How ‘RRR’ exposed Western media bias towards India?
Ace filmmaker S.S. Rajamouli recently gave a befitting reply to the Western media when asked about ‘RRR’ promoting ‘Hindu nationalism’, the phrase most of the foreign media is using to target India since PM Modi-led BJP came to power in 2014, and more specifically the Ram Charan and Junior NTR-starrer movie now.
“I don’t have any kind of hidden agenda… I make films for people who are willing to pay their hard-earned money on the film ticket,” he said when asked about the polarisation of debate in India that does not allow for a middle ground. “Any extreme point of view, I oppose,” he stated in the interview to AFP.
He further stated, “I like to get them entertained, make them feel dramatic about the characters, about the situations. I want them to have a good time, go back and live their lives.”
Citing Rights campaigners, a section of the media claimed that actors like Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan are facing pressure under the ‘Hindu nationalist’ government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. These references clearly expose the hidden agenda of the section of the media.
How did ‘Pathaan’ became a hit then?
At first, the article or the interview did not mention what sort of pressure the “minority” stars are facing in India. Secondly, the story did not take into account Shah Rukh Khan’s recent movie ‘Pathaan’ which according to trade trackers has collected over Rs 1,000 crore at the box office. If the actors were under “pressure”, how did Khan’s latest movie mint such a big buck?
Rather it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who advised his party workers “not to make unnecessary comments” against movies while addressing the BJP National Executive meeting, just ahead of Pathaan’s release.
However, the AFP is not the only media house that has a problem with ‘RRR’. Many Western media outlets have brazenly called ‘RRR’ a controversial film and targeted it for allegedly promoting Hindu nationalism, whatever does that mean.
The critic from New Yorker in his review said, “The film’s mythologized telling of Bheem and Raju’s historic freedom fighters. They point to the fact that Raju, who belongs to a privileged caste, is ultimately elevated in the narrative above Bheem, a leader of the Gond tribe, who declares himself a humble student of Raju’s teachings. They point to how this story line replicates hierarchical relationships from the Hindu epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, which Rajamouli has cited as sources of inspiration, and especially to the film’s patriotic final number, “Etthara Jenda” (Raise the Flag), which celebrates certain historic figures favoured by the Hindutva movement while leaving out founding fathers such as Mahatma Gandhi,” the reviewer said.
Many Western reviewers were not happy with the scene where Ram Charan appears in a saffron-clad avatar, killing the Britishers with his arrows. “Several scenes then have a slightly chilling quality to viewers living under the constant threat of Hindutva authoritarianism. When Ram’s father tells him that ‘every hand will have a weapon,’ he may have well been talking about paramilitary organizations like the RSS which have made militarizing Hindus a key part of their agenda. In the movie’s final uplifting song extolling the virtues of nationalist struggles, several freedom fighters from the Indian independence movement are referenced,” the reviewer in ‘Thrillist’ said.
He questioned why Gandhi, Nehru and Ambedkar were not part of the film’s final song. “Yet three of the biggest names are conspicuously missing: Gandhi, whose secular and non-violent Hinduism was at odds with the BJP’s and was murdered by a right-wing Hindu ideologue; Ambedkar, a member of the formerly untouchable caste and was instrumental in leading mass protests against the caste system and father of the Indian Constitution; and Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister whose image Narendra Modi, the current Prime Minister, is, in a one-sided battle, to topple,” the critic said.
In Vox, the critic went one step ahead and called ‘RRR’ a “casteist Hindu wash of history and the independence struggle.” These are just samples and one will find more such criticisms of ‘RRR’ on the internet.
Is ‘RRR’ a Controversial Film?
In a country of 140 crore population, ‘RRR’ did not create any controversy. The movie neither degraded any community nor had any objectionable scenes (at least for Indians). Yet for the Western media, it is a controversial movie. The amusing part of the story is they have found a problem with Ram Charan appearing like Lord Rama and Indians, like other freedom struggle films, emerged victorious in the end. This victory was celebrated by the fans and till these Leftists or Western media pointed out, the thoughts of Hindu nationalism had not come to mind for the normal cine-goers.
It is unfortunate that the same set of critics will never object when actors do ‘namaz’ or visit churches in other movies. However, wearing a saffron and shooting arrows can make them give the tag of ‘Hindu nationalism’ for a film.
Should We Care?
It is high time Indians do not give a damn to the Western media which want everyone to comply with their values and standards. Last month, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had rightly reprimanded foreign newspapers for reserving adjectives like “Hindu nationalist” for the Indian government.
“If you read foreign newspapers, they use words like Hindu nationalist government. In America or Europe, they won’t say Christian nationalist… These adjectives are reserved for us. They don’t understand that this country is ready to do more with the world and not less with the world,” said Jaishankar.
In his words, “We are one-fifth of the world’s population, the fifth or sixth largest economy in the world…we are entitled to weigh our own side.” Hence, there is no need for us to please others for recognition if we have approval from our own people.
In short, the movie has exposed the Western media’s bias towards India and its indigenous culture and ethos.
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