A movie, in my understanding, is not just a source of entertainment but also a medium of expression. Creators use this expression to convey their perspective of the world. Some of them do this intentionally and others, unintentionally. In Jana Gana Mana, Dijo Jose Antony and Sharis Mohammed have intentionally and masterfully conveyed their perspective.
At the start of the movie, Dijo Jose Antony makes a cameo as a political science professor at Maharajas College. He asks his students to stop warming the benches and go protest for what they believe is right. The metaphor is hard to miss – the director is telling his audience (his pupils) to actively involve themselves in the running of a democracy. But he is not (just) talking about picking up banners and going on a ‘jaatha’. Through the movie, he shows you that it is not just your physical body that needs to stop warming the benches but your mind too.
I’m sure most of us were in support of the “encounter” and believed that justice was served. And even if the extrajudicial killing left a bad taste in your mouth, you were still rooting for Sajjan Kumar and understood his rationale. But by flipping the narrative in the second half, Dijo and Sharis show you how you can be manipulated.
The questions that Aravind Swaminathan asks in court aren’t meant to be just devices to move the story along. They are also harbingers of the realisation that you should’ve asked these questions yourself. And since the movie portrays events that seem to be inspired by real-life events, this realisation is a rude awakening. You awaken to the fact that like how you’ve been manipulated by the creators of the movie, you are being actively manipulated by the narrative fed to you.
In many ways, Jana Gana Mana is the movie that Naaradan should have been. It points to our flaws and shows us that while there are external forces that try to manipulate us, the onus is on us to not get manipulated.
What a paradox, eh? By showing us that we should not get influenced blindly by what is shown to us, the movie influences us. But if we, as a people, are able to truly imbibe the message in Jana Gana Mana, we might not have to worry about media narratives (or political correctness in art).
Asking the right questions and not slurping up the coolaid that is served to us is our path to progress as a civilisation.