On December 20, 2013, two landmark events happened that changed the contours of their respective landscapes. The two are as disparate as chalk and cheese, yet have an influence on each other in ways we cannot imagine. On this day, Dhoom 3 was released across the nation and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) got formal recognition as a state party by the Election Commission.
In a sense, both are the third in their respective franchises. Dhoom 3 is the third installment of the Dhoom series and AAP emerged as a strong third force in the political landscape in Delhi.
Both have broken older records and set new ones. Dhoom 3 is the most expensive Bollywood film of all times, made on a budget of Rs1.5 billion. It also became the highest grossing Bollywood film of all time – domestically and worldwide – with box office collections touching Rs500 crore. The newly formed AAP shook up the political order in the Delhi assembly elections by garnering 28 seats out of 70 and Arvind Kejriwal defeated the three-time chief minister Sheila Dixit by over 25,000 votes.
Both Dhoom 3 and AAP have passionate followers and critics ready to defend and dismiss respectively the two phenomena. “How can Aamir, the thinking actor, agree to act in a film whose plebian script is full of glaring plotholes?” is the grouse about Aamir. Dhoom fans feel cheated that there is no actual heist in the film whose raison d’etre is the creative genius of the thief and the subsequent chase. There is another set who feel it is a ‘double dose’ with Aamir raising the bar on entertainment and action. They are delighted with the ‘double surprise’ just before the interval that some find trite. In other words, this segment is not prepared to be critical of what they watched.
AAP on the other hand is experiencing a similar dual love of the electorate. “How could Arvind have gone back on his words of ‘no support to, or from anyone’ to accepting support from the party steeped in corruption that he was dead against from the start?” is one question being asked by erstwhile Kejriwal/AAP supporters who feel let down. There are others who root for his programme of corruption-free, inclusive, direct democracy. They go out on a limb to defend Kejriwal and beg critics to give him time to prove his credentials.
The similarities do not end here. But why the comparison in the first place? A new research published in the December edition of Social Science Quarterly, a peer-reviewed academic journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the Southwestern Social Science Association has reported some interesting discoveries.
The research found that films can have a greater influence on a person’s political opinions than advertising or news reports. A team of political scientists at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana set out to explore the power of political messages in popular films and found that they “possess the ability to change attitudes, especially on issues that are unframed by the media”.
Around 300 students at Notre Dame – half of whom said they regarded themselves as conservative – were surveyed on their political views, shown a film, then questioned again. Some were asked to watch a “control” movie seen as having some underlying liberal political leanings, while others were shown As Good As It Gets with Jack Nicholson.
Those who watched the films with both subtle and strong liberal messages were likely to experience leftward shifts in attitude, regardless of their positions before, especially when they were “not prepared” to be critical. Which is to say, less obvious political messages – often originating in sentimental films like As Good As It Gets with its healthcare storyline could linger in people’s minds long enough to influence their political leanings.
The Dhoom 3 plot revolves around a minion bringing down the indomitable powers of the cold and calculative monoliths like Western Bank of Chicago. AAP too is seen as responsible for challenging and bringing down the might of the established political parties who, as Kejriwal puts it, “shall learn from AAP how politics is done”. Clever chicanery there in both Dhoom 3 and the words of Kejriwal.
Dhoom 3 deviated from the Dhoom format by not being a movie about a cleverly planned heist but a cleverly hidden con (the lead character’s twin brother). AAP too deviated from the current format of coalition “governance” to form a new framework of coalition “politics” where AAP calls the shots rather than the putative coalition partner [some even call AAP, the Congress Party’s secret twin brother].
The successful performances of both have been powered by technology. Aamir’s bike can turn into a speedboat and even a submarine. AAP’s ground efforts got a double boost from television and social media that attracted support from even outside the country.
Both have given blockbuster performances that will raise expectations from Dhoom’s fourth installment and AAP’s performance in Lok Sabha polls this year. Of course, what the outcome will be is impossible to say at this stage. I would go a step further from the research to say that despite the Saifai Mahotsav controversy, politics and films influence each other equally. Our response to both as true aficionados is the correct prism to see the changes our society is undergoing. Maybe what hit home in both cases was an aam script for the aam aadmi.
(The writer is founder and CEO of The Key Consumer Diagnostics Pvt Ltd, a Mumbai-based qualitative research company)