The low budget Hindi movies do not have a large audience, but the people they manage to pull definitely take away food for their thoughts. Movies like “Masaan”, “Lunchbox”, “Dum Lagake Haisha” are the kinds that sustain one’s faith in cinema- these are movies that are categorized under Realist Drama.
Today I am going to talk about one such low budget, hidden gem- “Ankhon Dekhi”, directed by Rajat Kapoor. The protagonist is Sanjay Mishra, who according to me is one of the most unutilized actors in the Hindi film industry. If someone is looking for the criticism on the technicalities of the movie or how actors acted, they will be disappointed. I am more interested in the philosophies of the protagonist and the various concepts touched upon in the movie.
The setting is the Old Delhi: the Red Fort, Chawri Bazar, and Chandni Chowk- with their congested roads, hustle bustle and wire mesh which challenges Kirchhoff’s laws but I won’t go into the detailed summary of the movie. One incident leads Raje babu, the protagonist to rethink the entire way he thinks about life. He decides to believe in only what he sees and experiences. The newspapers contain news from all over the world, you obviously have not witnessed them- so should you believe in them? The books one reads is someone else’s experience and truth- one must find their own truth. What you have not personally experienced cannot be understood or believed. “Mera sach, mera Anubhav hoga” (my truth, will be what I experience). These are all variations of what Raje Babu starts believing in and suggesting others. Basically, don’t believe anything and everything because the majority does so. Don’t, without questioning, imbibe what you are being taught.
Here I want to acquaint the readers with a John Lockean concept of Tabula Rasa. You don’t have to know the writer or the term to understand what it means. Tabula Rasa, in English, translates roughly to a ‘clean slate’. John Locke implied that the mind of a child is like a clean slate when it is born. With time, his/her social environment and the people he/she lives and grows with, decide what will be written on that slate, basically what the child becomes. What the movie “Ankhon Dekhi” is trying to do, is suggesting you to make your mind a Tabula Rasa again and instead of letting others define things for you, you should explore and define them for yourself. Relieve yourself of all societal prejudices, believes, morals and create your own definitions.
The movie very subtly shows the intrinsic problems a society might have with a person who has started refusing to see the world as was shown to him. Raje Babu, a religious person stops going to the temple and it really terrifies the priest. The thought of an unquestioning believer probing the presence of God is blasphemous. That is after all what religion is, isn’t it? It demands of you an obedient mind, unquestioning and unconditional faith. Men around Raje Babu justify this change in his demeanor as ‘Male menopause’- equivalent of the female menopause, implying that just as the hormones in the body of a women makes her act ‘abnormal’ the same happens with men. The most obvious explanation is “Pagal ho gaye hai” (he has gone mad). A post-modernist, who some of you might have heard of- Michel Foucault, questions the whole concept of madness in his work “Madness and Civilisation”. He concludes that one who does not fit into the ‘normal society’, is deviant, does not do justice to the norms, threatens the usual functioning of a society, is considered to be a mad person. People have to be termed mad, to define normal. Same happens in the case of Raje Babu.
Also by Shreya: ‘Ends: Subversive, Unconventional, Endless’
Another crucial concept that the movie movingly touches is the idea of a construct- things one usually reads in philosophy. People ask Raje Babu if he believes that it is, let’s say- 2 pm on a Wednesday and he replies: “hoga” (could be). He goes on to explain briefly that the whole concept of time, days and date is a construct which humans have created for their convenience. It did not always exist. Like Language. Of course, Language and Time are important for communication and for a society to function but the point here is to understand the difference between what is natural and what is customary. Just because everyone believes is something does not make it natural; it’s a custom.
People are scared but at the same time even awed by eccentrics. The deviant behavior and metamorphized change in Raje Babu unsurprisingly gathered many followers. They started living by his believes, his findings. He later in the movie points out that, that isn’t the right thing to do or what he asked for. He is on his journey to find HIS truth, others should find theirs and not follow him because it is convenient.
For all its unconventional outlook and concept that movie could not escape being bound in the same world, it means to oppose. After all, you can’t oppose a society without being a part of it. The last scene might be hopeful to some, a stretch to others. In the want to experience everything, a man jumps to his imminent death. Should the desire to discover one’s truth be so extreme? Is death a reasonable bargain for the desire to feel something new? But then, who defines reason? However, the director does not want us to focus on what follows, that’s why Raje Babu is flying not falling. The focus is, the present, when he is experiencing the feeling and the truth of flying- nothing matters beyond that. That moment encompasses in his entire being, it is the only thing that matters, it is his truth.