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A Wednesday Debate

It’s been five weeks since Neeraj Pandey’s A Wednesday released. It’s gone from being perceived as a well-crafted thriller to Oscar contention to seeding the hot new debate: is vigilante action against terrorists justified?

Clearly, with the film’s collections of 45 lacs in the 4th week in Mumbai alone gives box-office credence that people are enjoying every minute of this story of the person claiming to be the common man who has had enough. Given the fickleness of the audience (biggest BO receipts this year: Singh is Kinng), this probably means that people are in agreement with the stand that the director has taken.

What exactly is this stand that Pandey has taken? In the climax of the film – the protagonist blows up 4 terrorists and is inadvertently aided by the Chief Minister, the Chief of Police, the media, and several others: hackers, minor inspectors, etc. The Chief of Police, angry at first, storms out of HQ, tracks down the killer and … lets him go – not only that, he shakes his hand and pretty much salutes him. And in the process, certifies his exploits which have resulted in 4 dead people. Would it just not be better if he had arrested him there and then to demonstrate that at least someone has a spine and will to follow the law no matter how ‘noble’ the actions of the offender?

At the most basic level you can see the problem here. This man is aping the behavioral pattern of any terrorist by creating a web of terror using the similar tools: cellphones, media manipulation, lies, deceit, and real bombs that kill real people. Only this time – the common man (you and I) is the hero. He is not a slaughterer or murderer. The terrorists killed are now… well dead terrorists. Not victims. How is it that similar actions result in different perceptions? The only explanation lies in the antecedents of the victims. In this case, each terrorist is associated with mass carnage. Each has enough reason to be subjected to a fair trial by law and subsequent severely punishment. But for you or I to make that decision on the behalf of the system (however resentful we may be of it) is highly questionable. The common man , living in sufferance and fear, decides to mobilize himself in reprisal. So here’s the debate – is this act of revenge that degrades the common man to the level of the terrorist rational?

It’s easy to see yourself in the hero’s shoes. It’s easy to accept the murder of a terrorist. In fact, with this film it seems easy to condone and applaud the murder of terrorists. But when are we going to realize that the operative word here is not ‘terrorist’ but ‘murder’?

According to Wiki, the Indian and Sri Lankan army have a motto that goes something like this: Forgiving or punishing the terrorists is left to God. But fixing their appointment with God is our responsibility.

Scary words from men in uniform. Even scarier when uttered by you or I.

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