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Opinion Terror Is Silence Says Gulzar


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Terror is silence, says Gulzar

Gulzar, whose Maachis became a seminal film on violence, statehood and terrorism in Punjab, talks to Srijana Mitra Das about cinema, today’s youth and ‘a map of memories’, going back from the 1980s to 1947 — the year that changed India, altered the subcontinent and shook up the world
As we celebrate a new Independence Day, please recount the backdrop to Maachis.

There was terror all around. It was deeply disturbing. The producer of Maachis was Mr R V Pandit, a highly educated and literary man, who wrote prolifically about what was happening in Punjab. I also wrote stories and poems about it. It was a colossal waste of youth. I was reminded of my earlier movie, Mere Apne, where disenchanted young people were manipulated by a politician. Disgruntled youth back then had sticks or, at most, bicycle chains as weapons. But by the 1980s, they had guns and bombs. Maachis updated Mere Apne. But in Maachis, the politician figure was shown as still being up to his usual tricks. The basic character of politicians has not changed. How could young people be blamed? How could schoolboys be labeled ‘terrorists’? They were innocent.

How did this situation come about?
Loss compounded loss. I heard one man say he had lost half his family in 1947 and the other half in 1984. When we were shooting, I wanted Om Puri to say the same line with no expression. But every time, tears would come to his eyes at these words. The situation became explosive. I saw chilling incidents. Young boys were stopped by the police who would make cruel jokes about bombs hidden in their pagris. The police could never take a joke back. I showed this in Maachis when the police searches for someone called Jimmy. A village boy humorously shows them his dog called Jimmy. They imprison and torture the boy for this. You see, those days in Punjab the police had the attitude of a hukumraan, a monarch. The establishment behaved brutally. No one else was responsible for terror. If you push someone so much against the wall, a feeling of violence will arise. Someone else will then pick up that violence and use it. Even today, it is not Kasab who is important. It is someone behind Kasab. Those who do not have missiles like America to rain on others from thousands of miles away will use these youth.

From Punjab to a global context, how do you understand terror now?
Global terror is the same phenomenon, bargaining over power, life and death. What have little children in Afghanistan today seen except bombs, smoke, explosions and running (for cover)? Do you know Afghan children wear shoes when they sleep, so they can run easily if a bomb falls during the night? Iraq has been similarly pushed against the wall. What proof did the West ultimately have, what justification for raining bombs on them? Ultimately, people’s self-respect, their dignity will rebel. You must note that so-called terrorists in this context mostly end up killing their own people. They must have a reason to do this.

But what about the Taliban?
Taliban is a front for power. It comes from a particular kind of logic. If a state is created based on Islam, such a problem will arise. The Taliban will arise saying this is not Islamic enough, that is too Western. Osama bin Laden is strong because he stands against America. Today, what does the Pakistani government actually have in its hands? Remember that the Marriot hotel was bombed in Pakistan before these militants came to Mumbai and attacked the Taj. The Pakistani state cannot control these elements and we really cannot blame them. Despite all their high talk around Kashmir, they are actually helpless. For many years, they have been struggling to establish democracy. They are essentially innocent people. I sympathise with them. Ordinary Pakistanis have such love, such warmth for us. When the two nations were playing cricket, entire stretches of restaurants and salons in their side of Punjab put up signs saying free food, free services for Indians. They are basically Punjabi by heart, Punjabi by faith, a great people. The problem is that it is not the common people who decide what their state does. It is someone else.

Who is this ‘someone else’?
Basically, dealers of power. They want hukumat, to rule at any cost, more and more power, deep inequality. Democracy is essential for equality. Thank God, Indian democracy is still working. That is because every Indian is essentially a thinker. Thinking is not limited to the elite. A vendor selling coconuts on the road is a philosopher. He will have ideas on politics, economics, history, sports. This has saved India. The fact that the common Indian is a thinker is vital.

How do you define ‘terror’?
Terror is silence. It is not these contemporary movies where a hero, a gangster, is walking about stylishly with a gun to background music. These movies are acrobatics. They have no effect on the viewer. ‘Terror’ is the silence which fell on Punjab and Assam when no one would have the guts to come out of their house after 6 pm and cross the street. Current movies showing terror are more like a band playing, like the televised Mahabharat where people shoot weapons against ackground music. That is not terror.

Against such complexity, how do you envision the future?
I see the future with great hope. Power manipulates the innocent and terror is born. But I have great hope from today’s young generation. Today’s youth is lovely. It is honest and brave. There is no hypocrisy like we or our parents had, that we have to attend that cousin’s uncle’s brother’s wedding, the same fellow who stole our lands! This young generation is simple and magical. It will make a new world.

Read more: Terror is silence, says Gulzar - Music - Entertainment - The Times of India http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/...-Gulzar/articleshow/6386788.cms#ixzz0xX9FYMzr


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