Love stories in Bollywood follow a set pattern with slight modifications of accent, location, situations etc. There are a set of problems that the lovers have to go through, before the happily ever after thing happens.
If you know India, you must know things don’t operate this way. And if you happen to hail from the eastern part of the country like me, you know the importance of suffix. You must be aware that the differences are not always based on class, but most of the times, based on caste. The issue has a pan-Indian character in some form or the other (I am saying this after meeting people from different states and travelling to other parts of the country). And the obsession for surnames doesn’t seem to fade in any of the states. Hence, the second name becomes all the more important.
In most of the Hindi cinema, the second name becomes inconsequential but do we function like that?
“Raj..naam to suna hoga (The name is Raj, you must’ve heard of me)” may have become popular – but the reality lies in “Raj kyaa? Poora naam kya hai? (Raj who? What’s your last name?)”
This is how India operates.
This movie is important because of the way the caste system has been put out in the open. However, it is unfair to call it a movie about caste system or caste prejudices. This movie has much more than just the ugly truth of casteism. It subtly touches a lot of crucial topics such as women education, cow vigilantism, bureaucratic irregularities, sports quota recruitment, the monotony of jobs, mob lynchings etc. However, the central theme of the movie is a love story of people from different castes.
There’s an interesting side of the narrative where the movie slips in a small sub-story of ‘reverse casteism’. A ‘Yadav’ boss is seen making a video of a ‘Thakur’ peon while cleaning his desk.
‘Yadav’ boss to ‘Thakur’ peon: “Waqt kitne tezi se badal raha hai naa. Humare babuji Bhumihaaron ke yahan naukar the (Look how times are changing, our father was a servant in a Bhumihaaran household)”
Besides the phenomenal performances and putting the caste system out in the open, this has been another highlight of the film. Unlike our regular Bollywood movies, here, we tend to forget the first names of the characters as their surnames define them. The reverse casteism throws light on the unfortunate vicious circle of hatred and exploitation. Either way, one side suffers. Exploitation is often a matter of opportunity.
There are several dialogues and conversations which runs deeper than what it appears. The screenplay is very real, and the details are so crisp, that one becomes a part of it immediately.
There are a couple of dialogues that are still vivid in my mind:
Bhagwan Das Mishra to his brother: “Are beti apki hai to uski marzi kaise chalegi. Ladkiyon ki humare Ghar me kabhi chali hai kya? (She’s your daughter, how will here decisions prevail? Have we ever listened to the women in our house?)”
It is ironic how some upper castes are thought to be ‘forward thinking’, where in reality, all of them are equally backward, orthodox and patriarchal. It is funny that even today, the family’s respect is dependent on keeping the women in their place (which is below men).
Another one is where Bhagwan Das is seen organising a boxing tournament.
“Boxing pe film banti hai to 40 crore kamati hai, yahan ek tournament rakho to 40 log bhi nahi aate ( A film on boxing earns 40 crores, but if we organise a tournament, not even 40 turn up.)”
Things can’t get more real for a movie with its title as “Mukkabaaz”. Though I can’t say much about cricket fanatics!
There are small dialogues and scenes which are slipped in carefully but has a meaning to them, like:
“Chapraasi insaan nahi hote kya (Aren’t servants also human?)”
“Jo sabko lagta hai wohi sach hota hai (The truth is limited to what the society thinks)”
We are all guilty of forgetting that the peon or people working as lower rank officers or doing other low paid jobs are humans too.
The other one is important for a time where misreporting and tampered videos are doing wonders. But the most unfortunate part is that nobody has time and patience to know the truth. Hence, “Jo sabko lagta hai wohi sach hota hai kyunki janna to koi chahta hi nahi hai. (What people think is the truth, because no one bothers to find the real truth out)”
The most touching part of the movie remains the love story. It unfolds with a new rendition the eternal ingredient of literature and of cinema: love. The lovers not only overcome external hurdles, but also fight the differences in their personal aspirations.
I believe this is a very important movie. However, it will not change the society. Nothing can change the society unless the society wants to change itself. This movie may not change the dynamics of movie making and fallacies of the film industry.
It is important because it paved the way for dialogue and discussion about a crucial social vice. This movie has been successful in validating the existence of casteism. The bigger issue has always been our denial of its existence.
This article was first published here