Revisiting Govind Nihalani’s Party 37 Years Later – How Much Has Changed?
Govind Nihalani's Party is a satirical film that takes a look at the social strata of people and the role of art in social situations. Looking at the bourgeois who live in their art, away from reality, the movie questions art and the artists' role towards social commitment.
The story begins with the celebration of poet Divakar Barve for his contribution to Indian arts and cinema. A special party is thrown in his honour where the big names of Bombay's film world arrive and spend an evening with actors, poets, writers and the so-called intellectuals. This party is much like a party you would see today. Stars together talking about the world through a romanticised lens. Nihalani depicts the characters as those who seek stimulating conversations but who wish to do nothing about it. The freshers in the industry feel drawn to glamour and want to become the pioneers of the field, and spend time discussing the writers, culture and the way we see characters on screen.
An example of this is when Vrinda, one of the socialites at the party, reprimands Barve for donating his money from the literary award to leprosy patients. She comments, "Will one gesture of humanity solve the problem?" This question, which is 37 years old, persists today as the role of the rich and those who are celebrated in society is analysed.
Each conversation in the party alludes to the one missing member at the party – Amrit. A celebrated poet, Amrit decided to give up writing to become an activist and live with members of the tribal community and work for their welfare. According to him, "Poetry defines expression as existence. The words emanate power and one must wield the power to fight injustice and lies."
But the privileged members at the party hold a different view. Barve feels that the social commitment shown by Amrit is a fad. Some feel that he is wasting his time out there fighting a lost cause. Others feel that Amrit just didn't have anything else to write for the world. Ignorant of real-world events, these people condone those who take a stand on social issues.
These conversations reveal the stark differences between the artists and the art connoisseurs in themselves. While they appreciate art, they fail to recognise the touch of the human perspective one needs in the art. Despite understanding that rotten politics, cynical politicians, apathy and indifference plague them, these artists find themselves liquored in their bourgeois existence and pseudo-intellectual conversations, similar to those of a Brown Sahib.
The hollow conversations take a political turn when Avinash, a journalist, comes to meet the family. He was one of the last members to see Amrit. As a journalist, he says that he merely seeks the real story out there rather than to dissect lives to make them sound glossy. Avinash talks of how the privileged do not understand the reality, due to their lack of interest and coverage. Newspapers do not dare to publish pieces against the government. Those who write poetry do not even understand how others live. People are afraid to take a moral stand as artists, for it has the power to influence millions, and thus, they make the cowardly choice – to separate art from politics.
According to Avinash, "Art and politics are inseparable. Every form of art tht can make contact with the people is a form of weapon in social-political conflicts." Each time a person of influence chooses not to speak of oppression, they are taking a stand. Protests are deep.
Many of the great works of art in the 20th century have been shaped by a sense of protest. When artists express a particularly conscious decision and sensibility, a movement is born within them and thus has the power to reach the people. While one can argue that the artists' personal humane emotions do not emanate from politics, one must not forget the power an artist holds. In any political system, the artist and the human within must come face to face and accept that speaking out against injustice is the priority.
Many desire to become the intellectual elite for praise and fame, but the truth lies in taking action. The movie compels you to take the side of action, rather than be a person of words alone. Years after the movie was released, we have undergone tremendous changes – social, political and economic. Even as our ideologies change, humans hold one idea at the pinnacle – we are a global community. We have survived over the years due to our shared knowledge, empathy and, importantly, the stories we tell.
It is essential that as artists, we tell the right stories, and always fight injustice and oppression. After all, the personal is political.