Tuesday, 20 January 2015

12 ANGRY MEN AND THE THEORY OF CONSENSUS BUILDING


I believe 12 Angry Men to be one of the best scripted movies of all time. Looking at it deeply, it has a lot more to offer than just being a top ten IMDB movie. Henry Fonda's perspective and how he used words and words alone to turn the tide in his favour or to remove prejudice from a non-personal assessment. This has no drama, mystery, theatrics or special effects - a simple story that can be easily absorbed by any living soul on earth.

I have watched it in Hindi as well and the content serves justice to its Hollywood original and the screenplay justifiably written for Indian audiences.


THE PREMISE OF THE MOVIE

Twelve men from different backgrounds, cultural upbringing, personalities and of different temper levels are part of the jury - and they are in a room to come to a reasonable conclusion. The jury must be unanimous in its decision and until then it is all a consensus building exercise. The case in hand is to decide the fate of a teenager who is guilty of murder his father - and after having heard the testimonies and other 'supposed evidences', it is now in the hands of the jury to give the final verdict.

In the enclosed room are these twelve men seated and eleven of them are convinced the boy is guilty - and are surprised to see Henry Fonda's lone hand going in favour of not-guilty. It isn't a case of James Dean's 'To Rebel With a Cause', here the standpoint of Henry Fonda has a lot of sense. It is after all a matter of life and death and these 12 men cannot be haste in making such a decision. Henry Fonda has a 'doubt' and unless he is convinced otherwise he would present his arguments. There emerges a change in thinking of his fellow jurors - one by one convinced otherwise.  

It is interesting to note how time and discussions change opinions even among many learned ones. And one by one, the jurors are convinced it isn't a straight forward case. In the middle of intense heat, there were heated discussions with egos coming in the way of clear thinking and side arguments comes in the way of the main discussion. And by the end of it all - these 12 men have a considerable amount of doubt to deliver a unanimous 'not guilty' verdict.

HOW I SEE THE RELEVANCE IN TODAY'S WORLD
One of the patterns that emerged from 12 Angry Men is - that, one is never far away from expressing his personal standpoint be it on any matter. This is what I call as 'the interpretation syndrome' - where two different people or a group of people look at the same thing in different ways. Our world is no different - each one is able to express their opinions and plenty of them are available on the internet, newsroom and print media - and more so with the people I converse. Is it a life's mystery that we eternally fight for the ultimate truth? or there is no such thing as one truth? Or is life or society all about a series of consensus building exercise which over the years gave raise to systems, rules, practices, religions and their million interpretations. The world we live in is so huge - that there was means to run away from one group only to settle in other place and form another group. What if we bring in all the newsmakers (not just the leaders of the state) under a single roof and discuss till there is consensus building - to reach a common ground from where people from all the beliefs can move on with renewed perspectives and lead a life which humans deep down strive for.


I just laughed reading at the last sentence about the level of optimism I am expecting! I think what I am asking is too far away from the banal lives we lead or am I? However, this was a recurring thought that comes to my mind whenever I hear and watch disturbing stories each day. Are we just plain reporting or doing something to end it?  What is the end that justifies everybody? Or have we already concluded - that this is the way... this is how it should end... 

The more I think positively, there is a hint of cynicism that creeps into that thought. So I am stuck... can we have some consensus building thoughts please!!!! 

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