By Chandra Goswami
Let me ask, how do you define Nation?
A definitive answer for me these days is “the people”. The people whom I meet every day in the street make my Nation. The strangers who honk at my two-wheeler even after noticing the “L” sticker slapped on its back are also part of it. So are the residents of my apartment who religiously paint the lift door red with betelnut juice. Even, the Rapido rider who always stroppily asks a few bucks extra for the ride.
They may fume my gut with anger but to put the perspective straight, they are the people who are part of my Nation and all my patriotism is directed towards this fraternity. This can be very confusing though.
I think the idea of Nation has become so opaque to us today because the mighty ‘fevicol’ that used to glue two estranged people into the bond of love and belongingness has gone missing. I remember my childhood when events like the India- Pakistan match or watching a blockbuster movie in a cinema hall would bring diverse people together. These events were the fevicol for our Nation.
I still remember how we all took to the road at night when India won its second world cup or how the crowd cheered in the theatre for Sunny Deol watching Gadar. Those were probably my last few memories of knowing that I too belong to a tribe with a shared interest. Even cricket and Bollywood movie which were once labeled as the nerve of the country have also lost their charm with passing times.
Now, let’s take example from the latest and much hyped movie by Aamir Khan- Laal Singh Chaddha (LSC). When trollers make nationalism a ground to boycott a movie even before it is released, it necessitates an assessment of our understanding of the word “nation” and “nationalism”.
Let’s face it, there might be many reasons for not watching Laal Singh Chaddha, but is the boycott justified against this movie? Does it have grave misrepresentations? Does the plot hurt or blame any community in particular?
LSC is an adaptation; a genre which has never worked well in Hindi cinemas. People always love the original better. Then again, there was this hope that since Amir Khan who is known for his ingenuity will introduce some novelty to the existing plot. So, the movie also had to carry the burden of high expectations and comparison. Finally, the call for a boycott assured that the movie is not given a chance to survive and perform in cinemas which made its failure imminent.
Laal Singh Chaddha falters in quite a few places. Exaggerated expressions of Khan reduced his performance to mimicry (at times). The events from nation’s history do not intertwine in Chaddha’s life as flawlessly as they did in the original movie- Forest Gump. The question is whether they could have rolled out a better film? The answer is a definite yes.
But should we boycott the movie because of any other reason? Guess no!
To be honest, after reading the reviews I had my doubts about watching it in a theatre. Since I had already booked my tickets, I took my chances. But now I can say that I am happy I went to watch the movie.
So much has been written about Amir Khan’s performance yet the critics have utterly disregarded the fact that this movie is not just about a man called Laal Singh Chaddha. It is also the story of other characters named Rupa, Bala, MrsChaddha and Mohammad Paji. There are scenes where these characters rein the movie. Their stories told in the Indian context were the real gold of this film.
Also, I think that the movie did justice to the original theme and philosophy of Forest Gump. It narrated the story of a differently abled man who lived an exceptional life because of the strength of his character.
His honesty, his focus and his loyalty paid back. But at the same time, the movie also reminds us of the existential questions mooted in the original movie “do people create their destiny or do they just flow in the sequence of events”. The last scene in the film where you see the feather falling off Chaddha’s diary and embarking on a new journey gives inkling that perhaps Chaddha’s story was just one among many in this world.
Finally, if I had to speak just as an audience who has not seen Forest Gump, I would rate the movie much higher. Perhaps, I will buy the ticket to this movie for my Mom, Dad and Grandmother who have not seen Forest Gump but have lived through the Emergency, Mandal Commission, Operation Blue Star, the death of Indira Gandhi, the communal riots, the terrorist attacks, the Kargil war and much more.
I hope this movie will be well received and appreciated by people who have seen this nation grow bit-by-bit. People may love a movie or hate it, but it should always be given a chance to reach its audience instead of being boycotted.
The writer is a Guwahati based working professional
Disclaimer: The views presented here are personal and TIME8 doesn’t endorse them