Monday, August 4, 2008

Gulzar's Hu Tu Tu..... A Misplaced Idealism

In the midst of the 25 crore per MP conversation going on all over, I returned to Gulzar’s Hu Tu Tu, which explores political venality so well. Even the name of the film conveys a meaning – Nana Patekar, who etches a key role in the film explains that politics is like Hu Tu Tu – the Marathi name for Kabaddi- politicians grabbing, dragging and pulling each other down as often as possible and the one who pushes and shoves most successfully gets to win.

Gulzar’s film was made in 1999, close to a decade ago and watching it today, and then watching Parliament in session last week and then reading all these news pieces about the horse trading and the alleged barter of parliamentarians in 2008, it would lend credence to the quote that the more things change, the more they essentially they remain the same.

Since Hu Tu Tu, other films on a similar subject have been made - most notably recently Aamir Khan’s Rang de Basanti and Hazaron Khwaishen Aise- ­ all dealing with the same subject and delivering a similar message – that politicians are vile and that the youth are unsullied and pure and broadly sinless.

That conclusion is no longer entirely true unfortunately. Youth may be idealistic as they enter adulthood but if their seniors are sullied, it does not take too much time for the young people to be sullied too. To give an example, the emergency and the Total Revolution movement of JP brought to the fore front a whole generation of young people into politics – people who upset the hitherto followed caste and class equations in Indian politics. Leaders like Mulayam Singh, Lalu Prasad and many others were products of the student movement offshoots of the JP movement. If they were ever inspiring idealists – even in their youth, that period of their life has been left long behind in shadowy mists. Here and there a Nitish Kumar or an Arun Jaitley might be different but no more.

Take a look at university life today to dispel any remaining myth that the youth of today are honest and idealistic and the grey haired seniors are alone the villains. University life today is not essentially about academics in several places; it is about delinquency of the worst order. Look at Lucknow University, Aligarh Muslim University, Jamia Milia Islamia, Meerut, Agra and Patna Universities for examples.

So why are our movies so clear cut in their solutions – so black and white – young is good and noble – and old is dying and decaying? I guess it is because probably it is nice to throw some light of hope as you end a movie and hold up the youth as symbols of change and metamorphosis even if it is not entirely true. In all the movies cited, Hu Tu Tu, Rang De Basanti and Hazaron Khwaishein Aise, the young people are disgusted by the decadence all around and end up wielding the gun in quasi revolutionary style as if solutions to complex social and moral problems really lay in the barrel of a gun.

So am I some kind of prophet of doom, seeing gloom where others see different? Not really. I see hope; but the thing is I see hope every where- in the old and also in the young. To end with an example; in the recent parliamentary debate, I saw hope in the 80 year old Somnath Chatterjee and I saw hope in the 38 year old Omar Abdullah. Where I did not see hope was in the relatively middle aged 60 year old Prakash Karat, incidentally another product of the emergency era. Perhaps middle age indeed is the fountainhead of cynicism and the period to beware of.

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