HYDERABAD: The TRS would have to counter the BJP’s new and most potent campaign vehicle — going beyond public meetings, on-ground work, media messaging or padayatras by its leaders — films.
Razakar, the movie which is being shot at a studio on the outskirts of the city, tells the story of the oppression, humiliation, atrocities and massacre of common people of Hyderabad state, especially Hindus, at the hands of the Razakars militia under the last Nizam.
Being produced by BJP leader Gudur Narayana Reddy, the movie is aimed at not only recreating history but also helping the BJP in the elections.
Police Action and Operation Polo have earlier this year been a point of extreme tussle between the BJP, TRS and AIMIM. The saffron party had celebrated September 17 as Liberation Day, while the TRS-MIM observed it as Integration Day, and the Congress celebrated it separately.
While movies have been a handmaiden for political leaders for decades, especially in the south, they were used predominantly to bolster the image of one central leader — NTR, MGR, and Jayalalithaa — now, movies will set the context.
In the last decade, biopics and perspective films have been used to prime Andhra politics.
“After the success of The Kashmir Files, movies are the new vehicle for political perception management and setting of context. Once you set a context, especially drawing from a slice of history, it can reach out to more people, influence the masses more deeply than even the cumulative impact of TV and mobile,” said movie director Ram Gopal Varma, who recently announced a two-episode movie on Andhra Pradesh politics.
“The Kashmir Files was a disruptive, watermark event in Indian films. The idea of Razakar sounds extremely interesting and promising,” Varma said.
Director Yata Satyanarayana was hectically shooting a part of the fifth schedule, out of a total of 19, at a set where a 1946 village has been recreated. As the action began, under filmi rain, the Razakars, led by a captain, kidnap a little girl even as her parents protest, in vain, while the rest of the villagers wail and cry, and then helplessly blame their fate.
Is it an outright communal slant in messaging to influence the present, or is it a misinterpretation of history, or a correction of previously wrongly contextualised depictions?
Controversial historian and author Vikram Sampath, whose recent book, Bravehearts of Bharat, just hit the stands, speaking to DC, said, “For a long time, we were told knowledge of history would be a threat to us, our country and society. A left-dominated narrative was set, where a doctored version of history was claimed to be a tool for ensuring social harmony. Hiding history can’t be the foundation of a nation-building project. Truth and reconciliation are far better ways for society to deal with the past.”
“Let every truth be told, let history of every period be revealed,” said Sampath, adding that in a democracy people would make wiser decisions when they had the knowledge.
But it is not the past truth that will concern political parties ahead of the elections in Telangana next year. AIMIM president and Hyderabad Lok Sabha member Asaduddin Owaisi felt that the consolidated 360-degree efforts to create hate against Muslims was peaking, and the film was yet another unfortunate device in the larger inhuman project of “othering.”
“These things may work, who can tell. A man murders his partner in a gruesome manner and it is turned into a love jihad saga. Everything from movies, media, books, stories to news reports, spiced with twisted truths and total lies, are being used to portray Muslims as a subject of suspicion, dislike, hatred. For how long can this go on,” Owaisi reacted with anguish.
“But as long as Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao is leading the state of Telangana, I am sure communal designs will not yield much results,” Owaisi added, with hope.
While senior leaders of the BJP, the Congress and the TRS refused to comment on record, they were all pretty deeply impacted by the news of the movie, and reacted, predictably, based on party position.
“It could create a communal disharmony… but we can’t tell unless we see the movie. I just hope the censor board will be fair,” said a TRS leader.
“The BJP only hopes the movie will help create a context about the Razakars, Operation Polo, the atrocities during the last days of the reign of the Nizam, and the heroic role of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in bringing Hyderabad state into India,” said Gudur Narayana Reddy, whose Samarveer Creations is producing the film with a grand mounting and rich production values.
“People will learn of the atrocities, like the episode of Gundrampally village, where over a hundred Hindu women drowned in a well to escape the marauders; an episode no less ghastly than the Jallianwala Bagh massacre,” Narayana Reddy said.
Beyond politics, it is also a new wave in movies, a trend heralded by Vivek Agnihotri, the director who disrupted conventional Bollywood mindset with his Files series. “I make political narrative films with a strong historic setting and an unconventional approach. But it is the passion and convictions of filmmakers, which create success or failure,” he said.
Set of the movie Razakar
On the question of impact, Agnihotri said, “We can influence people’s viewpoints, not necessarily their political choices. If any filmmaker honestly tells the story of the past, it will open people’s eyes. The Tashkent Files made many Indians reconsider their evaluation of former PM Lal Bahadur Shastri, many learnt of his greatness for the first time through the movie. The Kashmir Files has changed how the world views the genocide of Pandits in the Valley,” Agnihotri said.
By the time Razakar releases in the middle of next year, the BJP will hope it will help them set a mood, in which bracketing the TRS and MIM as partners will make their electoral quest easier.