Governments exist to serve the people, but often, the common citizen has to struggle, knock one door after another, in order to get the service he or she rightfully deserves. ‘ACT-1978’, a 2020 Kannada film by director Manjunatha S, brings into sharp relief this torturous and tormenting ordeal, an experience not too alien to many hapless ordinary citizens.
“I want to dedicate my movie to every common man and woman of India, who has neither the power nor the voice to get things done at the hands of government officials,” says the director. The film has been a part of Feature Film Category of Indian Panorama Section of IFFI.
The film invites viewers to partake in the desperate struggle of one ordinary woman to break through the loopholes in the governing machinery and bureaucracy. The protagonist Geetha is a pregnant widow, forced by the system to run from one office or place to another, to get the money which had already been sanctioned to her by the government. When her repeated attempts to get things done remain infructuous, she does not shy away from adopting an absolutely unconventional path to claim her right.
The title of Act-1978 is a direct reference to the Karnataka Civil Services Act 1978. “I found that the majority of government officials have no regard for the common man. Why? Because they know that even if they do wrong, no action would be taken against them. Even if some punitive action is initiated, they are well aware of murky ways to come out of it.”
The film makes an uncompromisingly and unequivocally sharp statement on the sordid self-serving proclivity of the bureaucracy. “I believe the bureaucracy misuses the rules and regulations, which are for the benefits of the common man, for its own good,” said the director. He added that the film tries to touch upon multiple systemic ailments such as corruption and negligence of bureaucracy.
Geetha, the protagonist, questions these unjust and corrupt practices, says the director. “My protagonist questions the apathy, corruption and neglect of government officials. She asks them to treat her as human. The iconic dialogue of the movie ‘I need respect’ is her shout-out to the entire system.”
The director is hopeful that Act-1978 creates ripples of change, prompting viewers towards deep reflection and enlightened action. “A change is needed, and I have tried to sow the seeds of that thought for change,” he concludes.