There has been an excess of movies approaching the theme of terrorism lately, for various obvious reasons. We've always had movies like Dil Se, Fanaa, Roja, Tahaan or Vedam, that use terrorism (to a wider or lesser extent) as a backdrop for telling a story. But in this new trend, I am thinking about films like Aamir, A Wednesday and to a certain extent Kurbaan (though the latter in my opinion glamorously failed in dealing with the topic), where terrorism is the story. (Leaving out New York because I haven't seen it.)
I was watching Aamir recently and I realized that there is something about Aamir and A Wednesday that makes both these films so interesting to me as a Westerner. Hollywood movies and American TV shows like "24" have been talking about terrorism forever, and I was watching this stuff for a while with a more or less excited disposition. Some made interesting points, some were just well done in terms of building up suspense ("Body of Lies" is one of my favourites, though I could be biased because of one of the main leads), some were just propaganda (ok, a lot of them were just that). But even if I was into them while watching, none of these films spoke to me on a personal level. They are fiction. Period.
On the other hand, I've always said that Indian movies are so much better at presenting the other side of the coin whether it is because they reveal the complicated path that leads to one becoming a terrorist, or the inner struggle of the ones who find themselves being a part of a fight that is not necessarily theirs. Regardless, I find Indian movies to be more fair in their search for what motivates one to commit unforgivable deeds in the name of a cause or of a religion.
But Aamir and A Wednesday don't even do that. They talk about terrorism just like American movies do: it's wrong and it has no justification. And still, they managed to affect me on a much more personal level. I'm thinking that's because in American movies we always see the hero fighting against terrorism. Whether he's a cop, or an agent of some organization, or even if it's not his job to be a part of this war, he is an everyday hero in the American sense of the word.
Aamir and A Wednesday don't have a hero. Even when they are in danger of looking like one, it's simple brilliant images like running into a poll while chasing the bad guy or drinking chai out of a thermos that keep these men from crossing into hero territory. Both films are about an ordinary man, someone like you and me, who is trying to make his way out of the maze that has entrapped him in this new world of faceless irrational enemies. They're not selfless and brave, they're not trained in martial arts and they're certainly not exciting to watch. In fact I find both movies to be extremely slow in terms of build-up.
But precisely because I don't see these guys as heroes, because it is evident that any of them could be you or me, I am left thinking at the end of the film: what would I do? And for better or worse, I find that in both movies these anti-heroes react just like any other ordinary man: anger, distrust, cowardice, revenge, such basic emotions that influence our actions every day. It's not courage or self-abnegation that make us human, and it's certainly not what makes me identify with a character. It's the anti-hero's shortcomings and the moments when he behaves like I would (as opposed to when he behaves like I should) that make him remarkable. Even when what he does is wrong, I can't help but cheer for a hero (or an anti-hero) that is such a sincere embodiment of human nature.
Aamir and A Wednesday, despite what the trailers will tell you, are not action movies, not even thrillers, they're thinking movies. And that's what in my book makes them far superior to their Hollywood counterparts even if they will keep far less people on the edge of their seats (or even on their seats) until the end. But whoever makes it to the end is guaranteed a far more rewarding intellectual experience than the thrills and chills that an American movie will deliver. Certainly more memorable.
3 days ago