What did our Ram-bhakt Hanuman do in Lanka, the land of his master’s enemy when he went there in the golden past? Everybody knows. What will Hanuman do, if today he is sent to Pakistan? Lankan voyage of Hanuman then, and cinematic expedition of his modern counterparts now (Sunny Deols of Border, The Hero, Ghadar, etc.), leave no room for imagination. Pakistan – the enemy land of India’s nationalist imagination – must be taught a lesson, as Rashtra-bhakt TV news anchors keep shouting from behind fire and embers on the screen.
We have seen on almost daily basis the bhakts, posing variously as Rashtra-bhakt or Ram-bhakt or lately as NaMo-bhakt. Bhakts, who persistently wish to annihilate the enemy land in TV studios, social media, or movie theatres. However, what a latest Hindi film Bajrangi Bhaijan shows is an unusual, or should I say, an abnormal bhakt. A bhakt, who does not want to destroy Pakistan! Lo and behold, he is a Hanuman-bhakt! He is called Bajrangi-Bhaijaan (Salman Khan). For, the word Bajrangi is a synonym of Hanuman, the ubiquitous monkey-god. He is bhaijaan because he is unable to lose his affection for a cute little girl even after knowing that she is a Muslim and, more than that, a Pakistani! Continue reading Of Hanuman, Pakistan and Bhaijaan: Prabhat Kumar→
Yesterday, the 9th of May, one day after the court granted what must be the fastest bail and suspension of sentence in the history of India to India’s favourite Dabangg, a diminutive woman stood under the blazing Delhi sun and spoke of her husband who had been in jail for the past one year. In May 2014, lecturer in English at Ramlal Anand College, Delhi University, G. N Saibaba was returning home after evaluating answer scripts when he was abducted by unknown men, who later identified themselves as Maharashtra Police.
Saibaba was not produced before a magistrate in Delhi but taken directly to Aheri, a small town in Maharashtra and then to Nagpur, to be put in solitary confinement in the famous anda cell of Nagpur jail. Let’s call this cell famous instead of the usual epithet “notorious” because all over the country, children are probably playing with each other right now saying to each other, “saale main tujhe anda cell mein daal doonga“, while their parents look on indulgently, congratulating themselves on the kid’s excellent G.K.
Like many other lovers of Bollywood cinema, I too was caught up since October this year in the countdown to the battle of all battles, with the release of Om Shanti Om (OSO) and Saawariya on 9 November 2007. Reams have been written, debated and analysed on the two films in newspapers, television networks, and everyday discussions. They have been depicted as films catering to very different sensibilities, and representing vastly diverse forms. The verdict seems to have declared both as average films, though OSO seems to be faring better than Saawariya at the box office. I enjoyed the first half of OSO particularly and thought Saawariya as a film with great form, but not much content.
However, as a fan of Bollywood popular cinema, what struck me most was one striking similarity between the two films. I thought both the films offered great visual pleasure and feast for the female spectators, where the spectacular and stylish nude male bodies and images of both Ranbir Raj Kapoor and Shahrukh Khan, though very different from each other, were the prime objects of desire and erotic spectacle. Both OSO and Saawariya have urban heroes, whose bodies are produced and carved, rooted in providing a voyeuristic visual treat especially to most straight women and gay men. The identity of both the heroes in these films in centrally tied to the consumption of their nude bodies by the viewer. The films in some senses signify the coming of age of a new genre of Bollywood cinema, where it is not so much the female body but the male body which circulates and is on display, offering a sexualised imaginative anatomy. They also signify that the language of discourse of Hindi films has undergone a dramatic post modernist change in its conception of desire, where most of it is conducted not through the soul but through the body. There is no central heart, but a decentring of emotions at play here. In the recent past too, nude male bodies of Hrithik Roshan and Salman Khan have been offered to the viewer. It perhaps is also a reflection of the fact that more and more women are crowding the cinema halls and form at times the major chunk of spectatorship, and they are a vital part of the cinematic experience.