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I recently watched Rustom, a film loosely based on the KM Nanavati case which changed the Indian legal system with the abolishment of the jury system. For those who might have not heard or read about the case, Nanavati was a naval officer, married to London born Sylvia and based out of Mumbai. Whilst on one of his missions, Sylvia fell in love with their friend, Ahuja and exchanged letters with him which highlighted the socially alleged fact that Ahuja was an unattached man when it came to his relationships and that Sylvia was unsure of his intentions towards her or the seriousness towards relationships. It was after this that Nanavati comes back home and gets to know this from his wife. After hearing this, he decides to take things in his hands and straighten things out with Ahuja. By straightening things out, it meant a conversation between him and Ahuja about the latter marrying Sylvia and also taking in their (Nanavati and Sylvia’s) children post marriage. Ahuja denied having any plans of marriage which enraged the naval officer who ended up shooting Ahuja to death in his own bedroom. When tried at the Sessions Court in Bombay, he was acquitted by the jury by a vote of 8:1 with a major part of the decision and media gimmicks using communitarian politics to get a judgment. The judge of the sessions court was taken aback and the case moved to the HC where Nanavati was convicted, charged guilty of murder and as part of the legal reform, the jury was removed from the Indian legal system. I read somewhere that later on, someone from the officer’s community had appealed to the then PM Nehru to acquit Nanavati since he was a defence officer and had served the nation. As part of a deal between Ahuja’s sister who was fighting the legal battles on his behalf, Nanavati was then let out some years later while the MH government let out another prisoner from Ahuja’s community as part of a sentence and acquittal community barter.
Now, this case has held the country’s imagination for years. Rustom is not the first film to be made based on the case. There are quite a few others which were blockbuster hits. Rustom only has the Sessions court judgment covered in its story with community politics displayed fantastically. Even the city from that time is projected beautifully, making one almost long to have been born then instead of now. However, despite of all these good things in the movie, watching it left me squirming with discomfort at a few things in the film, more so the overtly lengthy court proceedings captured with sheer ridicule. That brought me to question the ordinary citizen’s take on the Indian legal system – for something as simple as wearing a seat belt and paying tolls. Reminds me of the time when entering MPT territory where one cop offered to let me go past after paying 10 out of the 30 bucks charge, with no receipt of course. Hope was risen again when the driver offered the same option to the next cop who refused stating others might do this, he did not.
Before I digress further, my point here is that a majority of the population in our country continues to swear by trends and brands advocated by film stars, across all socio-economic sections. Even crimes committed by some are inspired from Bollywood. With such great impact, I feel it is quite scary the way the semi fictional story is presented here ridiculing the proceedings of law and order, just like another old Akshay Kumar starrer did. Yes, I agree that even dictatorships are systems and laws and a coup overthrowing a dictator is actually doing good in the larger schema of things but, saying that would just be an adarsh public’s excuse to yet again not see the mirror.
Firstly, in showing the film only upto the Sessions court’s verdict where Nanavati walks scot free and more like a hero makes me wonder if we, as a nation, have issues accepting that our ‘hero’ (righteous male, avatar of righteous principled lord from Hindu mythology) can ever be wrong? Can we not accept that each one of us, even those who are otherwise impeccable in being, can commit acts which can be wrong and harmful to one or many? Also, why do we, as a nation of a 102 billion people, need a hero? Why can’t we choose to find that hero(ine) within our own selves?
The second thought or question that I had swimming in my head after watching the film is the idea of absolute right and wrong, moral black and white and the grey areas of human existence; and the intersection of the same with the legal system in place. While the case highlights the absolutes of right and wrong in terms of fidelity and patriotism versus selling your land for personal gain and favour making the act of murder by the protagonist as an absolute right! But, does this not make the entire case / story / incident grey afterall? You excuse a murderer because he is a loyal country server and husband (how can we forget multiple scenes of him staring at her picture?). And like all Bollywood films that resonate with commercially viable thinking at the writer’s part, this one too falls flat in its face when the hero is yet again made to let go of the love of his life, in order to work towards the greater good, making personal sacrifice the necessity for greater good.
Yes, there are a lot of good things in ther film but, my problem is that it is films like these that resonate the larger Indian mentality and also that films (and TV) have the power of changing things as they have unbridled access to the common (wo)man’s household. I think this film could have been far better at dealing with a lot of more subtle concepts of patriotism, masculinity, honour, integrity. While I like the portrayal of the human strength of being able to do the right thing when life is difficult but, the film just completely misses the point and loses the opportunity of using the most powerful tool in media to leave a better impact. Nanavati’s act of murder signifying honour over respect for human life and dignity was portrayed too casually, especially in politically charged times like these. Quite unfortunate.
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Those who know me know my deep fascination with dreams – not just childish checking of meanings of dreams and laughing at them but, more so the vivid imagery that each dream has and how real it all seems. I am also known to have quite a set of vivid (for the lack of a more polite / politically correct word) dreams myself and the spirit of the morning usually comes from mulling over those dreams.
There are multiple times that dreams have inspired me to paint, write prose or poetry; leaving me intrigued at most times and a little shaken at others. After a long creative block, a recent one left me intrigued for days eventually leading to sketch above.
While I will refrain from getting into too many details of this dream, I can safely say that by far, it was one of the most alluring dreams I have had for some time. It started with me arriving in Gwalior with another person for some work. We step out of the pitch dark and quiet station into the night which has a strange shine to it, as if there is a hidden lamp behind the dark curtains of the night sky that is giving a light glow in the darkness. In my dream too, I cannot help but, marvel at the beauty of the night.
As we step out, we are greeted by sparkling clear, blue waters , lapping quietly at the gravel-ly shore. The moon is a huge golden orb that is glowing but, looks in despair as I overcome my urge to indulge in watching the beauty of the night and continue walking. With disappointment, the moon then casts a shadow as a sign of warning.
With a sense of foreboding, we walk away from the sight towards a building that is all bricks and mortar. I make a mental note of coming back while entering into part two.
As Poe says,
“All the we see or seem, Is but a dream within a dream.”
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Had this scene in mind with a faint idea of a poem since January 2014. Sometimes the scene came out but, the words didn’t and sometimes the words were fine while the scene didn’t match. Finally sketched this the other night. Text below:
I had seen her every morning,
The lady in white;
Trudging along the pavement.
She would be constantly mumbling.
Maybe, she saw someone?
I would peer at her through the
White lace of mother’s curtains,
My heart thumping with fear –
What if she saw me?
I was eight then.
I left home.
I heard she died one morning,
How did they figure out, you ask?
She wasn’t seen mumbling,
hollow eyes darting, trudging along
for a week.
They say the stench traveled
Till the end of the road.
Why didn’t they go earlier, you ask?
Pope says, ‘Ignorance is bliss.’.
I still dream of her
No, she doesn’t haunt me with
Those empty eyes.
It is the emptiness of her life
That kills me now.
Was reminded of this sort of incomplete poem written a few months ago while talking to a friend about the idea of loneliness tonight. I remember writing this with the thought alienation that an urban life can bring in at times weighing on my mind – the desire to connect with human beings but, the simultaneous hesitation and mistrust to do that ultimately failing to recognise that we are a religious, casteist, regional group later but, a ‘human’ community first.
The concept of loneliness used to be pretty alien (as well as pretty scary) to me earlier especially while doing a project on it for an Archaeology class back in 2012. I remember the five of us dwelling on the concept of loneliness and what people resort to as a coping mechanism. We covered the likes of art as a way of venting out to addiction as another escape. While the former can be cathartic in a way, the latter has worse consequences by way of slowly taking away ‘life’ from a person. Of course, what one implies by ‘life’ can be rather subjective. Precisely why I chose not to dwell on the reason why addiction as a way of dealing with loneliness is not the best idea. I couldn’t really point out which part of the subjective answers to ‘what is life?’ I related to.
However, talking to this one friend today I realise that life means to have the will to move ahead – a step a day maybe, but to move ahead. And I say this not in the ‘move-ahead-only-career-wise’ way of thought (can take it as that too if one pleases) but, essentially to keep pushing oneself to grow as a human being a step a day. Sounds vague? Maybe. But, in each one of us is a tendency (or many tendencies) which makes one unhappy. The will to change that trying harder every time one feels defeated is the essence of life.
Where does loneliness fit in all this? Loneliness stems from the occasional or regular lack of the desire to be better every day. When lonely and lacking in this desire one would loop in that constant feeling of self pity (and anger maybe?) that grabs the focus of the mind so strongly that one cannot think of anything but, being lonely and miserable and unfortunate; totally, forgetting that one is an independent entity with one’s own choices and to choose to not grow and learn is what brings the stagnation that is loneliness.
I sit across from you.
Often wondering to myself,
If you saw me?
You were always with her.
The woman with red lips.
Or was it a gaudy lipstick?
Were you with her
Or were you just friends?
Did those lips paint yours red too?
The red paint
Brought dread in me often.
He used to wear it sometimes.
My father would make me let
Him paint mine red.
How do I tell you this?
How do I come and sit next to you?
How do I tell you to save your pink from her red?
Red has always scared us.