Is Kissa Kursi ka the same as The House of Cards and Game of Thrones, Hitler's Third Reich, Stalin's purges, Henry VIII, Becket's mentor Henry II, and countless others in every part of the world? Are they the same, seeking, often condemning, often not seeming to condemn but secretly admiring the race and intoxication of the pinnacle of power, the pernicious rivalry for supremacy?
Now, again, another question arises: power in the corporate world, power in a particular monopolistic production house, power in real or lacking-in-conviction ideology, for which one may have to destroy, decimate, connive, conspire, stop at nothing. At yet another level, power due to charisma, of leadership in smaller groups, captaincy of a company, chieftain in the lawless underworld, power over a small or large family unit, where one becomes tormentor of the rest, who remain in constant fear of punishment or even, sometimes, perish. Even in the animal world this singular element of assertion to some kind of leadership and supremacy.
This is much too large a subject of metaphysics for me to get into its full-fledged scope. It will therefore suffice for me to frivolously answer the question by mentioning the film called Kissa kursi ka, which was banned in India. Shubhra Gupta has competently and knowledgeably written about it, as countless others have done also, during and after the Emergency in India (link):
Power Games, by Shubhra Gupta
Why the banned film Kissa Kursee Ka still speaks to us in these craven times.
A certain gentleman whom I have been courting for a while, and who shall remain nameless, came good last week, and delivered into my waiting palms a copy of Kissa Kursee Ka. This 1977 film had been banned, and all its prints were reportedly destroyed. Very few people could have claimed to have seen it. My benefactor had been one of the most influential film pirates in the Delhi of the '70s and '80s, the kind of guy who expertly wove his ways through the dodgy sides of 'non-official' distribution, and set up a huge empire. The gap between how soon the film would release in theatres and how soon thereafter you could watch it on your shiny imported VHS machines, was filled by him and his hardy compatriots. 'Cassettes' was where the business was, and my man was at the forefront of it all.Kissa Kursee Ka was one of the films that went straight into the 'cassette' market. Because it was decimated so thoroughly, only the prints that had been sent out of the country survived. Those who remember say copies found their way back, and what is available today is scratchy copies of those copies. When I tried to track the film's journey, I was left with fascinating nuggets of how 'cassette' piracy was born, how it thrived, and how fortunes were made. There was a lot of juice in all those highly libelous stories which alas cannot be printed, so it was quite appropriate in a way that I found every little bit of Kissa... so juicy, so many decades after its making.The film was a direct fallout of the Emergency and its excesses, which lasted for two years (1975-77). The man who made it, Amrit Nahata, a newly minted Janata party groupie, having dumped his Congressi roots, found a great way to stay in the news because his film courted controversy from the opening frame to the last.In a long missive Nahata had written on the making of the film, he had spoken of how he picked his great cast — Manohar Singh, Shabana Azmi, Utpal Dutt (those who recall having seen the film get a certain look when they talk of the special appearance made by the very bootylicious, very luscious ex-Playboy bunny Katy Mirza) — and how he was very clear he wanted to make a film on politics. You can find it quite easily on YouTube, but the pleasure of popping in a VCD with its opening legend, 'This Is An Old Film', is something else altogether. As also the pleasure of discovering material that should have attained cult popularity. Because there is no political satire made in India that has quite the same savage edge as Kissa Kursee Ka: in fact, it quite probably is the only one of its kind.The kursee in the film is generic, but the kissa only masquerades as one. Anyone who lived through the tumultuous years of the Emergency would have no trouble in figuring out who the characters are lampooning. The plot is non-existent. The characters are all symbolic, and speak in underlined dialogues about bhrastachar and durachar, and the mindless greed of political animals and their equally greedy hangers-on.The capital of Jana Gana Desh, where the action unfolds, is quite recognisably New Delhi (one of its main settings is, ironically, Vigyan Bhavan: you can't get more sarkaari than that). There is a Peeli party and a Neeli party, and the new entrant, is called, blackly, Kali Party. There's a fellow who demands that the 'licence' of making 'small cars' be given to him, because he knows how to, 'from his mother's womb'. There's a 'swami' busy power-broking between political rivals. And there is poor, voiceless 'Janata'(Azmi playing her crumpled-cotton-sari-big-bindi Ankur look to the hilt), who is driven from, literally pillar to hanging post, to get what should rightfully be hers. The tackiness and the poor production values are jarring, as is its heavily staged feel, but this is a film that socks it to you, scene after scene.Many of the instances may belong to that era whenAmbassadors and Fiats ruled our streets, and having a landline phone connection meant that you had to know someone in high places. But it is frighteningly uncanny how relevant the film seems today. Meera Devi, MA in Politics, is a canny woman propping up a puppet leader, claiming that that is what true satta is. A saffron-robed swami declares he will go on 'fast-unto-death' till corruption is wiped off the face of the nation: now who was it who did just that recently?Watching it now, you realise that "political" films did not just have a dim future back then: what happened with Kissa Kursee Ka may have caused the permanent demise of films that tried telling a truly trenchant, stinging picture of real India. So craven are the times we live in, I can't think of a film like Kissa Kursee Ka being conceived of, let alone being made any more.
Another film of that time by M. S. Sathyu called Chithegu Chinthe considers the same subject.
I would be glad to receive reactions, and, if possible, more light on this subject, which, without doubt, is not perishable, no matter how much havoc to life and the environment it can cause. It is among the more interesting or, shall I say, intriguing aspects of life; all life, from its beginning to its end.