The language barrier
One of the most important movies of last year went almost unnoticed. It is quite rare in
Plot and pluses of Gulaal
The best part about Gulaal is of course the script, that it also lets you down in some parts especially towards the end is another matter and that is also mostly because your expectations have been raised too high. The movie takes off with Dileep Singh (played by Raj Singh Choudhary) a naïve simpleton from
The dialogues written by Piyush Mishra are the heart of the movie. The language captures the flavour of the region and the lines are extremely witty. Mishra has also written the lyrics and given music for the movie, both of which are again quite brilliant. Some of the most impactful scenes in the movie owe a great deal to the background music. Whether it be Aarambh hai prachand, (which is a brilliant war cry in poetry) during election campaigning, Jis raat gagan se¸ during the murder of Ransa or Wo kitabon ki thi duniya, during the rage fury of Dileep in the climax, all make the scenes quite haunting. Having said that, some of the other songs despite their highly amusing and creative lyrics hamper the pace of the movie and could have been done away with. Editing is also not up to the scratch and some parts seem totally irrelevant, not to mention the wasted and bewildering character played by Jesse Randhwa. This I guess could be blamed on the fact that the movie was in the making for a long time and was shelved at least thrice. It finally saw the light of the day following the success of Dev D which was also the reason why it had to be finished and released in a hurry soon after that. As mentioned above, it is one of those few movies in which almost each and every one of the actors is brilliant and it would be impossible to single out one performance which overshadows the others. If however, one name has to be taken before all the others it would be that of Abhimanyu Singh, a debutant who is brilliant in the role of brash, flamboyant and crude Ranajay. The role of mercurial, temperamental Dukey Banna seems to be tailor made for Kay Kay Menon who simmers in the role as only he can. Ayesha Mohan, another debutant is quite good as Kiran who is vulnerable and manipulative, a player and a pawn at the same time. Of course, it would be criminal to leave out Deepak Dobriyal who plays a small role as Bhati, the right hand man of Dukey Banna and gives some of the best scenes in the movie. After Omkara, Shaurya,
Colours of inter-legality
The college campuses as depicted in Gulaal seem to be fiefdoms in themselves. They are pretty much insulated from the outside world and the state order fails to penetrate into their boundaries. Ragging goes on grotesque levels without any fear of the law of the state. The battle lines are perpetually drawn between groups often on the basis of caste, which means your side is already chosen for you. One of the few signs of interaction between the law of the state and the feudal order and their musclemen inside and outside the campus is the elections in the college. Elections in college are an exercise which is conducted by the state actors and ostensibly in accordance with the law of the state. The feudal order understands the power and money that can be gained by using the post of general secretary, an institution created and sustained no doubt by the state actors. They do not try to undermine this position; instead they try to manipulate it to their own advantage by rigging the elections and getting their own stooge appointed to the post of general secretary. Clearly, the state order to appoint an elected representative as general secretary is modified by the non state actors by rigging the counting of the votes.
Of course in the vivid landscape of Gulaal, feudal order is not the only legality overlapping with the state legality, even the ‘weak’ have a voice. The illegitimate children of his highness are outside the circle of legitimacy in the royal order. This does not however mean that the siblings are mere passive recipients of the state and the feudal order. Instead they play an active role in resisting and modifying these legalities. For them it’s a constant struggle to become accepted as the legitimate children of his highness not so much in the eyes of the state law but in the royal circles. Murder of Rananjay Singh, Bhati and manipulation of Dileep by Kiran seem to be steps in the same direction. In the end they seem to have achieved success with Karan becoming the ‘Senapati, leader of the secessionist movement. The last shot of the movie shows Karan being crowned Senapati while tears roll down the eyes of his sister Kiran. It is difficult to be sure if those are the tears of joy or of regret.
It is now widely coming to be accepted that law can no longer be understood as a uniform concept; instead, the legal theory has to be seen as dealing with many different normative systems. In case of Gulaal, the feudal and state normative orders interact and conflict with each other and even as they affect the lives of the many characters, they themselves get modified by the actions of their subjects. Something similar (although not as drastic which would only be at the margins and lets be thankful for that) happens in the everyday lives of people like us (mango people, anyone ?!). Usually we see that there is difference between the letter of the law and the ground reality but perhaps a better way of understanding it would be to see our lives being governed by a set of overlapping and conflicting legalities: law of the state, word of the local policeman, systemized corruption at the RTO/ Passport office, sweet will of the auto driver, autocratic cell phone companies, irritating banks and so on.
Santos, B. de Sousa, (1995) Toward a New Common Sense: Law, Science and Politics in the Paradigmatic Transition, , Routledge. London
PS: This has been published in Silhouette Vol. VII.