Mamu hoga tera baap!
Salute to our Mumbai police
Mamu! Pandu! In my Mumbai lexicon, Mamu is someone you can fool easily into believing what you say. Pandu is almost the same – easy to trick. Many other memes have been attributed to the police force over the years. Our movie depictions of the police force have only helped in adding to the disparaging impressions that we carry of them. Of course, over the last decade, we have become fans of movies glorifying the honest and the righteous officer. Movies no longer project super cops battling hundreds of goons single-handedly. We see mature characterisations – ACP Ajay Singh Rathod of Sarfarosh, for example.
While movies are attempting to bring about a re-scripting of our impressions of the police, the Covid-19 virus has successfully managed to showcase to society the mettle
our police is made of.
This piece is a gratitude-laden salute to the Mumbai police who are out there risking their lives as we sit home, safe and secure.
Celluloid projections of the police are but broad-brush strokes, and often presented as caricatures. But, the image of the policeman is not a total figment of imagination. Much of it is grounded in the everyday experience of the citizen.
Policemen have made for some of the most memorable protagonists of Indian cinema.
I have seen the rude, aggressive, honest cop, the corrupt cop, and the flamboyant hero cop. The pendulum of my memories of police portrayals in movies swings from Havaldar Ratan Singh (Sanjeev Kumar) in Manoranjan, an innocent cop on foot patrol in a notorious red light area, to IG Meera Deshpande (Tabu) in Drishyam.
My first indelible impression of an honest, courageous police officer is of Inspector Vijay Khanna (Amitabh Bachchan) kicking the chair on which Sher Khan (Pran) is about to perch himself, and saying, “Jab tak baithne ko na kaha jaaye sharafat se khade raho … yeh police station hai … tumhare baap ka ghar nahi”.
The pendulum lingers doubtfully on the buffoonery of Chulbul Pandey (Salman Khan) mouthing dialogues that set my eyes rolling off their sockets. But, the award for the most comical representation of a man in uniform goes to Asrani in Sholay and his “Hum angrezon ke zamaane ke jailor hai!”
I have a hazy memory of Akshay Kumar as a police inspector (I do not recollect the name of the movie). The dialogue has stuck for reasons I cannot fathom – “sarkar ne yeh danda hum ko daandiya khelne ke liye nahi diya hai.”
I have laughed my guts out at the absurdity of some of the police characters in our movies. I have walked out of movie halls, tch-ing tch-ing the state of affairs concerning the khaki donning custodians of law. Once in a while, when news of a courageous officer on duty flashes on the TV screen, it makes but a small dent in the deeply rooted negative perception of the entire police force.
Today, in these unusual times, as we sit safely in our homes, the men in khaki are out there, round the clock, guarding, preventing, scolding, beating, begging, and pleading social distancing violators (and there are quite a few of these IQ-deficient violators). Their families wait longingly, fervent prayers on their sealed lips. Even when they do go home after a thankless day of work, they cannot pick up their kids or hold their partners in an embrace that they so badly need. They cannot sit with the family and enjoy a hearty meal. They sit away, usually outside their homes, and eat alone. They live in constant fear.
I recollect Hussain Zaidi’s book Class of 83 that explored the negative perception attached to the police and looked at the encounter specialists of Mumbai police who were active during the 1980s and 90s.
“There’s a certain police psychology we should all know about. They get nervous, sometimes they get scared in public. They are as human as we are, the khaki uniform doesn’t make them all-powerful or all-potent,” he said in an interview.
They are as human as you and I are. They have fears, too. It’s easy for Shafi Inamdar to wax eloquent in Takkar and say, “Police na kisise mohabbat karti hai, na nafrat karti hai … hum sirf duty karte hai.”
“Jis din police ki vardi ka saath pakda … us din darr ka saath chod diya,” Om Puri said in Agneepath. Valiant words written by a gifted wordsmith, delivered by an astute actor essaying the role of a policeman.
Nothing can be farther from reality.
Closer to ground zero would be the words espoused by John Abraham in Force 2. “Gut feeling, aggression, common sense … yeh hai Mumbai police ka kaam karne ka tareeka.”
Gut feeling. I was moved beyond words, when I watched a video clip of policemen dropping to their knees and pleading to a bunch of violators who were out on their motorbikes for a romp around town during the lockdown. Such action is definitely not in the police rule-book. Only desperation drives these policemen to act thus. After healthcare workers, if there’s anyone else directly in the path of this virulent virus, it is our police force.
I can go on and on about the trials and tribulations of the police force during this pandemic. My blood boils in anger at the violators who are only making life even more difficult for them. My heart goes out to the police and their families. Going forward, if I hear anyone ridicule the saviour in Khaki, I will not be responsible for what follows next…
Aata majhi satakli.