HYDERABAD: The ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi would have to counter BJP's new and most potent campaign vehicles – going beyond public meetings, on ground work, media messaging or pada yatras by leaders – films.
Razakar, the movie which is being currently shot at the Ramoji Film City in the outskirts of town, tells the story of the oppressions, humiliations, atrocities and massacres of common people of Hyderabad state, especially Hindus, at the hands of the soldiers of the Razakar army 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.
The Police Action and Operation Polo have earlier this year been a point of extreme tussle between the BJP, the ruling TRS and the AIMIM. The saffron party had celebrated September 17 as Liberation Day, while the TRS-MIM observed it as the 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 – but now, movies will set 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 the TV and mobile,” said movie director, Ram Gopal, who had recently announced a two-episode movie on Andhra politics.
“The Kashmir Files was a disruptive, watermark event in Indian films. The idea of Razakar sounds extremely interesting and promising,” Varma said.
At the movie set in RFC, in the outskirts of Hyderabad, director Yata Satyanarayana was hectically shooting as 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 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 Mr Sampath, adding that in a democracy, people would make wiser decisions when they have the knowledge.
But it is not the past truth that will concern political parties ahead of the elections in Telangana next year. National president of the AIMIM and Hyderabad Lok Sabha MP, Asaduddin Owaisi felt the consolidated 360 degree efforts to create hate against Muslims was peaking, and this 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 new 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?” Mr Owaisi reacted with anguish.
“But as long as Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao is leading the state of Telangana, I am sure the communal designs will not yield much results,” Mr Owaisi added with hope.
While senior leaders of the BJP, the Congress or 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, the operation polo, the atrocities during the last days of the reign of the Nizam, and the heroic role of Sardar Vallabhai Patel in bringing Hyderabad state into India,” said producer Mr Gudur Narayana Reddy, whose Samarveer Creations has invested over Rs 35 crore to make the film with 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,” Mr 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 film makers which create success or failure.”
On the question of impact, he 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 Shastry, many learnt of his greatness for the first time through the movie. The Kashmir Files has changed how the world views the genocide of Pundits in the Valley,” Mr Agnihotri said.
By the time the movie releases mid 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....