Film Review

Desires and upheavals in Hazaron Khwaishein Aisi


 The betrayal of the Nehruvian dreams, the Naxalbari movement and the subsequent upheaval in society redefined  language, ideas and attitudes  of people. As urban activists engaged with the rural poor as comrades in arms, the convergence of two cultures transformed the other.

A recent film 'Hazaron Khwahishen Aisi', examines the generation, which was swept in the tidal wave of this social upheaval through a prism of passions and desires. And therein emerges a finely told tale of youth in love and the clarification of their values in times of crisis.  Yet, it is tale, which has ignored the redefinition of ideas
and thoughts reflective of the union of the peasantry with urban youth, since its engagement remains within class boundaries. Revolving around three characters, from an elite Delhi college, it depicts their yearnings and transformation through six years. Vikram, the boy from the Gandhian middle class family is cynical of activism
and social concerns and becomes a fixer in the corridors of power, while his batch mate Siddharth with a judge as father, joins the ML movement and goes to Bhojpur. Geetha, loved by both, marries a civil servant but leaves him to be with Siddharth. She joins him and starts teaching poor women and together they experience the stark reality of state repression during Emergency.  By the end of it, twists to the
story change the pegs around and Vikram by a quirk of events is paralysed by police torture in Bihar , Siddharth is unable to sustain revolutionary life and goes away to England , while Geetha remains in Bhojpur.

The film contrary to its portrayal as a political epic, is essentially about the complexities of doomed desires, rather than about social change, as expressed both in title and the theme song taken from Ghalib's verse. Geetha goes to Bhojpur for love of Siddharth. Vikram, the "fixer, dealer, broker, pimp", goes to Bihar for love of Geetha.
However, both are impelled by love, not political commitment but eventually they stay in Bhojpur even as Siddharth's political commitment undergoes transition.

An impressionable portrayal of the middle class' engagement with personal desires and social conscience, it however suffers the blinkers of a petty bourgeois view of mass movements. The quest for the romantic-revolutionary from within the class background makes it ignore the other people in the movement. The single "naxalite' student that it examines is an alienated young man from a rich home - hardly representative of the thousands who lived and died for the movement.
 All the middle class and elite characters in the film are well fleshed out, including the parents of the three protagonists, Geetha's IAS husband or the politician from Meerut, who switches parties at opportune moments but generous to Vikram in his lean college days. Even the police in Bihar , through their ritual of torture are made out to be comical, desperate and tired but the agrarian poor, on the other hand are a frightened and servile undifferentiated lot. Siddharth is disgusted and amused, when the dalit poor confronting a tyrannical landlord rush to save him, when he has a heart attack. The only time when this narrative is interrupted is during a police raid when poor women display the presence of mind to save his life. Even when Siddharth goes away to England and Geeta chooses to continue, the former finds confidence in the fact that his middle class comrades are taking the movement forward. And the closing sequence also has Geeta and an impaired Vikram united in a cocoon of care in the landscape of Bhojpur, with not a single soul from the region.
The "five-thousand-year-old servility" that is spoken of in the film is poetically fine but ahistorical in a 'political epic' within 'historical settings'. Contrary to the uninterrupted centuries of servitude, the rebellion against oppression was already brewing in Bhojpur. Movements in the area had prepared the ground for Naxalbari in Ekwari And in 1968 as the first incidents began to spark off, it was led not by students who came from outside to "enlighten" the landless – but by youth from within simmering with rage against oppression. The role of Jagdish Mahto, Ram Naresh Ram, Rameshwar Ahir cannot be ignored as also the communist movement that was built around the convergence of educated youth both from within and outside, with workers and the agrarian poor in arms and in martyrdom.  From 1972 to 1976 alone, in Bhojpur, the diversity of those who came together in martyrdom in the struggle of the toiling people for dignity, wages and land is typical of the movement. It included a school teacher, a philosophical rebel, medical students, the first matriculate of a musahar village, a young woman from an intellectual family, the son of journalist from Delhi , youth born into rich peasant families, a railway worker from Patna , middle class muslim youth, landless peasant youth, landless poor women, a people's poet and several others. It is but obvious that the process completely redefined traditional values and resulted in an upheaval within middle class orientations. One thus finds HKA's blindness to the above reality curious, considering that it manages to capture the other nuances of politics in the period.

The character Vikram, is like Shahrukh Khan in "Yes Boss"- a typical role essayed in the 90s of those in an unapologetic quest for money and power. But nevertheless, he is the ironic "conscience" – who sees through the hypocrisies of those around him. Whereas Siddharth eventually fails – in love as well as politics – Vikram, even in his tragedy, is shown to have triumphed. Loved by the audience, his predicament seems to be that of today's middle class youth – who, despite their urge for upward mobility, only become vulnerable hangers-on to the rich and powerful. But uniting with the struggling poor isn't an option either. Like Vikram, if they find themselves with the poor masses, it is not out of choice but see themselves as inadvertent victims of the situation.

HKA identifies the petty bourgeois preoccupation with personal desires and how even a genuine engagement with a revolutionary movement is often no more than a personal rite of passage or a personal failed test. Perhaps, if the middle class youth, instead of being preoccupied with own conflicts were to really learn from the agrarian poor rather than seeing them as a servile mass incapable of engineering their own delivery, the desires and outcomes may be different.