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Due Process of Law and Undue Regressions of the Spectacle: A Genealogy of Indian Cinema

- Abhineet Maurya*

Genealogy is a form of historical critique, designed to study normative structure through an examination of their genesis. German philosopher Fredrich Nietzsche was one of the first thinkers to engage in a genealogical analysis of phenomena to understand their nature. This method was later perfected by French theorist Michel Foucault, who used the method to understand the normative structures of society. A common theme between them was the belief that truth cannot be separated from the procedures of its production.[1] Whereas Nietzsche’s method dealt with upending modern ethical norms by examining their history, theology, and psychology in favour of an epistemologically jusitifiable ethic, Foucault’s method relies on micro-sociological explanations and attacks modern forms of domination in favour of radical politics.[2] This article opts for the latter as its method of critique.

The subjects of genealogical analysis are submerged problems: those which are conditioned so deeply in our functions, being, and thinking that we cannot easily grasp how they work or understand or articulate them. As per Michel Foucault, these “problematisations” separate genealogists as philosopher-historians from both historians and philosophers.[3] Genealogy is an exercise that requires patient thought, knowledge of details, which in turn depends on a vast accumulation of source material. However, it must not be mistaken for a metanarrative like Levi-Straussian mythology. As per Michel Foucault: [4]

“Genealogy does not oppose itself to history as the lofty and profound gaze of the philosopher might compare to the mole like perspective of the scholar; on the contrary, it rejects the metahistorical deployment of ideal significations and indefinite teleologies. It opposes itself to the search for ‘origins’.”

This article is the second part of a two-part series discussing the depiction of law in Indian cinema. In this second post, an attempt has been made to genealogise the history of Indian Cinema vis-à-vis the ideas of justice, due process, and the role of the institution of policing. In doing so, this article tries to show how the standards of narrative discourse surrounding the ideas of justice and due process have plummeted with time, and outlines reasons as to why this has happened. Save for a few outliers, there has been a progressive decline in the value assigned to the idea of due process of law as being related to justice from the 1950s to the present. While the period of the 70s and the 80s merely showed the inequities in our social order, which often leave these forms of ‘quick justice’ as the only recourse available, the work thenceforth has blatantly glorified the culture of encounter killings and summary justice.

A limitation of this analysis is that it looks largely at movies popular in Hindi cinema, or works of other languages that became popular even amongst people that do not speak these languages. But that alone should not discredit the application of our conclusions in regions where Hindi Cinema is not popular. This is because of two reasons. Firstly, the phenomena being scrutinised here is not limited to Hindi speaking states (for example, Hyderabad encounters). Secondly, there is a lot of exchange between cinemas of various languages. For instance, Singham, a key movie for our analysis, was actually a remake of a movie from Tamil Cinema. Further similarities emerge on further scrutiny. This emphasises the existence of a discourse that does not operate in isolation in construction of cultural artefacts.

The analysis in this first article is split into three parts, each of which marked trends progressing in a specific direction, buttressed by specific cultural myths. The first part covers Indian Cinema from 1950 to 1970. The second part explores the features and progression of Cinema from 1970 to 2000. The last part studies the trajectory of Indian Cinema from the 2000s to the present and reflects on the present-day normative structures of Indian Cinema vis-à-vis law, justice, and due process.

i. A Tryst with Justice: the Cinema of Nehruvian Optimism (1950-1970)

There is a large debate in Indian legal circles surrounding the nature of the Indian Constitution. Some believe it is a document in English made by an elite consensus, while others take it to be a document that has historically been transformed and recreated by the common people of India.[5] In retrospect when we look at the story of our Constitution through the lens of various records and judgments, we see it as a debate between the ‘Conservatives’ and the ‘Transformatives’.[6] However, the general tenor towards the new constitution and self-rule in the period of the 50s and 60s was marked by great faith in ideals of justice and the due process of law laid down by our newly minted constitution.[7] While the horrors of partition were still fresh in the minds of many and the fear of becoming a nation that could not survive past its infancy was looming large, the general tone of optimism as a reflection of hopes for a better future still found its place in the hearts of the people. The general vision of the time, which was the narrative that Nehru and the Congress both promoted and represented, was to create an ideal nation-state.[8] The cinema of the time reflected this bitter-sweet optimism. I call this the Cinema of Nehruvian Optimism.

This is well reflected in works like Amar Kumar’s Ab Dilli Dur Nahin (1957). Literally meaning ‘now Delhi is not far’. The movie traces the journey of a young boy Rattan whose father Hariram is wrongly accused of the murder of a moneylender and shortly after his mother Bela dies after being bitten by a snake. The boy is thrown from a life of poverty into the streets with a pickpocket named Ghasita who is a witness of the murder and tells the boy that his father is innocent. The boy then sets out to travel to Delhi and meet Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to prove that his father is innocent. On the way, many difficulties arise that are primarily caused by the people who are actually responsible for the murder. Ghasita is, unfortunately, run over by a truck but before dying, writes a statement to prove Hariram’s innocence, thumb-printing it with his blood. The movie ends with Rattan meeting Panditji and his father being exculpated. While the hardships of the poor and the working-class that suffer due to power dynamics inherent in the society are given an honest display in this bitter-sweet movie, it nonetheless maintains faith in justice and due process and creates a narrative that ultimately, justice will be done.

Another movie that expounds this idea, albeit taking a very different approach, is BR Chopra’s Kanoon (1960). The movie is about judge Badri Prasad (played by Ashok Kumar), who has strong beliefs about capital punishment and deems it to be an unfit punishment in a civilised society, and a young advocate named Kailash Khanna who is Badri Prasad’s protégé and is in love with his daughter Meena. A conflict of interest ensues when Kailash sees a man who looks like Badri Prasad stab a man at the residence of one Dhaniram and a petty thief who happened to be on the premises gets arrested for the same. Torn between loyalty to his mentor and future father-in-law on one hand and the moral duty to save the innocent, Kailash chooses to defend the accused in Badri Prasad’s court without having to reveal the painful truth to the public. However, in the end, it turns out that the murderer was in fact a look-alike of Badri Prasad and hence the crisis is averted which would otherwise have resulted in a death sentence to either the accused or Badri Nath. The movie asks the question as to what gives the law the power to take something from a person which it cannot return. After all, all evidence and witnesses on basis of which judges give sentences of the fate of people are limited by human senses and are hence fallible. One of the most memorable dialogues in the movie comes from Badri Nath’s monologue in the end wherein he says “Aankh ke badle aankh aur jaan ke badle jaan insaaf nahi inteqam hai” (an eye for an eye and a life for a life is not justice but revenge). The movie as a whole takes a very progressive approach to the question of criminal justice as a whole. While it shakes viewers’ faith in the concept of the death penalty as practised by the state, the overall narrative of the movie places faith in the due process of law and proves that it can be improved by rethinking our ways of delivering justice.

It is important to contextualise these progressive themes with our reality, which was far from the ideal it was supposed to emulate. Incidences of police brutality, extra-judicial violence, and custodial deaths were certainly not hard to locate. There was no legal framework to deal with such situations either. Justice A.N. Mulla in 1950 went so far as to say, "There is not a single lawless group in the whole of the country whose record of crime comes anywhere near the record of that single organised unit which is known as the Indian police force. The police force in Uttar Pradesh is an organised gang of criminals."[9] Accusations of exaggeration were never made. In fact, civil society activists and human rights bodies often invoke this comment of Justice A.N. Mulla to describe the violence of the police.

Despite all these obstacles, we see there was still faith and optimism that things will improve with the new constitution and the new republic. The myth that influenced the discourse can be expressed as that of a father (Gandhi), who on his departure, leaves the house (India) in the hands of the caring uncle (Nehru). Unlike Pakistan, whose founder Jinnah never lived to see his project come to fruition, Nehru’s presence as a figurehead of India’s impending progress did a lot to contribute to the stability of the country.[10] However, the death of Nehru in 1964 also left India in turmoil. A country had been orphaned.

ii. The Disillusionment of the Angry Young Man (1970-2000)

The 70s were a time of turmoil for the country. We experienced war, inflation, protests and the emergency all in the backdrop of widespread unemployment and public discontent. There was an important shift in the socio-political climate of the country, which persisted through the 80s and at least the first half of the 90s. An impressive body of well-underlined literature exists that analyses the volatile political situation of the country during the 1960s and the 1970s, which disillusioned the masses from the vision of the ideal nation-state and its impact on the cinema.[11] People realised the Nehruvian project of making India a social democracy that borrows from the best practices of the world to rival global powers might not be as easy as previously thought. It can be described as a ‘busting of the myth’ moment within the discourse. It invariably leaves the ground for the creation of new myths and discourses that shape the foundation of a society’s ideals. A historical example of such a moment may be the fall of the Weimar Republic in Germany giving rise to a new regime: the Third Reich, with its own mythological structures that were pushed forward by the charismatic leadership of Adolf Hitler.[12] The myth that emerged after the fall of Nehruvian optimism was that of the ‘Angry Young Man’.

The birth of the ‘Angry Young Man’ needs to be understood within the context of the frustration that manifested itself in the attitude of the public towards the system.[13] This trope first appeared in and perhaps was epitomised in cinema by Amitabh Bachchan starrer Zanjeer (1973), which set the tone for the rest of the trajectory of the film industry in the 70s and the 80s as well as Amitabh Bachchan’s career as he himself rose to prominence after this movie.[14]

While the trope manifested itself in Indian cinema in the 70s, its origins, however, lie in ‘kitchen sink realism’, a cultural movement in Britain wherein young men were portrayed as being disaffected by the modern world. This tradition in literature started with John Osborne’s play Look back in Anger (1956)[15] that explores the lives of working-class British men living in cramped apartments and spending their leisure time drinking in untidy bars. Like its equivalent in India, the British movement was also in response to a contrasting movement of the previous generation, which in this case was the escapism of the so-called ‘well-made plays’.[16] Both the movements of Britain and India were characterised by emasculation of the male figure in some way. In Britain, it was caused by the emasculation of the individuals returning home from the war as common citizens of the society and of Britain itself that lost its colonies, which were once its ‘prized possession’.[17] In India, it was caused by the emasculation of young men who were faced with unemployment, unable to provide for their families, and were forced to reconcile their inability to change a corrupt and ineffective system.[18]

This dynamic can be observed very clearly in Zanjeer, wherein the protagonist Vijay who is an honest police officer is implicated with false charges and is suspended from duty. Among the people responsible was Teja, the gangster who was Vijay’s target and also the person who murdered Vijay’s parents when he was but a kid. It was the manner in which Vijay overcomes this ordeal that strikes a connection with the audience which is feeling similar emasculation. However, this masculinity does not devalue the system of law altogether. While the system is shown to be corrupt and ineffective, it still recognises due process as a necessary evil. Towards the end, we see how Vijay has to begrudgingly leave Teja in the hands of the law and kills him later in self-defence only because a police officer is taken hostage at gunpoint by him. This deference to due process is also seen in Sholay (1975) which despite essentially being a movie that deals with the ubiquity of disorder and vigilantism hands the antagonist Gabbar to the hands of the law instead of subjecting him to mob justice.[19]

There is somehow a tenor in these movies that presents the due process of law as being necessary and important but at the same time considers there to be no other alternative than breaking out of this system. Andha Kanoon (1983), Ardha Satya (1983), Meri Jung (1985), and Mohra (1994) are all movies where the protagonists are seen as stepping out of systems of law and order to give a cathartic end to a series of injustices meted out to them by a perverted power structure. TR Rao’s Andha Kanoon offers a juxtaposition of two individuals who try to achieve the same ends but by different means. While one adopts the path of a law-abiding police officer (Hema Malini) the other is a vigilante (Rajnikanth). The movie ultimately caves in to the narrative that justice cannot be achieved by the means given by a corrupt system. However, an important part of the narrative is that such violence is never glorified in and of itself. It is always presented as a painful reality of an unjust world. This is a property that makes the movies of this period markedly different from those that come after it. This tradition, however, is undone by Eeshwar Nivas’ Shool (1999) which features a police officer who loses everything, his family, and his sanity, in his fight against the nexus of politics and crime and ultimately goes into the legislative assembly to kill Bachchu Yadav, the politician responsible. In the conclusion, Inspector Samar (Manoj Vajpayee) holding Bachchu Yadav at gunpoint asks “What was my fault? The fact that I stood with justice? Or the fact that in trusted our constitution?” After an emotional monologue, he then proceeds to shoot Bachchu Yadav and say ‘Jai Hind’ three times. This movie is, in a sense, the twilight zone in this period of transition that sets the tone for the work that is to come afterwards.

iii. The Rabbit Hole of Hyper-Masculinity: Emergence of the Neo-Liberal Hero (2000-Present)

There were two important developments towards the end of thetwentieth century that potentially kickstarted a domino effect, which in turn resulted in a steep decline in the quality of narrative discourse surrounding the role of police and the due process of law.

First, there was the development of substantive and procedural laws to deal with the problem of extra-judicial violence. With important rulings such as those of Nilabati Behera v State of Orissa and DK Basu v State of West Bengal, the Courts had started taking cognizance of the virtual anarchy of the police administration in India. The establishment of the National Human Rights Commission in 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 put further constraints on the Executive in terms of the leeway it took to ‘deal’ with the problems associated with crime. There was a sense of emasculation that the police suffered in the lens of the everyday person who, under the mythological influence of the cinema, saw the police as the ultimate harbinger of peace, which delivers justice, rather than the agents of the state whose job is limited to the initiation of due process.[20] The representation of the hyper-masculine police officer has a very reactionary element to it in that way. It is an outrage against those who, in the name of the ‘human rights’ of these ‘criminals’, tie the hands of the police to deal with crime.[21]

Second, there was the economic liberalisation of the country. Prior to liberalisation, the Indian state did not see the cinema as particularly an industry. It was, in a dualistic manner, seen both as a frivolous vice which needs to be heavily taxed, and as a tool for nation-building, provided it had artistic or social merit.[22] After being granted the status of an ‘industry’ in May 1998, producers and exhibitors could access government benefits and institutional finance.[23] With this liberalisation, there came an increased focus on investment returns and risk factor considerations. The propensity was towards making films that had a wide popular impact, rather than artistic or social value as was the case in pre-industrialisation days.

It is easy to imagine how the ‘badass police officer’ trope is susceptible to the ‘rabbit hole’, a term aptly describes the way commercial cinema functions. If a certain ‘formula’ fits, the industry replicates those tropes in a variety of settings to ensure the movies’ commercial success for as long as the trope resonates with people. It gives sure shot returns so the producers willingly invest in these movies. The risk factor is minimised as similar films have done well in the past (“Milk the cow as long as it gives milk”). With the success of Shool, we have a series of movies that take on similar themes. And with successive series, the trope becomes more callous and more problematic.

Moving on from the legacy of Shool, we have a series of movies that take on the trope of an erratic policeman who steps outside the system and the role prescribed to it and carries on acts that are characterised as just by the narrative of the movies. Mahesh Manjrekar’s Kurukshetra (2000) frames the murder of politicians responsible for the problems of corruption as a just solution to the problem of corruption. Towards the end, we see the protagonist ACP Prithviraj (Sanjay Dutt) in a setting that matches the popular IndiaTV show ‘Aap Ki Adalat’ wherein the public bursts in support of Prithviraj. An apt metaphor for an over-simplified solution to a complex problem gaining currency in the court of popular opinion. In Puneet Issar’s Garv: Pride and Honour (2004) the entire theme of the movie is subsumed by a glorification of encounter killings. The movie even goes on to question the very idea of due process in a scene where ACP Arjun Ranavat (Salman Khan) pestered by the question of the human rights of the victims posed by the media, criticises them for making such calls. He questions whether it is worth asking for the human rights of ‘criminals and terrorists’ and also asks whether the police officers who fight them also need to be given similar consideration. The argument, of course, creates a false equivalence between the state and the individual and is supposed to give cathartic satisfaction to the audience rather than persuade them, but it would, however, be naïve to think that many are not persuaded by this line of thinking.

The callousness that marks the trope of the hyper-masculine cop is antithetical to the cause of due process, which is slow and systematic rather than instant and cathartic. However, it would be wrong to think that this system is devoid of its own moral valuations. Some movies have a tone of realism attached to them. For example, Shimit Amin’s Ab tak Chhappan (2004) presents the dichotomy between an ‘honest encounter specialist’ and a ‘dishonest encounter specialist’. While the former engages in his duty to ‘wipe out’ crime in good faith, the latter is jealous of the former’s ‘encounter’ score and in order to better him, often shoots more people than required for a particular mission to ‘up his count’. This morally relativistic perspective entirely misses the point of encounter killings being wrong in and of themselves. The effect is, of course, the normalisation of such measures as a legitimate means to deal with the problem of disorder.

An interesting comparison can be made between the tropes explored in the Singham series and the Dabangg series. Both of them today have almost become the paradigmatic cop movies of our time. Both exploring hyper-masculine characters but of entirely different natures. While the Singham movies present the idea of an idealist police officer who is on a mission to single-handedly fix the system by any means necessary, the Dabangg series traces the journey of a macho, corrupt (yet ‘loveable’) cop who is in the business of law and order for his own self-interest rather than in pursuit of some high ideals. In a sense, while both of these notions are problematic, the latter presents a peak of hyper-masculinity and the entire ‘macho-cop’ trope. Both of them engage in mindless violence, aiming for things they deem as important. A line from Singham which perfectly defines its idea would be the following:

“Every time they try to look at a woman in a bad manner, it is very important that they should have the fear that some erratic police officer will come and shoot them. No arrest, no long case: decision on the spot.”

Bollywood has an amusing conception of narrative variety. It is evident from Pradeep Sarkar’s Mardaani (2014) wherein it is actually a woman engaging in acts of encounter killings rather than a man.[24] Perhaps an indication that if a woman is to find her place in these narratives, she must adopt the hyper-masculine persona. This hyper-masculinity and the anti-mimesis thereof are somewhere responsible for the celebration of the tragedy like the Hyderabad encounter as is evident from this dialogue of Simmba (2018) which came out just a year before the incident: “Unless we shoot these rapists, sir, nothing is going to change.”

All of these titles indicate a worrying trend in the representation of justice in cinema, which is not at all helped by the caustic popularisation of such figures by news media and civil society. The image of the hero in this paradigm is similar to that of the retributive hero in Greek mythology (like Achilles or Odysseus), who goes on to achieve vengeance to restore his honour or upend a perceived injustice. However, this retribution has a neo-liberal ‘bad boy’ flavour to it. In a world of overburdened courts, and delayed and costly justice, an honest (or dishonest) hero who promises quick justice is certainly popular. Morality in the neoliberal era is increasingly individualised,[25] where institutions like companies have their primary concern as generating profit, while the burden of being ‘ethical’ is imposed on the individual. As Peter Bloom writes, “neoliberalism strategically co-opts traditional ethics to ideologically and structurally strengthen capitalism… Rather than altering our morality, neoliberalism ‘individualises’ ethics, making us personally responsible for dealing with and resolving its moral failings.”[26] The principles of heroism that the neoliberal ‘bad boy’ hero espouses might go against the traditional principles of liberal institutionalism, but neoliberal morality does not give currency to institutional moralism when the incentive for the production of culture is the profit it generates.

Outliers: Strong Counternarratives or Critical Obscurantism?

It would be wrong to say that the entire attitude of cinema with regard to justice and due process has been a linear order of degradation since the 70s. Notable exceptions that stand out in this regard still forwarded faith in justice and due process.

Ek Ruka Hua Faisla (1986) shows how quick processing of the terms of justice often makes it susceptible to errors. The setting is that of a jury deliberation room where all but the Juror Number 8 (the protagonist) are convinced of the culpability of the slum-dwelling teenage boy who allegedly killed his father. The juror goes on to convince the rest of the jury how they had, either in a hurry or due to personal biases, missed important details of the case which are enough to raise reasonable doubt against the preliminary conclusion reached by the jury. The movie portrays how justice often becomes prey to the personal prejudices of the people involved in legal processes, further strengthening the case against summary justice in favour of rigorous due process.

Damini (1993) is regarded by many as a feminist cult classic of its time. The story traces the journey of Damini, who is married into an influential industrial family but after witnessing the rape of the house-help by her brother-in-law, takes up the long battle to get justice for her. While the movie gives in to the ‘angry young man’ trope a little with the role of Govind (Sunny Deol) as Damini’s lawyer, it is pertinent to note that he makes his entry only in the last hour of the film as a deus ex machina. The entire movie is about the struggle of Damini in her quest for Justice and her appeal to the court of human conscience.

The Jolly LLB series is an important one. While both of the movies deal with important questions, it is the second part of the instalment which demands our special attention as it directly deals with the question of due process and encounter killings. It captures the struggle of a small-time lawyer against the corrupt police machinery, which uses encounter killings as an excuse to gather accolades. The sheer apathy of the officers to individual lives presents a disturbing picture that offers a disillusioning image of the romanticised conception of a hyper-masculine solution to the problem of disorder. However, the series, by no stretch of imagination, places full faith in the procedure established by law. The judge in the movies, in both cases, ignores the letter of the law in order to do justice in the given case.

Chaitanya Tamhane’s Court (2014) is by far one of the most scathing critiques of the apathy of the justice system offered by cinema. The movie traces the Kafkaesque journey of Narayan Kamble, a teacher, activist, and protest singer who gets accused in a suicide abetment case despite lack of evidence. The movie shows how our justice reality of a mechanical and depersonalised system of justice that is blind to human suffering. Everyone involved, the judge, the prosecutor, and the defence attorney do their jobs perfectly. However, no one takes a step back to look at the manifest absurdity of the case at hand before them or display some empathy for the people involved in this story. It peels the layers of the gaudy socio-political and legal structures of our society to expose the bare bones of the caste-class hierarchy entrenched within them in a manner paralleled by very few movies.

However, the narratives generated by these titles hardly penetrate the public consciousness in a manner that films like Singham or Mardaani do. One of the potential reasons for this is the fact that the reasoned and thought-out narratives of these movies do not reflect the wider mythological structure and the emotional turmoil to which the aforementioned titles cater. It would be a bit uncharitable to treat them as strong counter-narratives, which present an equitable challenge to the dominant myth. However, their contribution should not be minimised. They still contribute to the discourse as counter-currents, even if they do so from the margins.


The Foucaldian method of critique is not a critique of the past in terms of the present. Rather, the Foucaldian histories criticise the present by reflecting how the discursive and institutional practices of the past still affect the present.[27] The aim of this method is to free us from the restrictions that our history and culture always impose on the way we understand the world and ourselves. In genealogising the mythological discourse surrounding the cinema, masculinity, the due process of the law, and the institution of policing, we disrupt the unity of hyper-masculine reason, neoliberal subjectivity, and cultural history. As will be discussed in the second part of this series, the normative framework produced by the masculine mythology of these movies is one that endorses hyper-masculine quick-response to the problem of crime, as opposed to due process which is seen as an emasculating mockery of the ‘real potential’ that the institution of policing has. The law that has developed on this subject in the last three decades is extremely progressive, notwithstanding the large amount of work that still needs to be done. There is a general reactionary narrative that has developed in opposition to the law which, at least on the face of it, promotes and fosters respect for fundamental human rights. This is no surprise as all political rights of the citizens are, at the end of the day, negative freedoms against the powers of the state,[28] a limitation on the state. The problem then is the light in which people see the institution of police and the state at large. When the state is viewed as a masculine patriarch, its citizens lose the suspicion with which arbitrary powers are viewed in ‘robust’ liberal democracies.

The reason for such views is grounded in history, and to upend this historical narrative is a mammoth task. A good way to go could be to encourage new art which subverts the hypermasculine trope to reveal its shallowness and its dangerous frivolity. The rise of the OTT platforms with their content that is less affected by the restrictions of the cinema may give us some hope for the rise of a new radical cinema. However, recent trends may resist one to pin too much hope to such a possibility.[29]

Nevertheless, a rejection of fatalism is the first step to avoid it. Perhaps something we can do to change the discursive power reinforcing these hyper-masculine norms, whether in reel or real life, is to add to the discourse in a positive manner. One may adopt a critical perspective against the movies which promote such problematic and over-simplified solutions to complex problems. Whether we are lawyers, academics, students, journalists, or ordinary citizens, our contribution to the discourse is a fractal narrative in itself. The author in writing this piece has made his fractal contribution in upending the masculine myth and humbly implores the reader to do the same in their own way.

* Abhineet Maurya is a student enrolled in the B.A. LL.B. programme at National Law University, Delhi. His interests include legal philosophy, sociology of law, and cinema.



[1] Maria Tamboukou, ‘Writing Genealogies: An Exploration of Foucault's Strategies for Doing Research’ (1999) 20 Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 201, 2.

[2] R Kevin Hill, Genealogy (Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, vol 4).

[3] Colin Koopman, Genealogy as critique: Foucault and the problems of modernity (Indiana University Press 2013) 1.

[4] Michel Foucault, ‘Nietzsche, Genealogy, History’ in Donald F Bouchard (ed), Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews (Cornell Unniversity Press 1977) para 1.

[5] See, Rohan De, A People's Constitution: The Everyday Life of Law in the Indian Republic (Princeton University Press 2018). Rohan De brings us a collection of stories of ordinary litigants– drinkers, smugglers, petty vendors, butchers, and prostitutes– who made significant changes in the constitutional jurisprudence of India.

[6] See, Gautam Bhatia, The Transformative Constitution: A Radical Biography in Nine Acts (Harper Collins 2019). In the prologue “The Past is a Foreign Country”, Bhatia goes into great detail explaining the historical and the legal background of both thesis.

[7] In Virendra Singh v State of U.P AIR (1954) SC 447, Justice Vivian Bose expressing his admiration for the newly minted constitution said, “We have upon us the whole armour of the Constitution and walk from henceforth in its enlightened ways, wearing the breastplate of its protecting provisions, and flashing the flaming sword of its inspiration.” His views on the nature of the Indian Constitution expressed through a slew of judgements were heavily influential on the legal practice. See also, Suchindran B N, 'Vivian Bose and the Living Constitution: A Tribute' (2011-2012) 5 Indian J Const L 1.

[8] Bhikhu Parekh, ‘Nehru and the National Philosophy of India’ (1991) 26 Economic and Political Weekly 35.

[9] R Balaji, ‘‘Gang of criminals’ label back on cops’ (The Telegraph India, 2 January 2018) <> accessed 5 August 2021.

[10] Agarala Easwara Reddy, ‘Jawaharlal Nehru and Modern India’ (1989) 50 The Indian Journal of Political Science 445, 464.

[11] See, Madhava Prasad, Ideology Of The Hindi Film: A Historical Construction (Oxford University Press 2000); Fareed Kazmi, The Politics of India’s Conventional Cinema: Imaging a Universe, Subverting the Multiverse (SAGE Publishing 1999); Sikata Banerjee, ‘Armed Masculinity, Hindu Nationalism and Female Political Participation in India: Heroic Mothers, Chaste Wives and Celibate Warriors’ (2006) 8 International Femnist Journal of Politics 62; Saayan Chattopadhyay, ‘Mythology, Masculinity and Indian Cinema: Representation of ‘Angry Young Man’ in Popular Hindi Films of 1970s’ (2013) 4 Media Watch 28.

[12] Ian Kershaw, The “Hitler Myth”: Image and Reality in the Third Reich (Clarendon Press, University of Oxford 1987).

[13] In addition to the threat of socio-political emasculation that came through the powerlessness that people felt in face of the political upheaval, there was also a threat of literal emasculation: Sanjay Gandhi’s policy of mass sterilisation or vasectomyy. This perceived threat to masculinity in many ways contributed to the rise of the ‘Angry Young Man’ trope. See, Chattopadhyay (n 11) 34.

[14] There is a very good class perspective to look at the rise of the angry young man through. With the decline of the “feudal family” romance, the entry of the ‘ordinary hero’ to the cinema was natural. Amitabh played roles that were predominantly lower class: dockworker, mineworker, gang-leader, porter, police officer, small time crook. See, Prasad (n 11). See also, Chattopadhyay (n 11) 29.

[15] Luke Gilleman, ‘From Coward and Rattigan to Osborne: Or the Enduring Importance of Look Back in Anger’ (2006) 51 University of Toronto Press Journals 104.

[16] Sadam Zaman, ‘The Influence of Kitchen Sink Drama In John Osborne’s “Look Back In Anger”’ (2018) 23 IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences 77, 78.

[17] Andrew Wyllie, Sex on Stage: Gender and Sexuality in Post-War British Theatre (Intellect Books 2009) 14; Arthur McIvor, ‘Rebuilding ‘Real Men’: Work and Working Class Male Civilian Bodies in Wartime’ in Linsey Robb and Juliette Pattinson (eds), Men, Masculinities and Male Culture in the Second World War (Palgrave Macmillan 2018).

[18] Chattopadhyay (n 11) 35.

[19] It is interesting to look at the fact that the original ending was not supposed to be like that. The director of the movie Ramesh Sippy very recently revealed the fact that the original ending actually showed Gabbar dying at the hands of Thakur. However, the Censor Board did not like that and asked Sippy to change the ending (see, Aashna Shah, ‘43 Years After Sholay, Director Reveals Why Censor Board Changed The Ending’ (NDTV,13 January 2018) <> accessed 30 June 2021). This also raises intriguing questions about the role that the state played in maintaining respect for due process in cinema prior to the liberalisation of India (refer to the discussion in the next section).

[20] This image is reinforced by the popular portrayal of police institutions. While the everyday job of the police may be mundane and bureaucratic, the narrative put forward by movies and TV shows needs to be engaging and thrilling to make for a good show. Popular media generally does not have much qualms about sacrificing accuracy of realistic details in favour of exaggerated thrill. Refer to TV shows like Suraag (1999), Raja Aur Rancho (1997-1998), Tiger (1993), CID (1998-2018).

[21] This theme is very evident in Puneet Issar’s Garv: Pride and Honour (2004), as is further discussed in this section.

[22] See, Tejaswini Ganti, Bollywood: A Guidebook to Popular Hindi Cinema (2nd edn, Routledge 2004).

[23] ibid.

[24] Recall how Raewyn Connel had described masculinity as a social location that can be occupied by people of any gender identity. What is ironic about the narratives generated by these films is that while they promote the same hyper-masculine ideas as those of its counterparts, they lay claim (at least in the popular imagination) to narratives like women empowerment, or worse, feminism.

[25] See generally, Peter Bloom, The Ethics of Neoliberalism: The Business of Making Capitalism Moral (Routledge 2017).

[26] ibid, Preface.

[27] Tamboukou (n 1) 5.

[28] Isaiah Berlin, ‘Two Concepts of Liberty’ in Four Essays On Liberty (Oxford University Press 1969) 118-172.

[29] The Central Government recently passed the Information Technology (Guidelines For Intermediaries And Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 to regulate the social media intermediaries. See, Akshita Saxena, ‘Centre Notifies Rules For Regulation of Social Media Intermediaries, OTT Platforms & Online Media’ (Livelaw, 25 February 2021) <> accessed 30 June 2021. See also, Tanu Banerjee, Ishan Johri and Garima Kedia ‘New Rules for OTT Platforms: Regulation or restriction?’ (The Financial Express, 3 March 2021) <> accessed 30 June 2021.

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Nov 29, 2021

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