This article was written by P. Ganga Mohan as part of Celluloid Tales' Readers Write initiative.
Movies as a form of art depict various realities of life. And it is when one connects with the movie that s/he appreciates it. Sometimes movies are appreciated for depicting some hard truths of life, which due to the traditions and cultures that a society follows are hard to digest.
Arjun Reddy is one such movie that showed me the hard truth of what it means to live a true democratic life. Now what does a true democratic life mean? According to me it is to be able to live a free life without having to conform to societal norms, that carry the baggage of societal pressure. Unfortunately a majority of us fall victims to this pressure. Let us now explore the situations where Arjun lives life on his own terms and is not ready to conform to the rules of the society.
The Aftermath of the Football Match The ﬁrst scene is after the football ﬁght when his professor is using him as an example of how not to be. He explains to the professor that he chose to do what he felt was right and that meant protecting his self respect. He also insists that he controlled his instincts keeping the reputation of the college (society) in mind. But could no longer maintain silence as it meant compromising himself. Doing so he finds satisfaction. Of course why won't you be satisﬁed when you've fought for your self respect instead of losing it for a match? How many of us stand up to the bully or the oppressor in order to protect our self respect.? It starts from school itself when we keep mum and accept whatever scolding is hurled at us. Later on in life subconsciously we don't ﬁnd the strength to stand up for ourselves and what we believe in.
Arjun's Trial by the Medical Council
The second scene that according to me reﬂects all our lives is the court scene. The one where Arjun knows that he is being let off by corrupt means. He is dismayed and wants to be punished for his mistake. Arjun felt that the one and only thing that belonged to him in life was his profession. Breaking the trust of the patient meant he didn't deserve to continue in the profession. Breaking the trust also meant he let himself down.
What else can we claim to be ours rightfully except for the job that we have? Don't we all wait for that ﬁnal year of graduation to just get a job and start earning? Why? Because we all know deeply in our hearts that making our own money gives you the highest kind of freedom. You don't have to rely on others. You are free to make your own decisions on what what you want to do with it. Finally, doesn't the society judge you by your job? There, another deep rooted subconscious habit that we've developed.
Arjun's abhorrence of the caste system
The third scene is when Arjun tells his friend Shiva, how cruel the society is to still follow the caste system that was started ages ago. Due to this caste system, this generation is not able to make its own choices. Even when it comes to marriage which is one of the most important decisions in life for a majority of people. What is the use of claiming to be in a democracy, when you can't even choose your life partner, due to age old traditions and societal pressures? How many of us are ready to educate our parents or relatives that all these are age old traditions that need to go? It's surely better to live by the written constitution than by unwritten traditions. At least the constitution guarantees you the right to recourse when you're denied your rights.
When the lawyer tells Arjun's brother that no one can be so free spirited in a democracy, it set me thinking. Isn't democracy truly about having a free spirited life? Why should one tailor his/her
decisions to ﬁt societal norms? Why can't we live a life based on the true spirit of the constitution, that guarantees freedom and liberty? Don't we all look to the West and dream of having such freedom? To do what you want? Choose whom you want to spend life with? Lead a simple but happy life without any need to ﬁt in to the societal norms of accumulating assets to prove you're leading a happy life? Have we ever taken a decision that is truly our own? Doesn't the thought "what will others think" subconsciously play on in our mind? It's only when we can get rid of this question that we can truly live a free-spirited life.
I would be considered naïve to think that we can truly lead such a free-spirited life, while living in a society. It is for this reason too that Arjun's father says that when one goes deep in any subject in life, ﬁnally what remains is a zero. And that was the subject that Arjun choose to study. What it meant to live life on one's own terms? With his life as an experiment. This singular thought of ﬁnding the courage and ability to lead a truly free-spirited life played subconsciously in my mind and drove me to fall in love with the movie.
The movie though a huge success in terms of performance, critical and box-office, received a lot of criticism for celebrating misogyny. That aspect has been discussed in detail. However, I just wish we learn some subtle untold lessons that play right in font of our eyes but require some thought. Hopefully, we don't fail in that aspect.