If you have not suffered films like Baghban or LOC: Kargil in your long troubled relationship with Bollywood, you’re probably giving the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) a mental pat on its back after reading this Indian Express article.
According to the article, the CBSE, after realising that films can be an important source of ‘education’, has listed 47 films as ‘must-watch’ in its value education handbook. The only recollection I have of value education or moral science classes from school, were ones in which we were either studying for the history class-test in the next period or wasting a lot of glue and newspapers to learn how to make paper bags.
Not that the CBSE suggests so, but it would be infinitely more entertaining to watch a film instead.
But Baghban? Really? Where a rich man (Amitabh Bachchan in carefully coloured hair and a bored Hema Malini acting as if she is in an anti-ageing cream commercial) has apparently spent all his savings on his children, and seeks to stay with them and off them after he has retired? According to the article, the film was included because it ‘promotes’ family values.
No sir, it doesn’t. It shows what happens when you have a bunch of money-maniacs for a family. It asks you to give up common sense for filmi sentimentality - like the fact that the retired man in question has a house that looks as big as the Rashtrapati Bhavan. But you have to believe he is poor and has to scrape off leftover food in his son’s fridge.
LOC:Kargil reeks of JP Dutta and his war song-and-dance. There are good-looking army guys who are called away from honeymoons to go to war – as the pretty, powdered wives look out of their windows and lip sync to Anu Malik songs.
Or say for example The Rising: The Ballad of Mangal Pandey, whose historical credibility was widely questioned like the story of Mangal Pandey itself. Your take-away? A hideously moustached Aamir Khan’s character, who seems to have already portrayed a virulent regard for caste and class, canoodling with Rani Mukherjee in a pond.
Oh and yes, Taare Zameen Par, which starts of pretending to be iconoclastic, saying its alright if your math is a little screwed up but ends emphasising the importance of mainstream academics itself. Despite its lofty approach it doesn’t have the pluck to wind up showing that a kid, who is good in painting can’t be just that: a painter, to see him through the rest of his life. He can also be as good in academics, maths, geography etc. All he needs is a painter-singer-joker-dancer rolled into one teacher – Aamir Khan that is.
Or say No One Killed Jessica, which despite its explosive subject, makes the success of Sabrina Lal’s decade-long battle seem hinged on, again, the filmi zest of a cuss-word spewing journalist.
Opinions about the choice of films in the handbook might be very subjective. Aamir Khan fan boys may spew venom for the disapproval of his films – they have every right to like them, as I have to dislike the ones I mentioned – the whole idea of watching films as ‘value education’ seems problematic.
It almost heaps films and film-watching with the obligation of inculcating a set of ideas perceived as ‘morals’ in our country. That’s not doing great service to either the concept of watching a film as an informed audience or opening a young student’s mind up to debating long entrenched ‘values’ and ‘morals’ in our country.
Say for example the Munnabhai films. They are examples of good cinema – cleverly told stories in the framework of Bollywood. Stories nevertheless, that don’t essentially hold up if you treat them as text books of life lessons. In real life, can you grudge the satanic doctor that Boman Irani plays for being uber strict with medical students? You don’t want to trust your liver with someone who slept through class. Are all builders half as good humoured as the one in Lage Raho Munnabhai to come around with hugs and a bunch of roses? No amount of idealistic debate can convince you in the affirmative. Gandhigiri is a cool term when you see it in a film, not essentially something that is a great life skill!
These films are ‘must-watch’, yes. If you want to be a smart Bolly-tracker. Not because they’ll help you become a ‘model’ human being.