Kissaa Kursee Kaa (Story of The Throne) – 1978, Hindi

-Manjula Jonnalagadda

“The punishment which the wise suffer, who refuse to take part in government, is to live under the government of worse men.” – Plato

          Kissaa Kursee Kaa is a political satire film made by Amrit Nahata in 1978. The film was first made in 1975. It was banned in India at that time. Sanjay Gandhi son of former Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi destroyed the reels of the films. Amrit Nahta retained the script, and remade the film in 1978. It played for a week in the theaters and was a failure at the boxoffice.

          Amrit Nahata started his career as a translator. He translated works of Maxim Gorky, Joseph Stalin, Lenin, etc from English to Hindi. He was also elected to parliament thrice, twice as a member of Indian National Congress and once as a member of Janata party. He made three films Sant Gyaneshwar, Raaton ka Raajaa and Kissaa Kursee Kaa which was his final film.

          The film is set in a fictional country called Jan Gan Desh. Meera, a socialite, is asked to run for the president of a club. She gets into the challenge with the members of the club that she can make anybody president of the country. She finds Gangu who is an assistant to a snake oil salesman. Meera and her partner Gopal coach Gangu to make him presentable and rename him Gangaram. Meera and Gopal make Gangaram woo Janata who is a personification of an ordinary citizen. They buy out the opposition and as a result Gangu becomes the president. He appoints Meera and Gopal as his cabinet secretaries. 

          Gangu is initially a novice and makes a few mistakes. He takes to politics quickly. He becomes more and more reliant on his own ideas and his chief bureaucrat Deshpal. How things unfold and how the story of the throne plays out makes the rest of the film.

          The film is scathing satire on Indira Gandhi, Sanjay Gandhi, and their policies. Even though Indira Gandhi came from a powerful political family, it was rumored that she was selected by Kamraj Nadar. She became a leader on her own right very quickly. 

          Gangaram’s adapts the slogan is Garibi Hataao (remove poverty) as Indira Gandhi did in 1971. He also dreams of building small car called Janata car, which was a dream project of Sanjay Gandhi. When Gangaram’s election is declared fraudulent by the court, he declares an emergency and suspends human rights. Similar thing happened with Indira Gandhi as well.

          The film also satirizes bureaucracy and corruption. Gangaram decides that there is a rat menace in the country. Every one who kills a rat would get 100 rupees. The government official takes 10% of the fees from anyone, and approves the payment. The person who paid off has to go through several windows to finally receive the payment. The government in those days was known for mindless bureaucracy. 

          Janata is at the receiving end of everything and she is also mute. Due to Garibi Hataao, she loses her house. She does not get her ration of goods even after standing in the line for hours. When she goes to complain, no one listens to her. Gangaram is interested in her only at election time. In the pre-climax scene, Deshpal rapes her, when asked he says I did exactly what every body does. It is the ordinary citizen who bears the brunt of the bad policies. 

          Even though The film is a riff on politics of the 1970s and the Indira Gandhi era, it is still very relevant. Politics is a dirty business. Everybody wants power. Many people do anything for that.

          As good satire as the film is, it suffers from many goofs and lack of production values. However, the acting is very good! This is the actress Surekha Sikri’s debut film, she is excellent in it. So is the rest of the cast, Manohar Singh as Gangaram and Shabana Azmi as Janata.

          One of the features of the film is a song that plays intermittently about politics. It is enacted using different forms of traditional dances of India. Jaidev who is my favorite composer of Hindi film music excelled as usual!

          Watch this film, it will make you laugh, it will also scare you!


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