What is there in “Homeland” that we have not only heard and seen before but also debated repeatedly in our heads? The world we live in today is a world post 9/11 – a world that will never revert to the seemingly idyllic existence prior to 9/11. Never mind the fact that countless crimes against Nations, individuals, communities and against humanity itself have been committed since time immemorial. Nobody, however, dare touch Big Brother, USA. As long as that mighty nation stood invincible, all was well with the world. If anyone dares to touch the most sovereign of all nations, and not simply touch it but kick it in the gut and make it double over, all hell does break loose. This is precisely what 9/11 did to America – 9/11 and its aftermath- the stuff that legends are made of; legends that haunt us forever. “Homeland” is the offshoot of such a legend.
“Homeland” thrives on the post 9/11 discourse. There is perhaps no cliché in “Homeland” that we have not heard before, including in our Bollywood movies like the Saif- Kareena starrer “Kurbaan”. The basic “one man’s terrorist, another man’s freedom fighter” debate runs throughout the series and comes forth in all forms. Is Brody a traitor or has his country let him down? Does he really believe in his reasons for turning against his country or is he exhibiting Stockholm syndrome at its worst? Then there is Carrie – fighting the demons outside as much as those inside her; as much valued as abused by the system and the powers that be; fighting the glass ceiling and her inexplicable fatal attraction towards the man she knows to be a terrorist; trudging through all this with her “Friend, Philosopher, Guide” Saul by her side.
In this war of nations and ideologies, who decides what is right and what is wrong; what is acceptable and what lines should never be crossed? Is it fair to portray and see all Muslims as fanatics and anti- US – a picture that the western world has clung to so fiercely? Is being a Muslim such a big crime that Dana uses it to silence a raging debate in her class with a “my father is a Muslim”? What happened to the most democratic of nations? What gives one sovereign nation the right to violate another sovereign nation in the name of world peace, a step that no other nation even dare contemplate? As Orwell pointed out sardonically in “Animal Farm” – “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”. Yes, some nations are more sovereign than others.
While this forms the ideological basis of “Homeland”, where it is coming from, but relaxing in front of the TV at the end of yet another tiring day, do we spare so much thought for what we are watching? Probably not. What makes “Homeland” click is what makes any crime-thriller series work- good storyline, riveting twists and turns, edge of the seat suspense, good characterisation and acting.“Homeland” fares well on most of these accounts. Whether Brody is really a terrorist or has Carrie lost her mind; will CIA and more importantly Saul ever figure out the truth; will Carrie’s overriding obsession with Brody cost her everything in her life- her job, her sanity, her very existence- all this and much more keeps you hooked to the series. Although there are some lapses – how Brody is able to warn Abu Nazir of the attack in Beirut when so far he has never been able to contact Nazir and why CIA, post Beirut, does not check Brody’s phone record to discover this sms to Nazir being the most glaring of these lapses, the series on the whole clicks.
However, try as much as I might, I have not been able to watch the series on a superficial level alone without letting my mind run amuck with thoughts of the ideology and thinking underlying it. Honestly, beyond a point, I don’t care about who is right or who is wrong. What I do care about, however, is what seems to me the biggest casualty of such an ideological warfare – the human cost on both sides. Issa, along with numerous other children killed for nothing; Brody and Walker’s family, specially the children practically orphaned; Saul left alone by his wife, who herself battled for years with her loneliness and solitary existence in the marriage. Who is responsible and answerable for such terrible losses? Do the one’s who are responsible even bother? Yes power corrupts. And absolute power corrupts absolutely. Do they really care about their motherland, their homeland? Isn’t the fight in the name of ideology, religion, motherland, homeland but an eyewash to further our nefarious designs? We shall never know for we human beings don’t really care either. So let the lights dim, let the music play and let “Homeland” roll.