Storytelling is Manipulative and Political
Fortunately or unfortunately we are fed with umpteen stories. Some of which we believe and follow with utmost dedication. And some of which we refuse to accept in totality as authentic. Nevertheless, the storytelling continues uninterrupted. From time immemorial storytelling has happened and it has shaped mindsets, created ideologies, and politically influenced the citizens. Whether it is the history that is written and taught to us or whether it is the incidences of the current times. Every institution whether secular, religious, and political, aims at establishing an ideology befitting its charism and its aim. These ideologies are either going hand in hand with other institutions or they stand in conflict with one another, and that is where the battles begin and it gets political.
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Let us take ‘Durgamati’ a film released on December 11, 2020, directed by G. Ashok to understand how storytelling manipulates our minds. In the first half of the movie, you believe that the protagonist Ishwar Prasad (played by Arshad Warsi) is a devoted, dedicated, and an honest politician. Which is although hard to believe is presented to us in such a manner that one believes in what is narrated. Even Chanchal Chauhan IAS (played by Bhumi Pednekar) being possessed by Rani Durgamati is so believable that you start relating and feeling sorry for Chanchal. But, Ishwar Prasad turns out to be the fraud and manipulative politician, who plays his tricks and gambles in life, just to become rich and move out of the country, cashing on selling its heritage.
Chanchal fakes the possession so well that she convinces everyone that she is been possessed and everyone believes in the story she narrated, only later does Satakshi Ganguly, the CBI Joint Director (played by Mahie Gill) realizes that although Chanchal was faking the possession she was telling the truth about Ishwar Prasad. But she couldn’t understand it because she was prejudiced and preoccupied in the story that she had created about Ishwar Prasad.
In a similar fashion, the powerful storytellers and ideologists tell us one story at one instance and another at another instance. The doubling of railway tracks as we all know has received a lot of protests because of the underlying motive of coal transportation for private interests. More so, because it distorts Goan heritage, wildlife environment, and the identity of Goa. But now we are being told and manipulated into accepting that this project is going to be beneficial for all of us in the long run. ‘Coal’ suddenly is not brought into the picture. Rather it is justified with statistics that in the year 2019-2020, there has been a reduction of 25% of coal transportation. And that the double-tracking will help boost tourism in the less tapped villages in Goa. The double-tracking is said to improve connectivity, take development to great heights, and easy movement of tourists across the state. Is this really going to happen? Don’t we have tourists freely flowing in Goa at the present? are some of the questions we ought to ask as responsible citizens.
Introduction of projects at the cost of destroying the environment has happened time and again, and despite voices raised against them. They have been executed without a second thought. Take, for instance, Sardar Sarovar Dam Project, the dam built on Narmada river destroyed the habitat of the aborigines or the original inhabitants or Adivasis. It was their land that the government inadvertently decided to grab and resettle the poor villagers. Promising them a better future but robbing them of their heritage. The government did nothing but imitate the colonizers by their all-consuming story of elevating the poor from their uncivilized and less developed lives. They threatened, they tortured, and they harassed the poor and the marginalized. The government at that time felt that they are representing the poor and working for their upliftment but as Gayatri Spivak in her critically acclaimed essay, “Can the subaltern speak?” says, the representation of these politicians was biased and marked by political and personal gains.
I do not want to sound cliché, but history is repeating itself continuously. We do not want to sit and discuss various issues affecting us. The least we do is try to shut the voices that speak. Sustainable development is what the common people want but hardly this is adhered to, by those sitting at the helm. The continuous protests and pleas fall on deaf ears. And the storytellers continue to imagine and narrate a different story. Unfortunately, some of the storytellers are bought and sold by those who run the state. Are we seriously in a democracy? The current situations awaken us to having an infrastructure where each and every voice is heard. And the voice is neither subdued nor devalued. Democracy should have achieved that but sadly it hasn’t.
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Everytime the storytellers try to manipulate, there is a protest and a suggestion to listen to the other side of the story. Michel Foucault said, “Where there is power, there is resistance.” And the very fact that there is continuous resistance from everyone in the state against the manipulators; political and ideological means that they are acting from their state of power, instead they should have acted from a state of concern, love, reasonableness and the thought of common good. Undoubtedly there are innumerable storytellers but we need to sieve out the best from the humungous amount we have at our disposal.
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