Lage Raho Munnabhai is perhaps the only movie that I have watched twice, the second time in the company of all my staff in the office.
The only matinee show on the office premises enjoyed with popcorns and coke was a pleasant surprise for all of my colleagues. Entire staff watched the movie without caring for hierarchy that prevents a managing director from breaking bread with his peon. And all this without any of us feeling guilty of having wasted precious official hours that are meant for file (mis)handling and being tossed around by the system.
A serious and socially relevant message was thus conveyed in a lighter vein. The screening on the office premises was part of a continuing attempt that most of my official colleagues would find wasteful and even laughable.
A few years back in my earlier avatar as the chief of a sick PSU, I had decided to write a piece, titled ‘The travails of a PSU chief”, for the op-ed page of a national daily. But saner (not exactly wiser) counsel prevailed on me and I dropped the idea.
Even objective criticism of the government machinery while being part of the system is often considered ‘treason’. This thought was brought home to me by many of my “sarkari” colleagues. That perhaps made me abandon the idea.
The screening of the movie was, therefore, also an attempt to reduce the travails, especially those inflicted by people who work for me.
The USP of “Lago Raho Munnabhai” is that it conveys a very powerful and socially relevant message in a lighter vein.. Its social relevance is undisputed, but I have strong reservations whether the message would be taken seriously by anyone at all, especially by those who hail from the privileged sarkari sector.
That Gandhi was a leader far ahead of his times whose philosophy was relevant in the past, is relevant now and will be relevant in future , suddenly dawned on me after the show was over. It is always nice to see nice things happening to nice people on a nice screen, but majority of us always end up sermonising that real life is different from the reel life.
It is, therefore, wiser to be crafty than being nice in the present times. Munnabhai, however, left everyone thinking. Should we not always be on the right side of truth? Should we not always be ready to pay the price for all our deeds and misdeeds? Should we not always have genuine concern for all human beings, irrespective of colour caste, creed or place in the society?
Is the service of society not the primary responsibility of sarkari officials? There is a scene in the movie when a girl walks out of a restaurant and also her suitor, only because of the way her suitor addresses the waiter. Gandhi’s litmus test that would separate a good human being from someone not- so- good is how the person treats someone from the underprivileged section of the society.
Having watched the drama for the last 25 years as to who comes on the line first and how someone needs to be addressed as “My Dear” or ‘Dear Shri” despite at times there being an inconsequential hierarchical difference between the two blokes, I am convinced that almost all of us from the hallowed sarkari sector would miserably fail this test.
Therefore, this screening was also an attempt to make my men imbibe some thoughts of Gandhi that may perhaps make them better human beings and, in the process, enhance their contribution to the society as members of the privileged human race. (The writer is Managing Director of the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation)