A news bulletin on the television channel IBN 7 describing the havoc created by the “ kala bandaar” greets Abhishek Bachchan, a Generation Y, NRI, accompanying his ailing grand mother, who wants to come back to India in her old age. This is of course Delhi 6, the recently released movie, which has become better known for the catchy Masakali song.
Although the theme of the kala bandaar is a thread running through the film, it is brought to some kind of a closure only near the end. Abhisekh Bachchan dons the garb of a monkey in the climax, is caught and is lynched. He is practically killed but recovers. As the narrator in the film within, he makes a philosopher like speech, saying that there is a kala bandaar, a black monkey, lurking inside each one of us; ready to engulf us and our lives, at the slightest opportunity. Although in the movie, it felt that the Director had chosen through this statement, to conveniently kill off a concept that had outlived its utility as the movie closed, the speech is not entirely hyperbole.
There is indeed an element of evil that prowl in our hearts. I have just been reading a book titled Stones by the River. Set in Germany, the book traces the transformation of German society in the inter war years from the perspective of Trudi Montag, a dwarf girl who watches with pain and horror as ordinary citizens whom she has known all her life, change colors before her eyes, and become sympathizers, and later informers for the Nazi party. Not that they all subscribed to the Nazi ideology; but what drove them was the greed of laying hands on Jewish property and wealth, every time they betrayed one to the authorities.
A mob is a good example of an occasion when ordinary people suspend their values and sense of discernment and succumb to the increasingly strong nudges of the evil within themselves. Inherently good people become momentarily totally evil. In the movie itself, there is such an instance that is captured. Shortly after Abhishek brings his grand mother home to Delhi, she suddenly falls sick. The whole community in the muhulla comes together to make arrangements for her to be taken to hospital and Abhisekh is overwhelmed; yet the same group would split on communal lines and turn murderous a while later.
Of course, in our darkest times, we all think of dominating others, subduing others to our will and a ‘sadistic streak’, though latent, is there within all of us. As we are reminded through the turmoils of our own lives every day, there is a battle going on inside of us, We may want to think of these primeval forces of good and evil as two sides in a fight: the one that has been fed will defeat the one that has been starved.
The question that we may want to ask ourselves every day is this – by our thoughts, by our actions and by our habits, one or the other dogs – of good or of evil – are being fed and fattened. Are our actions fattening the kala bandaar within us? Or are we starving it to death and enabling the image of God within us to become more clearly visible?