Enemy of the people

Just saw a film by Satyajit Ray based on Henrik Ibsen’s 1882 play “Enemy of the People”.

The script of this film is set in small town India. The central character in the plot is a doctor, Asok Gupta, who has found a simple ‘truth’ about the existence of disease causing bacteria in the water from the well of a temple.  He wants to publicise the report to create pressure on  the authorities to close the temple temporarily and purify the water to save the people from disease.  Purifying the water, however, will need resources that the local government may not be willing to allocate.  While the film is many things, but in some ways it is also the story of how a potential reform conceived in ‘technical space’ gets into trouble in the religo-political space in small town India. Of course, it can, and does, happen everywhere. I thought this film spoke directly to my last post.

If you are interested in more details about the film go to Ganashatru (Enemy of the People): A film by Satyajit Ray :: SatyajitRay.org.

The name of the original character in Ibsen’s play is Thomas Stockton.  While going through the play’s wikipedia page I came across this line by Stockton [on truth].  I loved it and so am copying it or readers here

Truths are by no means the wiry Methuselahs some people think them. A normally constituted truth lives—let us say—as a rule, seventeen or eighteen years; at the outside twenty; very seldom more. And truths so patriarchal as that are always shockingly emaciated.

About Irfan

I am an independent researcher and blogger interested in everything under the sun, but more so in the philosophy and history of education and education reform generally, and specifically in the so-called post colonial contexts

3 Responses to “Enemy of the people”

  1. That reminds me a day in childhood, when my mamoo took me along to masjid Wazir khan in downtown, Peshawar for Juma prayers. The mosque is well known for its architecture and white marble construction. I saw a pond in the centre of the mosque’s courtyard where people were cleaning them for namaz(wuzoo, as we call it). there were colourfull fish in the pond. On four sides of the pond, people grabbed water in their hands and washed their hands,faces,arms and feet. The waste water was disposed in a side-by open channel, but a part of it went back into the pond. I had a wound inside my nose (in fact a fresh cut), so I was hesitant to perform wuzoo for fear of getting infection. Came to my rescue my Jahil mamoo, who said, if anything is declared “Paak” by Jahil Ulema, then I need not fear. The memory fades here, if I splashed the water into my nostrils or not, but the clash of religion and science began a few inches above my nose.

  2. From a different perspective, on the effectiveness of government policies, especially related to development, and the strange implementation rules it can lead to….see the movie ‘Well done Abba’ as well. It is also an Indian movie and a fairly recent one. Here is the wiki on the film

    • Faisal thanks for suggesting ‘well done abba’.
      Ray has done a fantastic job of adapting ‘enemy of the people’. Highlights the drama that is set in motion when ‘scientific or techincal’ and ‘other’ sources of truth must gather enough political clout for them to both affect or resist change.
      I will try and get ‘well done Abba’.

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