Most of the ills in the world can be solved with one potion: LOVE. If Osama bin Laden knew that, the world would have been quite a different place today. If the Bushes of America knew it, the world would have been a far better place today. If ten percent of the people in the world placed love above everything else, the earth would have been a paradise.
Jesus preached love and failed. The Buddha had preached the same thing and failed – in history. Many a mahatma sacrificed their lives in vain for the sake of love.
Love has little place in the contemporary world. Especially if it is given in a capsule form.
That’s where the Malayalam movie, Manikyakallu, fails. Maggie and I have just returned from PVR, Saket, New Delhi after watching that movie in an air-conditioned theatre occupied by just 3 couples and 2 children.
Manikyakallu tells the story of a government school in a village in Kerala. The school has a history of getting “zero pass” in the class ten exams. The teachers including the headmaster are involved in augmenting their income by doing some ‘side business’ like real estate, eggs, insecticides for farmers, music classes for TV Reality Shows, and whatever else the script writer could imagine. But the whole scenario changes when the hero, Vinayachandran enacted by Prithviraj, enters the scene (the school) as a teacher. In a few days’ time Prithviraj manages to convert the entire population of the village by means of LOVE. Even a faceless bootlegger of country liquor is converted into LOVE! [What a waste of talent bringing Jagathi Sreekumar to act that role!]
Miracles do happen in life. But not on a mass scale. The masses seldom, if ever, bother about love. That’s why the PVR cinema had to screen Manikyakallu to an almost empty hall. The air-conditioning was so superb that we shivered of cold when the Delhi outside simmered at 41 degree Celsius.
It’s not difficult to get children to respond to love, especially in a village. It’s not too difficult even in a city. But who would believe a political union leader would be converted by love? Manikyakallu tries to persuade us to believe that too. The whole lot of teachers in the school earning their ‘side incomes’ are converted. Converted too easily.
When the movie halted for the interval after many a yawn from me, Maggie asked, “too much preaching, isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” I said, “a moral science class. But I’m enjoying the ac.”
In Kerala the show would have been cancelled if only eight tickets were sold. Or at least the air-conditioner would have been switched off. And they would have cried the hell over “the crisis in Malayalam movie business caused by pirate CDs.”
“The Teacher is a Model to the Students,” said the movie through a slogan painted anew by Prithviraj in the staffroom of his school. Anyone is a model to today’s students except the teacher. Who doesn’t know that? I am a teacher and I know that none of my students would ever like to become a teacher. What a lousy job! That’s their thinking. Who would ever believe that a teacher is a role model for any student today? Sachin Tendulkar is a role model for today’s students. Not for the professionalism and perfectionism he displays in his life as a cricketer, but for the money he makes. I have heard hundreds of students [as well as career counsellors and motivational speakers and umpteen others] arguing that Tendulkar was a failure in academics… I know a parent who laments over her son being passionate about skating. “Bewkoof [idiot],” she says, “if he had taken interest in cricket he could have made so much money!” And her son is the best skater in the school. There are too many such parents.
Sheila ki jawani is a role model for today’s students. Munni badnam hui is a role model. Ten-second presence on a large screen is the role model.
Gandhi wouldn’t be a role model. Prithviraj tries to bring in Gandhi’s Experiments with Truth as a must-read. The result? Tremendous success in the movie. An empty hall at the box office.
Am I saying that love has no value? Not at all. All that I’m saying is love has no place in the world of aesthetics today unless it goes through a lot of labour.
And role models? Even more difficult.
I’d hate to see myself as a role model for anyone. What a boring job that is! I have to live my life. You live your life. Let’s try to help each other if possible. Without preaching. Without setting the ethics for the other in the name of role model or anything.