Yes, madness is spreading out.We are living in dark times, where one is not too sure what the next day would bring along, unfold, hold out! Violence has been accelerating in the last four years, peaking as never before. Today, you and I can be killed, lynched, threatened, on any possible alibi — right from selling cattle to trading beef, if not cooking and consuming it. Not to overlook the other dreaded alibi for getting hacked and hounded in today’s so called ‘developed’ times. The BJP coined love jihad, where a Muslim or a Hindu has to think a hundred times before daring to fall in love and marry the other. No explanations or counter explanations are sought and, of course, no hope of protection by the political rulers of the day who seem hell bent on following a divisive agenda.
And, if you are keen to witness the dark realities of the day, its best to view Shahid Kabeer’s debut feature film — Unmaad.
I was somewhat intrigued by the offbeat name of the film, till of course, he took pains to explain that Unmaad stands for madness of a certain kind. “When passion crosses all limits, a certain level of madness overtakes and over-rules,with that, sane thinking and saner elements are pushed into the background by surcharged politics holding sway,”said Kabeer.
In fact, this Mumbai-based filmmaker and theatre director, decided to shoot this low-budget film in his home town, Saharanpur, in Western Uttar Pradesh. Perhaps, for several specific reasons. After all, Uttar Pradesh, has been witnessing communal violence in all its horrifying hues and forms.
Love jihad killings took off from Uttar Pradesh, before spreading out to the other BJP ruled states of the country. Even today, a Muslim or a Dalit is apprehensive of befriending an upper caste Hindu, because the local goons will not just intrude and interfere but kill the lovers out there, in broad daylight. And, if one were to talk of lynching by gau-rakshaks (though I prefer to call them goons and gangsters of the worst kind), then once again, Uttar Pradesh tops the list. There is that constant scare amongst the members of the minority communities for getting targeted and killed by rightwing brigades roaming about, all along the highways and inner roads of this state, all too eager to kill.
In fact, it wouldn’t be incorrect to say that those not officially killed in the various encounters by the governmental machinery are killed rather too unofficially by these goon brigades nurtured and pampered by the political mafia of the day.
Perhaps, another reason for Shahid Kabeer to opt for Uttar Pradesh is his absolute fascination for the 15th century mystic poet, Kabir. So much so that Shahid has even added ‘Kabeer’ to his name and also named his production company — Kabeera. He tells me that the very significance of that mystic poet’s verse holds out in these troubled times, after all, Kabir spoke out ever so constantly for unmasking hypocrisy, for exposing the evil doers and the fake camouflaged in various hues and forms. Pick up any of his verse/dohas and each one of them relays a message, nudging one into thinking sense, if not guiding towards introspection, along the strain of that much needed fearlessness to speak out the truth and expose the layers of hypocrisy and deceit.
Probably, Shahid’s undying faith in Kabir held sway all through the making of this feature film. After all, Shahid comes across rather fearless in projecting the ground realities in his debut film.
Stark and raw they stand out on the screen, with seemingly little dilutions and coatings. And with that in the foreground or backdrop one of my queries for Shahid was this — how difficult it was for him to make this film?
“As a film maker I had to show what’s been happening …it was important for me to portray all that, on the big screen. After all, there is little point making a film if one cannot show as starkly as possible what’s been on and ongoing in certain belts of the country.”
“Yes, initially we faced hurdles in terms of finances but we managed to collect the required funds through public funding. Friends and relatives pitched in. I have avoided using big Bollywood names or flashy sets and elaborate platforms for the film, as the basic purpose of the film is for the ground realities to be shown as clearly as possible to the viewer. After all, these horrific incidents were taking place right in front of us; all that one had to do was to put them on the screen for public viewing.”
Whilst keying in, I am left wondered how the long departed Kabir would have reacted to one of his modern-day admirers making this hard-hitting film on the atrocities taking place in north India, the belt where this mystic poet lived and died. Lying well tucked in his grave in Uttar Pradesh’s Maghar (a town and a nagar panchayat in Sant Kabir Nagar district of Uttar Pradesh) I am certain Kabir would be at ease; at least someone out there is showing the ground realities and ripping off the hypocrisy of the well-masked, deceitful political mafia and the third class politics holding sway.