Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Great Indian Democracy

Lord Meghnad Desai, once when comparing India to China, commented that India can only aspire to be a good democracy, never a great nation. There is a lot which is going wrong in China, but their sheer bloody-mindedness to ensure its 'peaceful rise' is absolutely commendable. As another scholar pointed out, the Chinese go ahead and act, making mistakes but rectifying them with suitable remedial action. Apparently in India, we will just not move ahead till everything is in perfect order, because our democratic political system does not allow any mistake to be pardoned.

As Amartya Sen says, Indians have always been argumentative; highly opinionated in my opinion. Yet, today, we, the supposed liberals, cannot simply argue on a lot of reasonable issues - reservations, minority rights and appeasement, adult content, homosexuality, and what not. But on the obvious things we need to act, the debate simply never ends - administrative reforms, judicial reforms, economic growth, poverty alleviation, infrastructure. Why should anyone have anything against the building of world-class airports is beyond me? Just stand in our immigration queue once, and you will figure out what Corporate Communication means.

Take caste-based reservations. The same were introduced by our Founding Fathers to correct the historic injustice meted out to the socially-ostracised backward castes. They were based on the 1931 Census, and were supposed to wither away in ten years time, a time-frame by when the wrong was expected to be corrected. However, as we all know very well, it has just dragged on, as it is a lot more convenient to get votes this way. No politician, however sane or intelligent (including our PM and FM) can publicly take a stand on Arjun Singh's joke on educational quotas (done apparently without his party's and madam's connivance, only to resurrect his political career). How can a India, supposed to take on China, try to impose caste-based reservations in the private sector.

The bending down to the mass-opinion, which by itself is going through a worrying dumbing down, is a phenomena replicated across sectors. In the 1970s and 80s, the parallel-cinema actors - Naseeruddin Shah, Amol Palekar - used to sweep the Filmfare Awards, restricting the ruling deity Amitabh Bachchan to few select awards in his unchallenged reign at the top. I am not for or against it, but now it is much easier for the actors working in the biggest hits of the year, to walk away with the awards. Similarly, we talk about the absence of all-India hits, and multiplexes have actually promoted niche cinema. Yet, today's biggest mass-media phenomena happens to be Ekta Kapoor. Based on my extremely superficial knowledge of the contents of her productions, I can only say that whatever little craft, little art, I have witnessed in her serials is absolutely shocking. And the style is imitated across serials, across channels.

As the notorious Mr. Chappell pointed out before parting, we cannot stick band-aid on cancer (and we do love doing it). The Blue Billion was baying for blood. So to pacify the nation, the BCCI President and our Agriculture Minister, Mr. Sharad Pawar, and his elected cohorts, went ahead and decided that the players should not be models anymore. And what more, the masses, and even the classes interviewed on English News channels, loved it.

Next time when I fail to meet my sales target, or my cousin does badly in his Annual School sports meet, I will ensure that we all stop watching movies. Helluva distracting from our professions, these dumbed-down expensive-to-watch Hindi movies, and they cannot even win that bloody Oscar once.

5 comments:

Shuchi said...

Very thoughtfully written piece, and found much resonance with my own feelings on these issues.

"we will just not move ahead till everything is in perfect order, because our democratic political system does not allow any mistake to be pardoned" - This is so true, not just in the context of governing our country but almost everywhere I see. When the cost of failure is so high, why would someone choose to act?

People on TV and net message boards righteously hold forth on ANY issue nowadays - Why The Indian Cricket Team Failed, How Aishwarya Rai Should Conduct Herself Post-Marriage, and so on. In a democracy everyone is entitled to an opinion, but the experts and decision-makers would do better considering such Free Advice based on worth and not mass backing.

P.S.: "we cannot stick band-aid on cancer" - Chappell really said that? Smart analogy!
P.P.S.: "In the 1970s and 80s, the parallel-cinema actors - Naseeruddin Shah, Amol Palekar - used to sweep the Filmfare Awards..." - You meant the National Awards, surely?

A-Gyan said...

Thanks for the nice words...Well and my current post stems from the one I had written sometime back..abt cricketers/sportspersons and their lack of success in India..this time gave it a more general twist to get the point across...

And I did mean Filmfare..National were always supposed to be more arty (not so when u award it to Karisma Kapoor, and Ajay Devgan twice)....

Naseer won in 80, 81 & 83 for Aakrosh, Chakra and Masoom respectively...Amol Palekar for Gol Maal in 79..and these were Amitabh days - Lawaaris, Paravarish, Naseeb, what not...

The only closest similie now, can be they thankfully awared the brilliant Pankaj Kapoor in Maqbool, as Critics'..otherwise if SRK couldn't win the popular award for Mohabattein (went to Hritik for Kaho Na Pyaar Hai), he was compensated with Critic's...

Filmfare used to be our Oscars sometime....But now??

Shome said...

Film awards have become quite a quagmire actually. Fimfare isa case studyon how to hold onto leadership position when under tremendous attack. In the late nineties, there was a scramble for hosting these award functions. Zee, Showtime, Stardust, Screen, Lux, Mayapuri.. everyone had one. Today psot shakeout, Filmfare stands tall.
I think FF is reinventing the awards thing in India after a long time. There is a popular segment, where a SRK and a Hrithik will score (primarily coz you and I dont 'waste' our time voting, but spend hours much later critising the votes of others), and then the critics segment where the craft is celebrated without the filter of commercial success. I think I am at peace with FF today..

Amit Bajaj said...

That's the frustrations of People Like Us beautifully vented...just wonder, aren't there enough people like us? If we can make the SEC A+ matter for more trivial issues, why don't we make it matter here. Afterall, it's PLU (and i'm including Voltaire and Jefferson and Nehru in this list) who have heralded the biggest revolutions in the past. Then why is that we have resigned ourselves to our powerless present?

A-Gyan said...

Abt Filmfare - in today's Internet enabled times, it should be a lot easier to vote. I do a lot of it online, so even Bajaj's PLU is taken care of to a very small extent. I refuse to believe that people nominate Saif in Hum Tum for Comic Performance. Or maybe the dumbing-down is more rampant than I suspected.

Bajaj - about people like us not doing anything, you're dead right, guess we're just lazy buggers. I guess these are the reasons we like Yuva and Swades, sort of talks about the same thing. I am trying very hard to sort it out in my head, and there should be definite niches where we can contribute - in whatever ways. But as Vir Sanghvi keeps putting it, the middle-class will only get its hand dirty when it affects their lives. So we just need to figure out more things which do affects our lives.