Generation ‘Rang de basanti’

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When bollywood movie ‘Rang De Basanti’ (RDB) was screened in year 2006, it became a blockbuster and received a huge fan following. With the tagline “A Generation Awakens,” RDB invited lot of debate by raising intertwined themes of youth, disenchantment, and rebellion.
Many reviewers applauded the RDB director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra creating a social impact by making people organize a candle vigil at India Gate (as portrayed in the movie) for the Jessica Lal murder case, and whipping up the same response for many similar cases. For majority of audience, especially youth, it did touch a nerve. The sense of heightened activism clubbed with a concern for the deteriorating system around, created audible waves. 
 Nonetheless, a few critics questioned the very purpose of making such type of political movie for a “generation of urban youth which had had no campus radicalization, is largely disconnected from the public sphere by private aspirations, and derives its ideas about politics from television.”
Some critics lambasted RDB for triggering ‘Flash activism’ into the fore. They believed that RDB proved to be a typical bollywood-masala flick that unleashed a process of temporary mobilization that had no ambiguous goals and was simply marked with a pure spectacle.
 One critic curtly remarked, “To be awakened from a slumber of indifference is one thing, but to be awakened and almost hypnotized in the darkness of a theatre, where your senses are under complete control of the maker, and preached ‘what you cannot tolerate, do away with’, is Hitler-ish”(Kavita Kaul, a Mumbai-based scriptwriter/producer). Amidst reviews, RDB eventually ended up as an expression of numerous contradictions—social and political.
Different takes on RDB apart, the fact remains that cinema (a form of media) has a wide range of influence and youth constitute a vulnerable section of any society. Both have a symbiotic relationship. Powers or players that may be, reach the youth through various media and make them the living laboratories of ideas/ideologies. And if the target group is having no moors—historical, political or religious—then the job of roping them up is not so strenuous. 
Stephen Duncombe in his book Dream outlined a theory of “dreampolitik,” that calls for progressive political and activist groups to embrace the appeal of fantasy. He argues, “instead of asking for sacrifice, we could try appealing to people’s hopes and dreams, weaving them into a tale that ends with their lives being better than they are now.” This is exactly how and why fantasies/stories motivate youth of contemporary Kashmir. 
It has been observed here that in the fantasy of ‘battling’ against the system, the youth are usually drawn into a fight that is politically personal, at the end of the day. Under the grab of many slogans and tags, the youth are lured towards the concepts that are not just manipulative but are exploitative as well. That is why, they are ridiculously pigeonholed into ‘genres’ as and when required.
The term ‘student politics’ here is as baffling as the shrinking of native Dal Lake. So far, no one could precisely explain the slow death of the lake and no measures have proven successful in salvaging it. Reeling under the stench and stink, it however continues to attract people by its superficial look. Similarly, student politics here is a phenomenon that met a lethal killing some decades ago, and it could not be resuscitated to its original form ever again. Of course, it is flogged up whenever it meant to do more with ‘politics’ than with the students who like RDB generation  are swayed by ‘flash activism’ because of improper understanding of their history and society.
 Rightly said, there is a potential inferno in the backdrop of every classroom. However, that inferno is well defined and well justified for those who visit the classroom. For a non-serious pack who know everything but their classroom, playing ‘politics’ is the right  short-cut to an easy life that slaps bitter lessons in the long run.
Classroom will retain its power, come what may. Torrents of time can turn up the different chapters, throwing up contradictions within and without. Campuses may or may not be permitted to be the breeding grounds for future mainstream politicians, but for coming generation, the “selective campus politics” can steer nothing beyond a sense of disgruntlement.

(The columnist teaches at Media Education Research Centre, MERC, University of Kashmir)
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Lastupdate on : Sat, 28 Jul 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 28 Jul 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 29 Jul 2012 00:00:00 IST

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