La Revolution

The Yanks kill and me I read Mao Mao
The jester is king and me I sing Mao Mao
The bombs go off and me I scoff Mao Mao
Girls run and me I follow Mao Mao…

Cinema is truth at 24 frames per second – this fits to him only who dares to take radical steps in redefining the art of cinema and ardently advocates in favor of promoting art as a powerful means of cultural and political resistance. Over the last few decades, the films of Jean Luc Godard have become the hammer (borrowing Brecht) that enables us to shape the reality around us. The above mentioned ‘quatrain’ is, obviously, taken from Godard’s one of the most famous essays – La Chinoise. The master’s unwonted biff on the political childishness, marked by the romanticism of the Chinese revolution, of the French students in the sixties took many of the then left leaning intellectuals by surprise. Godard was conscious enough to leap at the opportunity to bring the increasing gap between the then student radicalism and the dialectical factuality of the working class to our notice. In this film, none of the so called ‘Maoist’ protagonists either belong to the working class or are honestly concerned about them, and the pontifications were nothing but a mere facade of their idiosyncrasies. We see them frequently talking about revolution, theatre, politics, etc., however, the conflict between their rebellious attitude and moral confusion was clearly evident. Like most of the French left (or ‘new left’?) wing representatives, Godard’s characters also aim to continue to trudge forward with the aim of revolution without a clear vision, self-realization, and positivism. Anyway, it is to be noted that this film is not a criticism of socialism or the idealism of the student politics as such, but of the incomprehensible stratagem adopted by the students. Incidentally, the student revolution took place in May 1968, just one year after the release of this film.

      Equality, I Spoke that Word / As If a Wedding Vow

The recent occurrences of the student ‘revolution’  in Kolkata has exhumed the memory of La Chinoise. History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme. After the independence, Kolkata has been in the forefront as far as ‘revolution’ is concerned, and the students here have overshadowed the political honchos on numerous occasions, often ripping apart the coherence of intellectual deliberation, values and actions. Although, democracy is regarded as the antidote to the social and economic discontent, but, unfortunately, our country has not been blessed to see the institutional democracy running independently and flawlessly. Over the years it has failed to establish good governance and significantly improve the condition of life of the common man, and therefore, various movements have been born out of resistance. Now, the past has an obvious way of creeping up on the present. In the 1970s, the state of Bengal witnessed the fearsome Naxalite activities and the retribution by the government. The fight against the wholesome inequality and state dictatorship attracted the minds of the young and intelligent students, who did not even bother to give up their career also, and hearts of the common urban citizens. Few people might have lent their support out of fear rather than genuine attraction to the uprising, but, by and large, the Naxalities were able to ooze character, despite all the odds. There were something definitely compelling in the social situation that drove these commoners to sympathize with the unprecedented act of rebellion. They might have adopted a wrong strategy (again Mao was the king) or their line of thinking might be questionable, but their intention was always equitable. However, we all know the fate of that movement and the reasons behind it, and there is absolutely no point in discussing it further. But, the spoils of the great revolution are still visible long after the dust had settled, and that gory part of the history, or better to say – the wraith of revolution, has become a matter of glory to us. It has divined the phantasmagoria of the average urban educated Bengalese, and this rebellious tendency has become insurmountable, both historically and politically. But, the recent outrages, marked by bravura and bellicosity, of the ‘varsity intelligentsia’ will definitely force even Huey Newton to take his words (“the revolution has always been in the hands of the young”) back. Interestingly, none of them belong to the working class or the deprived section of the society. They, overtly nourished by the Western props and thoughts and buffeted by the currents in vogue, have promised to restore the faculties of democracy in their own way, far cry from the common man’s consciousness. All kinds of state machineries have to be refuted and freedom has to be given a chance in the educational institutes. It would be too naive to think that this voice of resistance is unjust and untimely. The instruments of democracy have made a mockery of the very idea of the democracy itself over the last few years. Crimes and injustices are not punished but encouraged by certain section of the ruling party cadres, and disputes and conflicts are not settled by the administration fairly and in time. Moreover, the most unfathomable fact is that the heads of the educational institutes have willy-nilly surrendered to the state, making every moon atrocious and every sun bitter for the students. Therefore, amidst this quagmire, resistance, in one form or the other, is not uncalled for, but, when protest becomes consanguineous with go as you like competition, then Freedom, I would refuse to write your name (apology to Monsieur Éluard).

  – By spreading lie through social media/
  – By lip locking with their dears on zebra crossing/
  – By making the college principal’s room the Park Circus/
  – By sticking pads on the trees and Yakub Memon on the wall/
  – By adorning the walkway with bra-volution/
  – By whining for the Gurus/
  – By so and so and so and so…..

They accuse me of being unimaginative–that is, according to them, I may have oil in my lamp, but no flame. Now this is exactly the accusation which I bring against them. I would say to them: “You are dark, even as the flints are. You must come to violent conflicts and make a noise in order to produce your sparks. But their disconnected flashes merely assist your pride, and not your clear vision.” We all become Nikhilesh when it comes to debate and scoring points, but in reality, we regard the might of the Sandip praxis as more advantageous and act accordingly. The fight for justice has become a matter of pride and prejudice, and quite often, emotion is filled with unencumbered passion which is why lost its connection with the collective consciousness. Histrionics, borrowed from the Occident without any cogitation, immaturity, and insolence characterize the protest bandwagon. In the era of the world wide web, when the difference between real and virtual tends to diminish and access to knowledge becomes easier than ever, every individual forms their own world. With the advent of the new virtual society, some new social and moral values and interests have been emerged, and all kinds of information – good or bad, traditional or original, scientific or religious, etc. – are available now in the global system of knowledge. Thus, this very application of plurality obviously will entice the individuals to strive for equity and protest radically against any control or regulation. Most importantly, this is not at all unknown to the players who control and run the state machinery. Therefore, the idea of any ‘revolution’ no longer remains confined within the periphery of the university campus, and it would have surely come a cropper had the emotion, arguments and  moral values of the commoners, who are also a special type of anarchist in their own way in this internet galaxy, not been taken into account. Unfortunately, these new age students are totally indifferent to the common man’s day to day experience of disgrace, denial and betrayal, and are only interested to engage with such issues that will help them to gain media blitz. One stray incident took place in Kerala, and these rebels swoop down on the street to demonstrate their power. The Vice Chancellor is made to sunset but the truth (of the molestation case) is yet to be revealed, however, nobody inside the university campus seems to have any interest left for it. V.C is compelled to quit, and that’s it – vive la victory. Events in Jamia Miliya or FTII immediately gain the students’ attention, and the rise of rebellious activity takes on an increasingly meteoric tenor. No doubt about the fact that each and every protesting student performed their duty with a remarkable alacrity, but what next? Will ‘making noise’ produce the spark everywhere? Will ‘making whatever noise’ be honoured as freedom of expression? Will hypocrisy and intellectual bankruptcy be celebrated as brevity?

Every day the merchant cheats/
hospitals exploit to the hilt, Every day /
Every day the roads are ruled by the hooligan bus & auto drivers/
the helpless commuters grapple Every day /
Every day the oldsters are driven away from their home/
ambidextrous lawyers  make us bankrupt every day/
Every day the promoters dupe/
we bribe and make art Every day /
Every day the private schools loot/
the guides ill treats the Phd students Every day /
And, the whole nine yards…

La FREEDOM ??!

The agony of the Afzal Guru family hurts them, but the enormous suffering of common citizens fails to attract the rebels, although they are the one who could stand against some of these, if not all, since the acts of resistance are not confined within the educational affairs only. Not only this, but these metro based students do not also bother about what the students of the Muffassal or village are thinking. Their connection to the greater society is totally lost and they are pathologically intolerant of anyone who would be critical of these hullabaloos, which is why the middle-class intelligentsia also fails to relate to these movements and offers a testy refusal. Now, the hapless and marginalized section of the democracy will not be able to aptly present their case in front of the government agencies; and the capital, in cahoots with the power system, has marched into modernity with a different strategy and language of service to bury the voices of dissent that would come out from the other sections of the society. Over the years, the state machineries have also become smarter in ensuring the power structure. The creation of beneficiary class is one amongst the many strategies they adopt to ensure the omnipresence of power. Ironically, as I said earlier also, most of the ‘recalcitrant’ students come from that beneficiary-class only, and the expedient intellectuals, who were disposed of words and made to fall by the wayside long ago, are trying to embed their inutile existence in the zeitgeist. In Bengal, some of the teachers of one particular university, who are the children of paradise established by the left front government who successfully did the baselining by applying the policy of bringing in the mediocre to establish the Rule of the Mediocre, consistently enticing the students for their own vested interest. This is surely the worst of time. No one is supporting the establishment, for it is not possible to support any political front in this country, or questioning the protest, but the efficacy of the method needs to be reexamined. History might be incubating the spirit of the V.C who was shot inside the university campus while gazing at the continuum of innumerable misconducts in the name of protest to achieve the rhyme of nonsense, and the scythe of the moon has been shining aimlessly on the water of the ‘desert’ (courtesy to both the previous and present politics) of Bengal.

the same old rhetoric,
same old bandage
same old brandishing
same old throw down the gauntlet
same old Lacan-Foucault fashion
same old lie

and

the voice of resistance is lost in its echo.

 The Father, one of the six characters of Pirandello who were in search of an author, asserted that the whole trouble lies in words, and we think we understand each other, but we never really do. What he didn’t mention is that we never wish to understand each other. The thoughts of the west not only blown about our house, but it also has made our feet blown off. The more WE read, the less WE understand, and the lesser WE connect. WE strive for freedom, but at the same time, that same WE tend to shy away the responsibilities that the word freedom carries with. Words gain its weight as countercultural, but results only in misanthropy and calumniation of our century-old heterogeneous culture. One’s protest has become another’s test of patience, and in between, the state does whatever it wishes to. We who were students once upon a time and now really are striving to eke out a normal and more or less respectable living in a rapidly changing economic and political environment have been turned into bystanders, both by the act of power and by the act of resistance, and the only consolation is Tagore’s (Thakur may create confusion) pencil. Time has offered a white sheet to us. WE thought that WE had made a leap forward, and WE never realized that WE had made only the first timid steps of a long march.

About author

Abhishek Talukdar
Abhishek Talukdar 1 posts

Abhishek Talukder is a software engineer and an independent filmmaker. His first short film, Ria, was showcased in Cannes Short Film corner in 2013 and won several awards in the Lake City International Film Festival, Bhopal. He has been an active member of the Cine Club of Naihati for the last three years and the editor of the Cine Scene magazine. His feature film Antabiheen, was released in 2014.

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