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I was recently watching the trailer of Dibakar Banerjee’s Shanghai, which is based on Vassilis Vassilikos’ novel “Z”. The upcoming film is based on the issue of conflicts over re-development. For those who don’t know, this is an important issue for a resident of Mumbai, and some other areas as well where illegal structures and houses have been built illegally on government lands.
I fervently hope that Mr. Banerjee shows the both sides of the coin, and makes an interesting film, which brought me to this issue of the kind of politics-based drama films we make here in Bollywood and made in Hollywood.
Hollywood has managed to churn out amazing politics-based classics over the years, be it bio-pics, fiction or adaptations of real life incidents and books. This is possibly because creativity does not have any boundaries there. Beginning from “The Birth of a Nation” by D.W. Griffith, politics-based films have heralded new imaginations. There have been many many great politics-based films in Hollywood and different international film industries. French director Costa Gavras’ “Z” (based on the same book Z of Mr. Vassilikos) is considered as one of the gems of politics-based cinema. Many films, based on many historical incidents, such as the Holocaust, the World War II, the Nazi rule, Vietnam war etc have given the writers abroad ideas on which beautiful stories have come out such as Poverty in Boniage, Salt of the Earth, The Battle of Algiers, The Manchurian Candidate etc. Even the famous film “Gandhi”, made by Richard Attenborough, is considered a masterpiece biopic on Mahatma Gandhi-ji. The quality of such films has fallen to some extent with films like J. Edgar and The Iron Lady (I’d say both were “boring” till the end, but some of the performances saved them). But at the same time, films like Milk, The Ides of March, Good Night and Good Luck, Syriana and Frost/Nixon continue to enthrall the audiences and critics, both alike.
However, at the flip side of Bollywood, things have not been so bright. Except possibly “Raajneeti”, which was also not a ‘masterpiece’ as such, and “Gulaal”, it has been a disappointing picture. Also, Prakash Jha managed to shock us with a ham of a film in “Aarakshan”. Seriously, politics has not been a cup of tea for our film makers.
I think this is possibly because of two reasons. One, India has suffered a large number of social problems, and film makers here love to exploit this genre more than politics. Second, is the creative boundary which I mentioned earlier. Sonia Gandhi raised objections to Rajneeti, just because rumours suggested that Katrina Kaif’s role was close to her life. P.L. Punia, a leader from Congress’ raised objections even before watching “Aarakshan” and questioned the great Censor Board (at least watch it man).
In short, the freedom does not exist to create masterpieces. And when the freedom does not exist, it’s time to push the barriers and raid the emperor.