Wednesday, July 25, 2007

On literature and cinema

Over the past few days, I have heard more about Harry Potter than I did over the last 10 years. The hype surrounding the release of Book 7 is unbelievable. Among other unbelievable things is this article in the San Jose Mercury News about giving Harry a "proper send-off". I began to read the article out of sheer curiosity. By the time I finished it, I was convinced that all the hype was unnecessary. To "hold "Goodbye, Harry" gatherings" and mock funerals seems utterly ridiculous to me. If there is one thing the Potter series has done to children, it is to teach them that death is a certainty. It tells the tale of an epic battle between good and evil and shows that many lives, some innocent and others not, will be lost in the process. When a series as realistic as this one ends, why should children go into a state of manic depression? It seems that when they do, they have not really learnt the lesson Jo tried so hard to convey. That "for the well-organised mind, death is but the next great adventure." If that is true, children would understand why the series has to end. They would understand that all good things must end at some point so that better things can take their place. By advising parents to hold mock funerals and memorial services in the memory of the fictional hero, I think psychologists and psychiatrists are underestimating the intelligence of children who read the Potter books. Perhaps, they have understood the point of the books better than we have as adults. Perhaps, they are not as dumb as child and family psychologists think they are.

Having said that, on to the second theme of this post. I recently saw the trailer of the forthcoming movie "Gandhi, My Father". It's tagline states that
"one family's tragedy was the price of a nation's freedom." Why is that, you may wonder. For the first time, a movie humanises Gandhi and talks about the complicated relationship he shared with his eldest son, Harilal. As usual, the political parties claiming uphold the Gandhian legacy have created a furore about the movie allegedly tarnishing Bapu's squeaky clean image. Why is it so difficult for us to accept that the man who brought us independence through the mantra of non-violence may not have been the perfect human being we make him out to be? Does his failure as a father undermine, in any way, his contribution to the Indian freedom movement? The question I asked a few months ago of Indian crickets is valid in this context too. Why do we seek to deify those who do us good? Why can't Gandhi be human, with his flaws and drawbacks? Why does he have to be God-incarnate to hold a place in our hearts? To me, Gandhi is a man. A great man, but a man nonetheless. Yes, his contribution to the freedom struggle was invaluable. But he had his faults. Who doesn't? I don't agree with many of his principles, but I still respect him. If I were to criticise his ideals, do I become the Devil's advocate? I don't think so. I certainly hope people don't stop questioning what must be questioned in an attempt at blind reverence. Gandhi was a great man. He was a Mahatma. But even Mahatmas have their flaws.

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