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Why Bollywood is still making films on Mumbai’s mill strikes

A nonetheless from ‘Mumbai Saga’.








Down the years, a number of Indian motion pictures have introduced fictionalised variations of those occasions, most not too long ago Anurag Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet (2015). Manjrekar himself made a Marathi movie referred to as Metropolis Of Gold (2010) on the topic, whereas Class Of ’83 had a short however highly effective scene the place two cops argue in regards to the strike in 1983, and who’s responsible. Varde feels that “the stone-pelters” (protesting staff) will die quickly, both out of hunger or police motion (one of many stones has left a mark on Varde’s brow), however Jadhav, whose father is among the many hanging staff, is offended and factors out that the mill house owners had duped staff of lakhs of rupees in salaries. Varde, nonetheless, retorts with a spot of foreshadowing—he says India shall be a capitalist financial system quickly and “lal-jhanda” (purple flag) communists shall be forgotten.

Atul Sabharwal, who directed Class Of ’83, tells Lounge: “In a few classroom scenes that didn’t make it to the ultimate minimize, we study that Varde is the one who reads essentially the most amongst his classmates (on the police coaching academy). And this was an period the place all over the world, individuals’s actions have been being crushed ruthlessly—Margaret Thatcher and the Welsh miners’ strike, for instance. So there was a sample to this. Though India’s capitalist period would solely begin eight-nine years after this scene, Varde might see the place issues have been headed.” Sabharwal additionally mentions that within the late journalist Darryl D’Monte’s e book Ripping The Cloth: The Decline Of Mumbai And Its Mills (2002), there’s point out of cops generally standing in solidarity with hanging mill staff as a symbolic gesture; one can see cops like Jadhav doing the identical.

Additionally Learn: The battle for Bombay’s red-light district

Maybe essentially the most direct and multifaceted depiction of a basic strike was in Saeed Mirza’s 1980 basic, Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyoon Aata Hai, which starred Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi, Om Puri and others. Within the film, the hot-headed automotive mechanic Albert (Shah) begins the movie with a agency perception in what he sees as capitalism’s good intentions—he considers the wealthy purchasers at his storage “pals” (they don’t reciprocate his emotions). He feels that at some point, via sluggish and regular accumulation, his upward mobility undertaking shall be profitable. Based on historian Robert Rahman Raman (within the 2019 Hurst anthology Bombay Earlier than Mumbai: Essays In Honour Of Jim Masselos, Raman wrote a chapter on the Civil Disobedience motion in Bombay), the disillusionment of individuals like Pinto was cemented by propaganda campaigns paid for by mill house owners.

“There have been a number of elements on the time. One purpose was that as Bombay expanded, the textile mills discovered themselves in a all of a sudden central location, which grew to become an eyesore for the elite, who realised that they may multiply their fortunes by promoting off that land. One other was the aggression proven by mill house owners, of their eagerness to kill the strike. Cinema halls in these days would run ‘public service’ (‘janhit mein jaari’) advertisements earlier than a Hindi film began, and these advertisements, which have been paid for by mill house owners, could be pure propaganda towards the hanging staff. There was additionally a component of ‘metropolis delight’ in such propaganda; the strike was portrayed as one thing that was ‘holding Bombay again’”, or so Mumbai Saga would have us consider.

A still from 'Bombay Velvet'.

A nonetheless from ‘Bombay Velvet’.








Certainly, in direction of the top of Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyoon Aata Hai, there’s a scene the place Pinto will get upset whereas watching one among these advertisements in a film theatre. Finally, when Pinto sees that his hanging father has been roughed up by goons employed by mill house owners (and the police is just not of a lot assist), the scales fall from his eyes. In Mumbai Saga, too, we’re advised Bhau has at all times had a number of policemen on his payroll; these compromised cops have been really members of Bhau’s “Sena” (a reference to the Shiv Sena, I assumed, besides the sticks-and-shorts within the shot appeared like RSS gear). It is a essential a part of the mill strike’s Bollywood legacy—the politician-policeman-industrialist-gangster nexus, a cabal that guides a lot of the motion within the common Nineties motion potboiler (Gupta himself has made a couple of of those, like 1994’s Aatish). Industrialists rent goons (and generally, the police outright) to beat the poor, replaceable foot-soldiers of capitalism, whereas politicians discover more and more suave methods to polarise the state of affairs for electoral features.

Kanti Shah’s Gunda (1998), one of many so-bad-it’s-good movies on this area, exploits this formulation to the hilt, for instance, as do a number of Sunny Deol movies from the late Nineteen Eighties and Nineties, like Tridev (1989), Narsimha (1991) and Ziddi (1997). In historian Gyan Prakash’s Mumbai Fables (a e book which discusses the strike at size; Prakash later wrote the screenplay for Bombay Velvet primarily based partially on this e book), the writer discusses a landmark difficulty of the Hindi comedian e book sequence Doga, referred to as Khaki Aur Khaddar, the place the dual villains on show are corrupt politicians (who put on Khadi or khaddar, because it’s additionally referred to as) and corrupt cops (of their khaki uniforms).

Immediately, the legacy of the mill strikes may be skilled in Mumbai in numerous methods. As Raman jogs my memory, many former mills which can be malls right now ended up retaining their authentic facades. Working-class symbols have been swallowed up by the identical forces which left the working class with out jobs. “Earlier, the smoke popping out of the mill’s chimney, the sirens et cetera would mark the employees going about their day’s work or signalling their lunchtime. Immediately that very same chimney has been adorned as a part of the Phoenix Mall,” says Raman.

Aditya Mani Jha is a Delhi-based author.

Additionally Learn: Movie Assessment: ‘Bombay Velvet’

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