‘Urban Naxals: The Making of Buddha in a Traffic Jam’ – A Book by Vivek Agnihotri

(Source: Amazon.in)

When I was a teenager, I read a novel called Désirée, written by Annemarie Selinko.

I don’t remember much of the novel, to be honest. I do remember that Désirée Clay was Napoleon Bonaparte’s first fiancée. The rest, I remember only in bits and pieces.

What I however remember about the novel most vividly, are the descriptions of the French Revolution and the Declaration of the Rights of the Man and of the Citizen 1789. The author captured the spirit of that momentous event through the euphoria of the heroine’s teenage idealism. It is the kind of exultation that the movie Rang De Basanti evoked closer home. It is the jubilation of being part of something so huge and cataclysmic, as to convince you that the world would never be the same again.

Urban Naxals evoked the same emotions in me. The book is based on the making of the movie Buddha in A Traffic Jam. I am convinced it will change many things, alter many perceptions, forever. Mr Agnihotri has torn the lid off hell so the world can see what hisses within. One cannot remain the same after a glimpse into hell.

Poster of ‘Buddha in a Traffic jam’ (Source: India.com)

This is not a book. This is a journey the author takes you on – willing or not. After all, who wants a trip to the lip of a hellish, bubbling cauldron? The journey is potentially dangerous. You are in danger of losing much. No, not your life, but something more precious. Your erroneous beliefs. You might need to alter them or to throw them away altogether and forge a fresh set as you read the book. This book may prove to be the anvil for you.

The journey is essential to undertake if you wish to get a handle on the sudden increase in the instances of media outrage – social and traditional media alike. An unprecedented number of fake stories are being manufactured at an alarming rate. Anything and everything is suspect. Who is churning out this false narrative, and why? If you are pained at the unprecedented bitterness and acrimony of the public discourse; this journey is a must. The belligerence emanates from the same set of people each time. It is all the more strident because social media makes it so easy to outrage. This aggression is deliberately created. Naturally, it has a purpose – and its author(s). The book shows you who runs the propaganda machine, and why.

Barely a few chapters into the book, you realize that there are wheels within wheels. The author has not narrated one story but has revealed many stories within that one story. The book is a first-person account of the events of the author’s life. You are inspired, revolted and incensed by turns as the narrative unfolds.

Ostensibly, the book is about the making of the film. Mr Agnihotri talks of how the project was conceived, nurtured and brought to life. It is a fascinating account. You get a glimpse of how a film is made; are introduced to the challenges besetting the entire process.

It began as a simple project, an innocuous movie which was to be a college project. It was fascinating to read how the tiny seedling took root and grew into an oak tree that is Buddha in a Traffic Jam – which then grew into the phenomenon that is Urban Naxals.

Fancy a huge, complex bit of machinery which seems driven by nothing short of sorcery – so impossible it seems. You cannot imagine how the whole contraption was even conceived, let alone built. Urban Naxals gives you a front view seat to the whole drama. You watch each burst of propulsion that takes an embryonic thought to deliver the mammoth you cannot believe could have been produced. The purpose of the build was to produce a movie, what it has produced is a movement. The movie, you now discover, was just the vehicle for the main product; a product you had no idea existed, or could exist! If that is not cosmic intervention, I don’t know what is.

As I read the book, I saw the young Vivek Agnihotri getting indoctrinated in college. How subtle his transformation was! It was aided by nothing but by a tiny seed planted in a fertile young mind. The seed was not planted directly. It was a supposed by-product of an innocent sharing of a book by a professor guiding a student on the finer aspects of drama. Once the seed was dropped unknowingly in the subconscious, it was bound to come to life sooner or later. The professor knew the outcome; the student did not. One moment he was an ordinary, idealistic young man, the other he was ready to take up a gun. There is always only one reason someone would pick up a gun – to kill.

The brainwashing –or an attempt to affect it– has not been my own experience in college. But I am familiar with the fire of idealism that raged within the young Vivek, as would you be. Vivek Agnihotri took to writing and producing plays. I took to writing passionate essays, bringing my own utopias to life on the sheets of paper on which I poured my soul – my words laden with invective, rage and a violent, irrepressible hope. It was easy to relate to the young man; I felt a decided kinship to him. Maybe because he was from my state; maybe because both our parents (his father, my mother) were associated with college education. Or maybe because I recognized the flame that burned in him. We were propelled on our respective journeys from the same point, impelled by the same fire. And just like that, I turned into Vivek. From that point on, it became my own story – not the story that IS, but the story that might well have been.

Urban Naxals is a primer on the reality of leftist indoctrination of the youth of India, and the purpose behind it. It gives the history, from inception to today, of how left ideologues have created a resilient and pervasive ecosystem which runs parallel to the democratically elected government of India. Its ability to frighten you depends entirely on your courage to accept the evidence the author places before you. The more your courage, the more you understand the vastness of the scourge, the more petrified you will be.

(Source: Quora)

We are a nation obsessed with hypocritical political correctness. We couch our words in diplomatic safe-bags while they are in transit, moving from one mind to another. There are no sharp edges to offend those who ought to be called out. We aid them in deflecting uncomfortable questions by never asking those questions. It is like playing a game of merry-go-round around an elephant which everyone pretends is not there at all. I can understand why the leftists do it. Naturally, it is in their interest to do so. I don’t understand why the rest of us do it when our survival depends on not doing it!

The book has become the phenomenon it has because this is not just the story of the making of a movie that exposes the entire leftist machinery, cog by greasy cog. What gives the book a cult status, is the story that unfolded after the movie was completed. That’s when the REAL can of worms burst open and made a beeline for the director of the audacious film, Vivek Agnihotri. He had committed the sacrilege of tearing the lid off hell.

Urban Naxals is an incredibly inspiring story. It is the story of one man, armed with nothing but an idea, who refused to back down when a nefarious parallel ecosystem set out to discredit and destroy his life work. The attempt was not to burn him at the stake in full view of the world, making a spectacular example of him. The attempt was to cut the props out from under him so he would fall to dust over which thousands of brainwashed feet could march until there was nothing left of him, nothing that could be given the dignity of martyrdom. Had their strategy worked, he would have been wiped out without so much as a sigh, like many others have surely been wiped away over the decades.

But they miscalculated. They had not contended for the evolution of the man they had set out to destroy.

By all logic, Vivek Agnihotri should have broken. He should have given up. He should just have dropped the whole thankless burden and walked away. He had options; he had other avenues. He could have led a far more comfortable –but uninspiring– life. That’s what we are taught to do – by parents, by peers, by our loved ones.

We are told not to be martyrs. We are told it is foolish to take a stand. We are encouraged and coerced to give up even before we have stepped out. We are told things like – Tum kyon lad rahe ho? Tumne poori duniya ka thheka le rakha hai kya? Yahan aisey hi chalta tha, aur aisey hi chalega. Tum akele kya kar loge? Ye tumhare akele ki ladai nahi hai. Koi aur saath nahi dega, dekh lena. Jaise aur log adjust kar rahe hai, tum bhi kar lo. Kyon apna jeevan nark banaa rahe ho? Kuchh nahi rakha ismein. Apna kaam nikalo aur aage badho. Aakhir tumhara bhi parivaar hai, uske baare mein bhi socho!

(Why are you fighting? Are you responsible for the whole world? This is how things have been and this is how they will remain. What can you accomplish alone? This is not just your fight. No one will support you, mark my words. You should adjust like others do. Why are you making your life hell? It isn’t going to make a difference. Get what you want and let the rest go. You have a family too, think about them!)

That, in essence, is the final escape clause for us when faced with anything that impacts society and is not strictly personal.

Urban Naxalism failed to break Agnihotri’s resolve. He refused to buckle down. The more they pushed, the harder he pushed back. For such indomitable courage, I have the deepest respect. When one man demonstrates exemplary resolution, he raises all of mankind with him.

He did not fight alone. The reason why many lone warriors –the men of original thinking– give up their fights is because when they seek support from the world and are disappointed, they stop looking for like-minded people. Vivek Agnihotri did not do that. Despite setback and roadblocks, he kept making his voice heard. Of all the other horrors he faced on this journey, the effort to stand up and raise his voice in the midst of a fierce storm was, to my mind, the biggest challenge he defeated. There were a hundred voices that tried to shut him down, but there were some to support him. For a warrior, that is sustenance. With time, his support grew.

Early on in the book, I had begun to identify with the youth leader Vivek Agnihotri. When I saw the fight he fought after the movie had been completed and lay unreleased for over two years, I asked myself how I would have responded to the steep climb that he faced. My imagination boggled.

Having to face the unmasked hatred of your fellow humans, depletes something vital in you. To stand in front of it, screening after screening, knowing that the hostility belonged not to the face espousing it, but to those invisible puppeteers behind the scenes who had painstakingly programmed the contents of many a head priding itself an independent mind and a free-thinker.

It is not possible to read a work of this kind and not be shaken to the core. When one looks beyond the many stories, some heart-breaking and some heart-warming, one wonders why this massive, infernal machinery was created. What purpose did it serve? Whose handmaiden was it?

The answer is supremely shoddy. The colossal beast was created for power – over people and resources. That is all. Can you imagine the horror of it?

At one point in the book, Vivek Agnihotri said that he did not like communists because they were violent by default. They are convinced that a revolution such as they want, cannot be brought about without bloodshed. Perhaps, this is the only point upon which I deviate with Mr Agnihotri.

The left ideology is abhorrent not only for their propensity to use violence as their final argument, it is repugnant because it is based on something that goes against natural human instincts.

People are certainly capable of philanthropy, generosity and selflessness. But to be selflessly generous or not must be a matter of choice, not guilt-induced compulsion. Guilt is a currency which goes only so far. Beyond that point, it breeds resentment and antagonism. Communism, which espouses –from each according to his capability to each according to his need– was set up for failure. If you keep taking from people because they are capable, why would they want to keep being so?

Nor is Maoism a great improvement. They are, in fact, convinced of the need for constant revolution implemented through violent guerilla warfare. Chairman Mao believed that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. The use of force in place of logical argument, compulsion in place of concurrence, are ingrained in the ideology. When you come from a place where compulsion and use of force are deemed essential, you have no tolerance, no mental bandwidth left to consider that another point of view might exist.

(Source: IndiaToday)

Though the book details a battle – with all the heartbreak that accompanies one. Yet, I did not catch a single whiff of hopelessness. Even when Vivek Agnihotri speaks of his moments of despair, you don’t lose courage. You know that if the battle had been lost, Agnihotri would never have written the book. That he wrote it, was proof that he prevailed in the end.

The book delivered a gloriously happy ending on its last pages. But that has not ended the story or the triumph. On social media, I see happy endings every day when I read the way Vivek Agnihotri continues to prevail, one battle, one platform, one screening at a time.

For hope to live, all one needs is to know that someone, somewhere, has refused to back down. I for one, am grateful to Vivek Agnihotri for helping many keep their hopes alive.


My rating for the book: 5/5

About the Author:

Vivek Agnihotri is a Bollywood film director, producer and screenwriter. He has worked in genres that include thriller, sports, political drama, erotica and romance. Vivek Agnihotri is an activist, an orator and an author. Along with his actress wife Mrs Pallavi Joshi, he runs an NGO #IAmBuddha.

The book can be bought here.



Cover Picture: (Source: India.com)


Author: ‘Dagny Solis a passionate bibliophile. Her love for the written word is deep and enduring. She is a writer/ blogger and freelance editor. She edits fiction and non-fiction including novels, corporate communications and documents, as well as short stories, articles and blog posts. She has three almost adult children who try to keep her in line in matters of behavior and apparel. She can be contacted at: dagnysmail@gmail.com.

Published: Aug 27, 2018


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