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The Muscular Saviour: Playing In A (Political) Theatre Near You

10/05/2017 8:41 AM IST | Updated 10/05/2017 1:46 PM IST
Cathal McNaughton / Reuters

So mythical muscular Bahubali is making waves in tinsel space. Just like muscular men are making waves in the political space. When India lurched to the right three years ago, it did so behind a piper playing a seductive tune — development, security, cleanliness. A holy trinity. No doubt, Bahubali reflects the same ideals on the silver screen. Kill the evil king, defend the people and give them clean government without conspiring evil looking uncles.

In the theatre of the absurd, mythology is a welcome reprieve. Only, art and life have become hopelessly intertwined. In this death match Bahubali, the strong-armed man, reflects our collective wet dream of a person who can pull India out of chaos. Through blood, gore and absurdity, he succeeds. Not because of any great finesse but because he subdues strong opponents, corrupt and evil schemers, and wins the throne and hearts.

In this death match Bahubali, the strong-armed man, reflects our collective wet dream of a person who can pull India out of chaos.

All the while, the Queen Mother stares with eyes set to burst forth from their sockets, and a bindi to light the pyres of her sons.

The sharp Right turn, which the non-conformists find hard to digest, is marked by strong-arm tactics too. Political opponents and parties are harangued, their legislators are pursued by police cases, and their offices are sealed and documents seized. Even when they win the most seats in legislatures, they are dethroned by the nimble-footed men of the Right. Feet of clay don't win battles, Bahubali showed.

Strong-arm tactics are encountered in the street, on the web and on the phone. Gau-ists roam the streets lynching anybody outraging the modesty of the holy cow. Trolls trawl the web seeking content that goes against the Right's world view and wisdom. Then they hunt down and subdue the originators of that content, much like the mountain trolls in Lord of the Rings. Or, they call and threaten all manner of harm. From behind a call-centre's anonymous numbers, a coward does not need muscle to be brave. Neither does a lynch-mob.

From behind a call-centre's anonymous numbers, a coward does not need muscle to be brave. Neither does a lynch-mob.

The political success of the Right on the national stage is mirrored by its success in state elections. If ever there was a righter turn of Right, it happened two months ago. I must confess, I admire its ability to find ways to turn further and further right. Isn't that what happened to the tiger who chased his own tail round a pole and dug himself into a rut so deep he could not get out. Oh well, those are fables. Like Bahubali.

Muscle is to the Right what intellect is to the Left. Or, the Centre. Just that the Centre has walked into a wall and the Left has walked off a cliff. So, all is Right with the world and strong arms are applauded. They are after all protectors of the weak and meek. And, its time for the meek to inherit the earth.

The 'others' as defined by the Right aren't amused. They are terrified. From being actively shot, sliced, raped and murdered, they are merely made to cower in a corner. As the muscles are flexed, they await the next blow. That will inevitably fall. The terrifying-ness is in not knowing where and how, but that its inevitable. It's like a scene in a thriller where a murderer is stalking his next victim who knows she is going to die. Unlike Bahubali's brother they are not over-confident, just reduced to whimpering and waiting. But corner a cat and it can do unexpected things.

This is masterful politics, seen to be orchestrated by a 'clean', 'decisive' person 'in-charge', not a gaggle of unkempt squabbling dynastic politicians.

The point is, the strong man in the film reflects most people's desire for somebody who will 'get it done' and be clean and quick about it. Sanitation, surgical strikes, demonetisation, UP elections, the SAARC satellite and who knows what next — these are all links in the chain of quick, clean Action.

This is masterful politics, seen to be orchestrated by a 'clean', 'decisive' person 'in-charge', not a gaggle of unkempt squabbling dynastic politicians. He is unapologetic and knows his people. Just like Bahubali has cut a fantasy swathe through Bollywood's crappy movies, the Right continues, marching on its fallacies and follies of others. It will continue unless there is an equally muscular, decisive response. I don't see any sails on the horizon. So, we continue to connive with the fiction that musculature is good in legislature. 2019 is coming soon, to a theatre near you.

Tamil Nadu Farmers Protest In Delhi

[Edited]

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