Little Terrorist

There was an interesting article in The Hindu recently quoting Rabindranath Tagore on nationalism. To quote Tagore’s words –

“I am not against one nation in particular, but against the general idea of all nations. What is the Nation? It is the aspect of a whole people as an organised power. This organisation incessantly keeps up the insistence of the population on becoming strong and efficient. But this strenuous effort after strength and efficiency drains man’s energy from his higher nature where he is self-sacrificing and creative. For thereby man’s power of sacrifice is diverted from his ultimate object, which is moral, to the maintenance of this organisation, which is mechanical.

Yet in this he feels all the satisfaction of moral exaltation and therefore becomes supremely dangerous to humanity. He feels relieved of the urging of his conscience when he can transfer his responsibility to this machine which is the creation of his intellect and not of his complete moral personality.

By this device people who love freedom perpetuate slavery in a large portion of the world with the comfortable feeling of pride of having done its duty; men who are naturally just can be cruelly unjust both in their act and their thought, accompanied by a feeling that they are helping the world in receiving its deserts; men who are honest can blindly go on robbing others of their human rights for self-aggrandizement, all the while abusing the deprived for not deserving better treatment.”

Nationalism can often come into conflict with humanism. And when it does, which direction should the moral compass point to. Should one choose to be a nationalist or a humanist, even if is at the cost of being deemed unpatriotic.It is far easier to be a rightful nationalist as one confines to a set of rules and enjoys the luxury of limited options.The blind following of rules for national identity sometimes leads to catastrophes like the disaster of the German camps. While more than a handful of people who orchestrated the whole machinery, could be classified as zealots and sadists, what can be said for the vast majority of SS people who blindly followed orders. How were they able to justify the atrocities they were committing ? It was probably easier to hide behind the cloak of moral responsibility as the rightful guardians of their nation than it was to face their conscience in the sunken eyes of their hostages.

When a country’s security becomes a machinery, it can no longer afford itself the luxury of humanity and innocent people caught in the cross-fire of border conflicts are often collateral damage.With this heavy backdrop, who would have thought that it was possible to capture so many emotions through a delightfully light short-film about a small child. I present this beautiful short film “Little Terrorist” (Running time: 15 mins), written and produced by Ashvin Kumar.

Advised reading after viewing:

I loved the way such deep aspects have been brought forth so delightfully in such a simple movie.The acting was polished and it was therefore, a surprise to know that not one of them was a seasoned actor. Zulfuqar Ali who played the part of Salim was a street child, Sushil Sharma a clerk and Meghna was a 12th student when the movie was shot.The movie was nominated for the 2005 Academy Award for Live action Short film.

The bonds that united and the bonds that divided, both have been woven intricately. Both present and undeniably woven into the fabric of their personalities and yet, ultimately it’s a victory for humanity.

There were slight inconsistencies that mildly rankled the “realism” bit, but these were easily overshadowed by the beauty of this wonderful piece of art.

Do watch and I would love to hear your thoughts on it !

21 thoughts on “Little Terrorist

  1. A beautiful, and delightful just as you say, little movie that sets out to portray triumph of humanity over nationalism, and I dare say, even religion and deep rooted customs. It excelled in capturing the innocence and the spontaneity of the simpler, unpolluted folks also. It was a pleasure to watch.

    Back from the movie into our complex reality, you have quoted Tagore to a great effect, and then your own words are as cogent and forceful. However, in light of the recent reprehensible display of pseudo-intellect, I can’t help but reflect on a few things.

    (1) If the Two-Nation theory that led to the division of India and Pakistan is wrong, why are there people begging for more? I understand it was one of the deafening chants of the enlightened folks at JNU that “God willing, there will be several fractions of India.”

    (2) If the Two-Nation theory that led to the division of India and Pakistan is correct, why are the people who can’t tolerate India hanging back?

    (3) As for freedom of expression, and forgive me for planting a link in the comment —an act I neither tolerate nor perpetrate but feel compelled to insert here— I’d like people to read this:

    Thanks again, Ash. I hate writing a mini-post in the comments, again.

    1. Thanks for your comment Uma. Yes, the movie did show the triumph of humanism over religion and customs as well.
      The moot point being the need for a human being to think and take decisions and not flow with the current,however strong they might be.

      Regarding the article you have shared, it is indeed a forceful article and puts across the point justly and well. Anarchy definitely, cannot be condoned in any form and cannot don the garb of freedom of expression.

      As far as the JNU incident itself is concerned, I am privy to only the news through the media and the videos shared. I have no idea on how much is doctored and what information is truly authentic.
      But after viewing the videos and assuming they are what they are, I am more leaning towards viewing the incident as political and challenging certain parties in question, rather than looking at the matter in terms of “sedition”. And once a certain incident is colored politically, we become mere pawns in a political game where the strings are being held by persons unknown.

      1. And while we debate the political muddying and colouring, the country is dying, thanks to our high alter of idealism, which reminds me of the commuters who can’t believe they can be turned into mincemeat unless the train actually turns them into sausage.

  2. I personally find myself more in agreement with Sri Aurobindo’s views on nationalism as a stepping stone toward humanitarianism or internationalism. His views on the psychological truth of nation as the largest collective aggregate we have at our present collective evolution give us much to reflect upon. I also think Tagore’s views on nation and nationalism need to be appreciated in the context/time when he was writing these. I have read his essays on nationalism, from which you quote here, and also recall his views on the national renaissance as well as the Swadesh movement that were obvious in his novels Gora and The Home and the World, respectively. Incidentally, just today I read a rather informative piece which I think you may enjoy –

    Will watch the film later. Thanks for sharing it.

    1. Thanks Beloo for your comment and sharing your views. The article was definitely enlightening and did provide information on the background in which Tagore aired his views,though I wish that the author had refrained from attaching adjectives to other people holding differing political views.

      However,the light under which I took Tagore’s views for this post, I find still pertinent. The central idea being, that any individual, while he/she might belong to the “state” still needs to take a balanced and considered decision while taking action. The German example was given to highlight that particular aspect where humanity should have equally weighed in the decision making by the vast followers of the regime. May I also recommend an exceedingly good movie which delves on the same subject – “The Reader”.

      Hope you like the movie !

  3. You make a forceful point, Asha. While it is important to put humanity above all else, it is difficult for soldiers/police to not follow orders. It will be a security nightmare. I am not in favor of unfettered freedom of any sort. All rights come with attached responsibility else there would be anarchy. And nationalism for me is respect for the Nation. A person involved in raising slogans against a nation is not a nationalist.

    Thank you for sharing the link. Will watch it soon.

    1. Thanks Rachna. I understand what you are saying but I also wanted to bring out the aspect when one does not use judgement especially the case of Nazi Germany. Everybody followed orders and they followed it very well.

      Do watch the film. My post is a prequel to the short film and while nationalism is in the news right now, I would seek to distance the post from the JNU issue at hand.

  4. Nationalism is a European concept. For a country like India that has as many states as it has cultures, patriotism is a more suitable term for us.

    I have yet to watch this short movie, but in light of the ongoing debate about what ‘nationalism means’ I’m sure this is a must watch.

  5. That’s a brilliant short film. While I appreciate the film’s many aspects, I could feel the clear bias of the filmmaker. I felt the same after watching Nandita Das directed Firaq, which was another well made movie but sadly, the partisan nature of the filmmaker showed up.

  6. 🙂 I recall my 5 year old son asking me years ago, why there must be boundaries and countries and states – why not just one big world where directions were enough to navigate. I was a wee bit sad to explain that logistics called for structures – I did it a bit hafl-heartedly because I found myself wishing the same. Yes, the concept of being human becomes hazy in the wake of politics and other necessary evils. Beautiful film, thanks for sharing, Asha!

    1. Yes, my son asks me not about nations but about money. He tells me if there were no money, there wd be no rich and poor and all wd be right with the world. Sigh..then i have to explain the practicalities. Glad you liked it Vidya.

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