Party leaders seem to feel that an upcoming movie that deals with Congress' past, is a bigger threat than any other that needs their attention in the run-up to the next elections
Some leaders in the Congress take Madhur Bhandarkar's movie as a bigger threat than any other factor
What will happen if Bollywood filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar's forthcoming Indu Sarkar is released without approval from the Congress? Will the Congress' stock plummet further, its leaders lose all their strength, and the party cease to exist?
Well, some leaders in the Congress take Bhandarkar's movie as a bigger threat than any other factor that they should be sorting out in the run-up to the next Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. They think that the party will suffer only because the people will watch a film that deals with the Congress' past - the Emergency under ex-PM Indira Gandhi. They have demanded a review of the content. They want Bhandarkar to seek their sanction or else face dire consequences. They also say that the BJP government would be responsible if untoward incidents happen whenever the uncut version of this film gets released.
"We understand the film is based on late Indira Gandhi and late Sanjay Gandhi. It has wrongly depicted some aspects of their lives and politics. If the film is released, it would hurt the sentiments of a large number of people and party workers," Opposition leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil wrote to CM Devendra Fadnavis, adding a warning that if the film is allowed to be released in its present form, Congress workers would come out on the streets to protest.
Censor board chief Pahlaj Nihlani, who has time and again proved his loyalty to the present dispensation, is unwilling to concede. He shot down Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam's demand for a pre-screening of Indu Sarkar exclusively for the Congress.
Lesson from the emergency
What is the truth about the state of Indian emergency? The period has been documented well in various forms and in conflicting styles with different viewpoints. A large-scale perception says that the situation then was very bad which ultimately led to the uprising of people, and emergence of the Janata Parivar. The Janata government didn't last long and the late Indira Gandhi was back in the hot seat with overwhelming support from the Indian voters. The Congress ruled the country for many years thereafter with some brief interruptions till 2014.
The representatives of young generation voters would wonder - if at all they wish to know what the emergency is all about - why would a person labelled as a tormentor regain the PM's office in a couple of years after suffering a humiliating defeat? That was a resolute Indira Gandhi, who waited for her detractors to commit a series of political blunders even as she did not lose heart. Something that the current crop of Congress leaders need to learn from the departed leader.
By demanding censorship and pre-screening, the Congress is defying its own stand on freedom of expression. If one has to argue further, the Congress leaders should be doing exactly what their departed leaders were enforcing during the emergency. Films were not allowed to screen then, newspapers were censored, and those who defied orders were put behind the bars. Is the Congress asking the BJP to replicate the emergency model of the 1975?
Do films make or break the party?
What the Congress leaders should do, instead of issuing threats to a film director who has been producing rubbish in the name of reality cinema (the exception is Chandni Bar), is to let film goers decide the fate of the movie. The Congress has unnecessarily brought itself into the ring, giving much-needed traction to the unreleased film. The party should not seek BJP leaders in the government for relief, knowing very well who were made to suffer during the emergency. There are ministers in the state and Centre who were jailed then. Many young ministers recall how they missed their fathers who were arrested at odd hours and sent packing to prisons.
The only chance that the Congress can take is Bhandarkar. He is under pressure fighting a charge that he is a BJP sympathiser involved in the making of a sponsored movie which has the false depictions of Congress leaders. The director has clarified that his film is 30 per cent reality and 70 per cent fiction, but at the same time he has taken an aggressive stance against the demands of the Congress leaders. It doesn't need an expert to say who backs the filmmaker.
Emergent as it may not appear, but the Congress leaders should now find some meaningful methods to reinforce their centurion party and reaffirm loyalty to the Gandhi family.
Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore. Send your feedback to email@example.com