Standing at attention

In Karan Johar’s Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001) the National Anthem was all about inverse Imperialism. It was about building a bharatiya ghar in Hampstead and also about colonising the English by making them sing the Jana Gana Mana. In the sporting arena and the boxing ring of Mary Kom (2014) the anthem was used to kindle the latent patriot in the audience.

However, now that the National Anthem is in the thick of debate and discussion it’s worth revisiting the most stark, powerful and hard-hitting use of it in Indian cinema, in the Marathi film, Fandry (2013). On the plight of Dalits in contemporary rural Maharashtra, the film focuses on an exploited family of pig-catchers living on the very margins of the society. They trap pigs for their daily meal. In the “National Anthem scene” their perennial degradation comes to light harrowingly as they try and catch a pig near a school as the village looks on. Jabya, the kid of the family feels humiliated and devastated at how it becomes a spectacle for all. The pig is elusive and difficult to pin down but just as they have cornered him and are about to catch him the National Anthem begins to play in the school assembly. They immediately stand in attention as the pig just walks away quietly. 

“I wanted to show how they respect the nation while the nation has no care or concern for them,” says the film’s director Nagraj Manjule. They respect the country but does it treat them as equal citizens? Manjule uses Jana Gana Mana to implicate the privileged and reproaches them for the humiliation of the oppressed. “We believe in tokenism of standing up but what are we doing to uplift the fellow citizens who are beset with ugly, caste-based prejudices?” Worth a thought.

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Printable version | May 6, 2021 1:37:51 PM |

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