[Long Read] Movies In 2022: A Civilisational Perspective
The year 2022 saw some spectacular movies. Here is a list of some of these that have one kind of significance or the other with respect to Indian civilisation, society and values.
The inclusion of Kantara and The Kashmir Files in this list is a given. A lot has been written about them already. Let us start with others in this list and with the latest among them.
1. Avatar – The Way Of Water: Space for the Goddess?
This sequel to Avatar movie of 2009 re-emphasises the Goddess.
In this movie, the director has gone to extraordinary lengths in creating other-worldly ecological relations both for the screen and the script. For quite a number of viewers this has made the movie a bit dragging.
Actually most of these other-worldly, wonder-filled magic-like relations and phenomena are inspired by similar phenomena on earth.
The presence of the Goddess is an ever-running undercurrent in the movie. The subtle shift from the exclamations like ‘Oh My God’ and ‘Jesus’ to ‘Great Mother’ and 'Goddess' is a welcome shift.
This movie is also an expression of civilisational deficiency and a popular cry of expectation. Hindus have a civilisational role to play in taking the Goddess to all the planet – to heal and to nurture diversity in unity.
As a Hindu from Tamil land, the movie series also shows another pattern – that of Thinnais – the first is of forest and floating hills (Kurinchi) and the second is of the water communities (Neithal). We have to wait to see if the sequels then move to grazing lands, agricultural communities and deserts.
2. Firestarter 2022: Woke Impact Cringe?
Stephen King novels in many ways brings out the elements from the underbelly of the collective psyche of the West.
His works - with a lot of conscious high degree craft - also bring out something deeper at places. One such extraordinary novel is one of his earlier works, Carrie (1974). It was a smashing hit. It also became a movie in 1976.
Another novel of Stephen King, Firestarter (1980), also became a movie (1984). This was again remade this year, in 2022.
Both Firestarter and Carrie share a common element, an element seen earlier in Hindu Itihasas and Puranas as well: the association of women with fire – an inner-fire that explodes outwardly with anger.
Draupadi was born of fire. Sita was instrumental in her own way in the burning of Lanka by Hanuman. It was Her righteous anger and power of a Patni that burnt Lanka. Hanuman was an instrument. It is into fire she enters and it is the God of fire who speaks of Her purity and steadfast love.Kambar described Her as Fire of unwavering devotion. And then there is Kannagi. She burnt down entire Madurai seeking justice.
The relation between weaponised fire that comes from within and women is well established in the Hindu realm.
That the two characters created by King who use fire spontaneously were both women, is uncanny. Both possessed righteous anger. Both are unmarried and both are in their teens. Both face injustice.
What is shown in in a rudimentary way by King—the Agni in women—is recognised by the Vedas and has been explored profoundly by our kavis.
That opens up a space for Yogic psychology-based criticism and evaluation of Western pop and pulp culture.
Coming back to the movie Firestarter (2022), there are some cringeworthy changes introduced into the film, those not there in the original story by King.
One of the chief villainous characters in the novel is Rainbird – a Cherokee Vietnam war veteran. He is shown as an inhuman person working at a Governmental agency that had conducted experiments on unsuspecting college students.
In the 1984 movie, Rainbird kills the father of the protagonist-girl and tries to murder her too but gets killed by pyro-kinesis powers of the girl. True to the novel.
In the 2022 movie, Rainbird is shown not only killing the father of the girl but also her mother and yet in the end, he is shown as much a victim of the system as the girl is.
With such distortion, no wonder the movie was a mega flop.
3. CBI 5 The Brain: Worth a Watch
This Mamooty-starrer Malayalam mystery thriller is the fifth of the famous CBI series directed by K Madhu and written by S N Swamy. The first movie ‘Oru CBI Diary Kurippu’ (A note from the diary of CBI) came in 1988 and became a smashing hit. It had no songs, no comedy scenes.
The protagonist was an Iyer – Sethurama Iyer, a Tamil-speaking Brahmin. It was only in the forty sixth minute of the two-hour movie that Sethurama Iyer (Mamooty) gets introduced. The tension between the investigation officer from Kerala police who distorts the probe for his vested interests and Iyer was depicted in a daring, natural and non-melodramatic way.
It was then rumoured in Tamil Nadu that the investigation officers of Tamil Nadu police were made to watch the movie to learn how to conduct an investigation. It was an urban legend but that was the impact of the movie.
As a subtext, both in the movie and its sequel, one could see some anti-Brahmin remarks made by the police officer from Kerala.
‘I will give you some clues Mr Iyer. After all you are ones who get and accept Dana? Don’t you?’, ‘Coffee, tea ...or er, milk what you will drink– being a Brahmin you are I need to ask that.’ ‘Asking vegetarians (sambar eaters) to investigate murder! It is those who made these charity-fed Brahmins investigation officers, they are the culprits!’ - the movie included these dialogues – from the mouth of the antagonist.
The hero was always shown as a seeker of truth. When not in office dress, he was always shown wearing a white banian and saffron Veshti. Quite a brave portrayal one should say.
After the roaring success of the first two instalments, the third and fourth movies were dull. They had fallen into the trap of projecting the hero more than the story. The new one also falls into the same trap. And yet, it has some novelty – hacking into cardiac pacemakers to induce heart attack, etc.
A trend in Malayalam movies must also be flagged here. They are starting to show a completely Christianised Kerala. For example, in movies like Drishyam (1 and 2) and also Trance, one finds that Kerala is shown as completely non-Hindu.
The landscapes do not show a temple but crosses and churches. In such time, this movie brings lame comfort for Hindus in Kerala.
4. Pawankhind: Sacrifices for Hindavi Swarajya
The history of Veer Shivaji is not a mere story a medieval king. It is the beginning of a new national consciousness and more than that. It is the reassertion of the spirit of this land, the Rashtra Dharma, against the spread of an expansionist monoculture.
It was an expression so powerful that it started the fight for Swarajya. It would continue even after Shivaji and soon the fire for Swarajya would consume the entire nation.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj personified Hindavi Swarajya. That explains the perennial fascination we have for him and each of his accomplishments. But Shivaji is not all glory and celebration. Shivaji is also countless sacrifices for Hindavi Swarajya.
Pawankhind brings before our eyes the Battle of Pavan Khind, and more importantly, the superhuman strength and supreme sacrifice of Baji Prabhu Deshpande for Veer Shivaji.
Sri Aurobindo immortalised the sacrifice in his poem ‘Baji Prabhu’.
Baji Prabhu stopped the twelve thousand strong army of invaders with his two hundred men. It was only after knowing that Shivaji was safe that Baji Prabhu embraced the death of a warrior.
Sri Aurobindo writes:
And passing out of him a mighty form
Stood visible, Titanic, scarlet-clad,
Dark as a thunder-cloud, with streaming hair
Obscuring heaven, and in her sovran grasp
The sword, the flower, the boon, the bleeding head,
Bhavani. Then she vanished ; the daylight
Was ordinary in a common world.
And Baji knew the goddess formidable
Who watches over India till the end.
This movie brings out that sacrifice vividly.
The fight-scenes could have been improved—at places the settings look crude. And yet, this movie is important because it communicates the kind of sacrifices which make the Bhagwa flag flutter with golden light.
5. Ram Setu: A Beginning For Presenting Our Stories Wrapped Through Adventure Tales
As an adventure film, Ram Setu definitely tells a better story than Indiana Jones - both in terms of values and history. It does not demean any other ethnicity or culture.
The history that the movie shows is fanciful but still it is better than the history shown in National Treasure. The only appropriate comparison that can be made is with the The Da Vinci Code. And there it can decently compete with it, even in terms of quality. Of course, a suspense of the same level may be missing but then again, remember that this can be considered as the first serious, good adventure movie made for the younger generation - kids and early teenagers.
You cannot expect a Kantara experience here. This is a good entertaining way of introducing the young generation to Indian culture, values and the sacred landscape of the larger Indian land mass. This was definitely a movie worth watching with your family.
6. Jurassic World Dominion: A Plea for Co-existence
In the latest movie of the Jurassic Park series, the story line is the same as in the original Jurassic Park, but the movie is scaled up to the whole planet. Add to it upgraded graphics as well as our new knowledge of dinosaurs.
The movie ends with a plea for co-existence and mutual respect for all life, with a silhouette of elephants and dinosaurs moving together, minutes before we leave the hall.
Personally, I cannot but wonder how the mahout-elephant relation signifies that co-existence. Nowhere else has such a majestic animal been integrated with so much love and respect with human culture and life.
Though vilified today by so-called 'wildlife enthusiasts', and despite some systemic course corrections it requires, the elephant-mahout relationship in the traditional Hindu ecosystem provides a classic example of such co-existence and mutual respect.
7. Kantara: Harmonising the Sacred and the Secular and Being Locally Pan-Indian
The movie is definitely, as it called itself, 'a divine blockbuster'.
It brought out the need to harmonise between the state and the nation, forcefully. The state is a vast network and it is mechanical unless imbued with the spirit and values of the nation.
For an ancient nation like India, it is many folds true. Harmonising the state and the sacred is a crying civilisational need. Indian civilisation has the strength to achieve it. But the state shies away due to ideological and other vested interests.
The movie powerfully conveys the integration of the sacred and the secular through the Deities and traditions of the forest tribal communities. That the rituals of a remote forest village of the Tulu community reverberate with the experience of the sacred rituals which one has seen in his or her own village/community is a testimony to the sacred, civlisational basis of India's unity.
A brilliant movie at all levels, this movie will be spoken about even after decades.
8. The Kashmir Files: Keeping The Memories Of The Kashmir Holocaust As A Sacred Caution
Memories are important and memories are sacred. Memories are haunting and memories are weak. Societies and nations which remember can actually survive persecutions and live. Societies that forget suffer and die a humiliating, hurtful death.
But as nations and societies become more and more secure they tend to forget. One notices that with Israel. It is just a matter of time before Holocaust-denial may come even to Israel. We can already find a few perverted people of Jewish origin deny the Holocaust.
With the last Holocaust-related trial and conviction of 97-year-old Irmgard Furchner in the December of 2022, the Shoah may become a distant memory for future Jews. That is the reason why the memories of Holocaust should be kept alive.
If this is the condition of Jews, then what is the condition of Hindus? Equally hated by proselytising religions, they have suffered what is perhaps the world's longest-running genocide. They are eliminated in Afghanistan; they are dying a slow, cruel death in both Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Within India there are pockets where Hindus are driven out. Kashmir during 1988-90 saw a massive ethnic cleansing. Its memories in popular conscience are next to nil.
That is why The Kashmir Files is important. Taking us through those frozen nights and streets of Kashmir, it keeps the sacred fires of the memories alive in us.
If The Kashmir Files were a person, then it would be Moishe, the Beadle of Elie Wiesel’s Night. What the movie tells is not just the past of the Kashmiri Hindus. It is also telling the future of our children if we chose denial and disunity.
It is into that future of our children that the still eyes of Shiva Pandit are staring.
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