I do hope one day a righteous Indian government with good clear intentions dismantles the "Bollywood" trash house fiction which churns out so much rubbish whilst at the same time managing to launder the ill gotten gains of the Indian underworld and especially the likes of Ibrahim Dawood et al. That perhaps the CBI should take a closer look at its funding and its sources of creative inspiration, which contributes "so much' for and to India, consciously and subconsciously.That it models itself on Hollywood is bad enough aspirations wise, but that it should be a source of foreign propaganda, which is inherently against India's interests is a more serious concern.
So I watched Junoon in the 1980's. Once on Jeremy Isaac's channel 4, in the late evenings when he was running Indian art-house movies, and again on the same channel with some Indian friends, Punjabis mostly. I can handle Indian art-house movies, without feeling frustrated, confused, embarrassed, irritated, annoyed, and bored; some of the emotions that come over me when watching "Bollywood" movies....the list of emotions is not exhaustive. So it seems Hindi movies must dumb down to the perceived level of the simple peasant, in order to sell their wares; sounds logical to me.
It was a relief that in this movie there were no songs with the leads prancing about artlessly, engrossed in melodramatic poses in the Himalayas foothills yet again. That the song in the beginning had some connection to the movie (In India holy men, Sufis and Pirs really do dance around in chants and do perform with music...so OK)
The movie itself seemed like a made for TV production, but at least the subject was original, historical, topical and interesting, devoid of the traditional Bollywood copied tedious fare. The camera work seemed pedestrian, and the plot even more pedestrian, focusing on the welfare of our English damsels in distress hiding from the savage natives, and the Leering prying eyes of the "Pathan" . Yes an Anglicized audience might be concerned about the plight of the memshahibs, but for most ordinary South Asians a focus on ordinary Indians in such turbulent times would have been more appropriate and pertinent.
Shashi Kapoor being married to Jennifer Kendal, would mean that his perceptions of the "Mutiny" or shall we say the "Liberation War" COULD have a significant British Raj bias, especially with his wife acting in it. .............and I thought that was conveyed in various subtle ways in the movie. But that is a matter of personal taste and preferences. It is after all a story based on a book written by a English gentlemen, and mainly from their perspectives which "our" Shashi Kapoor decided to choose as producer of the project, as his very first project.
So what was good about the movie? I enjoyed the dialog, which seemed natural and intelligent...though the conversations were way to sparse and short. People in such intense times of rebellion and war tend to speak a lot more, and usually in more intense ways about relevant topics. Our characters in the movie by contrast seemed to be constantly lost for words, and lacking the ability to communicate at extensive length with their counterparts. Through dialog we get a better understanding of our characters, and their "situation" in the drama unfolding.
The acting was wooden, though mercifully we were spared the loud speaker melodramatic treatment of Bollywood, an acting style presumably imported during Queen Victoria's era by a semi deaf theater producer from Bombay, and instead we had natural tones and vibrations. But Shashi Kapoor as a Rohilla Pathan...nah!!!He always seemed too effeminate for me for such a role, like his other brother Shammi. Nafisa Ali, yes very beautiful, though no great acting skills, and Naseeruddin Shah looked a bit Bin Laden to me, but as always a good animated actor.
So a bit of historical context which the movie did not give us, but merely the colonial narrative of savage ungrateful natives doing the usual. Superstitiously reacting to the prophecies of Pirs.......We are informed in the movie by a native soldier that the natives are restless because of the greased cartridges that the British had introduced contained pig and cow fat (offensive to both Muslims and Hindus respectively) SUBTEXT: "These natives are primitive and superstitious, and it doesn't take a lot to get them in a rebellious mood, killing left right and center". It trivializes the real issues and the brave Indians who fought for their country and stood up for their beliefs. If only it was that simple, and the standard repeated lie of Raj history.
The greased cartridge case wouldn't explain why the entire Bengal Presidency army rebelled en mass in 1857. The British had conquered Bengal in 1757, and 1857 was the hundredth year of their rule of the great Indian state of Greater Bengal (Bengal Bihar Jharkand, Orissa.
British misrule of Greater Bengal was notorious; just think of a bank robber in a bank vault....in 1769, 10 million Bengalis died because the British restricted the growing of rice in favor of cash crops for exports to Europe, such as Jute and Indigo........and so on...and so on......Turning the richest state in India, "The Pearl of India" into one of the poorest in a few decades. Then there was the taxation of ordinary civilians of the type never seen before in India....and into the 19th century where the British were feeling more confident in themselves and their "benevolent rule", and so their desire to "civilize" the Indians through evangelical Christianity. Finally, symbolically in 1856 the British removed the ruler of Oudh, who were the traditional Wazirs of the Mughal Empire, and then that was it.........rebellion.
So based on the above facts, contrary to the portrayal of the movie, the British weren't just having polite conversations over dinner, or going to church; they were inflicting great harm in Greater Bengal especially, and weren't exactly charitable to the rest of India in various degrees. A visual portrayal of what they were actually doing in India in terms of gross misrule would have added context to the rebellion of the company soldiers. BUT instead the overall visual imagery of the movie simply doesn't connect or justify the actions of the Indians against their British masters...it is thus in that sense, in terms of the visual, unbalanced. And the movie directs the audiences sympathy towards the English ladies, in their sad plight trying to hide from the savages. The "Hero" of the movie, if there is one is an imperfect bounder craving for a young memshahib, even though he is already married......and that is all he does a little tediously throughout the entire film.
We should remember that the only army that "mutinied" was the Bengal Presidency army of 140,000, whilst the Madras Presidency and Western armies of 200,000 combined remained royal to the East India company, and were subsequently used to put down the rebellion. The Bengal Presidency army was dominated by Hindu Brahmins from Bengal and UP, which the movie did not convey, but rather came across as a rebellion by sword wielding, turbaned, bearded Muslims---WRONG!!!!!
Finally lets talk about proportionality since the movie pondered at great length at the sad plight of the English damsels in distress, with the added burden of the prying learing prowling eyes of our lascivious "Pathan" who already had a wife. About 13,000 British troops were killed in that war, and a few thousand British civilians, but the native Indians, Hindus and Muslims alike, they suffered 100,000's of deaths during and subsequent to the Liberation War, and new academic research in India indicates that the British carried on with their anti-insurgency operations for a considerable many years in North India, so possibly millions killed.
And we have latter day Gunga Dins like Shashi Kapoor, and Mr. Shameful Bengali telling us otherwise. Yes OK, there were many Gunga Dins in India during Raj rule, otherwise they couldn't have ruled India proper for over 100 years, but I didn't think so many existed to this day still. Maybe 1% of Indians benefits from British Raj rule, or maybe even 5%, but that does not mean their descendants should be allowed to get away into propagating the British Raj as some dreamy halcyon leap forward in Indian civilization.
Yes the British Raj left their Gunga Dins to rule South Asia trained and educated at Oxford, Cambridge, Sandhurst, Dera Dun, Kakul and so forth, and that is why India is still celebrating and participating in the British Commonwealth, and hosting the Commonwealth games in 2010 (clap clap clap!!!! Hip hip Hurray to Queen Victoria, Clive of India, Warren Hastings, General Dyer, Partition, the Indian railway system.......) The Gunga Din elite of Pakistan, and the Gunga Dins in the Pakistani military and "Intelligence"....The Gunga Dins in the Congress Party, and the neo-Nazis of the BJP whose only special hate is reserved for their own kind, the Gunga Dins in Bollywood, the Gunga Dins in the ICS.....the Gunga Dins in the Indian military who want to have a go at the Gunga Dins in the Pak military, and so forth.
Lest the modern Gunga Dins forget, these are the plain facts of British Raj rule: Approximately 30 million Indians perished from British misrule and greed for profits, and aggression, Hindus and Muslims alike. Perhaps $1 trillion worth of Indian assets were transferred to the UK from India, from Hindus and Muslims alike. London since 1800 looks a very rich and prosperous city. In 1750 India was the second richest country on earth accounting for 25% of global manufacturing and a nation in many respects technically advanced, and by 1947 India was perhaps the 10 richest country on earth with manufacturing accounting for 2% of global manufacturing. Between 1770----1914 actual living standards in India declined in absolute terms, for Hindus and Muslims alike. The British came, and said everything about the Indian civilization and religion was inferior to theirs....and then continued to segregate themselves at all levels from their subjects in very negative and disrespectful ways, from Hindus and Muslims in equal measure. Finally the British Raj departed in 1947 by leaving a royal mess in South Asia by creating the false failed state of Pakistan, which alone has created much problems for South Asia, and may become the entry point for a later day attempt to revive the British Raj again.
I do hope Bollywood one day does a serious project about the Indian Liberation war of 1857, and for once ditch their "Junoon" for trashy copies of Hollywood movies. I have not seen "Mangel Pandey: The Rising" with Aamir and Rani, but I can guess the content, so I won't bother. Other suggestions for Hindi movie projects have been posted here before.
Movies especially, but also other parts of the media create and play an important part in affecting ordinary peoples consciousness, which determine peoples behavior and perceptions to a greater or lessor degree on important and unimportant matters. That Indian movie directors and producers should not create false consciousness of their own Indian history cannot be stressed enough, especially given the passage of 62 years of British Raj rule, that Indians particularly now and South Asians generally should be able to make pertinent, reflective, circumspective and relevant observations of their history without falling into the trap of repeating false historical constructs of the imperialist who wreaked so much havoc on South Asia. And especially now, because of the advent of neo-colonialism in India's door step, in Afghanistan, and the dangerous activities of later day Mir Jafars around and IN India.
South Asian racial stereo-types.
Quote from Wikipedia: "Stereotypes of South Asians are oversimplified ethnic stereotypes of South Asian people, and are found in many Western societies. Stereotypes of South Asians have been collectively internalized by societies, and are manifested by a society's media, literature, theatre and other creative expressions. However, these stereotypes have very real repercussions for South Asians in daily interactions, current events, and governmental legislation."
Salman Rushdie "Outside the Whale"
Salman Rushdie "The New empire within Britain"(1982)
"But British thought, British society, has never been cleansed of the filth of imperialism."
Edward Said, "Orientalism"