Chit Chat

Anna Hazare is not the best example of leading a movement: Prakash Jha

Prakash Jha opens up for the first time on why he would never base Satyagraha on Anna Hazare’s non-successful ‘India Against Corruption’ movement. Excerpts:

You have denied your film Satyagraha being based on Anna Hazare’s India Against Corruption movement. Being a political filmmaker, what is your view on his movement?
The middle-class saw an image of Gandhi in him, someone who would lead them to a non-corrupt society, showing his wand and change India. They did not come to support a political party or person. But Anna and his team had no clue about the hard political struggle which you require to go through to bring about any systematic change. Ours is a system deeply entrenched in anti-people governance intrinsically practising democracy in an unequal society, managed by self-serving politicians, controlled by large corporations. If he understood the nexus then he should have and could have created a system for his movement, which would have been a political system like Gandhi’s. Anna is no Gandhi. Gandhi was a deeply political man. Youngsters representing the fast food generation were sporting Anna caps expecting change to happen painlessly, as if it was like eating a hamburger. They wanted a messiah to invest all their hopes in, but were clueless on how politics functions. It was the youth who supported Anna. What he should have done, is taught them to engage with politics and use their anger constructively.

Unfortunately you have to dirty your hands in politics which eventually they realised, but by then, their team had disintegrated. Rejecting our political system, bypassing Parliament and democratic institutions and protocol will not get us anywhere. As that is the system we have adopted in our country, where the people have the power to elect. But the people they elect, rule, and the ones that voted, get ruled.

But they started losing their appeal when they showed interest in being a part of politics?
They started losing appeal somewhere midway. It was not linked to that entirely. Gandhi being apolitical remained political right to the end and had the power. Anna was expected to be apolitical and had no knowledge of politics. He came on a platform and said, ‘My way or the highway.’ If you are wanting to create a handful chosen people to supervise the PM, judiciary and bureaucracy and not only prosecute but punish them, you are creating two parallel oligarchies. If you remember, Arvind Kejriwal again before he announced his political party offered hope, as he exposed large corporations and powerful people which stunned all of us and we admired him for being fearless. But once he named someone to be corrupt, he would take nothing less than that. If there was even a little dilution in that, he would accuse you of collusion. So, it became his word as you can’t punish anybody without trial. The intelligent thinking middle-class realised this attitude and it led to the scepticism people like me had.

What do you mean by antipeople governance?
The fact that the governing class is completely detached from people. My film deals with that. We have taken lessons from the failures of the Anna movement. It is young India which has risen after the open market economy. Poor people have starved to send their kids to English schools. The youth today, is managing and serving the private sector, earning good money and looking after their families. They are the ones that went to Anna. They understand the meaning of performance as they know that they will be kicked out of office if they don’t perform. For them the sarkar is not mai-baap like it was for my generation. I am addressing that generation through my film. I have seen the angst and the way they connect themselves, the best and the forceful example was at the time of fighting for Nirbhaya. They gathered in that bitter cold every morning, withstanding the water canons and the lathis. Not one political party had the guts to come and address them. Imagine if Sonia Gandhi, Jayalalitha, Mamta Banerjee, Sushma Swaraj and Mayawati were to come together and address them and assure them that they would take care. But they did not as they are so alienated.

Why is your film always accused of being based on Anna Hazare’s movement?
I am fed up. I would deliberately not want Anna Hazare because as far as I am concerned, he is not the best example of leading a movement. There were sadhus and political leaders coming day after day on to Anna’s stage and taking sunlight there. And slowly, the middle-class who had put all its faith, faded out. My strong and blind faith is in the youth as that is the largest and the most powerful population we have, but they would need to engage with politics which is what my film advocates.

You said Anna is no Gandhi. How do you think Gandhiji would have dealt with a movement like this?
Some people will feel hurt about it, but eventually someone has to call out and say that ‘the emperor has no clothes’. There is no doubt that Anna is a person of lofty intentions and personal incorruptibility, but his method of leadership is highly autocratic. For him, it’s ‘my way or the highway’ and he has no hesitation bypassing democratic ways of decision-making and dispersing justice that is rather crude. Bapu, on the other hand, would have encouraged the youth to be the change they wanted to see. For him, struggle always began from within and he would have moulded the anger and frustration of the youth into an effective and constructive political weapon. He would have organised the youth into a potent political force. Here, you came with a magic wand wanting to bring in Lokpal and bring in change. That does not happen.

Have Anna and his team asked you to show them your film in advance?
I have only heard that through papers, though I have not got a formal request directly. There is a body called Censor Board, the sanctity of which I respect immensely. If someone requests me after the film is censored, nearing the film’s release, I will be happy to show them the film. While their movement can be judged, my film will be judged only after its release.

Is Satyagraha a result of the frustration of your own political ambition?
On the contrary, it is a product of my optimism. In spite of the dismal failure of the India Against Corruption movement, what it managed to display was how the youth was willing to rally around causes close to their heart. That one lesson we took from there. They are willing to brave the cold weather and face the hot sun and the water canons in solidarity and walk the streets courageously to protest against the state of affairs. Satyagraha is our conversation with that youth of our country. In my film, there is a child whose father has taken a loan for him to attend expensive coaching classes. This kid wants to go and support Manav (played by Ajay Devgns) as he believes Manav is working for his future and argues with his teacher. His teacher says to him, ‘This lesson is your future.’ The kid says, ‘But Sir, our country’s future is dark, how can our future be better?’

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