote must belong to Shiv Sena.” Similarly we see the voices of Sikhs demanding ‘Khalistan’ and Muslim Imam demanding freedom and sacrifice. This celebrity and stars unawared about their social responsibility poisoning the mindsets that gave rise to an immediate riots. I can’t resist tears watching that shocking and insulting tragedy of a Muslim lady who confessed the horror happened to her facing recording camera or that mill worker old man whose young and bright medical studying daughter was killed by bomb explosion; a successive reply to country’s majority community. The only ray of hope lies in various NGOs working as Ekta Committees to re-establish the faith & humanity between two communities appealing ‘Prem se kaho hum insaan hai’ instead of provocating ‘Garv se kaho ham hindu hai.’
The film also focuses deep rooted psyche and myths of Indian masculine and virile macho man. The film showed us 80’s violent and mindless revenge film posters and its all powerful bollywood heroes, the fascination of WWF wrestling and body building exhibition shows. It is stimulating to catch the intentions of these macho production factories that instigated religious myths and ill doctrinated a generation suffered under insecurity and fake identity crisis.
Hats off to Mr Patwardhan for gifting another though provoking and well balanced document without being preachy or didactic anywhere. Instead of those earlier Government funded boring informative junk documentary cinema which pampered and played ruling government’s tune, this independent and laudable effort is interesting, bold and so direct that shows us the mirror of directionless society shuffling between misleading double face of politics and religion under hoax of cultural crisis.