Where did Bollywood go wrong

TERROR Indian director Prakash Jha explains why the attacks a year ago barely brought India to its knees. The country is simply too tolerant

■ Born in 1952, is a filmmaker known for his social commitment in India. It has won three of the most important national film awards in recent years. His most expensive film to date, “Politics”, will hit cinemas in February. With over 7,000 actors and election marches, Jha shows the mass dynamics of populist election campaigns in India.


taz: Mr. Jha, the attacks on Bombay were India's November 11th. Today you speak of "26/11" as the Americans speak of "9/11". What significance do the events have for you a year later?

Prakash Jha: I have just shown you pictures of a disaster that struck us in India shortly before 26/11. 2.5 million people were left homeless after the floods. I took care of 6,000 of them. They died of measles and pneumonia in our refugee tents. I experienced a mass misery that still makes me dull to the drama of the terrorist attacks. 26/11 wasn't against it.

But 26/11 continues. Today all of Bombay is full of billboards for Bollywood's new terrorism flick "Kurbaan" (German: sacrifice). Has the Indian film industry accepted the challenge of the attacks?

Bollywood doesn't understand terrorism. Its essence does not lie in the bomb, but in the fear of it. Terrorism has a reason: economic exclusion, social persecution or simple business. You can't glorify terrorism. Because of all these things, a film like "Kurbaan" fails, even though it is one of the biggest Bollywood investments in recent years. Unfortunately, the film only shows one hero with no motifs. On the other hand, one of our most important actors, Saif Ali Khan, whom I also appreciate very much and who is now really a national figure, has been advertised as a terrorist across the country. Something went really wrong there.

Doesn't the film also show how arbitrarily one can interpret 26/11?

India is a very tolerant country. We tolerate corruption, poverty and hunger. We tolerate the inefficiency of our political system. “26/11” wasn't big enough to force us to act either.

When it was found that all of the attackers were Pakistani, the world feared a nuclear war. Isn't it a source of relief that the Indian government refrained from responding?

That risk never existed. A lot more has to happen for us to attack Pakistan. But even today there is still a danger that 26/11 will repeat itself. When I was in Germany for the first time in 1976, I couldn't enter any building without an ID card and an appointment. At that time, Germany feared further attacks by the Red Army faction. Today in Bombay I can still go into any building without papers. The public authorities just have to do more. Citizens need more security. But there is simply a lack of political will.

How do you compare the Indian reaction to the attacks with that of the Americans to the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001?

America saw the attacks as a national challenge. The Americans felt humiliated. Neither of these apply to us. We say today that India is too big and has too many people to develop new security systems like the Americans did after 9/11.

Are you talking about indifference?

166 people died in Bombay a year ago. The inner-Indian terrorism of the militant Maoists, however, kills many more people every year. These Maoists are heavily armed and ruthless. They kill every day. In ten Indian provinces, the population lives in constant fear of them. We swept that under the carpet in front of the public for years. Only now are we beginning to problematize the completely untenable public security situation in many parts of the country.

What remains of the 26/11?

It was just the tip of the iceberg. The attacks embarrass us, they annoy us, but they were insignificant.