India and the No. 100: A Confluence of Contradictions



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About two weeks back, as I was on my way to review Rohit Shetty’s ‘Bol Bachchan’, I couldn’t help wondering about the number of people who would be at the theatre. About twenty minutes later, as I entered the cinema hall, I was shocked to find the place packed to the point of suffocation. Absolute pandemonium greeted me inside the theatre, and I double checked the date and time on my phone – it indeed was 10 o’clock in the morning, and a Friday. People, obviously, had nothing more important to do than watching the first-day-first-show of a comedy.

The dwindling entertainment quotient of Hindi films and the taste of the audience on the downward spiral apart, what struck me the most was the sheer absence of work and poverty. It nowhere appeared, inside the four walls of that luxurious theatre, that there were people who were actually compelled to starve to death in this country. This, undoubtedly, was another planet altogether. People led lives here which weren’t dented by thoughts of making ends meet or with worries pertaining to ‘graver’ issues. But again, as they say, grave or not lies in one’s perspective.

There are two facets of this unique country of ours, and its even-more-unique people. While on the one hand, the country, they say, is staggering beneath the burden of unfathomable debt, on the other, we have this section of the country that apparently doesn’t have anything to worry about in life. This unique amalgam of diametric opposites, I doubt, is found anywhere but in India.

There’s one section of the country which is going berserk, with each passing moment, about the falling price of the Indian rupee. And juxtaposed against it is another, which spends thousands, lakhs and crores, and results in baptising films with the ‘100 crore’ tag. For filmmakers, India sure is the Mecca of money, and Indians, the new-age money-minting machines.

All the while, there’s a certain Salam Romita Devi whose homeland, Bishnupur in Manipur, is ravaged by the raging insurgency. Romita, nine years old, is a victim of a dream that has been left to rot and dry – thanks to that very money which elsewhere goes into the creation of numerous ‘100 crore clubs’. We are the denizens of that same country which fails to send two of its best athletes to the London Olympics for a mere sum of Rs. 30,000.

At least people have come to know about P. Kunhumohammed and Joseph Abraham, both of whose dreams of participating in the biggest and the most famous arena in the sporting world have been trampled over, brutally, by that same money. There isn’t a Kayo Deboo in every house, and every neighbourhood in the country wasn’t engendered from the pen-tips of Rajesh Mapuskar and Rajkumar Hirani. This is a country where dreams remain dreams, and people are no characters of ‘Ferrari Ki Sawaari’. This is also a country where people spend a billion on one single movie – over a course of just a month. Meanwhile, this same country weeps over the so-called fact that the Indian economy is slogging.

The abyss between the ones thronging the multiplexes and the malls every single day and the ones whose candles burn at both ends is a vertiginous one. The lacuna between the rich and the poor that the numerous leaders of the country had thought of bridging, somehow, has never been bridged. The fangs of hunger and the pangs of homelessness are as valid realities as the one I noticed inside that particular movie theatre on that particular day. With a present where rapine and greed have perforated every single quarter of the society, the likes of Karl Marx might have come to a rescue. But like Hamlet says in the eponymous play by William Shakespeare, “Alas, poor Yorick!”

The current condition of communism in the country is definitely not the answer. But the actual – in the real sense of the word – ideals of Communism might have made a difference. And then there are also those people, who flock the theatres for every single film, thereby catapulting every release worthwhile or worthless to that recent phenomenon called the ‘100 crore’ club. In a country where a huge percentage of the 100 crore people fight their circumstances daily to make ends meet, one is left to wonder the resounding ramifications of the other ‘100 crore’.

Perhaps all we need is Dumbledore’s magic wand. One that can strike a perfect balance between the two billions - the many monies and the many men - and paint a perfect India. Magic realism, possibly, is the only possibility here.