- Paperback: 380 pages
- Publisher: Garuda Publications (27 May 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781942426059
- ISBN-13: 978-1942426059
- ASIN: 1942426054
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.4 x 21.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 566 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #504 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Urban Naxals: The Making of Buddha in a Traffic Jam Paperback – 27 May 2018
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Urban Naxals was one of the more hyped books published in India last year. With a launch by a powerful cabinet minister ( implying an endorsement of what is being published)and also a heavily forwarded video on WhatsApp of the launch in Bangalore by a well respected and vocal pro-establishment CEO with strong Right Wing views ; And a 4.7 rating on Amazon, I was drawn to the book – what with the word Urban Naxals being a flavor of the season of our nationalistic press and their vocal votaries.
Vivek Agnihotri is a Bollywood film director, screen writer, a right wing activist, speaker and a first time author. Some of his movies were the eminently blink and you will miss movies like Choclate : Deep Dark Secrets, Goal, Dhan Dhana Dan Goal, Hate Story, Zid and Buddha in a traffic jam. Not a great body of work – either from an artistic Indie film view perspective or as commercial successes.
Urban Naxals is actually multiple books in one book. Semi autobiographical at one level, at another level – it is about the making of his latest movie – Buddha in a Traffic Jam - the conception, getting it made and reaching it to the audience and linked to the movie, his general views on Left Wingers, Naxalites , Tribal oppression and how they are collectively screwed by the Naxals as well as the government, the infiltration of the Naxal thought thru academic institutes of repute.
I wish he had only stuck to the Naxal/ Tribal story. Here was a powerful story to be told. Of tribal exploitation, The Naxalites posing as the knights in the shining armour –with their Utopian views of a new social order and how the tribals get sold on to their vision, the corruption and rot amongst these Maoists who have turned into a new kind of Mafia, the ham handed efforts of the government to rescue and rehabilitate the Tribals, the role of the left wing liberals and their anti-development views – All of the above is a powerful narrative….and this Dystopian reality will be a terrific read… if researched and written well.
Intersecting with this is his efforts to convert it into a motion picture. With minimal funding, his travails to make a movie on a shoe string budget, multiple chapters on the making of the movie, his troubles with censors and getting it screened in multiple insitutes of eminence – All this tests your patience. One can really appreciate a book on how to make classics on shoe-string budgets ( possibly Mr Shyam Benegal can write an engaging book on this) but the the struggles of an under-budget film maker ( from main stream cinema) is boring to say the least…..Rule no: 1 being if you have a good-story to tell ( no matter how controversial and contrarian it is) there is money available. His issues on getting the film screend at various institutes induces the kind of boredom – that was last experienced by Science books while at school / college. It is the same chapter repeated multiple times – of campuses and students who are favourable or hostile….no need to inflict it Institute by Institute on a gullible reader…those half a dozen chapters could have been made into two nifty chapters…..one of all the institutes which supported the film and the ones who were against it – as it was against the liberal’, ‘left wing intellectuals’…..
And finally about the movie. Post reading the book, I saw the movie….Buddha ina Traffic Jam…..disjointed and not engaging at all…inspite of some stellar stars of mainstream and alternative cinema….an interesting point of view but not made well…..for the record, the movie has tanked. There is one section of the press ( including the director) which thinks the movie is a cult classic….I beg to differ.
I still think there is considerable merit in Mr Agnihotri’s central premise….especially about Tribals and their exploitation – both by the Government and Naxals….and how the poor guys are sandwiched between a philosophy of Naxalism and all its egalitarian connotations that sounds noble but does not have a sound delivery system a Government whose efforts to rehabilitate are enveloped in corruption , lethargy and a delivery system that leaks all the way. The story on the infiltration of the Maoist thought into campuses thru self seeking professors brain washing impressionable students would also make an interesting book….but alas, a good story needs a good story teller….. In future, suggest the author to be an ideas man only and leave the mundane part of converting ideas into text into more capable hands. There are too many extreme stances, repetitive phrases and too much of ranting on the world at large in the book.
There is a need for some strong vocal right wing activists to add color to the by and large left wing, liberal, secular narrative we have in our discourse. Unfortunately, the author does not make the cut.
Ditto with his movies.
Vivek Agnihotri succeeds in voicing the concerns of millions of ordinary Indians who are aghast at what is being stated on their behalf by these few self-appointed saviors of democracy, peddling a false narrative of the state of India with the ultimate aim of breaking the cultural values and ethos of this country. Just the fact that they are voicing their negative disruptive views and scrambling to protect their own is evidence enough that freedom of expression and democratic values are alive in our country.