With monotonous regularlity one controversy after another comes up over some film or another. What causes the ire is that it portrays a section of the people in unflattering light. The latest in that series is ‘Kya Super Kool Hain Hum’. This film is hurtful to Christians for its depiction of their religion, it is charged.
Congress politicians are reported to be calling for its ban “in Goa”. Other groups claiming to speak in the name of the community have already gone ahead and filed an FIR over the film.
Goa and Goans, specially its complex to comprehend Christian culture, have long been unfairly depicted in Bollywood. To be fair, as someone has point out, almost every part of India has been stereotyped negatively by the industry which churns out the largest number of films each year in the world. This is true of Nepalis, “Madrasis”, Maharashtrians, Biharis, tribals and aboriginals, Muslims, women...
If some film-producer has a warped understanding of a place and its people, it reflects adversely on that film-producer. Not on the place itself. Secondly, we should have a healthier self-perception of ourselves, without need to fly into a rage every time someone creates a cartoonified image of us — whether the “us” here is Goans as a whole, the Christian minority or whoever. The Mario Cabral e Sa book ‘Location Goa’ has a good section on how unflatteringly Goa has been projected in a series of Hindi films over the decades. Should we at all bother, or just keep going on building on our strengths?
But there is one even more important issue here. If we focus on such emotive issues alone, then a whole lot of more serious issues simply get swept under the carpet. Our politicians want to send out the signal that they are taking care of a community or wider State interests. But are they really doing so? It is very easy to rush to release bold statements, but this only distracts from the issues at hand.
If you ask me, the focus on emotive issues — language, negative stereotypes, projections in films, even incessant communal bickering — have taken attention away from issues we should be concerned about. The bread-and-butter and land-and-access-to-resources concerns. Those which will make a real difference to the tomorrows rather than just play on the emotions of today.
And there are many such concerns, which one doesn’t need to look far to find. We are emerging uncertainly out of a 22 years phase in which the minority educational institutions have been decimated, thanks to politicians of the community itself as to anyone else, by unfairly imposing an unpopular script and medium policy. Of course, the excuse was sound educational principles, but behind that were over amibitious politicians and bigoted minds.
At the cultural level, only recently are attempts being made to resuscitate the long tradition of Romi Konkani literature and culture, which has long been sidelined.
If Catholics have something to worry about it is the repeated attempts by various political parties to create a pliable political leadership for them, and foist it on the community. In a way which highlights their lesser-relevant emotive issues, but ignores those which really make a difference. The Congress has done this for some decades, one has to see if the BJP proves any better, and regional parties have only been feeders to national-level ambitions. Things would have not been so bad if the basis for politics here wasn’t so polarised.
Community leaders have failed to perceive their own long-term interests, and highlighting issues like one Hindi film have more to do with political ambitious and attempts to squeeze out some benefit from it.
Apart from whisperong about this in the background, nobody seems to be questioning the issue of minority employment in the government, linked to access to officialdom and the decision-making process. Likewise is the case of police recruitments. Very few of our “concerned” politicians have pointed to repeated concerns that all sections should get their fair share of such posts, because of the many implications a lop-sided policy could result in. The employees of any government agency should reflect the diversity of Goa, and all its sections.
But to blame officialdom alone is not sufficient. The role, or lack of it, of the community itself never seems to get questioned. After long years of propping up large sections of India’s social service, health and education network, what is the community is doing — or failing to do — in today’s Goa itself?
One major concern is whether we are at all training the youth adequately for the future. The many institutions set up with time and tears seem to be simply falling into the pattern of receiving government grants, doing the minimum necessary, and somehow hoping that things will get ahead someway.
It’s fine getting worked up over films which promote negative stereotypes. But there’s much, much more that needs looking at before we get distracted by emotive concerns.