Archive for September, 2009

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Unnaipol Oruvan – Selective Amnesia

September 21, 2009

The heroes of Tamil cinema have always displayed utmost sincerity when it comes to changing the society. On one hand we have the likes of Vijay and Suriya playing moral police and lecturing on how women need to dress and behave while on the other, we have Shankar’s heroes like Rajini and Vikram who cleanse the system by their superhuman acts. But these films are for the lesser mortals. For the ‘thinking’, elitist, net savvy crowd, there is Mr Kamalhassan, the ‘intellectual’ who is hailed as a great thinker and filmmaker. So, for his part in changing the society, he has come out with Unnaipol Oruvan, a movie which sparks with nationalistic fervour. And, going by the reaction the movie is receiving in the web and visual media, it looks like there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

UPO as many may be aware is a remake of the Hindi movie ‘A Wednesday’. It tells the story of an unnamed common man played by Kamal, who,angered by the problems caused by terrorism decides to take on the terrorists singlehandedly. The rest of the film revolves around how he goes about doing it and the explanations which he gives for his actions.

The common man’s apathy

The film’s protagonist highlights the problems and sufferings faced by the common man as a result of acts of terrorism and suggests that the only way to end terrorism is by using terrorism against people who perpetrate these crimes. He seems to totally absolve the common man of any role or responsibility in such acts. As Martin Luther King once remarked, ‘The greatest threat to democracy is not the people who commit acts of violence but the silence of those who proclaim themselves to be good citizens’. Most of the Hindus in Gujarat did not approve of Narendra Modi’s goons massacring Muslims across Gujarat, but they remained silent. The central government elected by the people also remained silent. Even when they did have a chance to do something, what did they do, they re-elected Modi. If a Muslim affected by all this,takes to violence to avenge the injustice meted out to him, would that be considered terrorism? If that is terrorism, then aren’t the people and the government elected by the people responsible for making him a terrorist. How different are his actions from what Kamal does in UPO? Acts of terror don’t happen overnight. It takes years of exploitation and subjugation of one sect of people over another before the oppressed react in the way they do. The common man’s understanding of the happenings around him is appalling.

Cowards who don’t vote

Our common man also comes down heavily on the people who don’t vote calling them cowards who have no trust in democracy. The whole concept of democracy is a farce as far as India is concerned. Here, it is actually the parties who contest the elections who have no faith in democracy. If they did there wouldn’t be so many cases of booth capturing, illicit voting and other criminal activities happening so freely. The people who have been cheated and exploited all these years have at least now realised this and are boycotting the polls in some areas. And our hero wants the people to support such a system. What a joke!

Indifference to everything

Kamal and his writer E.R.Murugan seem to be so upset that people in the South don’t react enough to killings in the north. What is his take on the Maharashtrians’ reaction to hundreds of suicide deaths of farmers in Vidarbha which is only a few hundred kilometres from Mumbai or the North Indian’s reaction to regular deaths of dalits in Bihar or Keezhvenmani? He wouldn’t have even heard about all these because these are all ‘regular’ events. They don’t need such an adverse reaction as one warranted by bomb blasts though the loss of lives from such events are far more than those from terrorist attacks. What does he think about the Indian government’s reaction to the genocide of Tamils in SL. Selective accusations are aplenty in this film.

Anti- Muslim rhetoric

The movie is filled with anti-muslim rhetoric conveniently ignoring the actions of Hindutva fascist forces which lead to most of these events. It cleverly camouflages this by showing the central character as a Muslim. Also, to show him as being secular, Kamal makes one of the terrorists a Hindu. Even when a Muslim character explains his stance, the scene is reduced to a comedy. When he says that his 16 year old third wife got killed in the Best Bakery attack, the other guy says, ‘you still have the other two, why don’t you manage with them’. Kamal need not be courageous enough to mention the forces behind the attack but he would have done well by at least not ridiculing the whole episode. Apart from sparingly mentioning about the attacks by Hindutva forces, the film hardly makes an effort to shed any light on the background of any of the attacks. It seems like the protagonist is obsessed with the idea of India and doesn’t want to know about anything else. All he wants to do is finish off the terrorists and everyone will be happy.

UPO is a half baked effort which tries to look at things from a superficial point of view. Watching the audience applaud it only goes to prove that they are willing to accept whatever gets dished out to them in the name of nationalism and democracy.When even the so called literate and knowledgeable crowd consider this to be a great film, it makes us shudder to think what kind of impact this film would have on the ‘common man’.

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