Who Is A Citizen?

Mulk –a Political Film

Radhakanta Barik

Mulk (in Hindi), directed by Anubhav Sinha has brought out political contours of the present day Hinduta politics in a well written story and in a controlled direction where director and cameraman have played a combined role in creating an image of composite culture of India.

'Mulk' has come in right time when discussion on citizenship is going on. Who is a citizen and what is his or her relationship with the country, nation and state? Everybody by birth has got recognised as a citizen and question of religion, ethnicity and other identities have been ignored. Indian Constitution has created a preamble, 'we the people of India' as a contractual relationship between a citizen and state has created a complex mega text where the multi- religious groups and castes and communities and ethnic groups have agreed to work under the constitution, providing them security and freedom on the basis of justice and equality. This mega text is for the first time brought into public discourse while the case against the elderly lawyer belonging to a Muslim family whose family member has joined the terrorist group. The Judge forcefully argues that the preamble of Constitution should remain the ideal, no other text can stand in front of it. Be it Indian Penal Code and Anti-terrorist act where the senior most lawyer cum chief of family is facing a trial where his family is charged by the police as the terrorist. His daughter in-law is pleading the case against the public persecutor where the court proceedings are going for days and months. The family members had to run to the court. This is a strenuous job on the part of family when neighbours and friends are turned hostile after the incident of terrorism committed by a young family member. The lawyer and his younger brother both are being charged as anti-national activists. One can feel an empathy with a long strenuous struggle of a family in a hostile environment that has a similarity with the parental family who got a social boycott in the village by the landlord supported by the whole village where fire and water cannot be shared with the parents. Indian villages during the post-independence faced such social boycott which has a similarity with the Muslim families where the son is being declared as a terrorist by their hostile neighbours in the city of Banaras. The court room is the real arena of struggle against the audience and family members while judge and lawyers are pleading for and against. While the case is being taken up by public persecutor, the audience laughs at the accused. This laughter has created a message in the narrative that all Muslims are less educated and less employed and that leads them to be terrorists. This creates a divide between 'we' and 'they'. For the first time on the floor of court room this discussion happens in the Hindi films. This loud laughter in the court room goes to the street where the hoodlums of Hindutva bandwagon were throwing stones at the house of the Muslim family. The police are playing safe here without intervention as it is a perception, not a real threat. The police men are failing and investigation team is trying seriously to prove their anti-national activity by taking a small and odd child toy as the instrument used by their terrorist son to talk to Pakistan and terrorist group leader. Camera moves over such an instrument brings laughter—in the audience—what is the level of stupidity of investigation team. The younger brother of the senior lawyer received the money from Pakistan where his sister lives and gets charged that he is involved in money laundering activity. The younger brother of the senior lawyer is involved in a small business where the repair of mobile is being done. This is taken as seriously by the investigation team that their son has taken unlicensed 12 chips without knowing their wider implication. It seems that to prove their anti-national activity every odd thing available in their house and shop become handy for the police men. All these elements which create laughter in the audience against the police team are a part of narrative which cannot compete with the mega text or it cannot turn into a text or a sub text. This is a weak narrative of the Hindutva ideology which is shown that it cannot harm a family, community and nation. Camera is moving in a courtyard of family get-together over meat and nan are being consumed with joys and fun creating a happy family where they are enjoying a fun music and the story is coming to an end where a Sufi song is being played as a symbol of composite culture of Banaras city. This is a political film which is very relevant in the context of Hindutva ideology and Modi-Shah regime. Indian constitutional amendment bill is being discussed on the floor of Parliament to become a part of this narrative that only Hindus can be admitted as citizens, not the Muslims. This is being experimented in the case of Assam where National Citizen Register is probing each credential of a citizen by looking at the records in a society based on oral traditions. 'Mulk' is a political film without any political propaganda being placed in the context of the present-day political discourse. The camera man has managed the camera to capture the body language of the audience in the court room without any verbiage which makes the cinematic language more solid and sound basis. The story is placed in the background of city of Banaras from where Modi has got elected to represent as the centre of Hindu civilisation which is in reality represents the composite culture. Here the camera man shows the movements of camera while both communities playing on the street and dancing in the compound of house of a Muslim family. In a difficult moment, the Muslim family has got the support some of the Hindu members living in the neighbourhood which needs to be underlined here. Banaras as a city of Kabir, Nanak and Premchand cannot be reduced to a city where the Hindutva forces make it a violent one. The story is telling an element of pathos in any ordinary family living under stress of time of moral crisis and political passion.

[Radhakanta Barik, Retired Professor in Political Science and a story writer in Odiya.]

Vol. 51, No.24, Dec 16 - 22, 2018