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रविवार, 13 नवंबर 2011

O kayar, tera Rockstar tu hi raq

Nothing is funnier than an Indian pretending to be a rock star. At some level, we all know this. Which is probably why India hasn’t produced a single genuine rock star till date.
We have produced world class musicians, and truly great singers, but not a rock star.
But we keep making films about rock stars. Recently Katrina Kaif was a rock star in a film about finding a wife. Now Ranbir Kapoor is a rock star in a film about, I am told, love.
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Well, we must love rock stars if Bollywood thinks there is money to be made in films about rock stars. But being a rock star is not only about the music. An integral part of the rock ethos is rebellion. All the drugs and alcoholism and free sex and wild parties synonymous with rock began as acts of rebellion against a prevailing social order that was as socially straitjacketed as it was morally claustrophobic.
But rebellion is also a good pose. We all adopt it at some point in our lives — usually in our teens — but rarely when it matters. This is because today all social, cultural, and even moral norms — all matters of principle — have been re-engineered and made contingent on the demands of the new god — Lord Market.
Therefore, any rebellion worth its name will have to be a rebellion against the Lord Market. Rest assured middle-class India is not going to be at the forefront of this rebellion. But all the same, they still want to experience the emotion of rebellion. Because it’s so cool, you know?
And for a nation of conformist blatherers whose basic instinct is to suck up to power rather than defy it, the rebellion implicit in the persona of a rock star is a delicious fantasy. For urban India’s middle-class youth in particular — who will lap up Imtiaz Ali’s film, I’m sure — it is a rebellion app they can download and daydream about freely, at no cost to their MBA dreams.
Indeed, the controversy surrounding Ali’s Rockstar is a perfect case study that illustrates why India has never seen a true rock star outside the silver screen.
Here’s the plot summary: An influential Bollywood director wants to shoot in a Tibetan monastery near Mcleod Ganj. It’s not just any scene that he wants to shoot — it’ll be a rock star singing about freedom, and demanding your haq. The Tibetans want to know whether they can place ‘Free Tibet’ flags in the backdrop, since the song is about freedom anyway. Ali gives them his word that the flags will be displayed in the song. The trusting Tibetans don’t ask him to sign a contract stating he will do so. They just let him shoot in their monastery without further ado.
After the film is made, the censor board suggests to Ali that the Tibetan flag be either blurred or deleted. Ali, if he had wanted to, could have easily appealed against this suggestion, and most probably he would have got the film passed with the flag intact.
If his appeal had failed, he could’ve called a press conference and lambasted the censor board for curbing freedom of expression, and kowtowing to China, perhaps without even being asked — for last I checked there wasn’t a Chinese representative in the Indian censor board.
One would have expected Ali to have at least expressed his anguish at this cut. That would have meant something. He could have used this opportunity to highlight the Tibetan cause. But that would have required him to do something no Indian businessman or professional or celebrity ever does — take a political stand.
In fact, not only did Ali not take a stand, when contacted by DNA, he said something dumb. He said, “The song (Sadda Haq) was more about personal freedom rather than any geographical or political issue.” Hello! Try telling that to a Tibetan, or a Kashmiri, or a Manipuri, or an Iraqi, or an Afghan. Or even a Dalit. Or even your gay or lesbian friend. As they would clarify, freedom is always a political issue. The only kind of ‘personal freedom’ that is not a political issue is the freedom of a consumer, which is apparently the only kind of freedom Ali is concerned with.
Perhaps it’s not fair to pin the blame on Ali alone. By all accounts, the director is sympathetic to the Tibetan cause, and his next film is apparently on this very subject. But his good intentions aside, Ali is a cog in the wheel of showbiz. Had he appealed against the censor board’s cuts, it would have delayed the release of the film, screwing up the marketing and distribution schedules, resulting in losses running into crores of rupees. And there goes your principled stand. But what are these losses compared with the ‘losses’ the Tibetans are toting up: 11 fatal self-immolations in the last 8 months, and a generation lost to imprisonment, torture and executions. Ali did not (perhaps his financiers did not let him) think of this when he chickened out from contesting the censor board’s cuts.
I haven’t seen Rockstar yet. I am sure it will be a successful film. And Ali is certainly a good director. But he needs to publicly apologise to the Tibetans for breaking his promise, and for letting them down. Until he does so, as far as I’m concerned, he can stuff his Rockstar.

G. Sampath in DNA

1 टिप्पणी:

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