Cast: Ajay Devgn, Emraan Hashmi and Esha Gupta
Director: Milan Luthria
Baadshaho revolves around a prospective robbery: in 1975, a Maharani from one of Rajasthan’s many princely states’ afraid she is about to say goodbye to her gold, post losing her privy purse – a payment made to lower families in India, who previously use to rule but had permitted India to be (intact). To calm her fears, the Maharani ropes in Bhavani, her bodyguard, to protect the kingdom’s jewels under threat from a politician, Sanjeev (Priyanshu Chatterjee), seemingly from the Gandhi family; the Maharani’s enmity with Sanjeev is at its height during this time of Emergency.
The dashing Bhavani (Ajay Devgn) has to work with a smooth goon, Dalia (Emraan Hashmi) and Sanjana (Esha Gupta) to protect his helpless Maharani, who he harbours romantic intentions for, as well. Esha Gupta’s character, even though absorbing, was not as elaborate as it should have been – Sanjana works with Bhavani and Dalia because she is very grateful to the Maharani and spends some time romancing Dalia too but it largely seems a character wasted on cinematic opportunity, in part because she has to share screen-space with a Maharani, who is bent on (pathetically) not doing much other than playing a damsel in distress.
A caper follows, in pursuit of the pot of gold, where Bhavani fights to snatch away the army truck (of gold), going from Rajasthan to Delhi, assigned to a Major Seher Singh to caretake. Baadshaho’s dialogues have a pat angle to it, which is enjoyable and its main plot: the jostle for the gold is done up in a typical Hindustani-avatar (films-wise), which meant it had less depth and more cinematic charisma – depth isn’t what you can expect really from a movie slated to be about the Emergency and instead only utilizes that time bracket effectively with bell bottoms and not much else.
Religious violence, sometimes even bordering on persecution of people religiously different from the Hindu-majority in India is a decades-old barbaric national story. In neighbouring Bangladesh, there has never been any major problem with religious violence, or the inability of ethnic minorities to get along in a predominantly Muslim nation.
Even when conflicts arose between Hindus and Muslims, it would happen during the darkest phases of Bangladesh’s political history, where the entirely wrong set of people were in power, with their vital connections to terrorism and Pakistan – that political period, which largely aimed to taint Bangladesh’s democracy, no longer prevails. It has been many years since democracy has prevailed instead, since the early nineties in fact and the democratic situation in Bangladesh is a lot better than many countries in the world, such as Nepal, Thailand, Morocco, Pakistan, Egypt and Cambodia.
It is always the wrong sets of people, wishing to appeal to fundamentalism, who attack Hindus in Bangladesh, and it is so hard to not connect these various sets of people as those reliant on Pakistan, or maybe even Sri Lanka, given the two nations’ very bad track record on dealing with homegrown terrorism or homegrown terrorist groups. For India, however, which has had the fortune of successive governments working in favour of democracy in the country, persecution of Muslims has wrongfully been directed by political parties, such as Shiv Sena or the Bhartiya Janata Party, which helmed by Narendra Modi is in power. It is not just that because the state seemingly also has been unable to do a lot to ease Hindu-Muslim tensions in India – it has heinously occurred plenty of times already.
Whenever communal conflict happens in India between Hindus and Muslims, it is always the Muslims who pay a very heavy price – many people even lose their lives. These episodes of violence have made Muslims in India retreat into a ghetto form of living, which first of all is not helping with integration matters with the rest of the population of India built of numerous religions, from Hinduism to Sikhism. Following that up is the reality that these ghettos have made it simpler for rioting parties to prey on Muslims because it is a known fact that many Muslims live in those particular areas of India.
The only source of comfort in these troubling times is perhaps the fact that the situation in India isn’t as bad as in Pakistan, whose population is mostly built up of Muslims. In Pakistan, ethnic violence, with regards to Hindus is horrific: rising homegrown extremism often persecute Hindus, Christians, etc. in the country; the West has repeatedly accused Pakistan of supporting the Taliban, an extremist political movement headquartered in Pakistan but the state does nothing but deny involvement. Intolerance and awful prejudice towards Hindus in Pakistan is a reality in Pakistan and it’s particularly widespread – they are often called ‘miserly’. Perhaps this intolerance towards Hindus (in Pakistan) should be looked upon as a lesson on how much a South Asian country can really deteriorate. Meanwhile, the harmonity with which Hindus and Muslims exist in Bangladesh is a part of the nation’s societal fabric: Hindus (in Bangladesh) practice much of the religious customs of Hindus in West Bengal (in India), which aren’t very much different from the religious practices of Hindus across India.
In recent times, it is often a common sight to find the British Raj criticized heavily because of it’s colonial past in India (and Bangladesh). The criticism has been very unjust and wrong because there is no need to have a heightened response to the legacy that the Raj left in those two countries only because what the British Raj did was something that is so rarely visible in the region: in the middle of bad democracy and even worse governance, filled with extreme poverty and mass corruption, there is also the “positive colonization legacy” left by the Raj. The Raj, is an inherently foreign colonial power – it is a power that is largely external to the whole Indian environment and yet the Raj managed to conquer India and rule when so few can even govern appropriately today. It’s indeed a remarkable question of how few can effectively rule India as the Raj did, or even how governance fares for other countries in the Indian subcontinent in comparison to the Raj’s in decades past, in both India and Bangladesh? Naturally, both India and Bangladesh’s former ruler, the British Raj led a flawed democratic project, which bred poverty but that is simply bad governance and nothing else.
If it is in India and Bangladesh’s history that the British Raj colonized the two states (and the Raj was a rather mighty and very lengthy ruler, it’s important to add) why should the British Raj be treated any differently from other former rulers of India, from Indira Gandhi to Manmohan Singh? It shouldn’t because that would most certainly be a grave wrong to the legacy of the Raj in the Indian subcontinent. There have been outrageous claims made too that the United Kingdom should consider apologizing to India for having colonized India, but for what? Naturally, India was made to look like a very grand state in response to it because the conclusion was derived that the reason why India does not really need to ask for an apology from the United Kingdom is because India is filled with so much goodness and has such pompous (and well-calculated) localized faith in becoming a great force in the world. What is hard to understand is why this illiterate point of view even prevails in India? The British Empire (of which the British Raj is a faction of) had also colonized Sri Lanka and even gave it the title ‘British Ceylon’.
British Ceylon began as a protectorate so it wouldn’t be tough to connect the dots there that the colony had different roots or different beginnings from India and Bangladesh – these two states began as proper colonies and nothing else. So, arguably, India and Bangladesh are real colonies of the British Raj. In today’s times, the Human Development Index for Sri Lanka is always so much higher than India’s. Since 2010, in fact, Sri Lanka is developing better than India but how is that possible because Sri Lanka is India’s neighbour and a part of the Indian subcontinent, in the end? Sri Lanka, at the moment has high human development, whereas both India and Bangladesh have medium human development. If the British Empire or the British Raj really had made India so poor that an apology should be due by the United Kingdom for it’s colonial legacy in the state, how is Sri Lanka doing so much better for it’s human capital? It cannot, under any circumstance, be assumed that British Ceylon did not suffer because of the United Kingdom’s colonization legacy. Arguably, Ceylon had become the richest state in the region because of certain plantations but Ceylon wasn’t happy with the British, even then.
Just because the British had founded the plantations in Ceylon that still exists today, doesn’t mean that Sri Lanka is still profiting from it. The only argument that can exist in it’s favour is that Sri Lanka might be profiting in the sense that the plantation was founded by the British, as in the plantations had those roots but the whole trade now is entirely an independent venture. So the British had in reality only made it ‘possible’ for Sri Lanka to profit from tea plantations but the whole tea plantation trade-work responsible in Sri Lanka now, which is a beneficial point, is singularly a Sri Lankan effort and nothing else. It is not possible to imagine that Sri Lanka can still be benefiting from those roots of the plantations and doing so well economically simply because it is in the fabrics of their history. India, it is already wrongfully claimed, is still poor because of the horrendous British (Raj) ruling in the state (for which an apology should be in order) but then that argument cannot be stretched and applied in another direction for Sri Lanka too; the mere roots of tea plantations (laid down by the British) is not acting as a profiting venture for Sri Lanka in today’s times, at all.
Colonized India, meanwhile, had many problems of its own like India today: India is, at first, always a challenge to govern, and then because of the British Raj, India (and Bangladesh) experienced the Great Depression (along with the rest of the world), and naturally the British Raj at the time had formulated poor policy responses to all the economic problems that had surfaced in India. But should the United Kingdom apologize to India for it? I don’t think so. It is high time that the understanding prevails that the British Raj should be freely criticized like any other governing power of India. Why does there need to be an apology for it because a former governing power may make it’s own mistakes, whether or not it is colonial, can it not? I have never seen such a point of view flung towards one of the most catastrophic mistakes in Indian history, made by Indira Gandhi during her rule – there is most definitely an Indian hypocrisy at play here. The British Raj, should be constructively criticized but it is still a good and grand force in the world and it’s legacy in India and Bangladesh, should not be treated any differently from local powers.