Real thoughts on reel…

Today, after many a year I watched a Tamil film. It was worth it. The film ‘Anniyan’ directed by Sankar, starring (as I learnt) the Tamil film industry’s new find Vikram is well- bizarre, complicated though not terribly original. ‘Anniyan’ translates into ‘The Other’ or a ‘Stranger’. The film deals with different issues at many different levels. On the face of it, it is the story of a TNB (read Tamil Nadu Brahmin) with a multiple personality disorder, fueled by the anger he feels at the Indian way (aka Babudom, sloth, corruption, miles and miles of red tape and such) and rejection by a long time love. Read the review here.Of Ambi’s (the goodie Brahmin lawyer) two personalities, the dangerously dellusional Anniyan is the one I have a few comments on. We all feel like Anniyan at times; we feel like killing people who cheat, bribe, circumvent rules and are decidedly unfair to us more often than not. Anniyan acts on that feeling. He believes literally, that the scum of the Earth must be wiped out. So he goes out to dispense justice to those who have been wronged including his waking self. His form of justice is murder. One particular scene in the film, shows Anniyan confessing his crimes to members of the public who applaud him.

This is what makes me a little sad. I know it was just a film. We know, however, that cinema more than anything else has the power to influence people and their thought processes. Is this what people ought to applaud? Even if we have a defunct system of law, even if the police is corrupt– is murder the answer? This is more than taking law into your hands- it is indicative of several other things.

Another scene shows the law and order situation improving dramatically- ostensibly thanks to Anniyan and people’s fear of him. Even if this were so- it is sad. Should people be honest and correct merely out of fear of punishment or out of a true realisation of the wrong they commit and the advantage they themselves shall have given a situaton where people were law abiding?
For starters that India needs heroes, its people are looking forward desperately to a leader on horseback who will deliver people from their suffering. This is not a good thing- like a friend of mine says: A nation that needs heroes suffers from a desperate lack of institutions of civil society. Secondly, every hero of this sort is authoritarian not democratic. He will enforce his will upon people. And what begins with a pro-people idea will soon deteriorate into a hungry quest of power. That Anniyan and his ways of justice do not leave Ambi even after Ambi undergoes treatment is indicative of how deep this vein runs.The second concern I have is of Ambi’s belief that India’s problems has to do in principle with its people being uncouth. While it is true that Indians aren’t perfect- I think citizens of this country are cheated by the state. Capitalist governments the world over, tax and still dole out ‘welfare’ to their citizens. They can’t start spending on nuclear bombs till they have clean and ample public loos, good drinking water and a civilized standard of living. The people have a right to be angry. If the government takes away half my earnings in tax and gives me nothing in return why should they or indeed anyone else be surprised if I evade tax? Must we follow rules, because they are rules or because they make sense?

Vikram’s acting is simply superb and the matrix style fight sequences are a treat to any action-film fan. I enjoyed the popcorn and the music. It is just this little concern that pops into my head now and then- when such powerful metaphors are portrayed in a country where popular sentiment is often guided by cinema, cricket and a lot of blind adoration.