Rangeela Foretold Pitfalls of Political Populism Thru ‘Insaan Aur Gadha’

Posted on Posted inArts, Opinion

IRSHAD SALIM (Islamabad) — It’s been almost five decades since the Constitution of our country was unanimously approved and signed off by all political parties then. The landmark document considered by many envisaged an egalitarian society and pluralism intertwined together to move the nation forward. But many now say that the parliamentarian system the document commanded us to obey and follow has failed as a system. That Presidential form of government could be the best, many say.

The intelligentsia is divided on the matter though, just as the nation remains hamstrung on the socioeconomic benefits of governance the constitution asks us to follow.

While the strength and weakness of a parliamentary system are generically balanced in a literate, educated, and well-aware populace, ours have gotten skewed over the years with its weaknesses showing their teeth.

Sans ideology to contest on—with the death of the bipolar power politics—our political parties and their leaders must now coin popular jargons, buzzwords, narratives and their derivatives and spins.

We haven’t much moved though collectively—notwithstanding the fact that we’re quite developing into a wealthy society, if the official and unofficial economy are added up as numbers. But the divide between the have and the have not has increased.

Still, since governance matters in order to maintain semblance of political continuity, we must therefore invoke populist slogans and stoke deeper fears and uncertainties to stampede into the corridors of power.

Rest doesn’t matter.

Tall and lofty promises, and compromises on moral and ethical values–key plank of a civilized society run by rule of law–have become the hallmark of our polity–now it has spread like a cancer to other spheres of the larger community also.

The U-turn appears to be in the offing but only to discerning eyes. It’s a motley crowd though, as the rest of us seem to have been divided into two volleyball teams competing to win using the same ball.

And in the game, Sab Chalta Hai (nothing matter) is the ace in the pack–and down to the totem pole–we in our neighborhoods now practice it as our daily ritual also. And from laughter to humor, and then to a satire–it’s been one hell of a rocky ride–while we all have been forced to watch the same game and gobble surreptitiously, fastidiously game after game the results inside and outside the stadiums (neighborhoods).

Were we foretold? There’s satire in every sphere—leading the pack is our respectable media.

But perhaps the best satire on political populism was articulated in 1973’s Urdu film, Insaan Aur Ghada, a run down on political exploits of a man against man. It was directed by Syed Kamal and starred Rangeela. It’s a must see in a fast forward perspective.

Director Kamal presents the story through the tale of a donkey who after being mistreated by his owner, prays to God to turn him into a human. God does exactly that, and the donkey transforms into a human (Rangeela) but he retains some of the neurological manifestations of  a donkey.

I watched it, thanks to Nadeem F Paracha’s tweet today, and was compelled to watch and pen my thoughts. Rangeela was a champ. He foretold a sorry state laced with humor. The varnish is peeling now. Rest in peace (RIP).

(The writer is a business consultant and analyst presently based in Islamabad).

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