Shakaal, Mogambo, Fanah … Blurring lines of morality

I just finished watching “Shaan” .. One of the movie that I had seen in Shillong. Movies in the 80’s were so cute, the villain, the vamp, hero, heroine, ever sacrificing parents, scenes jumping from a song to a car chase and finally the title of the movie in a dialogue and the customary “moral of the story” ending, The villain in this movie, Shakaal, is adorable, following a clear path to doom. This was the tiny shift that happened from the 60’s to the 80’s in Indian cinema.

In the 60’s the villain learnt his lesson and became a good citizen.. Turnaround stories. We had got our independence recently, the epics, Ramayan and Mahabharat were still read widely and their stories spoke of evil people learning their lessons and becoming good people. This was also the age when my dad’s friend would not hesitate to reprimand me if he caught me doing something wrong. The villains in this time also were the “white” men or the “rich” men.

In the 80’s they lived and died as villains.. The good and the bad were clearly demarcated. No greys. This was the time when the rebel took over our imagination and it was all about “going against” – parents, system, teacher and so on. This was also the period when the west had been imported into India and everything that was Western was good. Sarees giving way to business suits, the vamp slowly gave way to actresses playing that role and Shakaal and Mogambo were iconic villains. More and more families in the cities became nuclear and the first retirement homes came into India …. Ramayan and Mahabharat became soaps on TV as did Hanuman and Bheem :). The villain just died in the end or got caught. Terrorism came to India and confusion set in with the Punjab terrorism. The generation that was old enough to understand what was happening couldn’t understand how any Sardar could be a terrorist – they were our heroes, protectors. Then the Delhi Sikh massacre in 1984 …. Just cursed the next two decades of our country :(:(.

Then came Fanaa in 2006. The suave Aamir Khan as the new age villain. His character was eerily real as many news items showed a doctor becoming a suicide bomber and sleeper cells in peaceful Bangalore. Now the problem with this villain is, he is all grey. There is goodness in him as he falls in love and helps his blind love to get operated and see the world, but he is so fixated on his mission, he kills her father’s friend !! I am worried with the impact of this type of villain on children … Is he bad ? Is he good ? He is trying hard to meet his goal and isn’t that good ? Yeah the goal is bad and a few people get killed, but in a mission these things happen. By this time, we have blood and gore every day on television and video games that have made killing “normal” … You have toy guns, entire army sets, super heroes and real people getting killed in broad daylight. The news clip goes on and on and numbs your outrage and a child thinks it’s ok, a part of life.

The line between the good and the bad is blurring and philosophically that’s ok, actions may not be important, as intentions … But in a morally mature society. The kind of world we live in is hardly morally mature – women are objectified, rapes are common, inequality is the new pandemic and children are precocious. This kind of society requires clearly stated right and wrong …. Or we are staring down the path to anarchy 🙁

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