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Fundamentalism doesn't belong to any one religion: Konkona Sen Sharma

Asked what national incidents from their formative years influenced their thoughts on country and society, Sen Sharma said for her it was the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh when she was a teenager.
Last Updated : 16 June 2024, 17:08 IST

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Mumbai: Actor-filmmaker Konkona Sen Sharma on Sunday said fundamentalism is "its own beast" and doesn't belong to any religion in particular.

She was speaking at the launch of cinematographer Nusrat F Jafri's book This Land We Call Home, published by Penguin Random House. The event was also attended by writer-filmmaker Varun Grover and Svetlana Naudiyal, programming director, APAC, MUBI.

Asked what national incidents from their formative years influenced their thoughts on country and society, Sen Sharma said for her it was the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh when she was a teenager.

The actor, daughter of veteran filmmaker Aparna Sen, said her mother made her write a report in Bengali and English on the 1992 incident.

"For me, it is Babri Masjid (demolition), December 6, 1992... One of the chief things that came across from that (report) was that our fundamentalism doesn't belong to any one religion. It's its own beast. Because of that, it was easy to trace other events from there.

"That was the first time I was actually so conscious about a political event. Before that, I think (it was) '84 and all (anti-Sikh riots). We were young, so we don't remember some stories that one has heard. And, these are not taught in schools. These are conversations which are highly charged even within families and family friends," Sen Sharma said during the Q&A session moderated by Naudiyal here.

Jafri, known for lensing Hansal Mehta's Shahid and the Zakir Khan-starrer series Chacha Vidhayak Hain Humare, also echoed Sharma's sentiments on the Babri Masjid demolition.

The cinematographer said she was 12 at the time and grew up in Lucknow, which has a fair representation of Muslims.

"Muslims and Christians were always a minority even in Lucknow where there's a good representation of Muslims and Christians. But even then, we had a good coexistence. It was Babri Masjid which started these, like Konkona (said), very charged, heated, passionate discussions even among students.

"These were discussions where children were listening to their parents with each family's ideology coming in... We just went in for one or two months of curfew. We were off from school but the conversations had started. As a preteen, I was aware this was an important event," Jafri added.

For Grover, it was in the late 1990s when he heard about an incident of a Ganesha idol "drinking milk" in Delhi. Even as a student, the writer said he found it hard to believe that so many people could fall for "a simple sixth standard trick".

"For me, that was the day which told me that we are a nation of negative scientific temperament... That gave me a reality check about how to navigate the world and society.

"For a nation obsessed with engineering, sciences and being the knowledge centre of the world... And then saying, okay, it is something divine... But it shaped me in a very particular way (about) how to deal with the world," said the writer, who studied civil engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology (BHU) Varanasi.

In her book, Jafri has quoted US-based Dalit writer Sujatha Gidla where she talks about how caste is a social issue and not necessarily a religious issue.

Asked how hopeful they were about contemporary India in terms of casteism, Grover said while he partially agreed with Gidla, everything in India, including food, was a "religious issue".

"Caste is a religious plus social issue. I don't think we should be hopeless. If you lose hope, then there is nothing to fight for... Another thing that gives me hope is that powerful people in India are very inefficient and lazy, so that's a blessing. That tells us if you are disciplined and honest enough, you can turn the tide," added the writer, who explored the caste-class conflict in the 2015 film "Masaan".

Sen Sharma said she comes from a "privileged" background, so she was not that aware of caste issues.

"Many young people think caste is not a problem anymore. If you don't know the problem, if you cannot acknowledge it, it's a real issue because then you don't know how to deal with it... I get to hear a lot of things from my son nowadays.

"What he's picking up here and there... We have to constantly be vigilant about what young people are thinking. In so many privileged liberal families, the dishes are separate for staff or help. It's a caste issue, but nobody knows why," said the actor, who played a woman from a lower caste in Geeli Pucchi, a segment of Netflix anthology Ajeeb Daastaans (2021).

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Published 16 June 2024, 17:08 IST

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