Ab Tak Chhappan is an important movie in filmography of Nana Patekar. In this movie he is depicted as an honest and tough police officer. The dramatic turn of events and Nana Patekar’s handling of them demonstrate the extent he could go to uphold his values and sense of duty. Given the success of this movie, no one was surprised when its sequel Ab Tak Chhappan 2 was released. In this movie, he was called by the state home minister Vikram Gokhale to ‘clean’ the city of its criminal elements. However, all is not what it seems; Nana Patekar has his moment of disillusionment, and he decides to set things right in his own way. I am not going to write a review of either of these movies. My interest is in a particular scene where Vikram Gokhale tells Nana Patekar how the latter was used for Gokhale’s political ambitions. This scene was a turning point in the movie and built up the climax of Ab Tak Chhappan 2. Watch the following clip (if the video does not play, click on the “Watch on YouTube” link given therein and play the video from 1:16:24 to 1:20:30):
If you have seen enough Indian movies, you must be aware that movie sets depicting government offices show walls decorated by portraits of Gandhi, Nehru, Subhas, Azad, Bhagat Singh, Patel, Ambedkar, Indira Gandhi. You would hardly ever come across any instance of a portrait of a scientist, except Kalam (that too because of his being a President and not for his contributions as a scientist). Ab Tak Chhappan 2 is the only occasion that I have come across which showed two leading physicists of the 20th century. First is Indian physicist Prof. Satyendra Nath Bose, best known for his work which provided foundation of Bose-Einstein statistics. This is the statistics that applies for indistinguishable particles having zero or integral spin. You can ascertain his legacy by the fact that British physicist Paul Dirac named the particles which followed this statistics as Bosons — with a capital B. The other portrait is of Indian American physicist Prof. S. Chandrasekhar, Nobel Prize winner (1983). He worked on various problems like “stellar structure, white dwarfs, stellar dynamics, stochastic process, radiative transfer, the quantum theory of the hydrogen anion, hydrodynamic and hydromagnetic stability, turbulence, equilibrium and the stability of ellipsoidal figures of equilibrium, general relativity, mathematical theory of black holes and theory of colliding gravitational waves” (Source: Wikipedia). And yes, he is the person after whom the Chandrasekhar Limit and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory are named. It is further interesting because if the purpose was only to show scientists, then Einstein and Hawking are much more familiar faces to general audience.
In an earlier post, I had discussed a scene from the movie 15 Park Avenue in which Shabana Azmi played the character of a physics professor. The set depicting her study room had walls decorated with portraits of Einstein.
One reader posed an objection to the portrayal of Shabana Azmi’s room, especially the display of Einstein’s photos. His argument was that scientists rarely put photos of other scientists in their offices; on the contrary, they prefer awards and souvenirs, drawings, family photographs and so on. Though the scene he is referring to and which was the topic of discussion in that post, showed Shabana’s study room in home and not her office, still the argument remains equally valid. On careful consideration of the reader’s argument, I realised that it is indeed so. Though my observation in that post was appreciated, the interpretation was not completely correct. Showing physics books is fine, especially if they constitute reference material. But photos of Einstein? Well. In my own science career spanning nearly two decades, I haven’t ever come across any scientist who has placed a photograph or portrait of any scientist in his office or home, not even Einstein. Yes, indeed, nearly all of them display group photos of some conferences/workshop/symposium, awards, drawings made by their children, sometimes photos of their son/daughter, calendar, and that is all. Some of the professors have very kindly given space to my artworks in their offices. But no photos of any scientist. In libraries, auditorium, committee room, corridors, portraits might be there, but not in scientists’ personal offices. On the other hand, laboratories nearly always display posters brought back from conferences. If such is the scene at the institute, how can we expect them to do differently in their home? In my own home, I have displayed one portrait of Yvonne Catterfeld (earlier there was Jessica Alba), painting by Prof Amitabh Sengupta that he had given me as gift, calendar, white board, clock, book shelf (carrying books on diverse topics and in various languages; science books are there … but those which I never read), and some show-pieces given to me as gift. So the idea in 15 Park Avenue was good, but flawed — considering real world scenario.
As a physicist myself, I got more and more restless. How is it possible that absolutely nobody noticed this incongruity? There must be someone somewhere to be blamed for this lapse. Though it is not necessary, yet the ideal ‘scapegoats’ must have had familiarity with Physics from their college education. So I picked up the names of all the people involved in the production of this movie and checked their profiles, especially their educational qualifications. I started with actor Vikram Gokhale, then producers Raju Chada and Gopal Dalvi, director Aejaz Gulab, art director Uday Prakash Singh, assistant art director Sachin Dabhade, cinematographer Siddharth More, in that order. However, I was completely disappointed at the negative results. Finally, I arrived at someone noteworthy in screenwriter Nilesh Girkar who had done graduation in Physics from University of Mumbai. I cannot assure you that he is the person who should be held responsible for this error, or at least not noticing it. However, in the absence of any other more plausible candidate, I would prefer putting the blame on him. Nevertheless, I do agree that however incongruous the set may appear, this simple act has introduced a good and welcome change by bringing scientists into limelight. It is indeed the need of the day. It might be a small gesture, which might have in all probability been overlooked by most of the viewers anyway; but in any case it deserves heavy applause.
Note 1: The whole discussion and argument rests on the assumption that the set was designed and arranged by the movie staff. There is a probability that the portraits were already there when the room was procured for shooting purpose. But then, I still feel it to be very unlikely.
Note 2: I came across one Telugu movie which showed portrait of S. Ramanujam in an orphanage. I would share the details with you when I am able to recall it.
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