I shall now try to prove that terror and terrorism sells better than sex. It does it both in the real world and make-believe world of “entertainment.”
In fact, I would argue that in post-9/11 copy America and clone India, sex is condom’ed up and commonplace, and therefore boring (like, it’s so predictable!). On the other hand, terror is like unsafe sex and thus unpredictable and more “fun.” Terror and terrorism is dangerous, scary and highly ticklish. In fact, it’s a hair-raising, high ‘rousing experience.
That is, if you are a president, or into media and film making. That is, if you know how to get political profit or plain, oldfashioned money profit out of terror.
I shall write briefly here about a new Indian movie named “Kahaani.” But before that, I want to talk about President Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States.
Carter wrote a scathing op-ed in the New York Times today, June 26, 2012. He wrote:
“The United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights.”
He went on:
“Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended. This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public. As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues.”
One final segment I want to quote from the Carter column:
“While the country has made mistakes in the past, the widespread abuse of human rights over the last decade has been a dramatic change from the past. With leadership from the United States, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 as “the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” This was a bold and clear commitment that power would no longer serve as a cover to oppress or injure people, and it established equal rights of all people to life, liberty, security of person, equal protection of the law and freedom from torture, arbitrary detention or forced exile.
The declaration has been invoked by human rights activists and the international community to replace most of the world’s dictatorships with democracies and to promote the rule of law in domestic and global affairs. It is disturbing that, instead of strengthening these principles, our government’s counterterrorism policies are now clearly violating at least 10 of the declaration’s 30 articles, including the prohibition against “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” “
You can read the entire Carter op-ed here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/25/opinion/americas-shameful-human-rights-record.html?src=me&ref=general .
So, President Jimmy Carter is talking about America’s so-called War on Terror, and blasting the U.S. administration — the current Obama administration — for its extra-judicial killings and tortures worldwide. He is drawing particular attention to the numerous, lethal U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan and the indefinite detentions and physical and mental tortures at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.
Now, what does it have to do with the Indian flick “Kahaani?”
Here’s a gist for the movie. Kahaani — in Hindi it means a story — talks about a terror attack in my birthplace Calcutta (Kolkata) where an evil terrorist has used a toxic gas on the subway train to kill hundreds of innocent people (Heavens forbid!), and disappeared. Indian secret service has failed to hunt him down. A young, pregnant woman lost her husband in that attack, and in a fascinating, clandestine, personal jihad (forgive my word choice here), comes to the city from London, befriends, uses and exploits India’s hostile police force and cruel secret service, and finally finds and captures the primary terrorist and kills him in broad daylight. Then she disappears too.
Turns out a number of high-level secret service officers were involved in the terrorist attack who also hired a contract killer later to silence anybody investigating the case. The contract killer indiscriminately kills any help to this poor woman; the woman on the other hand finds her own way to kill or have killed all the terrorists and their accomplices.
Kahaani is a new sensation in India — a super hit!
My question is this: if the U.S. government can justify its extra-judicial killings of perceived terrorists, with no regard for the 1948 international human rights laws President Carter talks about, and in particular, if it can use its self-styled, post-9/11 War on Terror as the justification for the killings, then why would India and the people at the seat of power not use the same justification to kill its perceived terrorists indiscriminately, without any regard for the laws and any due judicial process?
Sure, one is real life and the other is just “fun and entertainment,” but what about the enormous influence this hugely popular entertainment has had on young Indian minds? Or, am I talking rubbish? Okay, ask Center for Constitutional Rights lawyers. (Or, Amnesty, ACLU, HRW, etc.).
In Kahaani, the woman (who pulled the biggest surprise at the end of the movie — which I would not divulge just to give some credit for the director, actors and the cinematography and of course, my city of Calcutta) absolutely vanquished the main terrorist, took his gun away and had him in a position of total surrender; yet, she pumped five extra bullets in to kill him when she could easily have handed him over to the police force chasing after them and were just ’round the corner.
Personal jihad — didn’t I use the term before? Like, go for it, girl! (I have a feeling she — Vidya Balan — would get the best actress award this year for the role she played.)
In the movie poster, she is actually likened with the Hindu Goddess Durga who in a holy armed battle, vanquishes the demon. Some critics have likened the woman in the movie as a new symbol of Indian feminism. Why not? Anything goes! Anything sells!
See, I could’ve talked about the graphic nature of violence, and the new fab kid of Indian movie the gun (NRA would be ecstatic only if they believed in globalization!), in a typical movie review. In fact, someone must talk about the horrific justification of broad daylight killings and validation of semi-automatic guns — and that too — in a progressive city of Calcutta where even today, the average person resists violence and extrajudicial killings: they’ve seen enough!). I could’ve talked about the disturbing, terrifying imitation of Dirty Harry and Taxi Driver type blood-splattering violence used in the movie. In fact, someone should do it.
But I’m really emphasizing on the extra-judicial killing aspect that was used so abundantly in the film, mainly because to my knowledge, nobody has challenged it from that point of view. Indian movie industry has recently made a number of such films where judicial due process has been actively and purposefully ignored and excluded from people’s minds. And all these movies used terror and terrorism as the premise and justification for the extra-judicial killings. See A Wednesday. It’s just one example.
All of these movies and their directors and stars became overnight sensation. All these movies made huge box-office hits. The producers made millions.
The U.S. self-styled War on Terror is now copied and followed with every sincerity in a country like India. Indians have now accepted McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut with religious devotion. They’ve accepted Monsanto and Union Carbide. They’ve accepted Wal-Mart and GE. They’ve surrendered to IMF with complete unquestioning — the Indian way.
They’ve now also accepted the principles and practices of U.S. War on Terror, where the state and its contract officers are instructed and allowed to torture and kill any perceived terrorists — no questions asked. You believe he is a terrorist? Okay, go finish him, now!
President Carter perhaps doesn’t know much about “Kahaani.” I’d strongly recommend that he watch it.
If he did, he’d know that in today’s India, terror sells better than sex. Just like in today’s U.S., terror sells better than anything else — especially in an election year.
That’s the ultimate writhing, moaning, panting-pleasure climax.
Brooklyn, New York