When was the last time we spoke about Kai Po Che? Probably, two years ago, when the news of Sushant Singh Rajput’s sudden demise hit our consciousness. While the nation mourned for the talented actor, cinema lovers revisited Abhishek Kapoor’s 2013 sports drama that had launched the Bollywood career of this Bihar wonder boy who was already a household name amongst Indian families as Manav from Pavitra Rishta.
But wait. The film, adapted from Chetan Bhagat’s The 3 Mistakes of my Life, returned into public discourse earlier this year in February when the country raised the question of what exactly triggered the Gujarat riots of 2002. Several prominent social media handles even published the names of the 59 victims (10 children included) who were burnt alive inside the bogeys of two coaches of the Sabarmati Express by a frenzied Islamist mob at an outpost just outside Godhra railway station. So how was Kai Po Che relevant in this probe into manipulative narratives that shrouded the truth about the carnage?
Suppose you recall correctly and keep the sentimental lens while viewing any work of Rajput aside. In that case, you will figure out how the storyline was hinged towards painting the Muslims as always at the receiving end of Hindu high-handedness. The scene where Ishaan (SSR’s character) gets into a fisticuff with Omi (Amit Sadh) because the right-wingers refuse to attend to the affected Muslims in the relief camp set up after the disastrous Gujarat earthquake of January 2002 sets the tone of imbalance in the denouement would eventually unravel. Remember the heated words Bittu Mama (Manav Kaul) tells his nephew after he learns that his parents were among the karsevaks brutally murdered on the train? Bhagat and Kapoor craftily avoided talking too much about who set the Sabarmati coach alight and the aggressive fundamentalism behind it, but the script ensured that the Hindu retaliation was painted as excessive and unjustified. The monkey balancing ultimately ended with Ishaan’s life being snuffed out while he tries to save a young Muslim boy from being killed by an angry Omi under the instigation of his Bittu Mama (Manav Kaul), an RSS karyakarta shown to use the unfortunate incidents to climb political ladders.
While PM Modi stands vindicated repeatedly by the highest legal bodies of our country, the relentless Left conspiracy to defame him and discredit his work never stopped ever since the diabolical plan was hatched to burn those innocent 59 Hindus alive and bring anarchy in Modi’s Gujarat
The Supreme Court recently upheld the Special Investigation Team’s (SIT) clean chit to then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and 63 others in the 2002 riots in the state and dismissed a plea by slain Congress leader Ehsan Jafri’s wife Zakia Jafri. Former MP Ehsan Jafri was among the 68 people killed at Ahmedabad’s Gulbarga Society during violence on 28 February 2002, a day after the Godhra train burning. His wife’s petition had challenged the high court’s October 5th, 2017 order rejecting her plea against the SIT decision. On December 9 last year, the apex court had reserved its verdict on the plea. Except for Zakia Jafri’s petition, nobody had raised a finger against it for the probe conducted in the 2002 Gujarat riots, the SIT had said during the hearing in the top court.
While dirty anti-Indian politics gnawed at his systematic rise in popularity, soft powers were regularly roped in to paint him and his ideologies as communal, hate-mongering and severely detrimental to the social fabric, which obviously meant appeasement of Muslims to uphold the secular nature of the Constitution. If that called for manufacturing distorted cinema that shared half-baked facts, camouflaged reality and showcased Hindus as baying for Muslim blood, so be it.
The hate was kept simmering
The Gujarat riots of February 2002 were, without a doubt, a dark chapter in India’s post-Independence history, but it was neither the only one to have happened in the country since 1947, nor was it the worst of the riots. Yet, Narendra Modi has always been singled out as the devil incarnate as if he personally carried out all the killings. Despite the facts laid down by the Nanavati Commission and closer scrutiny of the available details suggesting that the alleged mishandling of the 2002 riots wasn’t the real reason for villainising Modi, the grating nature of disgust and ire for the man continued. Unfortunately, this consolidated effort to whitewash the happenings of the riots resulted from the fury and the fear of Modi dismantling the Nehruvian consensus.
Perhaps that’s why when Rahul Dholakia made Raees in 2017, he ensured Shahrukh Khan’s Raees Alam didn’t showcase the criminal colours of Abdul Latif, the Dawood Ibrahim associate his character was based on. The audience was blindfolded to believe that there was a Robin Hood-esque goon, who obviously couldn’t have mobilised an Islamist mob to burn down a Sabarmati coach outside Godhra station to extinguish the lives of 59 innocent Hindus returning from an Ayodhya pilgrimage. Leave aside his close connection with the Congress representation in Gujarat, as openly spoken about by renowned journalist Rahul Roushan in his book, Sanghi Who Never Went to a Shakha. The classic Bollywood lopsided frame hid that the man Alam’s role was sketched around was actually wanted for over 100 cases of murder, contract killing, extortion, rioting, kidnappings, smuggling, bootlegging and has a part to play in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case. There were 243 cases against his gang including 64 murders and 14 kidnappings. This was the real Raees behind the Godhra carnage as well.
The International Eye
When it comes to whitewashing facts and presenting botched-up accounts, no one does it better than Bollywood. But, when they want the propaganda to scream the loudest, the international involvement is tactfully weaved in. This was the case in Dholakia’s previous work on the Gujarat riots. Parzania, released in 2005, would do the trick of villainising Modi, the then CM of Gujarat, who was already making noise in the right circle for the developments he was bringing in his state after the trauma and debacle hurled at him from all over after he assumed office. The director this time got David N Donihue, a relatively unknown American writer, director and actor, to co-write Parzania to tap into those colonised minds who take the white man’s words as gospel. The plot focused on Allan, a confused American’s search for inner peace even as he tries to understand the world and his troubled life through his reflections on India and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. His interactions with the Pithawala (Cyrus Pithawala was enacted by Naseeruddin Shah who hasn’t really minced words on his antipathy towards the BJP Government ever) family reveal Parzan, their son, had gone missing during the Gujarat riots of 2002 when their surrounding homes were attacked. The plot was based on the story of Rupa Mody whose son had disappeared after the Gulbarga Society massacre that was retaliation for the Sabarmati coach burning. While assisting the Pithawalas in their search, Allan battles to uncover the reason behind the riots in an effort to make some sense of the incident. People start to question the Government’s official explanation of the incident which downplays any conspiracy. As a result, a Human Rights Commission is formed, through which several witnesses and victims testify against the indifference of the police to protect them from the rioters.
Critically acclaimed in Leftist circles (it won two National Awards in 2007 for Best Director and Best Actress) the film tried to prop up the Gandhian philosophy that Hindus must accept the heinous atrocities meted out to them by the Muslims no matter what even as there was an accusatory tone used to paint the administration’s handling of the situation. In hindsight, the Hindus retaliating against the Muslims in Gujarat after the initial trigger was uncalled for. This was the template Gandhi dished out during the Moplah Hindu genocide of 1921 and the Noakhali riots of 1946. Not once did Parzania’s script mention what started the disturbance or how cruelly 59 Hindu pilgrims were killed by an Islamist mob but to hogwash, the film ended with a dedication to the lives snatched due to communal violence. While the Parsi angle was thrown in for a third-party perspective, the audience wasn’t really asked to reflect on who drove the Zoarashtrians out of Persia after persecuting them severely many, many years ago.
The Left-liberal attack
The most skewed narrative of the Gujarat riots was however presented by Nandita Das in 2008 through her directorial debut Firaaq, where she singularly painted the Muslims as the hapless victims of the communal disturbance and Hindus as the devious and deranged ones who deserve to be punished. The hypocrisy in the narrative screeched out as Aarti (Deepti Naval) lives an apologetic existence as a badgered Gujarati wife even as her husband (Paresh Rawal) is trying to bribe the law keepers to safeguard his brother who was involved in a gang rape. Educated Hindus are shown to be biased and Muslims from all strata are absolved of everything bad. Be it the classical vocalist Khan Saheb (played by who else, but Naseeruddin Shah), an epitome of blissful optimism, the pragmatic Karim Mian (Raghuvir Yadav), the poor couple Muneera (Shahana Goswami) and Hanif (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) or Sameer Shaikh (Sanjay Suri) who is served nothing but doubt by his Hindu wife’s family members.
Parzania, released in 2005, would do the trick of villainising Modi, the then CM of Gujarat, who was already making noise in the right circle for the developments he was bringing in his state after the trauma and debacle hurled at him from all over after he assumed office. The director this time got David N Donihue, a relatively unknown American writer, director and actor, to co-write Parzania to tap into those colonised minds who take the white man’s words as gospel
It’s interesting that Das, despite courting immense critical acclaim for her film (she artfully used fantastic actors to deliver the erroneous point home) and innumerable awards (including two National awards), didn’t go on to direct any other film after this abject agenda-driven work. She could have, considering she did have scores to settle against the Narendra Modi-led government who asked her father, painter Jatin Das (whose name was hauled up by more than one woman for #metoo) to vacate his plush Lutyens bungalow because he had no business overstaying in it. Clearly, she would have crafted yet another fabricated story to malign PM Modi and his ministers by pulling him up for the done and dusted Gujarat riots of 2002. And, just like controversial activist Teesta Seetalvad (arrested by the ATS and whose NGO is backed by the Ford Foundation) was supported by an army of Left-leaning activists, politicians and intellectuals, Das would have found the ‘ecosystem’ backing her up to further her sinister ploy in the garb of aesthetically presented art.
The hold over the audience
Films have a profound grip on setting narratives because their wide reach helps in tutoring the mainstream about what they are supposed to know and believe. Think of the Bollywood fixation of painting the Thakurs as rapists, pundits and purohits as mischievous, miserly munshis as parasites sucking poor farmers dry and a Karim or Rahim chacha as the only benevolent soul around and you would understand why the Left has gratingly pushed this distortion through cinema. The communist idea of the proletariat suffering under the oppression of the bourgeoisie was more grist to the mill of manipulation that thrived in the cinema made by Left-leaning filmmakers. Raghu Karnad once ‘lamented’ in a media article about how he had to let go of the huge collection of books his father Girish Karnad had hoarded during his extended residency at a Lutyens bungalow long after he ceased to be the director of the Film and Television Institute of India as well the Nehru Centre. The legendary director and actor obviously did not like it when in 2014 he was ‘evicted’ from that posh government residence because he didn’t have the right to stay there anymore. The spite these movie personalities have for the Modi Government hence, as per their elitist understanding, isn’t misplaced.
This bias extends to circles that don’t let good films, with a balanced narrative, flourish in India. So, while films like Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider, despite completely obviating the mention of Kashmiri Pandits from the story, and calling the Martand Sun Temple as ‘shaitan ka goofa’, are lauded in prestigious circles, Anthony Maras’s 2018 thriller Hotel Mumbai is purposely shadow banned. Why? Because it openly declares that terror indeed has a religion. Something that the Lutyens media, who thrive by being the lapdogs of the Congress, and the Left cabal know but rather not have the masses figure out. That would prove that PM Modi indeed was and is not wrong. A truth his detractors have been desperately trying to squash by pulling just about any sinister scheme.