The Alternate History of Mohenjodaro, the Movie

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From The Editor's Desk

(Hinduwebsite Editorial - Exploring Truth Amidst Illusions and Distortions)

Indian film industry has a long reputation of commercially exploiting Indian history for profit, using trite themes and excessively romantic characters. The movies are made with an overdose of love, sex and romance to make them commercially viable, ignoring the truths of history in the process. While many scholars blame European historians for the construction of India’s history, ignoring their positive contribution, the Indian film industry mostly gets away with the many liberties, which they take with historical characters and events in building their narratives and producing their movies.

Indian film audience is diverse. Hardly ten percent of them have the heart to watch a movie with artistic values or purely realistic themes. Some movies may get good reviews from critics and a few moviegoers may appreciate them, but people largely ignore movies that do not appeal to their senses and raw emotions. One cannot therefore put the onus entirely on the industry for not taking advantage of the rich, cultural history of India. The industry also faced many problems in the past for presenting the truths of Indian history, which often led to violent protests, threats and censorship. Therefore, both artistically and commercially it is a huge challenge to make a historical movie for the Indian audience and keep everyone happy and satisfied.

Our present discussion is about the recent movie, Mohenjodaro. This is not about the creative or artistic talents of the people involved in the making of the movie. Undoubtedly, they are very talented people. It is about its possible impact upon Indian history and the public perception of it. The movie is a good example of how historic names and themes can often be used for commercial gains even when it is clearly known that it can lead to alternate history or distortion of history. It also puts in focus how the industry is so narrowly focused upon a few repetitive themes of love, sex and violence to cater to the baser entertainment needs of a less informed audience. Neither the name, Mohenjodaro nor the background is vital to the movie, but it certainly is for those who care for the truths of history.

In the present circumstances, with such meager information at our disposal, no one can make a movie about Indus Valley Civilization without distorting history or taking liberties with it. We do not know much about the civilization. All that we have are a few findings from the various excavation sites over a vast area that is said to be larger than the ancient Egyptian empire. Our knowledge of the Civilization is purely based upon speculation, assumptions and comparative study of similar cultures. We have not been able to decipher their seals or their language, nor do we know how they lived, what they believed in and what their social customs or political institutions were.

Historians still do not know whether the Indus cities were part of an empire or independent city states. They also do not know with certainty why and how the civilization suddenly disappeared from the face of the earth. One may draw a few logical conclusions about their lives based upon a few artifacts and their town planning, but there are no means to validate them with corroborating evidence.

Therefore, it is not possible for anyone to make a movie, with the backdrop of Mohenjodaro and do justice to the history of the period. The movie, Mohenjodaro, is a romantic drama. It is pure fiction, with no real connection to the dead city or the period. It could have been made with any other title, background and time period and in any part of the world, without compromising the story or the plot line. There was no need for the makers of the film to use pretentiously the unknown Indus Valley background to make a movie, as if they were doing a favor to the history of the subcontinent, since it has no real connection whatsoever with that period or its people, and since it does not truly reflect the Indus culture or their way of life, except for a few brick buildings, artifacts, street scenes and city plan.

While we do not want the movie to fail, we cannot appreciate any commercial movie, which uses historical themes purely for profit, with little scope for truth, and which can potentially alter the images of the past in public consciousness. Many people may not care about this aspect of artistic creation since they do not read history anyway. However, if you care for history and know the distorted images such movies can create in the collective consciousness of people, you will surely feel concerned.

The Indus Valley Civilization is part of Indian history. Because we know so little about it, it should be kept free from distortion and commercial exploitation. Unfortunately, with the commercial making of the movie, the memory and the images of Mohenjodaro and the Indus Civilization are permanently distorted in the public mind. Henceforth, people will remember the movie, Mohenjodaro, when they think of the civilization and they will read more about it as it will more frequently come up in Internet searches rather than the history of the place or its civilization.

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