Serial killing, fanaticism and the Godse factor

Holy Spider

So many serving and retired bureaucrats and politicians live and work in the vicinity of Y.B. Chavan Centre in Mumbai but few attend significant events there. Felt this particularly after watching the opening film at the Chavan international film festival last evening.

The film Holy Spider directed by Iranian film maker Ali Abbasi is particularly relevant to our times since it is about religious fanaticism that drives a serial killer who targets prostitutes as part of a divine mission to cleanse the holy city of Mashhad in Iran. It was a very gripping experience that seemed to have shaken every one.

The troubling aspect is that there is a lot of public support for the killer in the film based on a well recorded real case and this happens even in real life. This has resonance for the Nathuram Godse case, though it is of a different nature. But there is a lot of similarity in terms of response from certain people.

It is not meant to be a political film at all but turns out to be deeply that. This is what fanaticism and fundamentalism leads to, thoughtless killing but false convictions. But that is a factor even in other serial murder cases and that brings us to another psychological angle.

There is a hidden trait in some of us that we want to kill even an innocent person whom we do not like or comes in the way of our car. Since I have been writing on the issue of motor car violence and deaths for quite some time, I have noticed how many motorists really believe they are entitled to kill a pedestrian if he or she comes in the way . And otherwise they are in real life quite normal people, even the killer in the film and other killers appear normal in real life.

The victims haven’t killed others or done anything that would merit a death —and yet fans still root for their killer. This suggests that it’s not justice we’re most interested in, but retribution. “Maybe we’ve had a passing thought of, ‘God I’d like to run that person over with my car,’ or ‘I wish someone would kill them,’ but we would never really do it,” “Well, a serial killer goes out and does it says Joanna Schaffhausen , a novelist and psychologist, who has studied for long the psychology of serial killers.

The reason one notices the absence of politicians at such a screening because it is so relevant and the festival is being organised for the last 13 years under the leadership of Mr Sharad Pawar and Jabbar Patel and in more recent years by Supriya Sule, M.P. and Mr Pawar’s daughter All the three were present yesterday and spoke. Even politicians from Mr Pawar’s own NCP keep away which tells us something about the state of politics today

Films like these are very important for understanding politics. But our system has strange ideas. Till a few years ago we proudly sent some of our members of Parliament for studying democracy and politics to universities in the U.S. That is fine in a way but also a bit ludicrous considering that issues are best learnt with dedication to people, working among them, not hobnobbing with builders and and capitalists. Dr Jabbar Patel recalled the generous stand taken by Mr Sharad Pawar when he was the chief minister for the first time and allowed shooting for the political film Simhasan in Mantralaya. That would be unthinkable today.

Supriya suggested that a public discussion should be organised between Mr Pawar and Dr Patel over the two noted political films Jabbar directed, Simhasan and Samnaa, both milestones. Mr Pawar has said earlier that he sometimes realised after seeing such films politicians sometimes need to behave better with people.

A lot of money is spent on the film festival but very little publicity is organised with the result even serious film lovers are not many in attendance. Even if colleges in the surrounding areas are mobilised there would be a good attendance with the fee being as low as Rs 200 to Rs 300 for the entire festival. This year the authorities have appointed Ganesh Matkari, film critic and writer, as media adviser which is good but more serious efforts are clearly needed.

Vidyadhar Date is a senior journalist, culture critic and author of a book on public transport

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