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Are we so swayed by star power and the 'entertainment' quotient of cinema that satisfies our carnal instincts that we choose to ignore our own subconscious mind which always knows what is right and what is wrong?
Trigger Warning: This has graphic descriptions of violence and may be triggering to survivors and victims of violence.
Do you remember your first exposure to an extremely violent act or the aftermath of a violent act?
I am pretty sure for most of us it would be through cinema. But I remember very vividly my first exposure to aftermath of an unbelievably grotesque violent act in real life. It was as a student at a Dental College and Hospital.
Our Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery unit treated patients with facial injuries through any kind of accidents, trauma or diseases. That day, the entire college was collectively buzzing about a really difficult case in the surgery unit.
We had a female patient, whose husband had attacked her face with a sickle. She had multiple fractures of facial bones, a huge cut running through her entire face and injuries to her nose and eyes. We, as students posted in that unit, witnessed our professors working on her in the minor OT before shifting her to major OT. I remember feeling uneasy, weak-in-knees, as I struggled to process my emotions. It was the first time in my life that I felt inexplicable rage, that too towards a stranger- the man who had attacked her. What kind of sadistic animal behaviour was this? Did he have any regret or remorse? Did he have any conscience at all?
My mind was filled with uncomfortable questions and I just didn’t have any answers. As a naive 20 year old who was exposed to something brutal for the first time, this incident was very distressing.
The picture of this hapless survivor is imprinted in my memory and it is not something that I want to be reminded of because it still makes me feel nauseated; not her condition but the mindless violence. Till date, my stomach turns queasy whenever I am reminded of her injured face.
But recently this uneasy feeling returned to me when I learnt of the box office success of Animal, a film that glorifies this kind of grotesque violence. It has done hundreds of crores of business in a few days, cite the news portals and social media.
I don’t have any interest in watching this movie, even out of curiosity. Feeling flabbergasted, I see a few a audience reviews and they really make my stomach churn. Ranbir Kapoor is terrific, says one. Sandeep Reddy Vanga is just brilliant, says the other. The “action” scenes are “mind-blowing”, says the third.
I cannot even read these reviews without feeling nauseated, let alone watch it anymore. My mind is continuously conjuring up images of a certain section of male audience who will feel kicked up watching their favourite star commit heinous acts of crime and violence on screen in seething rage that they identify with. Some of them might go back, get sloshed out of their wits and feel compelled to follow their screen idol in real life, beating up women in their life and feeling heroic about it. After all, isn’t this the language of heroism that they are constantly and subconsciously fed, through media and cinema?
This is exactly where the “Art imitates life” gang will start defending this kind of cinema. Some will say this is like chicken and egg situation. Which form of violence came first, one never knows, they argue vehemently. I find this analogy startling and illogical. This is more like a raging fire that ought to be doused before it does any further damage. When something is on fire, one rarely ponders about the source (this worry comes much later, in retrospect). All the energies and resources are directed towards dousing that fire, isn’t it?
This kind of cinema, this kind of art, is more like a flame of fire in the minds of impressionable boys who grow up thinking of aggression and anger as ways of expressing power and masculinity. How can one even think of a chicken and egg analogy here? It really doesn’t matter what came first; brutality in cinema and popular media or brutality in real life. Whether one lead to the other, isn’t really a discussion worth engaging in. A more relevant and pressing subject for discussion and debate would be how to douse this fire burning the conscience of so many generations, one after the other?
Some of you might feel that my reaction is extreme, that it is just cinema, meant for “entertainment” and not to be taken seriously. But as a student, an intern and post graduate in Oral Surgery department, over many years, I have been an indirect witness to acts of brutality and violence, that cannot even be described here because it could get too graphic and disturbing. And yes, most victims are women and this is a fact that cannot be denied or ignored. And each time I have ended up asking the same set of questions. What drives people to commit such heinous crimes? Why don’t they feel any shame or fear? How do such cruel people live in our society without being called out or punished for their cruelty?
But unlike the 20 year old me, I do have a vague idea now, about why this is happening. And it is not one single factor but a confluence of many negative factors like patriarchy, toxic masculinity, lack of law enforcement, etc and cinema is definitely one of the major contributing factors in a country like ours, where heroes are literally worshipped. If you are not willing to believe this, please recollect the horrible crimes that India has witnessed just in the last one year. From stabbings, to cold blooded murders to acid attacks to rapes, to college shoot outs, the crimes seem to be getting more mind numbingly violent and grotesque with each passing year. Aren’t we all seeing the same arc of increasing gore on our screens too?
Now, let me actually address the main question. How can anyone pass off violence as “entertainment”?!! Who are these people getting entertained by killings, murders, rapes and blood-curdling savagery? If one reflects on this fact, one can easily understand that it is not the entertainment quotient but these films and media are tapping into the animal instincts within people. As I said before, they are setting on fire, within young boys, the instincts of anger, agression and violent behaviour. Without realising that the aftermath of this fire will lead to innumerable victims and many burning homes.
And yet, films like Animal are made and watched by millions. Their problematic heroes and narratives notwithstanding. Who will take responsibility for the havoc they create in impressionable minds?
The star who plays an extremely problematic “hero” to near perfection? He is only bothered about his image and career; after a spate of flops, who cares about morals? Success, money and image matter more.
How about a star who plays the victim? She too needs a successful career and lots of money and opportunities. If it requires not questioning the director or the script, then so be it.
The producer is laughing all the way to the bank.
The director is not bothered about the long term effects of the cinema he is creating. He is too busy proving all the naysayers and critics wrong by simply showing the sheer number of people thronging the theatres and multiplexes to watch his film. “If people don’t connect with it, why do they see my film?” is his defence. His ego, is really the ego he glorifies on the big screen.
None of these people are thinking about the aftermath of their cinema. They are too busy chasing their own selfish motives; money, fame, success, power and stardom.
The onus is on us. Solely on us. Do we need this kind of cinema? Are we even thinking before purchasing that ticket and entering the dark room collectively, to experience what happens on screen? Are we so swayed by star power, “entertainment” quotient and cinema that satisfies our carnal instincts that we choose to ignore our own subconscious mind which always knows what is right and what is wrong?
As individuals, as society, as nation, as simply human beings, where is our conscience? Are we even listening to its voice?
Writer| Poet| Self-published author| Oral Surgeon|
A woman who believes that subtlety is strength, feminine is formidable, beauty is in benevolence and vulnerability is validation of strength of character.
For more read www.soumyabharathi. read more...
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