Blockbuster Avatar Is Our Story : Adivasis

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In the month just gone by, one of the satellite T.V. channels premiered the Blockbuster movie, Avatar as the movie of the month and then the regular runs, re-runs and unending bombardment of the same reminded me of some of the our claims made by the indigenous population of India, the Adivasis. The aboriginal population asserted that the Writer-Director James Cameroon’s modern day cinematic epic was in fact narrating the slice of stories from their lives.

For the benefit of those, who are yet to feast their eyes on Avatar, let me begin by summarizing the story of the remarkable movie:

Circa 2100 A.D.

Paraplegic war veteran, Jake Sully travels to another planet named Pandora to replace his deceased brother in a mission Avatar with the promise of getting his legs back if he helps the government on the greedy corporate backed colonialist designs. The planet Pandora not only boasts of treasure-trove of precious minerals and many other rich natural resources; but the planet is also inhabited by a primitive (according to the big-headed Humans) race known as Na’vi. This entire corporate backed military operation is led by overzealous Colonel, who wants Jake Sully to use his Avatar identity to infiltrate into the world of native Na’vi, to learn their tribal ways so that he can help relocate them from their land and then the Humans can take over the entire planet for their own commercial benefits. Though Jake Sully manages to win over the hearts of Na’vi people, he also ends up losing his heart to the beautiful Neytiri and develops deep emotional bond with the Na’vi natives; which results in a failure of mission Avatar. This infuriates Colonel, so he declares war and orders his troops to undertake inhuman extermination of Na’vi people from their own land, who live in perfect harmony with the nature for last so many centuries. Thus begin the classic war in planet Pandora between the imperialists Humans and the native Na’vi; the battle that would decide the fate of Na’vi, the Pandora and the Humans.

Avatar-The Blockbuster Movie
Avatar-The Blockbuster Movie

Now let us dispassionately look few of the narrative points put forward by the movie Avatar and the Adivasis’ view point on the same.


Avatar’s Point: Circa 2100. In Earth Planet, over-population, over-development, nuclear-terrorism, environmental-warfare, waste-dumps, toxic, pollution, deforestation, global-warming, ozone-depletion, bio-diversity-loss through extinction, et al; all of these have combined to make the once green and beautiful planet a terminal cesspool. All whales and at least half the fish’s species are extinct. On land, over half the species are gone forever, with most of them remaining endangered. The human race, using its technical ingenuity, has learned to keep itself alive, but it has lost almost all contact with the natural world, which it has strangled and crushed out of existence on the planet Earth.
Adivasis’ view: Circa 2010. Our Earth and Human-Race is slowly but steadily moving in the direction of self-destructions. May be it is time for all of us to pause, reflect, retrospect and take remedial measures to avoid the pit-falls inflicted by our self-inflicted wounds.
II. Avatar’s Point: RDA, an international consortium of major corporations, whose purpose is to find and exploit the resources of other planet. The “CONSORTIUM”, they discover a planet Pandora, the single most important and interesting to happen to human race in ages; it has bizarre flora and fauna. To a human culture which has lost all contact with the natural world, Pandora is mysterious, primal and terrifying. There is, of course, a primitive humanoid species on Pandora, called NA’VI, using their words from themselves. In the Avatar programme, one has to sign a contract to work in Pandora planet.
Adivasis’ view: Not so long ago, Adivasis too lived in the clean environment in the midst of the most amazing flora and fauna; but then their land was discovered by the profit-driven CORPORATE (though the ruling GOVERNMENT too can’t shirk their role in this) and then the lives of Adivasis changed.
III. Avatar’s Point: The CONSORTIUM is trying to bridge the cultural gap with the indigenous Na’vi population. The object of the game is not to go there and mine the precious minerals. They want to build up an industrial infrastructure in Pandora. They want to tame it and civilize it. So colonization, in the classic sense won’t work. You have indigenous population there. They are primitive, but they have brains and hands, and maybe they can be taught to do things we need done and give them cool technology to improve their lives and in return they will be so grateful, they’ll not only work in our factories, they’ll even build them for us.
Adivasis’ view: In India, in the Adivasis’ regions, the first major CORPORATE to pay them a visit was East India Company in the colonial era and since then they have lost count of the number of corporations that have straddled across their lands, pursuing their not so hidden agenda to maximize their profitability.
IV. Avatar’s Point: Pandora is blessed with a naturally occurring substance a million times more precious than the Gold. Its joke name of “Unobtanium” has struck, over the years. Unobtainium is a rare-earth mineral, which is a room-temperature superconductor. It is unique to Pandora. Another interesting property of unobtanium is that they levitate in a powerful magnetic field. On Pandora, the effect causes huge out cropping of unobtanium to rip loose from the surface and float in the magnetic currents. The Pandorans call them ‘The Thundering Rocks’ and the entire area is sacred to them. Since the humans have come to mine these mountains and get rich; which is why they are called the “Hallelujah Mountains”.
Adivasis’ view: Most of the Adivasis live on the land blessed with rich natural resources; so over the years they have attracted quite a few greedy Individuals and Corporate into their land, including their sacred land, to exploit the minerals. Their mountains too are known as Hallelujah, an exclamation of praise to God.
V. Avatar’s Point: The Na’vi has protested against the Humans clearing the trees at one of their sacred sites. They mourn the spirit of a tree when it dies. The Humans don’t understand and they don’t want to understand a primitive culture which lives close to soil, close to daily cycle of birth and death. Humans give them a gun so that they could hunt better, and they give it back. As the Na’vi consider it unfair and obscene to hunt with a gun, a dishonour to the spirit of the animal and its purpose to its existence. The Na’vi believe that everything has a purpose, and sometimes the animals purpose is to feed the Na’vi and sometimes the Na’vi purpose is to feed the animals.
Adivasis’ view: For thousands of years, Adivasis have lived in the perfect harmony and deep bond with the natural world surrounding them. They lived near thick jungles without threatening the very existence of the environment surrounding them. For instance, the Oraon tribe traces their totem to the diverse range of flora and fauna, as they believe, their totem to act as their ally and saviour.
VI. Avatar’s Point: The Avatarprogramme tries to get the Na’vi to trust the Humans (“Sky People”). So thatHuman can use them? So Humans can harness them? So Humans can make them slaves, and teach them to participate in the rape of their own home planet? The Humans even use the services of scientists, soldiers, anthropologists, administrators, etc. to suppress them.
Adivasis’ view: The History of Adivasi Communities around the world is replete with all types of tricks of trade that were / are used to subdue the aboriginal/indigenous population in their own land. For instance, the Adivasis of Jharkhand have named their exploiters as “The Dikku”, the proverbial exploiters. Theses Dikkus viciously attacked (they do it now too) the Adivasis’ way of life, culture, religion, tradition, language, etc.; they assailed almost everything and anything that is associated with Adivasis to make them feel inferior about the traditional Adivasis’ way of life.
VII. Avatar’s Point:The irony is that the greatest treasure on Pandora is not the precious minerals to be ripped out of the planet. It’s the bio-diversity in the forest. The Humans will bulldoze it before they know. The tractors and bulldozers crush the forest. When the swath of destruction reaches full circle, the forest of the centre is ignited. Na’vi watch in horror from a hillside as the flames burn like a funeral pyre below. The Na’vi don’t understand what is happening. They trusted humans but the humans betrayed them. Humans with their corruption and deceits are going to turn Pandora into another Earth, suck the life out of it, and kill it like a cancer.
Adivasis’ view: Many of the Adivasis, more so the younger-generation of Adivasis have been educated, re-educated and brainwashed by the Dikku (the exploiters), as a result many of them remain ignorant of the loss that has befallen on the Adivasis. However, the older and knowledgeable generation of Adivasis lament the betrayal by the Dikku that continues to this day; as they watch helplessly the burning of the funeral pyre.
VII. Avatar’s Point: The Avatar (Jake) tells Na’vi that they are not just fighting for this part of the forest, or these few trees, but for the very future of their Pandora. He says the history of the aliens or the outsiders or the humans, they call the “Sky People” is one of the blood. For as long as can be remembered, the Humans take what is not theirs. They take the land and hunting ground of other people, and kill them, or put them in places they cannot live. They call this progress, and it has led them down the path to sickness and death. Their world, their forest, is a dying place. They have killed their mother. And they will do the same here. They must be driven away. When they come again they will come with all their force, and we must be ready. We must fight, to our last breadth, or they will rape and kill our mother as they did their own.
Adivasis’ view: Adivasis too have gone through the similar experience, but they still wait for an imminent arrival of an Adivasi-Avatar, one that would lead a fight-back against the Dikku, their much hated exploiters

Not only in India, but around the world, the indigenous and aboriginal population stressed that they could identify with the plights of “Na’vi” natives. We know that many naysayers would discard these assertions as mere rambling. But the truth has funny way of staring back at us, when you least expect them. Meanwhile, in India many hapless Adivasis eagerly await the arrival of the real-life Avatar, who can alleviate their pain and sorrow.

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Sameer Bhagat

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Social-Activist. Author of SALVAGING ADIDWEEP.


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6 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Bengali Brahmin says:

    The story of Avatar reminds me of the struggles and sacrifices of Dongria Kondh tribals in Niyamgiri Hills of Orissa who revere the Niyamgiri mountain as their king and god .Their problems started when Vedanta Aluminium Ltd (VAL)established its refinery in Lanjigarh a town near Niyamgiri hills to mine bauxite from Niyamgiri mountains .Over the years Vedanta has been allegedly involved in gross violations of the Forest (Conservation) Act,Forest Rights Act (FRA) and Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.

    This is the clear manifestation of existing unholy nexus between the politicians and industrialists.If there was a sacred place of any other religion at Niyamgiri , it would have become a political issue by now but since it belongs to a tribal community who is numerically not so strong as far the electoral system is concerned ,most of the national parties stayed away from highlighting the problems and atrocities faced by Dongria Kondh tribals.

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  3. meg star says:

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