By Pramit Khanna
The film that the title of this article refers to, is arguably one of the greatest movies of all time. The three main characters depicted in ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ are unique, and endlessly well documented.
This article, as much as it might seem to be, is not a review of Sergio Leone’s epic western masterpiece. It is an attempt at analysing events around us today, in light of how characters from the movie might resonate with them.
Let’s talk about what’s prevalent in the world today. The USA has their elections coming up. India is having problems with Pakistan over the state of Kashmir, Great Britain is leaving the EU, and more recently, the Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have locked horns over a water dispute.
How do any of these events relate to an old movie about the American mid-west? It’s a matter of perspective. Each of the aforementioned headlines has contenders fighting each other over who is right and who is wrong.
Going back to the movie, the three lead roles include a bounty hunter known only as Blondie, Angel Eyes, a ruthless gun for hire, and a Mexican outlaw named Tuco. Suffice it to say, each of these characters is well suited to their respective labels, based on the film’s title. But labels don’t always hold good. Anyone who has seen the film will know that the characters often betray these same stereotypes which they are assumed to embody.
Let’s talk about the water dispute being waged between the Southern Indian states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The gist of the argument is this: Tamil Nadu has about 3 million acres of developed farmland that needs to be irrigated, lest their loss cost the livelihoods of millions of farmers. Karnataka, on the other hand, contends that it does not receive its fair share of water from the river. Both sides contest each other’s claims.
The powers that be, have recently directed Karnataka to release water from its dams for about ten days. This decision hasn’t settled well with the people. The problem here lies in the fact that the failure of the monsoons has caused the state’s major reservoirs to run low and that there simply isn’t enough water to supply downstream. Tamil Nadu claims that it is entitled to that water, based on the decisions of a tribunal formed to quell the dispute, whose findings are controversial.
At this point, you may be wondering what the premise of this scoop was all about. Let’s take one more look at the movie. The Bad, Angel Eyes, is shown as a cold professional who doesn’t hesitate to do what he’s paid for. The Good, Blondie, is shown as having some sense of compassion and
The Good, Blondie, is shown as having some sense of compassion and understanding and seems to get the personal tragedy of the people involved. But Tuco, the Ugly, is open and direct, acting without much recourse or postures, and not showing any lasting feelings of remorse or hate, but never taking the bigger picture into account.
But then there are those moments when each character betrays his own stereotype. Blondie, the supposed hero, is actually a con man who has been aiding and abetting fugitives while Tuco shines out of his Ugly side and shows concern and mercy for his comrades.
People have this tendency to identify with one of the two main characters. The good, or the bad. But it’s the role of the Ugly that your average person best fits into. Acting purely on emotion and never really digging into what’s really at stake. To the people of Tamil Nadu, it may seem unfair that they aren’t getting their lawful share of water from the river.
On the flip side, Karnataka claims that it’s on the verge of a drought and so it must see to its own people’s needs first and foremost.
In the end, none of the film’s characters strictly adhere to their labels if you look close enough. This is perhaps because they’re human, and human beings don’t follow character all the time.
The water dispute portrays both sides as Good and Bad. We don’t really know who’s what in all these instances. Each side portrays itself in good light, while throwing an evil shadow on the other. No one is willing to look at the bigger picture. To any third party trying to separate the right from the wrong, it’s all very ugly. It’s all very distorted.
The Cauvery water dispute has since been resolved. But this just goes to show that the virtues of true Morality are still beyond us.
Pramit Khanna is part of Center for Social Action, which is a center at Christ University, Bangalore for promoting volunteerism and enabling students to develop as socially responsible citizens through developmental initiatives. It envisions to make every student aware, sensitive, empathetic and contribute to sustainable changes in the society.