“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”— Joan Didion, “The White Album”
As truly said by Didion, it is only human to make up stories to try and cope with our surroundings, it is only human to filter out whatever negativity there is and try to inhale whatever beautiful remains. But in doing so, more often than not humans end up living in their own utopian paradise, far away from the reality. How often have you not told yourself that the news of the deaths they show, the cries that appear in a faraway land is beyond the reach of your circle and you would fight for them if it had not been so far away. But really how far away are they?! Pray tell, how often have you told yourself such stories in order to live where you won’t have to open your eyes and really look at your surroundings.
When the whole country is infiltrated with hatred, racism, casteism, when the majority of urban India has turned their deaf ears to the suicides of farmers, or the pleas of minorities, or the ongoing water crisis, where urban India only finds entertainment in movies that like to boost their male ego in already patriarchal society, “Article – 15” is the bomb blast that we all very much needed because “बहरोंको सुनना है तो आवाज़को बहुत जोरदार होना होगा.”
When I first watched the trailer and discussed and thought more on the subject, I was sceptical about the movie.
Because too often while making films on social issues we sideline the real issue in hand and end up portraying a role that only boosts the “saviour complex” of the majority. And too often our knight in shining armour is an upper caste savarna cis-gendered heterosexual man. Because if not the most privileged, then who else can stand up for the oppressed?
‘Cause as if the oppressed can never find their own voice. ‘Cause we don’t acknowledge the existence of movements like “Chipko movement” in this country and we ignore smashing of statues of Adivasi freedom fighters like Birsha Munda and they don’t even make a newspaper headline. Because in a land where there’s rampant communalism, why would anyone remember fighters like Titu Meer?! Because if not the most privileged section of society, then who else will be the knight?
However, I am glad to say that even though there is a saviour complex playing in this movie, in my opinion, they have minimised it as much as humanly possible.
At the very beginning, when the movie started with Bob Dylan’s famous lines “…how many times can a man turn his head / and pretend that he just doesn’t see?”, I knew I was up for an emotional rollercoaster ride of a lifetime.
Never have I ever before witnessed a movie that breaks down so many social norms, so many chalta hai’s and hota hai’s at once.
The movie starts off with an urbanised ultra modern IPS officer, who is a proud flag bearer of his culture and traditions and heritage, who finds pure beauty in countryside India, being posted in a remote village of the country where the social difference of caste, class and race are as clear as day and night.
He has his first-hand lessons on the social norms from his driver and later on from many more colleagues and subordinates.
As the story progresses with the kidnapping of three Dalit girls and murder of two of them, it becomes clear as daylight that the differences are not only there to stay for generations long but also have settled down in the very core of the villagers like it’s as normal as their blood and bones. Humans don’t matter there, human flesh doesn’t matter. The only thing that does matter is chhut-acchut, jaat and aukaat of people. Because everyone can’t be throned as the king of the land. ‘Cause if there’s equality, toh firr raja kaun banega?
The beauty of this movie is that, even though their main aim was casteism, as the story progresses with the search for the third kidnapped girl, they did not forget to show other on going social evils like police brutality, patriarchy, corruption, nationalism, hindi imposition.
Not often do you get to see how media can be used in both negative and positive lights as one intends to?
This movie also deserves a huge round of applause from everyone for the portrayal of a fightback from the oppressed.
Never before has a film brought together the ideals of Chandrasekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh and Babasaheb Ambedkar at one place and bound them together in such beautiful harmony.
I loved how they have also shown the angles of the violent as well as non-violent protests of lower caste people all over India.
I am personally particularly in love with the characters Nishaad and Gaura and the way they have portrayed their characters. This movie showed how just by the accident of birth one can be IPS officer facing suspension and the other can be a declared criminal while both simply wanted to do the right thing.
This movie is a simple portrayal of how privileged urban upper caste Indians are, how heedless we are of our society and surroundings. We see India as a nuclear superpower, reaching new heights in science and technology, yet we are still exploiting and forcing Dalits to clear human faeces.
We ignore and forget how the largest democracy of the world depends on daily violation of basic human rights, even though this is a criminal offence declared by the Constitution of India.
Also, I have never witnessed before how one film, on one hand, can smash the rape apology, well known as #NotAllMen and on other hands can also establish the fact that not all men indeed.
“They show far away villages in the news, and we keep thinking they are far away. But he was only sitting a foot away from me all this time and it was him all along, but who could tell?” A simple sentence shook me to core cause really how often do we see rapes happening in far away woods or dark lanes and how often do we really see that maybe the guy sitting next to me is a monster in the guise or the girl sitting next to me may have been through this?!
How often do we really realise all these truths! I don’t think we do.
Because as mentioned at the very beginning, more often than not we come up with stories and paradise in order to live.
However, among all this negativity, the story still ends on a positive note. Justice prevails at the end. Yes, maybe the good had to fight with everything it had and the good had to fight its teeth and nails to succeed, what matters is it wins. And that’s where we all have to look forward to.
Because by The Preamble to Constitution of India, we as a “SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC” country have solemnly resolved to “secure to all its citizens: JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;”
And we must work everyday to make this constitution not just a book but a reality.
Lastly, we must all applaud and thank the director and the actors of this movie and everyone who has worked hard to bring forward a film on such sensitive social issue and pinpoint how we turn blind eyes to them.
However, this is just a movie and we all enjoyed it in an AC theatre and praised it. How much will it really impact we may never know. And so the question still lingers at the end of the movie
“…how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
..how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?”