Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Decalogue and Mahabharata-3

Today I was watching an autobiographical film on Kieslowski “I am so-so”. The most important part of the film is its beginning. There are people who are trying to judge Kieslowski the way they think he is. It begins with a policeman. To him, he is only like a figure in the records, a person with a date of birth, place of birth with somebody as father and somebody as mother. Then comes a doctor who sees him as only a patient who is sinking, whose circulatory system is in bad shape and who's doing a work which he should not do because of his poor state of health. Then there is or a handwriting expert who almost praises him for his memory, organised methods and sense of direction. After that there is a clairvoyant who pronounces some mumbo-jumbo about Kieslowski which can actually be said about half of the population of the world. Then there is a psychoanalyst who transforms him into a very complex personality where his true self is hidden from the public. Then, comes a priest who calls him an incorrigible human being who kept on challenging the command of God. Out of all the six judgements, who is the real Kieslowski? It's not just a question on Kieslowski rather it's a question which can be asked about any creative person perhaps even about ourselves. Who am I? The moment I am, exactly on that moment I shift from that being and try to be something else. There is a serious limitation on the linguistic possibility of this answer because any answer has got a kind of reductive element to it. If you are something, you are saying it only to distinguish from the fact that you are not “nothing” but that doesn't work out. We are so accustomed to answers, particularly linguistic answers, specifically the answers of the linguistic domain that having answers becomes itself a question-mark. That's why Kieslowski does not answer in the clear manner and he says I'm so-so.

Then why people question and try to seek answers? An answer is not an assumption of finality rather a course to certain kind of contextual truth. The moment context changes, the truth changes. It's like an eternal quest for describing what you are, where you are and why you are. In this documentary, when Kieslowski is asked why he wanted to make films, he answers that it's very difficult to live in a world that cannot be described. It's a question of your identity. Without an identity, you suffer like anything. Kieslowski lived in Poland which was a country devastated first by the world War and then after by the Communist regime. The first devastated the body of the country and the second one the soul of the country. A scholar has called this period a legacy of humiliation where creative independence was not allowed, bureaucratic regimes controlled all spheres of life and people had their dreams smothered and butchered. It was a world where it was very difficult even to breathe and film making was a kind of sustenance to this poverty of hope.

The stark picture of social reality is something that we are quite used to understand in our daily dialogues but what is more important than that how the personal struggles out with this social reality and as a result creating his own zone of world where slowly and slowly the images conditioned by the social reality are being transformed into the images conditioned by a personal reality. When we are going to discuss Kieslowski, what is more enigmatic about him is that he is an artist who goes beyond the social conditioning of worldviews. They are like icy surface beneath which there is an entirely new world, fresh, mysterious, original and beautiful. Kieslowski began with a lot of documentaries but during the course, he started losing in this straight kind of truth and his whole energy started moving towards the invisible behind the visible. He started using what motifs which were direct and free of any control. It was like a sudden full stop a chain of viewing. He managed to show the audience a kind of serious gap in the picturisation of social reality. He broke the addictive nature of the viewer. He tried to show that truth is between the different representations of the truth. He tried to show that it cannot be described in the domain of social continuity rather it is a disjunction between the man and the society. Here begins the risk, here begins the innovation, and here begins the metaphysical. But it must be clarified that this disjunction was not equivalent to the human alienation rather an antithesis to it. To him, truth cannot be borrowed entity rather it has to be an earned asset. This is also the moment when a human being becomes the individual, the real and autonomous individual who can see the world around, who can see what he's going to do and what his relationship with the world is.

It's very important to mention here that this is exactly what the realisation of death as the fundamental reality creates in you. The most important quest for Kieslowski was to find the universal reference point. It could not be ideology, could not be the religion or could not be the national identity. These all may be the categories necessary to human survival but during that particular moment of transformation, these are actually the disposable categories. They are disposable in a sense that they don't remain any kind of absolute determinant of his life rather they become the tools of his expression, they become the contours of his action, they become the liminal(not the limited) points of his life. There is a beautiful anecdote in this film when Kieslowski is walking on a station with a friend and he asks, “does he like stations?” he says,” Yes because, there, you are anonymous.” in other words, stations are the places where you change the sites of your location. The later part of his film career is actually a big station where he is no more just a Polish, no more just a social realist, no more just a social being, no more just a man of habit. He has raised his level of anonymity to the level of universality though I don't think that we need to hyphenate universality rather anonymity remains the closest word to that feeling. That's why he says that “knowing is not his business” rather “not knowing is”.

When I think of how Mahabharata and Kieslowski, I find this anonymous individual working in particularly Yudhishtra. A general and conventional understanding of his character is that he knows Dharma but it's very rare that he is really confident of what he is going to do. His action is almost mute, sometimes unpredictable and sometimes even escapist. When he's playing the game of dice, he goes on and on and even put himself, his own brothers and wife at stake. He is rebuked and questioned by his own wife whether he had the right to put his own wife at stake when he had already lost himself. He is silent like a dead man. During the period of his exile, he was always afraid that if his uncle, Dhritrashtra called him again to play the game of dice, he would not be able to refuse this invitation because deep down he feels that he could not. When the war is about to begin, he goes to the other side and seeks blessings from his elders who are in enemy camp. He is the king and he can be caught but still, he is in the camp of enemy, weapon-less and do you know that he is asking all his elders the secret of their death so that he can win? What a naivety? This is something unbelievable but still, he goes out and does this, an almost foolish act and succeeds. But once the war ends, the entire purpose for which he fought war is lost to him and he decides to take Sanyas. All people come and try to persuade him but he is adamant on staying in the forest and living like an ascetic. Yudhishtra is a person who is expected to know but he is exhibiting a behaviour that is based upon “not knowing”. That's what brings him close to the characters of Kieslowski. What to talk of Yudhishtra, even Arjun is the same when he manifests the state of indecision just before starting the war. This is a point where Gita begins but this text is not like a science of truth rather it’s again a delineation of a path which has to be designed by those who walk upon it. In a theological sense, both Decalogue and Gita serve the same function though they might be very different in their essence and approach. Sometimes I even doubt whether Gita was a message only for Arjun. This could have been for any character in the Mahabharata. Can't we imagine Draupadi listening to Gita from Krishna? What happens if Arjun is replaced with Bhishma? I don't believe in the simplistic interpretations of Mahabharata. Had it been like that, the story would never have developed such a kind of various interpolations and extrapolations? To say that Mahabharata has ended is like saying that creativity has ended though we can say that we have stopped developing the new forms of Mahabharata. What I feel is that that Mahabharata is a caught in the kind of crust of essentialist meaning which has blocked the possibility of multiple meanings coming out of this text. Kieslowski and Mahabharata are the two links which are based upon a re-reading of a contemporary experience of an Indian who lives in the cosmopolitan world but still feels a kind of cultural anomie and rootlessness.

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