Who killed Diana?
It is the voyeur in the audience who is the reason for offensive and obscene scenes in films. Ultimately, it is this that drives the media to publicise such stories, writes MANOJ DAS.
IT is in fitness of things that we are agitated over the dignity of an actress. But what about the dignity of the dummy, who acted the objectionable scenes on her behalf?
"I have been an accomplice to murders", is a distinguished American film scriptwriter's confession.
A few days before August 30, the fifth death anniversary of Princess Diana, I was walking by the Buckingham Palace when I saw a teenage girl at the corner of the sprawling lawns putting a question mark to the sentence she had scribbled on a poster: "Who killed dear Diana?"
I was not the only passer-by to notice the activity. An elderly Englishman of impressive stature commented, winking at the girl, "Who but those bloody hounds, the paparazzi!"
There was no scope for me to ask the gentleman, "And who set those bloody hounds after her, please?"
Alas, how smugly we fix our gaze on the mask, not bothering to look behind it. The answer to the teenager's question is also the answer to why a filmmaker must introduce, often force, something offensive into his picture. Sometimes, as in a recent case, the answer stares us in the face when we open the newspaper: the picture of we the people dying to pick up tickets. As a village elder once put it to me on a similar occasion: "The cat had smelled the rotten fish." Of course, we can flatter the cat: it was enamoured of the art and aesthetic in the fish.
Coming back to our propensity for retreating from confronting the stark reality, an actress who accuses a filmmaker of violating her dignity as a woman through a dummy or double, should have our sympathy. But what about the poor dumb dummy? Is she not a woman, though faceless? She has been made to do what a decent woman would not do. Who threw her into that dragnet of indecency? The immediate answer, no doubt, is the filmmaker. But he only masks the villain the aforesaid cat.
Unless the dummy is a pervert, it is some sad situation in her life or the lack of a normal sense of dignity, which is equally sad, makes her act as a commodity. A whole tribe of people who pass on as patrons of culture the producer, the scriptwriter, the director, the cameraman, et al. oblige her to do what they certainly would not let their dear ones to do. Her dignity violated in full gaze of a team a gang with a difference and then edited and trimmed, she is rolled out for us, the consumers.
The heavy toll this systematic projection of the woman as a commodity had taken of the mass culture cannot be briefly described. It has destroyed the ethical values the village opera used to uphold, for the latter must compete with the Bollywood culture for its survival (and the definition of survival has lately changed) and the shortest way to success in that direction is to vulgarise the visual. The increase in the incidence of dowry deaths in rural India, I am afraid, is directly in proportion to the spread of the bad film all over the country, on big and small screens.
The violence and brutality against women, shown graphically on the screen, has often a goody- goody moral. At the end the violent and the brute are punished. Similarly, a hero shown as a smoker or a drinker in style may change at the end and become a saint. But the impact of violence and the anarchical lifestyle of a popular hero far exceeds the final message of the story. Let me draw the attention of the readers to an article published in The New York Times of 9 August 2002, entitled "Hollywood's Responsibility for Smoking Deaths". The writer is Joe Eszterhas, a distinguished American film scriptwriter (and author of American Rhapsody). He is now beset with cancer. He writes, "I have been an accomplice to the murder of untold numbers of human beings. My hands are bloody; so are Hollywood's. My cancer has caused me to attempt to cleanse mine. I don't want my fate upon anyone in Hollywood, but I beg that Hollywood stop imposing it upon millions of others.''
Couldn't we take note of this and stop spreading cancer as well as several social cancers? In the ultimate analysis, it is the voyeur in us, the people that killed Diana. It is also at the root of the obscene and the offensive in films. But that cannot be an excuse for the filmmaker. The people have many other aspects to their consciousness too. It is in his own interest that the former titillates certain elements in them. He could do otherwise if he kept in mind the interest of the society.
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