REALITY IN INDIAN CONTEXT.

“Reality TV”:

Who is not interested in it? Yeah! You have probably guessed it right, Debojit Saha and Abhijit Sawant, and above all Shilpa Shetty. Taking the world by storm, Ms. Shetty portrays the winning face of Britain’s most popular reality show, “Big Brother”. Projecting her as the symbol of India’s struggle against racialism, the media goes gaga over the fighting spirit of Ms. Shetty.

Really?

Well the “reality” is something else which you and I know. Shilpa
Shetty went on to participate in that controversial voyageur T.V show, only to earn big bucks. The impression penetrated into our mind that she is the Next-Big-Thing in the global fight against racialism, thanks to the pervert form of both print and electronic media. Now what? She is touring throughout England and shaking hands with the Queen, with an avalanche of commercial ads chasing her. And the lady who insulted her received an invitation to tour India. The “reality” is that, everyday a number of Dalits are discriminated against, tortured, raped, massacred, and made to live in a dehumanized state. When Indians are discriminated against in India itself, what can you expect in a country which had ruled and ruined us for long 200 years? Who’s addressing this racialism in India?
The vicious global system makes us feel proud whenever our cricket team wins some matches or our GDP soars high, but it hides certain harsh facts from us. The shame of millions below the poverty line, Nithari killings, corruption; the shame of Kashmir violence, bloodshed and broad day light crimes; the shame of rampant child-abuse and every day rapes, fails to move us. The “Indian Reality” is not the rich family’s internal- conflict our small screen sops deal with, but the conflict which persists in the lives of the poor Indians, in the crowded buses; it lies in the sweat of the workers, peasants and professionals and in the grey smoke from the cigarettes of the educated unemployed youths of our country. Our conscience, it appears, has really gone on a long vacation.
Our mainstream cocktail movies hardly depict any sort of realism in them.
Not all Bollywood movies contain the artistic appeal and moral value as carried in some movies like Lage Raho Munnabhai, Dor, Shool, Aakrosh, and the like. Most of them always showcase something which cannot be related to the Indian context. The woes of the common man are conspicuous by their absence even on the small screen, for they are too busy with the glitterati and commercial ads. But who cares? The money flows into the industry as the ignorant people of our country throng the theatres and stick to their TV sets, mostly to catch a glimpse of some action-packed sequence or idiotic emotional trance, obscene comedy or semi-nude dances and if lucky. Even if some films do aim to deal with the harsh realities, the introduction of some item-numbers and insignificant love-affairs spoils the very spirit of the film. However, substantial development can be seen in realistic films in regional language. Bengali, Assamese, Oriya and in many other Indian languages, there are several well crafted realistic movies. We can pin our hopes for a cleaner cinematic world modeled on these regional films.
As for literature, it is the English literature which influences the Indian population, especially the urban-youth, more than the literature in regional languages. English is no longer a foreign language to us, recognized as it is now within the 18 Indian national languages by the Sahitya Akademi. We live in an India where people chat on the net in English, listen to all sorts of English songs and constitute an eager audience to English movies.
Right from the harbingers of Indian English writing like Mulk Raj Anand
R.K. Narayan and Khushwant Singh to writers like Salman Rushdie, Arundhuti Roy, Vikram Seth, Shashi Tharoor, Vikram Chandra, Amitav Ghosh, Upamanyu Chatterjee, Anita and Kiran Desai, Amit Chaudhuri, Chetan Bhagat and Rana Dasgupta, these Indian English writers have mostly dealt with the socio-economic problems in details which India faces today. Thus they represent an elevated realism in their highly acclaimed works.
Anand’s Coolie and Untouchable question the popular superstitious customs that prevail in the Indian society, in the name of religious tradition.
Khushwant Singh, one of the most influential Indian English writers, dealt severely with the political and social aspects of the common people’s life in his Delhi, Train to Pakistan, and a number of translations and non-fiction books. Vikram Seth depicts an entire generation of people in his vast yet meticulously constructed novel A Suitable Boy. The social system, the feeling of class, the day to day toil and trial of the common man; from college professors to the descendants of the Zamindars, from the Partition and post Partition politics to Hindu-Muslim riots, nothing of that which is known or can be called Indian escapes from the landscape of the epic size novel. Amitav Ghosh, one of the most critically acclaimed writers of our age, has seriously dealt with the urban and rural psychologies, customs and rituals of the rural countryside, malignant presence of certain malaise like prostitution, and women and children trafficking in the society, in his Hungry Tide. Vikram Chandra defines the city of Mumbai in his novel Sacred Games. Though he deals with the topics with which even some cheap Bollywood movies deal with, yet he shows that the “real Mumbai” is something else. He brilliantly proves through this novel that the picture of Mumbai cops and underworld dons can never be drawn with the help of only some scenes of macho characters firing with gay abundance and some scenes of sleaze, as done in movies.
A best selling author of the recent times is Chetan Bhagat, who wrote Five
Point Someone and One Night At The Call Centre (ON@TCC). The latter describes the events of one night at a call centre surrounding six people. Hidden in this description of the events of that particular “night at the call centre”, the book is actually the voice of a rebel shouting against the prevailing system in our country concerning the youth. Another author with a vibrating sense of localism as well as globalization is Rana Dasgupta. In his Tokyo Cancelled, Dasgupta is successful in writing a representative account of the society in a globalized world with the help of thirteen different stories. Raj Kamal Jha’s last release Fireproof is a full-throated protest against the Godhra and post-Godhra riots. Sarnath Banerjee’s graphical novels “Corridor” and “The Barn Owl’s Wondrous Capers” deal with fragmented realities in the cities of the subcontinent; they bring the past and the present in relation, in order to examine stereotypes, myths and morality in post-colonial India. Also, a treasure of realistic literature in the regional languages.
Thus on retrospection, it is clear that the most realistic of all types of arts created in India or by Indians, which intersects and penetrates into our life, is literature. Our writers are a slap on the face of the unrealistic world of music, music videos and Bollywood masala which creates a make-believe world for the common Indian. With most of the politicians, directors-producers, etcetera taking the route for easy money by etherizing the people’s mind and making them content with some silly, vulgar, vague and engrossing topic, I think it is only our authors who take the pain to contribute some values to the people and present them with an unfiltered picture of the society. It is true that the description of violence and sex, and associated ills in the modern day literature is sometimes shocking and disturbing. You can’t explore the world around you in your literary art without taking account of the events of the modern society, good or bad, pleasant or disturbing or whatsoever.Yet there is a vast difference in the description and purpose of introduction of these disturbing elements in healthy literature and cheap cinema. On one hand it is used to depict the sombre and gruesome situation prevailing in the society;
and on the other, it is used to merely arouse and excite the hollow
minded audience.
There is no such rule that people should resort to some vague fiction and fantasy for entertainment. There is enough spice in the world which surrounds us. If books are written and films are made based on these ‘spicy realities’, they will never disgust the audience.
(article published in saturday page HORIZON, THE ASSAM TRIBUNE, as “RUDE REALITIES”, APRIL 21ST)

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