Sarkar in the soup

Millennium Post - - Editorial -

Vijay-starer po­lit­i­cal thriller Sarkar that deals with the sub­ject of free­bies doled out by the gov­ern­ment as part of poll prom­ises has run into trou­ble as the rul­ing party in Tamil Nadu AIADMK has de­manded a num­ber of changes in the film. The film, which was re­leased on Di­wali and grossed over Rs 100 crore within two days of its open­ing has oblique ref­er­ences to for­mer Chief Min­is­ter Jay­alalithaa. The film’s story is about an NRI who comes to In­dia to cast his vote but when he reaches the polling booth, he finds that his vote has al­ready been cast. He tries to get to the bot­tom of the mat­ter and it leads to the un­rav­el­ling of ev­ery­thing that is wrong about the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal cul­ture. The film cli­maxes to a po­lit­i­cal tur­moil where the is­sue of the pop­ulist de­ci­sion of the gov­ern­ment such as the dis­tri­bu­tion of colour TV, mixer grinder, lap­tops, etc. come in sharp fo­cus. Since the re­lease of the film, AIADMK min­is­ters and work­ers have de­manded the re­moval of cer­tain scenes and dia­logues. They have also re­sorted to protests and dam­ag­ing of films ban­ners and posters. The state gov­ern­ment has also threat­ened that it would ini­ti­ate

le­gal ac­tion against the film crew if they do not com­ply by its de­mands to re­move con­tro­ver­sial scenes from the film. Di­rec­tor, A R Mu­ru­ga­doss on Thurs­day tweeted that some po­lice­men had come to his house and banged on the doors in the night. Fear­ing le­gal trou­ble, Mu­ru­ga­doss ap­proached the Madras High Court on Fri­day for an an­tic­i­pa­tory bail and the court has granted him pro­tec­tion from ar­rest till No­vem­ber 27. Mean­while, he has de­cided to re­move some scenes and mute some con­ver­sa­tions that the AIADMK

lead­ers have found of­fend­ing in the film.

In the long list of films that kicked up a con­tro­versy be­cause of its con­tent, Sarkar is the lat­est en­try. The yet-tobe-re­leased Shah Rukh Khan-starer Zero is also in the news for con­tain­ing some con­tro­ver­sial scenes that are said to be hurt­ing the sen­ti­ments of a par­tic­u­lar re­li­gious com­mu­nity. Some time ago, San­jay Leela Bhansali-di­rected Pad­maa­vati (later re­leased as Pad­ma­vat) was amid a rag­ing con­tro­versy for por­tray­ing queen Pad­ma­vati in poor light. Most of th­ese films have ob­tained the ap­proval of the Cen­tral Board of Film Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion (CBFC). In 2016, film Udta Pun­jab that de­picted the wide­spread preva­lence of drug abuse and the dif­fer­ent facets of the drug trade in Pun­jab had touched a nerve of a sec­tion of the peo­ple who de­manded a num­ber of cuts in the film. All th­ese films have been ex­tremely suc­cess­ful at the box of­fice. As film­mak­ing is a cost-in­ten­sive busi­ness, the suc­cess of a film is of crit­i­cal im­por­tance for ev­ery­one in­volved with the project. A great deal of con­tem­pla­tion and plan­ning goes into the se­lec­tion of the story on which the film is to be made. Films based on the lives of charis­matic po­lit­i­cal lead­ers and his­tor­i­cal per­son­al­i­ties draw a lot of at­ten­tion from the au­di­ence. In or­der to make the films in­ter­est­ing, film­mak­ers de­lib­er­ately in­fuse some con­tro­ver­sial el­e­ments about them into their films and this usu­ally sets off a pub­lic hue and cry. A lit­tle bit of con­tro­versy is said to be in the in­ter­est of the film as this works as a pub­lic­ity rather than a set­back.

Jay­alalithaa, who was a star in Tamil film in­dus­try be­fore en­ter­ing pol­i­tics, is one such per­son­alty that of­fers un­lim­ited scope to be re­dis­cov­ered on the cel­lu­loid screen. So, as far as the choice of the story is con­cerned, film­mak­ers in­volved with Sarkar have made no mis­take and the lit­tle con­tro­versy that it has gen­er­ated may prove to be a bless­ing in dis­guise as the film is now widely known and more peo­ple are ex­pected to watch it. But in the case of Jay­alithaa who was treated with ex­treme rev­er­ence by her fol­low­ers, any­thing dis­parag­ing about her can cause wide­spread re­sent­ment. AIADMK politi­cians who are op­pos­ing Sarkar knows this as­pect of the peo­ple’s psy­chol­ogy only too well, so they would not like to miss out on any op­por­tu­nity that brings back the mem­ory of charis­matic Jay­alalithaa and makes peo­ple rally around to pro­tect her image. In ab­sence of Jay­alalithaa and Karunanidhi, the Tamil Nadu pol­i­tics has lately been de­void of the power play be­tween the two po­lit­i­cal heavy­weights that kept the peo­ple glued to the two re­gional par­ties that dom­i­nate the po­lit­i­cal scene in the state. The new lead­er­ship in both AIADMK and DMK has been try­ing hard to find their feet in the changed po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment.

The con­tro­ver­sies sur­round­ing some of the In­dian films point to the re­silience of the film in­dus­try that has con­sis­tently re­fused to be bound by the parochial value sys­tem of the po­lit­i­cal class. That more and more film­mak­ers are pick­ing up avant-garde themes sug­gest that the In­dian film in­dus­try is on a tra­jec­tory of its own, un­af­fected by what a sec­tion of the au­di­ence or the po­lit­i­cal thinks about it.

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