What Cinema Can Teach Us About the Constitution

Films and popular culture form an integral part of our lives. We, The People (WTP) – a network of organisations – is thus using these mediums to spread sensitivity about our duties and rights.

In one scene in the film Dabangg 2, police officer Chulbul Pandey hits and punches a gangster so badly that he ends up killing him on the spot. Several of us applauded when that happened, and perhaps re-watched the scene several times – but was it right to kill somebody in violation of due process? Do you think we, as a nation, often tend to forget our basic constitutional ethics?

We, The People (WTP) – a network of organisations – conducts workshops and training programmes to raise these kinds of questions. Since films and popular culture form an integral part of our lives, the group uses it as a medium to help spread sensitivity about our duties and rights.

As part of their year-long campaign ‘Mission 70’, WTP will release a video series every two months to sensitise young citizens about the constitution. On January 25, they uploaded the first series titled Constitution in Cinema on their partnership platform ‘Citizen Adda’. The series includes video clips from popular films and online shows to trigger reflection on how we violate or practice constitutional values.

It contains clips from films like Dabangg, Newton, Harry Potter and several others ending on a common note to “think, reflect and act”. While clips from Dabangg and Drishyam talk about respecting due process, those from Harry Potter prompts us to ponder over the idea of enslavement and how it violates the basic principle of equality.

The protest clips from Rang De Basanti and voting scenes from Newton teach us about the basic idea of freedom of thought and expression.

Vinita Singh, a trustee at WTP, believes that popular culture is the best way to engage with those falling in the age group of 15-31 years. Talking about the influence of films, she said, “Cinema is a big part of our lives. It entertains us but also has the capacity to change quite a few of our behaviours. And that’s why we decided to pick up popular clips from Bollywood and Hollywood films where a certain value of the constitution is coming into question.”

While there are films that blatantly go against core constitutional values, there are few others which also tells us to respect the ideas of justice and equality. “Both kinds of films exist. We must learn how to watch films critically and question what we see,” adds Singh.

Also read: We Need to Teach Our Children About the Indian Constitution

The organisation, through this initiative, doesn’t mean to teach the nitty-gritty of the lawmaking process but to simply compel people to reflect on what they like to believe and what they actually believe.

The video series hereafter will incorporate other relevant issues like elections, freedom, social justice and citizenship in an effort to make the constitution part of our general discourse.

The organisation also works with the Delhi government as a knowledge partner to reach out to school students in the capital. Recently, the state government decided to incorporate the constitution in the school curriculum in a rather interesting format.

The constitution is not a separate entity – distinct from our everyday lives. It is about the basic ideas of equality and justice which we often complicate. Perhaps, we would have understood these values better if Chulbul Pandey had taken the gangster to the police station to duly probe the matter, instead of taking the law in his hands.