When you are studying in one of the top B-schools of the country, you invariably get opportunities to attend conferences, participate in different events and meet industry stalwarts. You also get a chance to watch a yet-to-release movie and have a tete-a-tete with the director himself. Mr. Vivek Agnihotri, the much-acclaimed TV and movie director, columnist, blogger and a debater, was kind enough to screen his new movie Buddha in a Traffic Jam at SPJIMR, Mumbai.
The title of the movie does not give out much of the storyline. But it is not difficult to guess that the name is in fact, a metaphor; it is not just unusual but conveys a deeper message. This movie is about how a smart management student studying in one of the biggest B-schools in India and the world, with fresh and noble ideas, gets entangled in the murky world of politics and corruption. The movie tries to expose the sinister nexus between the Naxals, NGOs, academia and the acclaimed scholars and their motives and does it in a quite unabashed way. It explores how students in certain universities are systematically brainwashed to become intellectual terrorists.
The movie also examines the themes of moral policing, campus politics, plight of the adivasis living in tribal areas and the middlemen who eat up all the money before it reaches the intended recipients. The movie pokes its viewers by questioning whether India, a young nation ridden with corruption and poverty, can indeed become a superpower with its never-ending fight between socialism and capitalism.
The protagonist of the movie, Vikram Pandit, played beautifully and confidently by Arunoday Singh stands for Buddha, a learned person who has ideas and the zeal to bring about a change in the society. But he can’t really attain enlightenment because he is stuck in the traffic jam of bribery, dishonesty, socialism, capitalism, the system and the establishment. Anupam Kher plays the economics professor, Prof. Batki in a very understated but effective manner and the range of emotions he shows in the movie look so effortless. Pallavi Joshi and Mahi Gill play their characters with grace and poise, just what the film needed.
Many people staying in the urban areas are not actually aware about the Naxalite movement. Maoism, the predicament of the tribals and the off-the-limit Bastar region are topics which we just read in the newspapers sometimes and ignore. I hope this movie starts a healthy debate about the various themes that it covers and engages the population that is not well-versed with these things, in meaningful conversations. Not that everyone has to agree with what is shown in the movie; we are a country where everyone has the right to voice his / her opinion (or so we think). But this movie should atleast enable the young minds to think, read and talk on these subjects.
We have a society where new ideas, new visions are not given a straight path to thrive and flourish. This Buddha is looked at as an enemy of the society, someone who is challenging the status quo and someone who needs to be taught a lesson before he sets a dangerous precedent. This traffic jam needs to be cleared if we want more Buddhas to emerge from our nation.
This corruption satire has already received nominations and awards at various prestigious film festivals around the world including Madrid, Jakarta, Mumbai and Jaipur. The film’s promotional campaign under the theme #IAmBuddha has also started to catch on.
A movie such as this is hard to release in India; finding the distributors is a nightmare. Small budgets don’t allow the movie to be strongly marketed; it deters the film from reaching all its target viewers. A must watch for all students, their teachers, the intellectuals and the establishment, this film is indeed one of the most hard-hitting movies to come out so far this year. When Vivek Agnihotri in a response to an answer said, “India needs freedom from mediocrity, inefficiency and incompetence”, I couldn’t agree more. Kudos to the director who has dared to make a film on such a topic with utmost passion and sincerity. I hope this jewel does not get lost in the traffic jam of Indian cinema as another fine movie which couldn’t reach its audience.