Anaahat: Morality Not Sexuality

By Nataranjan Bohidar

Amol Palekar fails to understand his own film. This is entirely possible because of what a student of mine in Satyawati College called “the intentional fallacy”, which simply means that the creator’s intended reason for creating a work of art may convey a completely different intention to the audience or spectator! The creator may, however, live on believing fallaciously that his grand intentions are being served by that creation of his…

"Anaahat" – set in the 10th Century, shot in the 21st century in Marathi, exposed to elite audiences in the Jerusalem Film Fest in 2011 and presented by Amol at the Stein Audi, some time back, isn't, as he says, about "exploring sexuality". Because if it was, he would have or should have had the courage to take his camera to the scene of the sexual ecstasy, following the wife to where she loses her virginity to another man who is not her husband, but with the consent of her husband! That Amol does not do this or cannot do this or is unable to do this or unprepared to do this - is not because, as his female assistant believes that he does not want to wallow in porn, that is any harder than what “Anaahat” already is  - but because the material he is handling is neither about sexuality nor sexual release nor duty or legacy or impotency or promiscuity or profligacy or adultery, or gender equality or feminine sexual preference but about the extremely serious question of morality in society, morality in the family and morality  among individuals.

The question that Amol's film raises that Amol has himself completely missed out on entirely is this:

Can or should a husband offer his wife in sex to another man to whom his wife is not married?

And the film, because its material is such, answers the question with a resounding 'yes' but with an even more deadly caveat:

Yes, a husband can offer his wife in sex to another man to whom his wife is not married UNDER CERTAIN INESCAPABLE AND EXTREME CIRCUMSTANCES – in fact, even goad her into chastity sacrificing consent - BUT THERE ARE HUGE CONSEQUENCES TO THIS AND THE HUSBAND AND WIFE MUST BE PREPARED TO SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCE OF THIS VIOLENCE ON THEMSELVES, THEIR SENSIBILITIES AND THEIR RELATIONSHIP BECAUSE THE CURE MAY BE WORSE THAN THE DISEASE! That such behavior can shake up, poison and derange an entire society! Such as our child marriages, marital rape, dowry, honor killing, sexual harassment at work, home, life, incest and “no-means-no” pinkness , are!

Which brings me to the final issue that Amol and those who make a metaphor out of monarchy completely miss in a democracy… the intentional fallacy of election oriented populist creativity that democracies and democrats will be able to fathom monarchy the way monarchy fathomed itself. I do not wish to drag in the “Ramayana” every time, but we forget, actually cannot conceive Ram’s predicament in a monarchy as King in the matter of Sita’s conception and conceiving and its empiric implications. Which is why it goes to Ram’s greatness as King-husband , not domestic house-band, in the manner He balances His love horribly imbalanced by a ten-headed king of another region. The creator of this amazing work of art in an oral culture primarily , did not suffer from any intentional fallacy of catering to a voting public of the EVM kind…that Amol barely represents…

REVERSAL OF FORTUNE: Power equation reversed as ‘Anahat’ makes indecent proposal in favour of posterity
First, a king may or kings may have indulged in such behaviour but it is not for us to speculate or gloat or peep into the private sexual lives of kings & queens because their lives & behaviour were not dictated by the paradigm in which we live...our fictionalised speculation & peeping into their sexuality is therefore pornography at its worst...silly voyeurism at best…

Second, a monarch by virtue of pressures from his monarchy may have pulled off this stunt that Amol pictures but it is impossible to do this in our democratic times because women have rights & the husband or wife or both can be booked for pimping or prostitution or both.

Third, adoption is a perfectly simple solution that everyone today adopts...and there were a million other options openly available to monarchs, too, from polygamy to Deuteronomy such that the scenario that Amol paint's in his film is so artificial it is impossible to take his version of 'niyog' too seriously. Nobody can understand why the raja in this film is monogamous and why is the film perpetuating this socially harmful myth & mystification of the so-called "virgin queen "? And what is worse, a virgin queen who must sleep “so nali” around with commoners, poor thing, to find an heir for her dear impotent king! And, her pleasure with this arrangement after her initial hich-kicha-hat , this has to be publicly announced....? Hello, what happened, for heaven's sakes, to immaculate conception?

Last but not the least, because of the above reasons and because even careful directors like Amol and some way better by Bollywood and Marathi standards can show an tenth century queen with a b.c.g. mark on her left arm (why a Bacillus Calmette–Guérin vaccine? Was the medieval queen inoculated for the tuberculosis she may suffer from lascivity in modern times?)  and can confuse morality with sexuality, it is very difficult to make a period film let alone find any truth in it relevant to our dynamic democratic mind-set truthfully understood!
P.S. Long years ago I was  misled by Ved Vyas , then principal of Modern School, who I respect much , who narrated to me a similar theatre-story - I think he called it "Surya Ki  Antim Kiran Se Surya Ki Pehli Kiran Tak", and misinterpreted it as a brilliant study in sexual awakening of the female I know he was terribly wrong....but then he found Benegal’s abductive “Nishant” fascinating in its Chabrolics…and “Uski Roti” mind blowing in its Bressonic synt-act-tics…

Ergo, this is all a test of our social mores and very individual morality, as I said before, and not their’s, in which sexuality is at best a by-product! Or catalyst if you like, remaining unchanged at the end of the action, reaction, pro-action …and procreation!

Nataranjan Bohidar
Citizen Positioner
Positioning India: Democracy within a Continuum
Substrate: Sexuality in a Democracy within a Continuum

The opinions expressed in this post are the personal views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of A Potpourri of Vestiges. Any omissions or errors are the author's and A Potpourri of Vestiges does not assume any liability or responsibility for them.

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