Bollywood, the sobriquet of the Hindi film industry based in Mumbai, has influenced daily life and culture in India for decades now. In fact, movies are the mainstay of entertainment and almost a religion in the nation where the actors and the actresses are glorified as the gods and the goddesses. From cricket to movies, the best ones are gods! This idol-worshiping of Indians has thrown away the capacity of these idols to take stands on important issues of concern.
Very recently, Bollwood superstar, Salman Khan invited himself some bad publicity after blurting out a rape comment. His exact words, as quoted by The Indian Express, were “When I used to walk out of that ring, it used to be actually like a raped women coming out.” Very soon he realized that he has made a faux pas. Later he added, “I don’t think I should have.” Salman’s comparison was a senseless and a bogus one. No doubt. Rishi Kapoor, another legend from the industry asked him to apologize for his words.
While the Dabangg star’s remark was forgotten after a little hullabaloo, Bollywood’s ‘no-remark policy’ on socio-political issues of the nation has mostly been the norm except for a few exceptional cases. The stars, usually get into a usual controversy picked up by the media and after a little noise and moan, it’s all forgotten. These stars have a huge following and even larger influence in the nation. Millions follow them. However, these stars are either unaware of the responsibility and leverage that is escorted with these followings or are too busy with their stardom to notice it. Socio-Political issues are the issues of the people and not the stars. The stars are VVIPs who have nothing to do with a common man’s problem.
Nevertheless, it’s not that Bollywood has never cared to speak on the burning issues of the country. There are instances when bollywood celebrities opined or took a stand against the government, but had to face severe backlash. Very recently, Shahrukh Khan and Amir Khan spoke about the rising intolerance in the country to which all hell broke loose for both of them. The intolerance row only got uglier when Shahrukh’s car was pelted with stones in Ahemdabad and Amir’s contract with Snapdeal was set on stake, as the users who couldn’t entertain his view over intolerance asked people to boycott snapdeal. Their female counterparts also had to bear a similar episode after they dared to make a stand. The anchor of a famous TV show called ‘Comedy Circus’, Shruti Seth’s view on Prime Minister Modi’s ‘Selfie with daughter campaign’ brought a huge social media backlash that eventually forced her to delete those tweets.
So, the star following a ‘no-remark policy’ is likely because of the trouble it brings thereafter. Billions of rupees are invested in the movies and a bit of controversy that involves politics would simply ruin the business.
To counter this thought, the world has seen a star, Mohammad Ali –whose demise shocked the world. Take any prickly issue – religious, political or social –the heavyweight boxer never pulled his punches, writes The Indian Express. Ali knew that he could always push the envelope and get away with it. Ali knew his amenability and power so enough that he became ‘anti-national’ and talked peace in those feverish days of war! Unlike Ali, Bollywood has always remained blind to the outside world.
For all that, Anurag Kashyap, the director of films like Black Friday, Gulal and Shahid, had summoned up the courage to rise against the political appointees in Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) after he had been dragged into a bitter row over Udta Punjab – a film depicting the deadly drug epidemic gripping the state of Punjab, co-produced by him. Drug abuse, particularly heroine smuggled from nearby Afganistan is rampant in the wealthy, north-western Indian state, according to a report published in The Telegraph.
The CBFC demanded that all references to the state of Punjab be removed from Udta Punjab –including the film’s title –and that it to relocated to an ambiguous location. “We couldn’t allow Punjab to be damned and labeled a drug heaven”, told Pahlaj Nihalani, the board’s chairman. The chairman also questioned the data and the references depicted in the film. To it, in retaliation, Anurag Kashyap, film’s co-producer, fiercely said that “there is no film more honest” and that “any person or party opposing it is actually guilty of promoting drugs.”
Kashyap’s firm stand and the allegations made by him were eventually welcomed by the country and even after the issue gained political permutations and combinations; it was supported by Nollywood. Anurag also went further to tweet after the whole scene of the Udta Punjab row that “I always wondered what it felt like to live in North Korea.”
Taking a note of Kashyap’s fortitude, Bollywood should take firm stands on every socio-political issue and use its impact in increasing the democratic spaces in India. This won’t risk their pocket every time and mere giving flying kisses to their fans and followers from their Bungalow’s balcony on their birthday eve simply won’t be enough. India is a country where people cheer for the rising sun and forget them after their game is over. Sachin Tendulkar will be a good example in the future. To become a legend is a different thing and to become a star is a different thing – Bollywood desperately needs to know.
Photo credit- ABPlive.com