Blockbuster Vs Blockbuster & The Tale Of Two Indias

The celebratory ambience around three blockbuster movies this year tells us the stories of two Indias – one desperately seeking revalidation amid vigorous efforts to erase its existence and the other bursting with the energy and enthusiasm of the victorious in a long-drawn battle; one battered and bruised from relentless hate assault yet undefeated, the other persistent in asserting its dominance in New India.

‘Pathaan’, with Shah Rukh Khan in the titular role, released in January this year to an explosive welcome from viewers across the country. The response was cathartic. It was as if people were waiting to make a loud statement and were in search of the right occasion for it. As they turned the release into an event, the sights that emanated were fascinating. The cutouts of the actor were bathed in milk across India and garlanded. Aartis and pujas were performed by fans with religious fervour. Diyas were lit, rangolis drawn and flowers and dhol beats were all around, well it was almost a religious ceremony.

That there was a call to boycott the movie by some fanatics and that the protagonist was never shy of flaunting his religion were hardly a deterrent to the fans. The same story repeated with the release of ‘Jawan’. It was an event too, where the adulation for the hero transcended all differences. Imagine in our communally fraught times fans across communities letting go of all reservations to celebrate their hero! Imagine a Muslim icon being feted with Hindu rituals!

That is the true Indian secular spirit at work in real life. It has been the same over decades. This is secularism no definition can capture in full or no Constitution can explain with adequate accuracy.

‘Gadar 2’, the Sunny Deol-starrer, is not exactly a picture in contrast, but it delivers ample stuff in disagreement. The grand thumbs-up it received from the audience offers us the perspective of an assertive, uninhibited India. It holds no punches while attacking Pakistan and doesn’t sound meek or guarded while mentioning the troubled relationship between Hindus and Muslims. It is the celebration of jingoism, with Sunny leading the charge – the representative of the muscular New India. The earlier version of the movie ‘Gadar- Ek Prem Katha’ was similar in approach. But the feelings left uttered in it become explicit in its second installment and blur the line between jingoism and patriotism.

Of course, the audience is lapping it up. The dhol beats outside and fake hand pumps inside theatres and finally the box office numbers reveal that the success of the movie was much more than due to the nostalgia factor. People were aggressively rooting for an India of their preference. ‘Gadar 2’ was only the medium, the message was the huge appreciation of it.

The comparison of the movies mentioned earlier leaves us with no conclusion. But we can say for sure that the secular spirit lives on in the country, sharing space with the communal. It’s not likely to die out anytime soon.

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