Years back one of the channels was telecasting Prem Pujaari and I being an ardent fan of Dev Anand, had watched the entire film for the umpteenth time. It was obviously full of flaws, the ending almost hilarious. But one couldn’t help but clap every time Ramdev Bakshi brought an enemy down. One couldn’t help but wait with baited breath for Bakshi to get back his post in the army. Such is the sweet joy of patriotism.
In 2015, even though ‘patriotism’ has almost become a villainous word for certain sections of our ‘intelligentsia’, these films still gives us a joy ride.
The recently released Phantom is that kind of a film which no teacher of cinema will teach in class. It will probably not make to any prestigious award list or film festivals. Critics have (almost expectedly) gone on record to sprinkle ‘bad diplomacy’, ‘jingoistic’ and ‘vigilante justice’ in their reviews. The script is of course heavily flawed and the leads Kaif and Saif seem to be sleep walking throughout the film. It is also a tad bit too lengthy and the acrobatics in Syria could easily have been chopped off (there could be other entry points for the Pakistan plot).
However, today I write not to criticize Kabir Khan’s Phantom. I instead write to thank him for making Phantom. Phantom is that escape route for us terrorist affected citizens that reality will never give us on a platter. We the middle class are so battered and bruised by the hardships of life that we often move on from memories of the past. Forgotten is a 26/11. Forgotten are serial bla sts in Guwahati. Forgotten are German Bakery and Delhi blasts. And scores of other terror attacks.
26/11 was one of those incidents that had brought our anger to the surface. It was not just Mumbai that had bled that night. It was this nation that had bled and bled so severely that no amount of blood donation would nurse it back to health. Only justice could. And justice is after all wishful thinking. So what reality has failed to do, cinema did. It gave us justice. The people who call Phantom jingoistic probably forgot the 166 people who died that night. When Daniyal kills the perpetrators one by one, you clap in glee. You actually do not look for cinematic perfection.
So when Zeeshan Ayyub says ‘Woh humein marte rehte hain aur hum kya karte hain? Bas cricket khelna bandh kar dete hain”, it is not his character Samit talking. He is the voice of the common citizens. There is of course no glory in war. Who wants to see their jawans coming back wrapped in tricolours? But there is no solution in telecasting serials and writing shayaris as well. The sugary approach hasn’t stopped the unprovoked firing. It hasn’t stopped the death of helpless villagers.
Kabir Khan makes no effort to put up a facade of Aman ki Asha. Hafiz Saeed has all reasons to feel threatened by the film. No wonder he was so keen on the ban. Who wants to see even their apparition being chased and killed like a stray?
Bollywood has spotted our ‘duhkti rag’ very smartly. Earlier this year the absolute delight BABY, also had set out to give us the justice we have been so hungry for. BABY doesn’t mince words and doesn’t shy to show how terrorists and informants take refuge in Nepal. (actually which neighbouring country doesn’t harbour them?) It is probably easy for us to creatively say a lot of truth. There is no diplomatic need in creativity. So a Maulana is easily captured and even brought back to India. And imagine all of this action and elimination of enemies happening without and media tamasha. And all of this happening without the threat of another possible hijack of IC 814. And in BABY, Neeraj Pandey doesn’t even go wrong with the plot. The actors emote only as much needed and talk only if it is necessary.
DDay, a film that many of us will remember for Arjun Rampal’s wooden expressions and inability to act, wasn’t a masterpiece either. However, who will give us Dawood Ibrahim? International court of justice is only in name. And he has lot of well-wishers in this nation itself. But Nikhil Advani does the impossible. And he doesn’t even give our ‘liberals’ a chance to cry buckets for Dawood the hero. Though Rishi Kapoor is too cute in the role, I remember people whistling when he falls dead on Indian soil.
Till we become a stronger nation probably creativity is our only escape. In words and visuals we can get justice anytime. Thus, even if Zameen is one of the heavily flawed films, we will watch it. What we lost in Kandahar is given back in it. Who cares about cinematic brilliance when a film actually applies a balm on your wounds?
P.S- And even as liberals trash Rani Mukherjee’s act in Mardaani, Bollywood is creating women who give it back to men in physical strength. Tapsee Pannu pins the man in BABY, Katrina Kaif (looks a little weird in the khulein zulfen) doesn’t mess it and fires adeptly. Why shouldn’t these characters be added to the strong women list? Even as we talk of how women are on the downside in top notch CEO and managerial positions, we should also start talking about how we women are underrepresented in police and combat roles. If equality is to come, let it come in entirety.