No other realms are as amenable to satire and ridicule as politics and religion. The reasons are pretty simple – the internal contradictions, the immutable conventions, and other flat-out farces in both these social contracts far outnumber the idiosyncrasies in any other sphere that involve groups of people adhering to agreed standards. And even more glaring is the issue that both these fields demand faith as the prerequisite – not facts, but pure faith. (‘Vote for him, for he seems good enough to cure the ills of the society’, ‘Pray to Him, for He seems powerful enough to rid of whatever the ails the status quo’). And therein lies the rub, in its principal tenet – follow, but not question – which has just the right conditions and sets the perfect platform for humor to step in, play the devil’s advocate and poke holes in the precepts. Satires in telugu movies have been, both, rare and broad, when it comes to dealing with the most sensitive and inflammable issues like religion and politics. ‘A rib here and a jab there’ has remained the operating principle of the makers, as all they wanted out of satirical joke or the setup was to squeeze out a laugh or couple, and never a serious discussion of the underlying contradiction. And the second, even bigger, implicit directive – NEVER NAME NAMES – dead or alive in politics, and belonging to a particular sect in religion. These self-imposed sanctimonious rules have robbed the medium of the ripe opportunities – and there were plenty of them – of unmasking the ugliness that exists in both these fields, all this with a smile on the face, and without being mean and vicious (unlike the latter day “satires”, ‘మండలాధీసుడు ‘, ‘నా పిలుపే ప్రభంజనం’, ‘గండిపేట రహస్యం’and other character assassination pieces)…until ‘యమగోల’ came along and showed how.
యమగోల showed what a satire can do in the hands of a biting wit and a brave act, as it has done the unthinkable – NAME NAMES – and yet emerged unscathed, and importantly, widly funny. This movie is more an exception, than a norm, even in those days (late 70’s) as the movie never set out to be any kind of satire in the frist place. It was just another commercial setup with the prescribed amount of aerobics (songs and fights), a standard fare for every super-hero setup (with an indispensable ‘jayamAlini’ cabaret thrown in for good measure). But the magic of ‘యమగోల’ is the middle half an hour, when the hero visits both heaven and hell, and gets a chance to flog the myths in the holy mythologies and rip into the then administrative policies. That D.V.Narasaraju, the writer, had the audacity to pen lines like ‘యువజన సంఘం అని ఒకటి పెట్టి అడ్డూ ఆపూ లేకుండా ఊరి మీద పడి దోచుకు తింటున్నారు’, ‘ఎటువంటి ప్రభుత్వ హోద లేని ఒక రాజ్యాంగేతర శక్తి (extra constitutional authority) పెట్టిన విధానం అది ప్రభూ’, (and the classic rejoinder to it, ‘ఐతే వాడిని ప్రవేశ పెట్టండీ, ‘వాడింకా రాలేదు ప్రభూ’)to lampoon Sanjay Gandhi’s unilateral, controversial, autocratic and undemocratic tyranny during the heights of (the just concluded) Emergency rule when there were undeclared draconian restrictions on all forms of public media and broadcasting, speaks of acerbic wit as a master satirist who was able to seamlessly weave the ridiculousness of a topical issue right into an opportune moment in his scenario. And the bravura performance doesn’t just end there. NTR, who remains the undisputed icon and the very face of telugu film mythology, keeps his end of the bargain by unmercilessly knocking down the hallowed institutions that he himself had been a strong votary of, in a string of pious and devotional roles before, extending an unflinching support to the tone of the writer. At the end of that half an hour segment, nothing remains sacred and no one is left out in the tongue-lashing.
‘సర్లేవో, పిల్లలుంటే నీ యాపారానికి అడ్డూ, to the celestial dancer ‘మేనకా, for abandoning of her child ‘శకుంతలా; ‘నీలాంటి వాడిని మా దేశంలో ఏమంటారో తెలుసా..డా..డా..’, stopping short of calling Indra a pimp, for parading his coterie of beauties to lure away the ascetic from aspiring for his throne, ‘ఇలాంటి కామాంధుడితో, ఇలాంటి స్త్రీ లోలుడితో నువ్వెలా కాపురం చేస్తున్నావమ్మా’, advising ‘శచీ దేవీ to divorce Indra for his roving eyes and philandering ways, ‘కన్య కాని దానికి మళ్ళీ వివాహం చేసారు కద సర్, తరువాత ఆమెకు పిల్లలు ఎలా పుట్టింది అందరికీ తెలుసు కద సార్, అందులో మీ హ్యాండ్ కూడా ఉంది కద సార్ ‘, supporting the unlawful widow-remarriage by tying it with the ‘కుంతి-పాండవులు ‘ issue and dragging ‘యమ రాజు ‘ into the mix and many such.
It is indeed a miracle that this segment had passed through the censors without an objection (or an objection that was ultimately prevailed over with the burden of truth and strength conviction in the argument), as neither movies before, nor any since, dared to touch a subject that was dear to the masses – its icons (both in religion and politics) – with similar irreverence and contempt towards abhorrent practices in both the institutions. A successful collaboration of a brave writer and a courageous actor, and a triumphant effort of biting satire, this.