Posted On Sunday, March 04, 2012 at 07:10:39 AM
Many years ago I tried to interview a man in New York who ran HinduUnity.org — Bajrang Dal’s official website in the US. I briefly spoke to this 30-year-old man on the phone, hearing his American accent as he told me that he was born in the US.
|Kathryn Bigelow’s shoot for Zero Dark Thirty in Chandigarh was opposed by VHP and Bajrang Dal activists
I mentioned I was interested in knowing about his upbringing in the US, the books he read and more, to understand what made him hate Islam and Muslims. He said he would get back to me. He did not and the interview never happened. I could not fathom why this man was so intolerant.
On Friday I thought about the interview that never happened, as I read about the protests in Chandigarh against Kathryn Bigelow’s plans to shoot Zero Dark Thirty, the movie on the US Navy SEALs’ hunt for and the killing of Osama Bin Laden. From what I read, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal protesters were opposed to the newly created signs for the film in Urdu, and the recreation of a mini-Pakistani city in a part of Chandigarh.
“The image of India will go down because such kind of a shoot is happening in India,” a protester was quoted as saying by an Indian television reporter. Perhaps they do not realise that the protests have been reported on practically every news website and film blog around the world. Right now India’s image has been adversely impacted by the protests.
I know nothing about Bigelow’s script, but this much is true — many Pakistanis were shameful of the fact that Bin Laden was found living in their country. So perhaps the protesters should be happy that Bigelow’s film will reflect on the shame of Pakistan. Also I thought Urdu was a language in India and there signs in Urdu in many parts of the country. It is also true that there is much resemblance between North Indian cities and those in Pakistan — the architecture, the topography and the fact that Indians and Pakistanis are brown people and look alike! Shooting a Hollywood film generates income for extras and actors, local technicians and businesses. But all that logic may seem irrelevant to the protesters.
Strange how erratic these protests are. Last fall Mira Nair shot a part of The Reluctant Fundamentalist in India, recreating Lahore in Delhi. There were no reported protests then, nor when Deepa Mehta did the same for the shoot of Earth. I am certainly not suggesting that people should have protested against those two films.
And Mehta has had her share of troubles from the Hindu fundamentalist groups. Now she is so cautious that even her latest film Midnight’s Children was shot in Sri Lanka. Perhaps she was right to do so, given how much hysteria Salman Rushdie’s name still generates among Muslim fundamentalist groups.
Sitting in New York I wonder who these protesters are and what motivates them to march on the streets? What books did they read as children, what life lessons their parents gave them that they have such a knee jerk reaction to what is essentially a film, creating a make believe situation. And why do they continue to hate Pakistan so much, especially when that country is in such a quagmire itself?
Bigelow and her crew will leave India soon. I believe most of the film is being shot in Jordan. But where does all of this leave India? The protests in Chandigarh, the brouhaha at the Jaipur Literature Festival (that situation also attracted so much international media attention), the book burning incident in Mumbai a few years ago — what does all of this intolerance and hatred say about India, its people and its future?
Do the fundamentalist groups — regardless of their religion, understand the damage they are doing to India? Is anyone reaching out to them, explaining they are misguided? Many liberal writers wrote commentary pieces after the Jaipur fiasco. But who was reading and commenting on those pieces? And I think about that Bajrang Dal man with the American accent in New York. What does he read these days?
• Do not go overboard
This is with reference to Aseem Chhabra’s last week column ‘Clooney, the best actor’ (PM, February 26) . As the ceremony unfolded last Sunday evening, it became clear that George Clooney lost the Oscar’s race to French actor Jean Dujardin. Clooney, who play’s Matt King in The Descendants failed to impress the jury. Chhabra’s reasoning that Clooney makes us recognise that there is a bit of Matt King in all of us is far-fetched. Chhabra may be an ardent fan of Clooney, but as a columnist he shouldn’t be judgemental and avoid wrong predictions.
I hope Chhabra maintains objectivity in his columns and leave it to the reader’s discretion.
- Jaideep Mhatre
• Not the end
Notwithstanding George Clooney starrer The Descendants lost the Oscar’s race to The Artist , I think Clooney’s fans don’t need the Oscar’s recognition to judge the actor’s greatness. Clooney is a superstar and his fans will continue to admire him more than ever before. Such honours are temporary while class is permanent. I hope the results wouldn’t have affected the star as well.
- Harjeet Bhatia