The sights of today’s population are engulfed by millions of cover-ups. The media that sells on behalf of crass political influence; the fashion magazines professing gross, illogical statements about ‘how’ to look; the newspapers printing in big headlines the bourgeois truth and hiding most of the doom that lurks around us; the government that has been taken over by the most effete two-legged schmucks who only know how to have.
The recent communal riots in Dhulagarh and previously Halishahar, couldn’t be found in the newspapers, although it circulated well through local sources. More recently, various newspapers have portrayed the incidents of farmer resistance at Bhangar with various colours and tried to hide the proletarian truth from the readers.If one starts going into cover-ups one may not end. I wish to deal with their counterparts in the present and prevailing Indian cinema.
If I speak only of the generation I belong to, for simplicity, it would be enough to highlight some major issues in the Indian film scene. Right from the beginning of the 90s to the 2010s now, there might have been changes (for the worse?) in the music compositions, but the bulk material dominating majority of the films has been the same, with an efficacy to induce mental retardation in its viewers. I am particularly talking about Bollywood or derived Tollywood. Nearly all the films through the years proclaim romantic relationships and the machismo hidden in biceps, in various ways, while their dreadful boring similarity that deals with the rotting middle class and the bourgeoisie, has been sickening to the core.
Scenes where Salman Khan dances famously, Shah Rukh breathes out a dialogue that moves the audience from their feet, the lovers get united after everything; these films are very happy in their story-telling, in the sense everything in the world is so full of joy and entertainment. The people growing up with this, say the working class and even the petty bourgeois, create under-developed brains that can only see through a distance of 50 metres. In a world where there is so much of intolerance, malevolence, suffering, injustice, these films are a blatant lie. They are a big cover-up in history.
That is the soma. The drug soma produces similar working class alienation, dehumanization through its soporific, mollifying effect. Aldous Huxley famously talks of this happiness-inducing drug in Brave New World:
“By this time the soma had begun to work. Eyes shone, cheeks were flushed, the inner light of universal benevolence broke out on every face in happy, friendly smiles. Even Bernard felt himself a little melted.”
There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the oppressors, the ruling class, wish to silence the mass by feeding them regularly with happy films, where they match their steps to Ranveer Singh, trying to forget their stance in revolutionary history. In particular, although the work-hardened labourers do not watch in multiplexes, they, out of their poverty, seek B grade halls where a meagre amount will allow them to get something spicy. All of these are oppressor tactics of silencing. And the middle class, that is already dead, seeks futile enjoyment in their futile lives by visiting huge multiplexes to enjoy caricatures of a clownish Hrithik Roshan, or the subtle exchanges of rubbish dialogue in one of Srijit Mukherjee’s films. So, in a sense the bourgeois, which is also dead as a class, in order to continue its domination, intellectually deforms everything, anything that might endanger their throne.
As Adorno has pointed out very brilliantly in The Culture Industry:
“Amusement has become an extension of labor under late capitalism.“
Secondly, the condition of present artistes is appalling. In present Indian cinema, the directors are fools who neither know anything about film making nor about anything happening around them, in which case they have a closed eye. They are nothing but the henchmen of the ruling class, the bourgeois, who, in their wish to make people happy (either way) are wasting the time of history.
These issues need to be brought to the forefront; how the film industry and the state together are trying to silence all minds and deform their ability of dialectical reasoning. We need self-conscious individuals with a spirit of mind to think and dissect the anatomy of this hegemony. It is only by dissecting the methods of oppression, we can understand where and how we need to cut the rice supply to this industry.
In Bengali cinema, Ritwik Ghatak was the pioneer in making films that dealt exclusively with people very close to the grassroots and big social problems in history, like the partition of Bengal. Mrinal Sen made a large number of films based on the working class, the prevailing injustice and raised loud voices against the ongoing hypocritical social system. We see in Interview (1971), Ranjit Mullick breaking the fourth wall many a time, and being moved by a case of injustice, letting out his rage with a huge piece of rock. Films like those are a call to arms for the proletariat. Radicalism in cinema has vanished over the years and does not exist today. We only see feeble mouthing of social problems in a few films like the clownish Nayak, but always skirting the real issue. The present need of the day is revolutionary cinema. The cinema that speaks of class struggle, of oppression, of the intense contradictions between the bourgeois and the proletariat; that helps the viewer develop ideas dialectically about the present condition of capitalism around them; that which arouses hatred for the bourgeoisie, among the tortured class; that is not afraid to speak the absolute proletarian truth, is the cinema we need now. The time for middle class antics has vanished. It is time to let the Salman Khan vanish into the distance. It is the time to shout.
“Beauty today can have no other measure except the depth to which a work resolves contradictions. A work must cut through the contradictions and overcome them, not by covering them up, but by pursuing them.” ~ Theodor Adorno.
Utpal Dutt was one singular man who, through his entire life, devoted himself to only one cause, that is the cause of the proletarian revolution. His entire oeuvre of dramas deal with oppression and resistance from a variety of angles. He leaves no stone unturned, instead hurls them back at the oppressor. We may try to follow some of his footsteps, be it in theatre or cinema, let alone life itself.
Keeping momentum with the introduction of revolutionary cinema, it is also important that the present trash going on in cinema halls is put a leash on. It should be the duty of revolutionary cinema to, instead of preaching to the mass, to mingle itself with them and try to engage in an understanding that shall open up their minds. The people who will then understand the farce going on in the film scene, will come up with methods to dispose of this cultural hegemony, this all-pervasive cultural claptrap.
It is time to drag the henchmen of the ruling class from their huge movie cameras and sets, and take over the studios. Mumbai Film City shall belong to the working class. It shall have no place for an Amitabh Bachchan or a Shah Rukh Khan. They can retire to their glass houses.
We need the working class as our actors.
‘The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.’ (Karl Marx, Theses on Feuerbach, XI)