Originally Published 2013-03-11 00:00:00 Published on Mar 11, 2013
Having played multiple roles - part comic, part tragic - in the Western mind, perhaps it's time for Iran to make its own Bollywood debut. And get to play a solid, character role.
Mogambo vs. Rambo: Why Iran should be in Bollywood
Ever wondered what's common between Mogambo and Iran? It might seem to be the unlikeliest of comparisons. Deep in prehistoric mountains, his cavernous palace accessible by helicopter alone, Mogambo leads a solitary existence. Flanked only by his armed coterie of battle-tested black cats, he hatches a plan to end world peace with a perpetual grimace. If that doesn't spell the bane of his evil personality to the youngest of children, his words will. He chooses one of two emotions: "khush hua", or the opposite. The viewers then know they are in the company of a calculating, shrewd and exacting mind.

There are plenty of Mogambo-States in international relations. Or that's what we've been led to believe.

That part, about ending world peace, isn't so dissimilar from what we would expect from the Islamic Republic of Iran. And maybe diplomats can learn a thing or two from new age filmmakers.

Because there's a Mogambo, the film needs a Rambo too. That's a muscular, all-American Sylvester Stallone, leading an honourable life - a resolved boxer and a loyal husband, who wins the world's respect for his fair-and-square method. It's impossible not to love him.

That kind of black-and-white filmmaking would simply not sell today. Something has changed. The film industry grew up.

In the Hollywood film 2012, the US doesn't valiantly save the world anymore. There is much more of an attempt to appear to be inclusive of other nations, corresponding no doubt to the US's own evolving demographic.

But diplomacy, perhaps, hasn't yet come of age from the heady days of the Cold War, where taking sides was supremely easy, and being neutral took courage. The 1990s were meant to usher in a high-integrated, globalised world, though the expectation was perhaps premature in retrospect. When the US navy warship shot down Iran Air flight 655 in 1988, George HW Bush had said, "I will never apologise for the United States. I don't care what the facts are."

There's a scene in The Dark Knight where Michael Caine's character explains the mind-workings of a complex character like the Joker. He illustrates that some people have no motivations whatsoever, no gain to make from their incendiary acts: "Some people just want to watch the world burn," he says. It bears an uncanny resemblance to what a senior EU intelligence official said in 2012: "Until recently it was possible to see why they were doing what they have been doing. Now it has become very unpredictable. It's very hard to see the logic behind ."

For the British and French too, entire States are typecast as rogue. Iran is a prime example, but not long ago Western interactions with Indians and Chinese too, were dismissive of their historicity, and lacked an appreciation in interactions with these longstanding civilisations. Nuanced films delve into the individual motivations of 'villains' and reason with viewers to understand how they have come to be as they are.

Although the new century held tremendous potential to reorient international relations with the burst of technology and communications, and the rise of trans-national bodies like ASEAN, what is actually seen is a revival of hardline diplomacy. In the aftermath of 9/11, it's become easier to say - reminiscent of choosing between the red and blue pill in The Matrix - that everyone can be neatly categorised as those with us or those against, ignoring that many of States actually juggle grey roles.

That's why a third or fourth line of thinking on Iran, such as India's, is so crucial. It's not only in our self-interest as far as energy security is concerned, but would reaffirm our non-aligned foreign policy globally. In addition, the risk of not countering the dominant US, EU and Israeli view is that it steadily reduces the space for dissent and disagreement.

The intellectual growth of the film industry shows that the hour is past for vapid, monolithic characters, who only play out a small spectrum of heightened emotions theatrically. The audience knows better. Films are convalescing into real life's grey zones, where most of us are. Having played multiple roles - part comic, part tragic - in the Western mind, perhaps it's time for Iran to make its own Bollywood debut. And get to play a solid, character role.

Just like rational, emphathic and seasoned cop Jim Gordon, India can help break some myths and engage with the States behind the sanctions as well as with Iran, by using trade and investments in IT, infrastructure and human resources. As with Inception, perhaps the time has come to plant an idea - three levels down in the Western subconscious. After all, it's only when one feels the kick and wakes out of sleep, that it's possible to construct a dialogue between Mogambo and Rambo.

Courtesy: Governance Now, March 9, 2013

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