An erstwhile Maharani and a retired military colonel deciding on the demands of the people in closed door meetings......... There cannot be any worst advertisement for the world's largest democracy. And the results were no less disheartening.
Even a dumb kid could tell this whole promise about building committees to "look into the matter" is a total EYEWASH.
It is amazing how the same persons who managed to incite the crowds into burning trains and buses can pacify them with such an idiotic solution to the problem. I would actually have preferred if the people stopped eating out of the hands of such leaders,even if it meant greater carnage and loss of public life right now.
In the midst of it all,the flying Indian economy was grinded to a halt in the capital on a busy Monday morning by the protestors of backward classes.As an educated middle class races towards 9.25% leaving millions impoverished, such backlashes are bound to occur. As the inequalities start increasing, people's discontent will grow out of proportion,and the empty promises of the Kirori Singh Bhainslas of India may not suffice always.
No film director has explored the conscience of 70's leftist Bengal as well as Mrinal Sen.Although I must admit Sen's brand of old school art house cinema is not quite my favourite(I would prefer somebody like Satyajit Ray any day),Sen's movies are a great way to get into the mind of the 70's Bengali youth. The 70s, in Bengal,were turbulent times. On one hand, the political and cultural scene was bustling with creative activity.There was a new wave of leftist political thought,sweeping through the political landscape of Bengal. Poetry,theatre and cinema was active as never before. On the other side, there was huge unemployment,poverty,large scale immigration problem accompanying the 71 Bangladesh war. In fact, it was the second, which was driving the first, to an extent.
Sen's "Padatik"(The Guerrilla Fighter) is set in this backdrop. Sumit(Dhritiman Chatterjee), a dedicated Naxalite,takes refuge in the house of a wealthy woman,after fleeing from the police prison van. As he spends his days in isolation, he starts reading voraciously,starts questioning the the means and methods on the revolution that he and so many others in his generation are dreaming of. He also develops an affectionate relationship with the woman,Sheela.
The film can be read and understood ant different levels. However,what interests me most is the human perception of the political ideology. Sumit's father,a seasoned political activist in his own times,is sympathetic to the ideology.However,he feels distant from the radical smalltalk of today's youth. Then there is Nikhilda,the dedicated leader,who burns midnight oil,writing leaflets,trying to inspire the common man to join the revolution.While his dedication may be phenomenal,but he is often autocratic and not open to ideas.His political ideology may be a manifestation of his philanthropic ideals,it is quite clear that the new wave of free thought has not clerly fitered through his brain,and his ideas on authority and integrity of organisation is often influenced and guided by the age old traditional beliefs,just as the establishments that he is fighting with. Then there is Sheela(the beautiful and classy Simi Garewal), the high flying career woman in the advertisement industry on one hand,and a "fellow traveler" of the Naxalites on the other.While Sen tries to sort of portray her as one interested in social change and the feminist perspective,it does not come out quite strongly.On the other hand, a string of interviews talking about the plight of women in the middle of the film is extremely boring, and feels sort of preachy.What does emerge though,is that her attachment to the movement is less because of ideologies,and more emotional,due to her deceased brother,who was a part of the movement. As an aside, ideological positions, are often driven,I have seen, by such emotions,rather than independent thought processes endorsing their validity. Biman,Sumit's aide, comes out as another interesting personality. While there are some people who are in it for the emotional reason,their are some, who treat the party and movement as a kind of a faith. As Sumit aptly describes him once "mindless cannon fodder"..... While this is the kind that have made up a large class of the so called "party workers" both for the right and the left, and it is often their dedication that builds up a party, their obsequiousness to the authority often means ...........
In view of the sudden resurgence of the ultra left in Bengal, following the protests of farmers in Singur and Nandigram, it was quite an experience looking back at their predecessors 30 years back,at their strength and vulnerabilities,free of the rose tainted glass that the media often wears in its nostalgic rememberance of the heroes if 70s.
P.S. Simi Garewal's "nyaka" non-Bengali Bong is delicious to hear!!!