Reconciliation in Film: The Indian Experience
- By Samuel Thambusamy
- Published 07/17/2007
Samuel Thambusamy’s interests are in Popular Culture, Theology and Politics. He has a Master of Theology (M.Th) degree from the Senate of Serampore University. He has served in a wide range of ministries such as children, youth, church and development ministries. He is now involved with Wisdomtree and reaches out to young people through cultural apologetics. He lives with his wife Lanusenla and daughter Vandana Yujasola in Chennai, India
India cinema has learnt to craft politics through assertion of caste/nationalistic pride in public sphere. Films with an anti-Pakistan slant have done extremely well at the box office besides helping fundamentalist groups to gain political mileage. If Hindi cinema is obsessed with ‘Pakistan-bashing’, regional cinema (Tamil) has glorified rural violence. Caste, violence and geography conflate in an archaic manner within the narrative. Land disputes, family feuds, and love interests are resolved through an orgy of blood. Such an ethnography of violence prepares the viewer to anticipate, accept and perpetuate violence.
Such narratives of violence necessitate a new visual vocabulary and narrative to help correct Indian cinema. However, some movies present reconciliatory theme both as a ‘discourse of desire and ‘despair’. Veer Zara (2004) and Thevar Magan (1992) present reconciliatory theme in the fictive arena to effect a perspectival change. Both films have made a departure from the usual trend of violence.
1) Veer Zara (2004) deals with the India-Pakistan relations very differently. Veer Pratap Singh, a rescue pilot for the Indian Air Force, meets a Pakistani Zaara Hayaat Khan and falls in love. Veer is arrested on charges of being an espionage agent and ends up spending 22 years in a Pakistani prison. Saamiya Siddiqui , a Pakistani lawyer, fights for his cause.
2) Thevar Magan (1992) deals with the western-educated Shakti doning the patriarchal mantle of his father upon returning to his native village. An accidental conflagration brings about a cycle of mindless violence. Shakti fails to understand the illogic of killing one another in the name of honor and caste pride. He fights to bring peace and reconciliation within this violent caste group.
Both films deal with the themes: a) the ideal of unity b) reconciliation as a value c) the truth-telling voice d) the costs involved e) self-sacrifice d) transformation. As we dwell on these themes and unfold them against the background of the ethnography of violence/conflict within contemporary Indian cinema we find clues to the way forward.
This is the study proposal for my presentation at the fourth International conference on Religion and Film.
– Samuel Thambusamy