In 1935 Leni Riefenstahl directed a movie named Triumph of the will. It recorded the hundreds of thousands of Nazi Party members, troops and supporters marching in perfect unison, saluting Hitler with their typical upraised right arm.
Five years later another movie The Eternal Jew, directed by Fritz Hippler, projected Jews as cultural parasites consumed in sex and money. In one scene they are equated to rats that carry contagions, flood the continent, and devour national resources. It contained gross characterizations of the Jews, magnified by the footage of the ritual butcher at work, slaughtering cattle.
Both the movies are historically important, as they were produced during the times when Hitler was creating a ‘cult of fuhrer ’ around himself while purging the Jews to raise population of pure Aryan race of had blonde hair, blue eyes, height nothing less than five feet and eight inches.
More interesting results can be obtained if parallels are drawn between the portrayal of Jews in Nazi sponsored cinema and in several Indian Web Series, just for instances:
In the web series Pataallok, a Hindu lady, travelling in a train, grimaces the moment fellow Muslim traveller opens up his tiffin. She feels like puking and within no time a mob, obviously sporting saffron, chanting Jai Shri Ram lynch the Muslims man on pretext of carrying beef.
In another popular web series The Sacred Games, the crime mafia happens to be Ganesh Gaitonde, a Brahmin whose family background is darker, his father is an indolent beggar, while his mother a secretive prostitute. The Giant terror mafia is a Homosexual Sadhu who utters MahaVakyam “Aham Brahmasmi ’’.
The list does not ends up here,
The makers of a Spy Thriller web series The Family Man, employed much finer details to push their narration. One full episode is dedicated to a Muslim youth who plots a revenge against a Hindu Politician who is involved in lynching of innocent Muslims on the pretext of cow protection, But that Muslim youth is mistakenly killed by the security forces.
In another scene two intelligence operatives are angry over the (Hindu) nationalism taking over the discourse, which is alienating the innocent Kashmiri (Muslims).
Is it too much reading into a harmless imagination of movie makers or is it deliberate projection of Hindu characters or symbols as vile and Muslims as oppressed?
IIM Ahmedabad professor Dheeraj Sharma confirms this disturbing trend in cinemas through his research, only to find out that
- 58% of the corrupt politicians in films had a Hindu Brahmin last name;
- 62% of the corrupt businessman in films had a Vaishya last name.
- 84 percent of the Muslims in films were shown as strongly religious and honest (even when they are shown in the film as engaged in crime).
- Nearly, 74% of the films presented Sikhs as laughable.
In addition, they examined 20 Bollywood movies that had Pakistan as the setting. In 18 of those films, Pakistanis were projected as welcoming, courteous, open-minded and courageous. However, in the same movie, Indians were largely projected as narrow-minded, unwelcoming, and conservative.
So it would not be an exaggeration to say that whatever the web Series makers are doing is nothing new, they just taking the legacy of cinema forward, to next higher level.
‘’Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth”, is the law of propaganda often attributed to the Nazi Joseph Goebbels. Joseph Goebbels took up the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda under Hitler seizure of power in 1933.
Ministry used every possible medium be it art, music, books, radio, educational materials, press and FILMS, yes the films, to disseminate the Nazi ideology. Films in particular role in propagating the Nazi Agenda of racial antisemitism. Aforementioned movies like The Eternal Jew or The Triumph of the Will glorified Hitler as the ultimate saviour.
Such systematic and meticulous propaganda mobilised the popular German opinion in the favour of Nazi conquest till the very end of the regime and encouraged passivity and acceptance of the anti-Jewish laws among the general masses which eventually lead to Holocaust, where 5.4 to 5.8 million Jews were murdered between 1941 to 1945.
In 1924, Adolf Hitler wrote that Propaganda’s “task is not to make an objective study of the truth, in so far it favors the enemy, and then set it before the masses with academic fairness; its task is to serve our own right, always and unflinchingly”.
It appears that Hitler’s assertive advice to twist truth to pursue one’s agenda has been taken seriously taken by the makers of Pataallok, as the Punjab and Haryana high court categorically ruled out the communal angle in the Junaid’s case where he was murdered over seat in train, not for some meat in his tiffin.
Same goes for the menace of large scale cattle theft and smuggling which has been largely ignored by self-appointed Pontiffs of morality who focus on sporadic episodes of cattle protection.
Much has been spoken and written about jihad and struggle to establish Niazam-e-mustafa, still the makers of the Family Man took the narrative of how jingoism of Hindus inflicting pains on Kashmiris.
For an informed audience, such subtle propaganda is easy to catch and refute but what about the one with young impressionable minds??
In the same research paper mentioned above, Professor Dheeraj Sharma, presents the religion-wise and caste-wise description presented in Bollywood films to 150 school students. It was found that 94% felt that stereotypical representations were authentic.
There has been enough empirical research to suggest that cinema significantly influence the behaviour of the viewers and even shapes their response towards a particular group in a particular way. Same propaganda technique was employed by Nazis to demonise Jews. No wonder regular negative portrayal of Hindus impacts young, impressionable minds and makes them self-loathing about their language, culture, religion and civilisation.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee famously had said that statement must be countered by statement, Book must be countered by a book and hence following the same logic, movie must be countered by movies.
It is not that devout Hindus been running out of talent or idea, Sanskrit movies Adi Shankaracharya or Madhavacharya , directed by GV Iyer, remains outstanding. Teleserials like Chanakya or Upnishad Ganga from the doyen Chandra Prakash Dwivedi remain unparalleled.
To break this illusion of truth which have been created in several decades, scattered efforts needs to be consolidated to make big budget and much deliberated movies with specific civilizational goals. Poorly made movies like PM Narendra Modi falls not only flat but gives fodder to detractor.