22 June 2014
The objective of this article is to narrate a disturbing incident that inspired me to write Autonagar Surya and stay connected to its soul all along. The feelings expressed in this article are purely with respect to whatever life experience I’ve had so far. You may find it equally disturbing, alarming and inspiring or simply uninteresting.
I migrated to USA after engineering and lived there for about 12 years before moving to India with Prasthanam (I was still working in US while making Vennela). So my perspective about life in India is obviously influenced by the order I have experienced in US.
The incident I am sharing here is not in the movie nor there is any reference to the people involved in the incident anywhere in the film. It only inspired me to design the conditions around Surya.
During the lethargic post-production days of Prasthanam, I was drawn to a news item titled “mother and child thrown out of a running train” in a boxed column with less than 100 words, on the sixth page of a reputed daily. The summary of that article is:
A twenty six year old IT employee was migrating from Chennai to Calcutta along with his wife, 18 month old baby and some extra luggage. In Orissa around midnight, a couple of railway police boarded the compartment. Both the policemen were drunk. They started poking around with the IT employee’s luggage and asked if he paid for all of them. They demanded him to pay for the extra luggage or else they’ll throw the luggage out of train. The IT employee refused to pay as he already bribed a ticket collector in Chennai. They asked him to show the receipt, he questioned them “since when they have been issuing receipts for bribes?” and asked if they are going to issue one if he pays now. The railway police felt they were offended by his “arrogance” which hurt their ‘ego’. The quarrel ended with the Railway police throwing the IT employee’s wife and the 18 month old baby out of the running train, both died on spot.
The last line was exactly how it was phrased in the article.
Of course these incidents happen everywhere in the world, as people are same across the world...more or less. But the following observations stirred me up...
Place of the incident: A government vehicle
Perpetrators: “Drunken” railway “police”
These aspects made this incident lot more important in my view compared to all those who brushed it off as just another crime news. The questions flaunting in my
head for the next few days were...
1. How come this news is on the sixth page and not on the front page? What’s more alarming than a couple of drunken railway police crushing the life of an innocent young lady and an eighteen-month baby? By the way what was the quarrel all about? Between whom? Doesn’t it represent a perfect failure of the system in all angles? In dystopian proportions??
2. How come no other dailies or channels covered this incident...? There was no more follow up news in this daily as well.
3. I was bursting to know with what mindset that IT employee got down in the next station. I wanted to know what they did with those railway police. More than the incident it was the responsiveness of the total system that alarmed me the most. IT WAS COLD. When you fail repeatedly...you will come to terms with the failure at some point. It’s true to any biological or social system. It makes people callous...more dead.
4. This is a highly important case as it threatens one billion people’s trust on a uniform.
When I’m playing this incident in New York, London, LA, Detroit or any other developing countries...I can see a much different response from people, media, law enforcement and the judiciary all the way till they see a verdict. The entire nation will be aware of the verdict.
For about a week, the boiling question in my head was: proclaiming ourselves as “the” non-violent country across the world, are we becoming the most violent people by simply accepting, digesting and living with violence?
Blood is not the only form of violence; it’s the only visible form.
I started analyzing this incident on a broader perspective. The problem does not lay ‘in’ the system but way ‘under’ the system...deep inside each one of us...our very understanding about life and it’s interconnectedness. All actions and reactions finally boil down to the elemental level of thinking with which we live and view others life.
The spirit of this disturbance is a subconscious stream in Autonagar Surya. It’s an underdog’s rise from a ‘nobody’ to ‘somebody’ while fighting for his share of life, ambition and happiness.
Autonagar Surya does not criticize, challenge or even complain about the system.... he simply can’t find a system in place.
The opening voice of Autonagar Surya starts with ‘idhoka adivi.... kruuramainaa mrugaalu thirigae adivi...’
Note: Over the next few days I will share some of the dialogues that were let out through Autonagar Surya promos from writer’s point of view under the title “Snippets of Autonagar Surya”.