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    Feb 2010


    Default This Republic Day we should take a pledge to go out and vote: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra

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    Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra whose film Rang De Basanti changed the way we look at socio-political injustice, vents his angst this Republic Day.

    Rakeysh, as a thinking socially conscious filmmaker what troubles you about the state of the nation?

    Where do I start? Iíve been troubled about various things in our socio-political system. The happenings of the last one month have made us all sit up and take note and vent our anger. At least now the nation has come to a dialogue. I feel after the first Republic Day of Independent India this is the most crucial Republic Day in the history of our nation. Republic Day gives us the right to vote. The Constitution is an important tool for social remedies. We must know how to use its finer print. Thereís talk of boycotting celebrations in protest against the heinous gangrape in Delhi. But we achieve nothing by staying away. How can we say we wonít be part of the Republic Day when all of us are a part of Independent India? Of course we are angry, disgusted and anguished. Thanks to the overall conscientiousness of the common people and the media the anguish has spilled over on the streets. But then crime against women has been happening all along. The number of rapes in Delhi was around 500 last year and Mumbai itís around 350. But move ahead. Madhya Pradesh itís 12, 000 cases and Bengal itís around 10,000 crimes against women.

    What would you like us to do?

    This Republic Day we should take a pledge to go out and vote. Thatís the empowerment which the Constitution has given us. We should all promise ourselves that India would have a 100 percent voting in 2014. The vote is just one-half of the pledge we should make. The other-half is to vote the correct people into power. Our votes are sacred, and secret. We are all free to vote according to our conscience, unless itís some village in Madhya Pradesh where dacoits control the ballot. By and large the ballot is given to us unconditionally. We must therefore never vote for a party or on caste-lines, the rich or the poor. Why should a Hindu vote for a Hindu or a Muslim for a Muslim, upper caste and upper caste and lower caste for low caste? We should only vote for the right candidates. This would give us a political party with the maximum number of honest efficient administrators. And we must certainly not vote for any candidate who has been accused of corruption. We must vote for people who know how to get the job done and who know theyíre the servants and not masters of the people. They must know by voting weíre employing the candidates to run the country for us.

    Politicians have become more accountable now .Chautala and son have been sent to jail?

    I immediately tweeted, ĎIndia on the moveí. We arenít so gullible anymore that we canít tell whoís a thief and who is not. We choose to turn a blind eye. I am so happy that there was an upsurge of outrage after the incident. But the sad thing is, it took such an incident to awaken peopleís collective conscience. Letís not divert from the issue. Why blame the policemen for what happened? There are 20 crore people and 93,000 policemen who are deplorably underpaid. Why are the managers of our country not looked after as well as the managers of private companies? Look at Singapore. The highest-paid official in Singapore is the Premiere. He gets even more than the richest businessman there. If politicians and government officers are well paid their chances of becoming corrupt is drastically diminished. Gone are the days when a member of parliament was paid Rs10, 000, given one apartment and an Ambassador car. Their counterparts in all other walks of life are driving around in BMWs. So give our MPs BMWs to move around in. Thatís how organizations are run.

    BMWs for our netas???!!!!

    Earlier we were fighting the Britisher Raj. Today weíre fighting social inequality and social injustice. We have to look after the army well so that they can defend our country. And if we donít look after the police force how can we expect them to look after the internal law and order? In order to bring about reforms we first need to change the person who stares back at us in the mirror every morning. The moment we do that there will be a paradigm shift. The moment the individual learns to respect himself the rest follows.

    What do you think has changed in the last few months?

    We have a wonderful opportunity to turn around our socio-political system. This has come to us now after 65 years. It has come to us after great peril after so much struggle, wars, droughts, famine and poverty, floods, after the Emergency. This awareness and awakening has come to us after a great struggle. We should stop complaining and just do the right thing.

    Your film Rang De Basanti showed the power of silent protest. Now people are cynical about candle-light vigils?

    Nothing is ineffective. I asked an old teacher of mine. She said, ĎNothing goes to waste.í How do we define a character in our movie? By their deeds. We all are what we do. If we go out in a silent procession with a candle in our hands we are still protesting effectively.

    If you were to make Rang De Basanti today would the forms of protest be different?

    I think the issues have changed now. The spotlight has shifted from governance to the governed, from politicians to the people. Iíd have shown more protest from the people. We are living through fabulous and dynamic times.

    You were severely condemned by certain sections of critics for showing your heroes killing politicians at the end of Rang De Basanti?

    It was an inevitable step-by-step movement in the plot. First, the heroes were complacent. They just wanted to have fun, or they didnít want to do anything about the corruption around them, or they were a persecuted minority in their own home. And then that change happened. But they really didnít know what to do with that awakening until a personal loss. Thatís when they went out and raised their voices. Then comes the civil revolution. But we didnít want to show a civil revolution. But the core idea was to rise above ourselves. We need to do that. Even in the film industry.

    Please explain?

    This gender bias that we see in society is rampant in our movies. One is embarrassed and ashamed to see the film fraternity propagating and celebrating gender bias in a big way.A nd then we have awards functions where this bias is turned into television entertainment. Tragically our own iconic actresses choose to act out the bias. Itís girl power working against girl power. Why do they do it? Is it desperation for food? Are they abla naaris desperate for do waqt ki roti dancing to make ends meet? No! Itís not poverty? Itís just lust for instant fame and money.

    Movies and the way they project actresses are definitely sending out wrong signals?

    Thankfully, not all movies. But a majority, yes. Itís all about easy bucks, easy fame. This is not art. Itís commerce at its most immoral. Every business has its ethics. The practice of dancing for big bucks is unethical. I say this with a cool balanced mind. Being a movie-maker I am appalled at how the lines of morality could get blurred for me. I have to stop and think. Am I doing the right or the wrong thing? Every filmmaker needs to be careful about what is shown.

    I donít think I will see an item song in your film?

    I think the item song has been blown out of all proportions. Itís being unnecessarily hyped. Even if thereís nudity in a film and if it is essential to the theme, as it was in Shekhar Kapoorís Bandit Queen then itís permissible. Likewise if the item songs are part of a story then itís okay. But I agree theyíre just there for titillation most of the time. And thatís dangerous. Weíve been given the power in our hands to mould thoughts and influence mindsets. We shouldnít become like monkeys with razorblades in our hands.

    Rakeysh, where are the conscientious filmmakers. The last film with a conscience was your Rang De Basanti?

    I love my work and I hope Iím part of the change. Cinema does need to have a moral responsibility. I havenít seen too many recent films. Somewhere I am scared they might seep into my system. Something within me says, ĎYaar, yeh sahi nahin ho raha hai.í Itís time for a change in cinema and society. Like I said, we have a chance this Republic Day to bring an actual reform. Nothing will happen in one day. But weíve an election very soon. Bring the train back on the track. Ulti ganga beh rehi hai. Kamse kam ganga to seedhi karo. If we let go of the current opportunity for reform then we are doomed. Then we deserve the governance that we get. Behind the anguish I see anger. People are questioning the status quo. Thatís a good sign. Time for talk is over. Itís time to walk the talk.



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