Sunday, 3 March 2013

Americaroopam: Kamal Haasan’s Flawed Scripting

Ram Puniyani

The release of Vishwaroopam, the latest film from Kamal Haasan was mired in controversies. (Feb 2013). Haasan decided to arrange a pre-screening for some groups, despite the film being cleared by the censors. These Muslim groups raised lots of objections and demanded for the ban on the film. As matters unfolded, these groups agreed for the release of the film after some cuts in the film, which the renowned actor-producer did and film went on to get very good response on the box office.

The demand for ban was totally out of place and unwarranted. The cutting of some scenes and the background recitation of Quran, before and after the acts of terror, was done by the producer. .Film all through creates the feel that Quran is the source of inspiration for violence. Though Haasan went on to say that the film is a tribute to Indian Muslims, as such the film falls in the trap of the Islamophobia created by America, American media and media here at home. Briefly, in the film the hero helps the US troops against Taliban forces and helps in the Americans in preventing the blast by Muslim group. An analysis of script of the film can be summed up by stating that the hero of the film, a Muslim working with RAW; is a very conscientious person out to save the World from the terror created by Muslim groups. Some writers have summed it up by saying that the film tries to portray ‘one good Muslims and all other bad Muslims’. It leaves an impression that the terrorist Muslim groups are creating problem all over and US is the savior, its agencies trying to protect US and the World from these dastardly acts. Film also roughly goes on to portray that Muslim children are given the arms training right from childhood, and Quran is their training manual for these acts of terror.

While one knows the impeccable secular credentials of both the lead actors of the film, Kamal Haasan and Rahul Bose; still the film is based on the script which is very superficial in its attempt with tackling the problem of terrorism. It’s not that it is the first film trying to grapple with the phenomenon of terror. There had been earlier attempts to deal with the theme, some of them doing a commendable job to go beyond the obvious in unraveling the deeper causes of terror then restricting to the understanding that terrorism is to Islam itself. Films like New York, My Name is Khan, Tere bin Laden Aamir and others did a good job as the script writers tried to break the shackles of the US propaganda and the ‘constructed social common sense’ that ‘All Terrorists are Muslims’. This film takes this formulation as the basic dictum adds to that the imagery that the terrorists keep carrying Koran, keep offering Namaz, and keep shouting Allah Ho Akbar while indulging in the acts of brutality.

How come such a serious film maker like Kamal Haasan falls in to the trap of the US inspired thesis which links terrorism with the teaching of Islam? Haasan claims to have 300 evidences for his script. Going by the story line of the film it seems that his sources seem to be lacking deeper scholarship. One guesses that what is paraded as evidence is mostly the propaganda of dominant global power, America. Look at the statement made in all seriousness that Americans don’t kill women and children! Will the script writer be able to defend it after going through the list of victims of US aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq to give the recent examples?

The film while caricaturing Mullah Umar, as Omar in the film, or the nature of whole Taliban gang, gives the impression that all this is due to what Koran teaches. Here the film gives the impression, the script goes out to elaborate that the hero stands as an exception to all the bad Muslims out to destroy the World. One can say the story line of the film is the passive acceptance of the dominant World view. Karl Marx remarked that the dominant ideas are the ideas of the ruling classes. One can modify it to state that the dominant groups-powers can and do manipulate the social thinking and hide the truth. They project the falsehoods, which the large sections of society go on to accept. Same thing was articulated by Noam Chomsky, the US human rights activists, in his classical formulation of ‘manufacturing consent’. The extensive study undertaken by Chomsky into the policies of US Empire showed its machinations to create the opinion in its favor while attacking other countries for its narrow political goals.

It’s not that there are no dissenting scholars and serious researched material on the subject. There is enough in the arena of serious scholarship and some dedicated websites, which show the deeper truth. One can very well mention the two profound works of scholarship on the subject, Mahmud Mamdani’s ‘Good Muslim Bad Muslim’ and Tariq Ali’s ‘Clash of Fundamentalisms’, which show the deeper connection of the current terror groups, Bin Laden and Al Qaeda outfits themselves being the product of the US attempt to dominate West Asia for controlling oil wealth. The US imperialists worked with the thesis that oil is too important a commodity to be left to Arabs for control. The deeper peep into the current history of West Asia will clearly show the role of CIA in promoting the Madrassas, which picked up Salafi version of Islam to indoctrinate the generation of Muslim youth to undertake acts of terror. The whole sequence of Mujahideen, Taliban and Al Qaeda had been the outcome of that. All this, was richly funded by the United States to fight against the Russians; occupying Afghanistan. Apparently later Al Qaeda turned its guns against Western powers and today is playing the Frankenstein’s monster. The whole formulation of ‘Islamic-terrorism’ was the creation of US media post 9/11 2001, linking Islam-Muslims with terrorism. Here one is not referring to the conspiracy theories, which are doing rounds through various films and social media.

It’s a tragedy of times that despite the large presence of social media and serious scholarship on contemporary history of West Asia, the popular conceptions are those dictated by the US media, and Kamal Haasan’s script neatly falls into the superficial trap laid by the global ‘social common sense’. How come the film mentions the involvement of Al Qaeda type groups into the acts of terror in Malegaon and other cities in India, while totally forgetting Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Swami Assemanand and their ilk who are currently in jails accused of being involved in the series of blasts in different places in India! Why film makers and others remain confined to the superficial level of analysis, which in turn worsens the popular perceptions? Surely, deepening of these perceptions does suit the interests of the Imperialist powers and also the communal forces. This pattern of projection of terrorism leads one to conclude that the power of ideas propagated by America, the other dominant social groups with their prowess to influence and shape the opinions emerging from mainstream media and films like Vishwaroopam, is immense. Films like Vishwaroopam have their own right to be screened without any cuts but are disgusting for the poverty of their research and regressive values, which in turn strengthens the Islamophobia, being perpetuated all round, and is serving the Western powers to dominate the oil zone primarily and also other areas. It strongly helps the communal thinking also.


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