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Dark knight in a blue turban

If Manmohan Singh is mirrored by any character in The Dark Knight, it’s the mild-mannered Alfred, butler and guardian of Bruce Wayne aka Batman, writes Indrajit Hazra.

india Updated: Jul 26, 2008 22:29 IST
Indrajit Hazra

Show me an anally retentive, convoluted Sunday column that starts with the old ‘Show me a... and I’ll show you’ rhetorical trick and I’ll show you a Prime Minister who sacrificed his personal integrity to push through what he believes to be something ‘right’ in the larger scheme of things. That alone has made me start viewing Manmohan Singh the way the Taliban views Bible-thumping Christian fundamentalists, or the Joker views Batman: with grudging respect.

The last time I knew anyone,who had done something like this was when I allowed a classmate, to cheat from my answer sheet in a Class 7 biology exam. I was caught, and subsequently, given a zero for ‘abetting a crime’. But in the process I stopped being a namby-pamby who hyperventilated about grades. By serving a larger purpose — underlining the fact that getting good marks in tests is just another self-righteous way of showing how superior you are from others — I came out tainted but content and respected by my peers for finally having grown a pair of gonads.

Last week’s two-day-long ‘endless’ debate (was there anyone in the House or outside who was converted from their earlier position on the nuclear deal by any of the arguments?), topped by that raspberry of money being waved in a non-mujra situation, and then the footnote of the UPA’s victory in the trust vote, would have marked the most exciting point in my otherwise, stomach-churningly boring week were it not for one thing: the much shorter but immensely more gratifying spectacle, The Dark Knight. And after watching Christopher Nolan’s Gothic cinematic masterpiece — in which the most interesting character’s catchline, ‘Why so serious?’, matches my family motto — I viewed the next six days through the prism of this latest Batman movie.

The character of the Joker, a leering, slurping demonish man with his own demons, is the carrier-cum-generator of total disorder. He’s the sort of bloke, whose idea of chaos is not so much about a cyclone in Colorado being the result of a butterfly in an Amazonian rainforest flapping its wings, as much it as about Manmohan Singh being in a tearing hurry with the nuclear deal, so that Washington can give the green signal to Israel to bomb Iran, so that New Delhi doesn’t have to tie itself into knots while explaining why it’s getting closer to the US. If you didn’t understand that, that’s exactly what I meant by the Joker’s totally unhinged theory of cause-and-effect that’s scarily similar to that of Karat and his droogs.

But, before you think that all this is a devilish set-up to come up with a fresh description of the Smashing New Manmohan Singh (‘Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it Montek Singh Ahluwalia? No, it’s Supermanmohan!’), you’re wrong. If Singh is mirrored by any character in The Dark Knight, it’s the mild-mannered Alfred, butler and guardian of Bruce Wayne aka Batman. In one scene, Alfred tells Bruce how as a soldier during the Korean War, he was after a vicious, marauding bandit who was impossible to catch or kill. Not only was he hiding in an inpenetrable forest, but to make matters worse, the bandit had no lust for the riches he robbed, no weakness for lucre; he robbed for the pure ‘ideological’ fun of it. How does one deal with such a man?

“So did you get him, Alfred?” asks Bruce, who is having serious problems of his own in catching the Joker who also, like Alfred’s bandit, has no motive for spreading anarchy and mayhem — except for simply spreading anarchy and mayhem.

Alfred tells him that they did kill him. “How?” asks Bruce, to which Alfred replies wearily: “We burnt the forest down.” We can’t believe that this gentle elderly dearie could have once napalmed a forest simply to kill someone who was wreaking havoc and holding a townspeople to ransom. One day we’ll forget that the nice, Jeeves-like Manmohan, in the last leg of his prime ministership, also had to burn a forest down to stub out agents of chaos. But till then, here’s a wager for him: if Shibu Soren becomes a Minister in your Cabinet, you step down as PM. If Shibu Soren doesn’t become a Minister in your Cabinet, I stop writing this column.