Keeping India safe

07 Aug 2009
Posted by Kiran

Last weekend I took some time to watch two of Indian Cinema's finest actors, Anupam Kher and Naseeruddin Shah, together in a very intriguing film

A Wednesday! starts off with the Mumbai Police commissioner (played by Kher) receiving a call from a supposed terrorist (Shah). The terrorist informs him that 5 bombs have been planted around Mumbai and unless four extremist masterminds are brought to a specified location, thousands of innocent lives would be lost - a typical scenario of terrorism holding the state to ransom.

The film then follows the Mumbai Police and the "terrorist" as they play cat and mouse with each other. The "terrorist" seems to have thought of almost everything that the Police could do to catch him. Attempts to trace his call prove futile; polling the Intelligence Bureau yields no information as the "terrorist" belongs to none of the known extremist groups. All in all, the Police are left totally clueless and grasping at straws as the deadline fast approaches.

The state finally relents and gives in to the demands placed by the "terrorist". The four extremists are brought to the designated location and only then is the true intention of the "terrorist" revealed as he detonates an explosive at that location instantly killing them. The "terrorist" as it turns out was actually a "stupid common man" who was sick and tired of being worried and scared about when he would be blown up by these extremists as he tries to live his life!

It was an excellent film with excellent performances from the Bollywood veterans. Aamir Bashir as Police Inspector Jai Singh, and Jimmy Shergill as ATS Officer Arif Khan, also deliver powerful performances as the young cops out to get this "terrorist".

The film gives us an appreciation of what the Police have to go through everyday of their lives. Yes, there exists corrupt scum in our Police forces. But there also are some very brave and diligent officers who have to go through hell to keep us safe.

As the Police officers in the film are shown beating up suspects in their attempts to extract information regarding the terrorist threat, you find yourself feeling elated about the "Bad Guys" getting beaten up and find yourselves silently egging them on! On a different day, at a different time, I would have easily branded the same action: Police brutality.

I do not condone Police brutality. The general view we most often get through the media and our occassional interactions with the Police is that the force is made up of corrupt and inept fools who couldn't get any better job. It is easy to view the Police as bottom feeders.

Well, this film provides us with a unique perspective. A perspective that would probably be very different from the one I just described. I am sure that the reality is somewhere in between. The Police aren't all bottom feeders but there are just too many people in the force who are either corrupt or inefficient.

It is not a case of a few black sheep among a herd of white ones; it is more like a few white ones among a herd of grey and black ones, which makes the whole herd look bad.

The other aspect illustrated in this movie is the radical activism from the "common man". Realistically speaking, this kind of activism is next to impossible. It looks really nice in the movie but I would be shocked and amazed if it ever happened for real. I find it very difficult to believe that there can exist a "stupid common man" with sufficient access to and knowledge of explosives, high-end technology, as well as the willingness to take such a radical, extreme step as is illustrated in the movie.

Moreover I refuse to believe that the state machinery would let off any person who held them to ransom, whatever the intentions behind such an action. Even if the intentions were good, the legal implications of just letting someone get away with such actions could be quite huge. Who in our current government or Police has the guts or the authority to take such a call?

Given that, I personally find the idea of a "common man" going to such extremes a bit far fetched and unrealistic.

A more believable aspect that was shown in the movie was the fact that the Police is, more often than not, working with out-dated technology and equipment, which cannot hold a candle to what is possessed by the terrorists. Hence they are perpetually trying to play catch up with a force that is better funded, better trained, better equipped and better motivated.

I may sound defeatist but the way I see it, all of us would have little choice but to continue our seemingly endless wait for a more empathetic, effective and efficient Police Force. Until then we would have to continue hoping and praying to God that nothing untoward happens.

Having seen A Wednesday! I now have a slightly higher level of respect for our Police Force and the task they have at hand. There definitely are cops out there working hard each day to keep all of us safe. But they too are more often than not in the same boat as the "common man" - struggling with a system that is rotten to the core.

Clearing the rot could take ages. Until then a combination of some of the more diligent Police officers, some alert citizens and God himself will have to collaborate to keep India safe.