Paatal Lok Review: When Good Art Meets Leftist Agenda To Produce Great Propaganda

by Arihant Pawariya - May 20, 2020 05:49 PM +05:30 IST
Paatal Lok Review: When Good Art Meets Leftist Agenda To Produce Great PropagandaPataal Lok.
  • Pataal Lok on Amazon Prime is not just good entertainment. It is also one of the most brilliant and sophisticated servings of Leftist narrative.

    Agenda plus good art is great propaganda.

Paatal Lok, the latest Hindi web series to hit the world of e-cinema on Amazon Prime, is one of the better web-series made in recent history.

But it’s not just good entertainment. It’s also one of the most brilliant and sophisticated servings of Leftist propaganda.

The fact that most Hindus, uninitiated in the narratives of culture wars, would not even get that this is a classic propaganda art, speaks volumes of the level of finesse with which the creators of the show have managed to execute it.

After all, the best propaganda is one where the targeted audience can’t even recognise that it is, indeed, propaganda.

But not everyone is fooled, for some have really good bullshit detectors.

Agree that it’s a very tiny minority. And this is testament to the level of deracination among the majority Hindus that they are found clapping over this scene or making memes from that scene, rather than detecting the subtle ways in which their religion or culture is being targeted.

I used to be the last person to look for politics in art because it takes all the fun out of something that should be enjoyed purely as a form of entertainment, but these days, it’s become unbearable to ignore the art laced with agenda. In fact, not ignoring this stuff has to be the duty of all those emotionally invested in their country’s and culture’s future.

Since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) assumed office in 2014, the left cabal in popular cinema has lost its mind. But all their loud protests, award-wapsis and vitriolic trolling of the Hindu Right amounted to nothing and only made the latter stronger.

So, the smarter lot in the industry chose a better way to fight the resurgence of Hindutva — serving the masses crafty propaganda via popular media. Especially, with the advent of e-cinema, we have been constantly bombarded with anti-Hindu and pro-leftist propaganda.

The last hit show The Family Man depicted how an Indian Army officer is admitting to doing all kinds of atrocities on innocent Kashmiris under the garb of AFSPA.

It also showed how police encounters innocent Muslim youths and falsely implicates them as terrorists.

Most people don’t even realise how ‘Sacred Games’ trivialised ‘Aham Brahmasmi’, one of the four Mahavakyas (great sayings) from the Upanishads, and reduced it to a meme to be mocked. Such sacrilege was the running theme of that show.

On and on it goes.

Paatal Lok is the latest successful salvo fired by this leftist cabal at the Hindu majority. And from the rave reviews it is getting, one can safely conclude that the Hindutva project of ‘decolonising the Hindu mind’ is an utter failure.

But I do not recommend boycotting this show. No. In fact, I want the Hindu Right to binge watch it and observe closely to understand the new psychological warfare launched by their ideological enemies. Burying your head in the sand like an ostrich is not the solution here.

The show revolves around unveiling the conspiracy behind assassination attempt of a popular leftist journalist-cum-news anchor. The four criminals sent to do the job are caught and they represent true intersectionality that the left champions. Two are Hindus, one is Muslim and one is a transgender.

A washed up cop is assigned the biggest case of his career.

The leftist journalist is very vocal against the ruling regime in Delhi. When he comes to know that he was the target of the four criminals, he rues that “People like us used to be heroes. Something about this country changed. Now we get trolled, killed, fired!”

He is about to expose a scam in a highway contract but the politician involved in it has financial stakes in the channel where the journalist works and he is pressuring the channel to fire the journalist. But the assassination attempt creates sympathy for the journalist, his ratings soar and the firing is delayed. The corrupt politician complains to the journalist, asking why he and his cabal have to focus on the negatives when ‘finally we have a PM and government which is doing something for the country’.

No prizes for guessing who the PM is here and which party the corrupt politician, which has media in his godi, belongs to.

Predictably, the lowly cop who is assigned the job to investigate the conspiracy behind the murder messes up a few times (important details of the case are leaked to the media).

The CBI then takes over the case from him and quickly solves the case, where it reveals that the four assassins were actually hired by Pakistan’s ISI to kill the popular journalist so that the present government can be blamed for it and maligned in international fora for suppressing freedom of speech.

The journalist buys the story told to him by the CBI and reports it and launches a verbal attack on Pakistan, instantly becoming a hero even in the eyes of his ideological opponents.

Everyone is happy, except the lowly cop who was suspended for his goof-ups. He finds the CBI story all too convenient and goes on a journey to uncover the truth on his own. His sidekick. a young Muslim cop, who is preparing for the UPSC in free time, goes all out to help him.

That the ruling party is shown using the CBI to frame innocent Pakistan’s ISI in a murder attempt of a prominent journalist who is vocal against it isn’t just about telling people that the agency is a tool in the hands of the ruling party at the Centre, but it is equally about absolving the enemy nation’s top spy agency, which has plotted many terrorist operations that killed thousands in India in the past three decades.

But, of course, the leftists, who rue the fact that they are repeatedly told to go to Pakistan for speaking out against the government, had to inject this subplot in the show about how Indian government can go out of its way to accuse the innocent Pakistanis of spreading unrest in India.

I leave it to the viewers to judge the harm such creative liberties taken by the leftist can inflict on the country.

The Left’s propaganda in the show becomes more subtle when it deals with religion.

The idol worshipping Hindu cops are shown as narrow-minded and bigoted people who doubt their colleague’s professionalism simply because he is a Muslim.

The Muslim cop is very progressive who readily extends his hand to take prasad after pooja in the police station while the one with the puja thali is hesitant in giving it to him.

A Hindu cop, the main protagonist, while interrogating one of the accused who is a Muslim, yells the communal slur “Katua” but instantly realises that his partner, the Muslim cop, is standing right behind him and he regrets saying the words.

A Hindu woman travelling in a train shows her disgust as soon as her fellow Muslim traveller opens his tiffin.

She starts throwing up. The train is coming to a halt and outside, there is a group of saffron-clad youth chanting Jai Shri Ram.

Next, the Muslim man is being lynched for suspicion of having beef in the tiffin.

It’s loosely based on Junaid Khan’s case who was lynched in a train near Delhi.

The media falsely reported that he got into a fight over meat. In the headline, the editor of a leading English daily, changed meat into beef.

But as it was found later and recognised by Haryana and Punjab High Court, the fight didn’t start over beef or meat but over seat and all the outrage was because the paper screwed up, most likely intentionally.

Now Paatal Lok has mainstreamed this blatant piece of fake news.

Of course, the main criminal is a Tyagi fully in line with the trend of giving all chief antagonists a Brahmin surname.

It’s Gaitonde in Sacred Games, Tripathis and Shuklas in Mirzapur, Tyagi and Bajpayee in Paatal Lok, and so on.

Muslims are cliched victims as the show depicts. Of all the four criminals caught by the police in the assassination attempt, one is wrongly framed as an ISI agent because of his name.

His father’s character is given a great emotional punch line.

“I didn’t let my son become a Muslim and you (the government) made him a Jihadi?”, says the secular father.

Of course, the cliches on caste narratives are also in abundance.

When a Brahmin girl tells her crazy lover (one of the accused in the assassination case) that her father is not agreeing to their match, he shouts at her loudly and asks if it is because he is from a lower caste.

“Does your father know that her Brahmin daughter likes being ****** by a lower caste person,” he yells at her over the phone.

A Brahmin neta of Uttar Pradesh whose vote bank is Dalits travels with buckets full of ganga jal. He bathes with the holy water as a purification ritual every time he has to visit a Dalit house and have food there.

And every criminal has become a criminal because they were oppressed in the past - either in name of religion, caste, gender or discriminated against in the society. The deadliest of them all - Hathoda Tyagi - who has 45 murders to his credit has a redeeming quality. He likes dogs and thinks that people who love dogs are good people. Where else but in the Left’s playbook would one find such simple-minded banality?

Be it religion, caste, society in general, the media or political world — every subject is dealt in cliches thanks to the leftist worldview of the show’s writers and creators.

If there is one character that shines in the whole series, it is of protagonist cop Hathiram Chaudhary, a middle class person living in Delhi trying to do his job but also itching to get some recognition and a chance so that he can prove himself to his family that he isn’t an utter failure.

This is the only character which has been developed well and the only saving grace in the show. Almost every other character is introduced to peddle this agenda or that narrative from the left’s playbook.

It’s not that the right-minded folks in Bollywood do not try to popularise their narratives and agendas. They do. It’s just that the Left has been able to do it more adroitly.

“Agenda minus good art is just propaganda”, says Sudip Sharma, the creator of the web series. He is spot on. That’s why creations like Narendra Modi biopic or poorly made movies like Indu Sarkar or Accidental Prime Minister don’t click with audiences.

But Sudip Sharma and his leftist pals won’t tell you this: Agenda plus good art is the best propaganda.

As far as reviews go, Anurag Kashyap summed up the show better than most. “It is not just a great investigative thriller. It comes from the understanding of Real India. The dark heart of India, the communal and casteist India,” he tweeted.

In this summary, Hindu nationalists should see the silver lining. As long as the leftist propagandists think that the real India has a dark heart full of casteism and communalism, Hindu nationalists have nothing to worry about. Because the leftists can’t win something they don’t understand.

Arihant Pawariya is Senior Editor, Swarajya.
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