Who says you can make your own destiny?

Every day I try to forget ‘Aamir‘ and every day, the film seems to come up in discussion, the papers or as a TV spot. For over a week, I’ve been trying to tell myself, it’s only a film. But try as I might, I cannot calm down the negative vibes it has evoked in me.

The fact that it is shot in Chor Bazar, Bhendi Bazar, Dongri, the areas that I grew up in, where I still have family, where my family still has family and friends, makes it difficult for me to view the film objectively. In my childhod, these areas were mohallahs, not ghettoes, as they have become now.

And I wonder, how did these traditional community enclaves become ghettoes? Is it due to overcrowding and a breakdown of infrastructure? Is it due to the takeover by communal and criminal elements? Or is it due to a changed perception of a community?

The director of ‘Aamir’ professes that the film is the story of a common person, and how easily a common man today can become a victim of elements beyond his control.

The dangerous part of the film is how every common man from Andheri to Dongri, in fact, seem to be part of the terrorist network, connected to Pakistan, actively a part of the terrorist nexus, or at least passively aware of it. From the taxi-driver at the airport to the seemingly friendly prostitute in the dingy lodge in Dongri, from restaurant owner to waiter to STD phone booth woman, from the manager of the lodge, petty gangsters to junk-yard workers, and countless other nameless, unidentified faces, they form a malevolent, hostile and inescapable trap for any innocent.

‘Aamir’ perpetrates the worst myths about Indian Muslims.

1. That most of them live in ghettoes.
2. That they live in filth and squalor.
3. That they do nothing to come out of it.
4. That they eat and butcher meat, and that enhances their inherent violence.
5. That they are more attached to the larger Islamic community rather than their own country.
6. That they get a huge amount of money from outside to fund their terrorist activities here.
7. That most of them are connected somehow with the terrorists or the underworld. Actively or passively.
8. That an outsider cannot say who or who may not be involved.
9. And of course, that anyone, who makes any attempt to get out of the larger community will still at the end be subsumed by it, becoming part of the terrorist nexus due to circumstance, or become a victim to it.

These are as absurd as the myths that all Gujaratis are right-wing Hindu fundamentalists, all Biharis are thieves and crooks, all Maharashtrians are lazy, unfriendly and insular, all Goans are amiable drunks and all Sikhs are either fools or trouble-makers.

The trouble with the film is that it is very well-shot. Anyone, who has anything at all to do with film-making in Mumbai will know how difficult it is to execute a shoot like that, given the crowds and traffic here.

That combined with the narrative form of a man chasing against time to save his loved ones, in fact, does not give any space for the protagonist Aamir, to be well-defined as a character. The one dialogue that makes his stand clear, that he believes that each person can make their own destiny, that they can pull themselves out of their circumstances, gets lost in the thrill of the chase. And of course, by the countering dialogue of The Bad Man who asks if this is the destiny (that is trying to save his family) is what he has chosen.

The Bad Man however gets enough time to repeat ad nauseam his stand on the Muslim issue, spending a lot of precious time haranguing Aamir about Islam, his responsibilities to the community, his infidelity in having a Hindu girl friend, not caring enough to send money to fund terrorist activities, and so on. To the extent, that it gets one wondering whether The Bad Man is more keen on teaching Aamir a fundamentalist lesson in Islam, or he wants him to get on with the job.

Was The Bad Man seriously hoping to convert Aamir to the terrorist cause, by kidnapping his family, having him wade through shit, not letting him drink water (a very un-Islamic thing to do, by the way, because not giving someone a glass of water when they ask for it, is tantamount to a sin in Muslim households), having him beaten up??

In the same vein, it is not clear why Aamir, an innocent and reluctant man, has to be emotionally blackmailed into putting a bomb in a bus, after a complicated, convoluted journey through the city, when it would be the easiest thing in the world for any one of The Bad Man’s minions to walk into a crowded bus with a bomb, leave it there, and walk away, without any trace.

But of course, The Bad Man is a dark, bald, fat, meat-eating monster who shuns light, and sits in a dark room all day. He exudes menace when he holds up a kid, and then proceeds to beat up a toy monkey. So perhaps, one can expect only illogical planning from him.

Review written by Batul Mukhtiar

11 thoughts on “Who says you can make your own destiny?

  1. Gunvantbhai,

    Batul directed me here, and just as you can’t forget this film, I will not forget your succinct but hard-hitting review. I admire you for calling a spade a spade and condemning the film in no uncertain terms.
    ” Bharatdesh maan aaje sajjan Muslimthi vadhare dukhi koi nathi.”
    This statement speaks volumes, can’t remember where I had read it, probably in some newspaper.

    This ghettoisation and branding of the Muslim as a butchering moron is nothing new… a particular sterotype has been formed by media over the decades. Mark Tully in his very perceptive book “No Full Stops In India” mentions that such an exercise began when Ramayana was aired during the 1980s, and very predictably the false pride in everything Hindu, led to demolition of the Babri Masjid.

    I have worked in industry for nearly 40 years, and am horrified to see the stereotyped mental image my colleagues have that of a Muslim which stands out in sharp contrast with me. They always tell me I can’t be a Muslim.

    Aamir thus seems yet another attempt to carry on with this dubious but relentless propaganda, that every Muslim is either a terrorist or a sympathizer of terrorism.

    Your review, provokes a plethora of questions, rightly so.

    Thanks, namaste.

    Max

  2. Dear Max,

    Sorry, but the review was written by me. As I explained in my mail. I don’t usually post my own views on Bhai’s blog, but did so because these are so close to his own heart. Thank you for your comments

  3. Resp. Gunwant bhai
    We need a ‘Krishna’ like leader now,kauravas and ravana was al;so our own but misguided missiles had to be brought down.why we are trained to wait for a leader yada yada hi…we have to do ourselves with krishna within.

    Delhi blasts-A ‘B.A.D.’- news-”Terrorism has still no religion”..

    Terrorism still has ”NO RELIGION ”-THEY SAY ,AFTER SO MANY BLASTS AND LIVES LOST UNNEEDED, TRAGICALLY, SUDDENLY ANYWHERE,ANYTIME IN INDIA.
    B.A.D .PROJECT(BANGALORE-AHMEDABAD-DELHI BLASTING) BY THESE ”NO RELIGIONISTS” IS OVER —NOW THE WORST IS TO COME IF NOTHING IS DONE AGAINST THEM!!
    I have now deciphered that this-”NO RELIGION” seems to be the new name of a group within a world universal true religion .This new sub set group evokes a sense of ‘peace -after blasts ,love for all bombs and murders, forgiveness even to the mass killers living within them, secularismas a hiding place ,non communalism as a slogan under which to fire ,true minoritysm,True ‘Indian’ ethos to shatter ,highest CONGRESS of human hearts to garner votes,TRUE PRINT AND tv MEDIA HUMANISM to keep up the TRPs’,TRUE RIGHTS TO MURDER-ISM,true ”human rights”’ -ism, true frontier of world class citizenship wand what not Where shedding BLOOD of all humanity esp ”non believers” by Blasts and other means is the primal foundation REQUIREMENT!
    ”kILL SELF TOO AS YOU POUR INNOCENTS’ BLOOD ON THE ROADS AND MARKET PLACES”IS THE TENET !
    These tenets of this new religion called –” NO RELIGION” –OF TERRORISTS IS INFLICTING GREAT DAMAGE TO LIVES AND LIMBS OF INNOCENT INDIANS WHO SHOULD FALL IN LINE AND HAVE A TRUE CONGRESS OF LARGE HEARTS -ALTHOUGH BLEEDING ONES as they lie blood,flesh and guts pouring out on streets ..

    SO ”NO GUJ-COCA ,POTA,AND WHAT ELSE ‘ANTI HUMAN-STATE’ LAWS ARE REQUIRED ”WE ARE TOLD BY THE SUPPORTERS OF THIS ”NO RELIGION” AS IT SEEMS THAT THE TERRORISTS HAVE TRULY NO RELIGION OR TENETS OF A HUMANE WAY OF LIFE LEFT IN THEM..OR misrepresented to them by a misguided guide or a dictat unvieled within itself.
    WAIT FOR MORE ACTIONS OF THIS NO RELIGION GROUP WHO WILL JOIN IN CONGRESS WITH THOSE OTHERS OUTSIDE MY COUNTRY TO DO WHAT WAS A JOB LEFT UN FINISHED SINCE 1050AD..THEN TOO WE HAD THOSE WHOP KEPT ON PARDONING THE ‘ SURRENDERRED AND IDENTIFIED ENEMY OF NO RELIGION TILL THEY THEM SELVES SUCCUMBED TAKING ALL THE REST OF THE COUNTRY WITH THEM..
    THAT PART OF THE HISTORY WILL KICK START AGAIN AS ”NO RELIGION” FINISHES THE AGENDA – ITS SOLDIERS DECIDED ON then–EVEN AS THE HUMANE SECULAR OBSERVERS IN CONGRESS WITH MANY SUCH ”LEFT OVERS” JUST LOOK ON IN OUR DAILY POLITY,IN PRINT AND MEDIA ….or within around us reading on..

    TILL THEY OR THEIR OWN WILL ONE DAY SOON TOO ARE BLASTED INTO A MASS OF FLESH AND BLOOD BY THIS ”NO RELIGION ”
    fLAG HOLDERS…..unless this no religion or the BAD elements within it is taken head on by all of us as citizens of 21st centuryIndia and the world together-united as holding each others hands unbiased-helping identify and punish these ”NO Religionists”within a world religion of billions faithfuls all over … NOW..or never. ..

  4. vahala sahebshrii,

    Tamara ghana badha lekh, network gujarat samachar ma vachia chhea.

    Hu ane mara ghana badha mitro vachia chea, pan ame tamara lekh sathe jara pan sahmat thata nathi.

    Tame highy unsatisfied kind na person lago chho.

    Tamane prime minister banavi daia to system change kari shaksho?

    Tame please paper no waste karo nahi ane sara lekh lakhva vinanti.

    Jara pan personal leta nahi, pan just amaro veiw 6,

    Khotu lagadta nahi ane lagyu hoy to sorry.

    Rikil

    • Rikil, you seem to have got the wrong Gunvant Shah. Dr. Gunvant Shah writes for Divya Bhaskar, Chitralekha and Navneet Samarpan. There is someone else who writes for Gujarat Samachar.

  5. hi gunvantbhai ,
    i read your lots of books and also read your essays in divyabhaskar also ……….. i think u r one of the person who understands the real situation of mentality of youth in our country ………………. once u read ” krishna ne pamvo hoy to pehla aapne arjun banvu pade ” ……. i m totally impressed frm this thought of urs….after tht i regular read ur different writings ……and ya i m a teacher in primary govt school…… i also read u once say tht “maru chale to siksko o pagar bamno kari dau pan sikshak tarike utamoutam vyakti ni pasandgi karu .” tht thought is really good but reality is different sir …. i saw so many teachers who only work for their salary in my 6 years job …..so pls i hope u will write about tht matter in ur essays ………

    ok keep it up …..
    best wishes ……..

  6. hi gunvantbhai,
    once i read a book written by shri shahbuddinbhai ratod jeni prastavna aape lakheli aema aape tamara banne vacche thayela letterwriting ni vat kareli ke ………..”patra lakhva no koi hetu nathi pan aa to aapnu address malyu aetle lakhu chhu ……” i hope tame samji gaya haso …….bas aem mane pan aapna blog ni khabar padi aetale lakhu chhu mara andar na “bhav” ne tame samji gaya haso ……………………….

    rajdeepsinh jadeja
    jamnagar

  7. Dear Dr Shah,

    So proud of you. We have met twice in Bardoli in the past. You are a florist who makes such attractive bouquets of flowers. I write too. you’re my role model. I second each of your ideas. I never feel any distaste in your writing save since I”m not interested in politics, I don’t much like it.

    I don’t know why I could not know about Rediff thing. I”d have asked you a question as well.

    Say, where do you get those marvellous yet very common words and phrases? Pl., some for us. Don’t invent more and more fresh words and phrases. Ha ha

    Can i come and meet you at Tahuko?

    Viral.

  8. Dear Gunwantbhai,
    Avi third-class type ni filmo no review pan na karay. Sharam ni vaat chhe pan su kariye, apnu bollywood kyare aava vishay par kaik sari filmo banavse? jara vicharo ke naxalvad upar film banav vi hoy to kevi bane? terrorists are very highly indoctrinated people..teo bijao ne “Oppressors” samje chhe ane potane “Revolunary” samje chhe…koi pan problem na mul ma javathi j tenu solution male bhai, aavi imaginery filmo banav vathi kai na thaay…apde jene “Satya” samaj ta hoyye te 100% “Satya” na pan hoy…

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