Book review | Lag Ja Gale: the rendezvous of conventional Indian cinema with Hitler

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Cinema derives its significance in any society not only from entertainment but also from the ideological injection that is made into it. The cinema competently promotes a vision of the society in which it is intended to be shaped. Hereby, the understanding of Indian cinema through the realm of Hitlerian ideas becomes interesting, which is done in the book Lag Ja Gale: The appointment of conventional Indian cinema with Hitler. The latest book written by Fareed Kazmi lies at the center of the explanation of the daily appearance of fascist tendencies by analyzing the conventional cinema of India. The author develops an analogy between conventional cinema and Nazism in Hitler’s Germany.

The book provides an in-depth analysis of two categories of worldviews – Hitler’s Worldview (WOH) and Cinema Worldview (WOC). Hitler’s worldview is a global worldview promoted by Hitler through his writings, speeches, and actions. The worldview of cinema signifies the dominant ideological stimulation made by conventional Indian cinema.

The central argument adopted in the book is that there is a symbiotic relationship between the worldview promoted by conventional Indian cinema (WOC) and Hitler’s worldview (WOH). Kazmi finds that conventional Indian cinema, as a tool with an impressive capacity for mass awareness, overlaps with Hitler’s discourse.

“Hitler may be dead, but his ideas are very much alive. Coupled with the alarming growth of right-wing forces almost everywhere and the near-decimation of the left, he must indeed be a happy man. But even Goebbels, who had the foresight to understand the power of cinema, would never have dreamed that at another time and in another place, in distant India, the WOH would be strongly imbued with their WOC ”, writes- he.

Conventional cinema, according to the author, is propagandist in nature. The author argues by analyzing several films belonging to conventional Indian cinema. In five chapters in total, the book takes us through the landscape of conventional cinema and thoroughly analyzes the portrayal of the protagonist (hero) and villains. It also touches on the art of deflection used in filmmaking, which makes it the perfect propaganda material as well as how the worldview the two create is preserved and penetrated.

The construction of the protagonist as Messiah (emancipator) in both WOH and WOC takes place on similar ground. Just like Hitler who despises the broad masses and calls for a proactive role of the superhero, conventional Indian cinema passionately glorifies the heroism of a man, i.e. the hero. The hero’s messianic transformation remains the quintessence of conventional cinema where the protagonist nurtured extraordinary qualities. These qualities help him save society from harm. The author mentions that the binary between the ordinary and the extraordinary is the cornerstone of all conventional films.

The demons, that is, the villains of Indian cinema who are abused under the name of Gandi Nali Ke Keede, are described as “an enemy of the people”. Kazmi finds that the construction of the villain in both WOC and WOH demarcates the villain as the only problem of all misery and suffering. Self-proclaimed vigilantes who free themselves from all legal and constitutional constraints are celebrated in both worldviews to defeat the supposed “enemy of the people”.

The author also demonstrates that a category of new villains in mainstream cinema emerged in the 1990s. These new villains were Muslims presented as a dominant villain caricature. They were mainly terrorists in their homeland / foreign land (Kurbaan, Holiday), Kashmir (Roja, Fanaa), across the border (Sarfarosh), etc. This blatant Islamophobic portrayal of the wicked continues to this day with much greater intensity. It transfers the identity of the enemy into the collective consciousness of the “broad mass” against which to exert their anger, similar to Hitler’s demonic construction of the Jews in Nazi Germany.

The art of deception used in conventional Indian cinema where the transition from “suffering” to “fighter” remains important to “right the wrong” and “deliver justice”, is similar to how Hitler appealed to vigilantes against the Jews to correct the wrongs committed by them.

The important section of the book remains where the author does an in-depth critical analysis of cult films like Mother India, Dilwale Dulhaniya The Jayenge and Hum Apke Hain Kaun. All generally defend the ingrained structure, the dominant social belief system, patriarchy and now remain the guardians of social conservatism and orthodoxies by opening no way for rebellion.

Criticizing DDLG, the luminary of Bollywood romance, the author writes: “On the surface although DDLJ seems to be about the great passion that scalded and burnt two souls, but in reality it is about justifying one. certain hierarchy, a code of conduct, a pattern of behavior, cultural values, the Indian way of seeing things, all of this validates patriarchy, and the power equation that comes with it. ‘

Throughout the book, Kazmi notes the relationship between conventional Indian cinema and Hitler’s ideas. The rendezvous exists and conventional cinema is working to penetrate cultural fascism into everyday life. The book makes the parallel comparisons of twin worldviews, which helps the reader to grasp the arguments without any complexity.

The book, in relation to the current majority policy of Hindutva engulfing India, might surprise and frighten the reader, as it juxtaposes the developments of the Nazi regime with the current era. The book becomes an important reading because it engages with the policy of conventional cinema and its agency. It shows how a particular form of worldview is shaped and permeated in society through cinema. Lag Ja Gale remains an important theoretical intervention in film discourse and gives readers a new entry point to understand the ideological foundations of conventional Hindi cinema.

(Himanshu Shukla completed his Masters in Political Science at the University of Delhi and is currently working as a researcher with Greenpeace)


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