The New Old Bihar

01 October 2012

FOR MOST INDIANS BORN OR BRED in any of our metropolises, Bihar can be a place of amusing oddities: a state that is often embroiled in its own paradoxes and conflicting narratives. According to one narrative, it is a place better understood through the lenses of Bollywood filmmakers, topping which list is Prakash Jha, whose movies, notably Gangajal and Apaharan, portray Bihar as infested with lawlessness, where corrupt politicians and policemen work in a nexus with a small coterie of businessmen (most of who have made money through some manner of underhand extraction).

According to the other narrative, the state has had the unaccustomed luxury in recent years of some great press under the chief ministership of Nitish Kumar; Bihar seems to be taking confident steps towards development. Law and order, women’s rights and the quality of roads, the abysmal state of which for decades provided fodder for relentless bashing by the media, have gradually morphed into symbols of an emergent Bihar.

Nonetheless, old prejudices die hard, and it doesn’t help when a filmmaker of a later generation, Anurag Kashyap, does a revisionist take with a movie like Gangs of Wasseypur (1&2), which reinforces the old perceptions.

Anant Nath is the Editor of The Caravan.