TLI Opinion On ADHM Controversy: It's Art and Culture That Bear The Brunt Of Hyper Nationalism
The representatives from the Film and Television Producers Guild of India Ltd, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis met on October 22 to resolve the month-long predicament of film-maker Karan Johar for Diwali-release Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (ADHM).
The row over working with Pakistani actor Fawad Khan made the MNS chief demand Bollywood producers to ‘give in writing’ that they won’t work with Pakistani actors. He also asked producers who have worked with Pakistanis to grant Rs 5 crore to the Indian Army’s relief fund. The meeting concluded with the guild bowing down to pressure. Mukesh Bhatt, the president of the Producers’ Guild, agreed to not cast any Pakistani actor in their movies in future. Karan Johar also agreed to put a slide to honour and pay tribute to the armed forces before the movie begins.
Such a development opens up the ground to many debatable points
Today, the MNS is using the grounds of nationalism as an alibi to extract money from a Bollywood director who is more concerned about saving his film from getting stalled. The party is clearly exercising extra-constitutional powers in the state where it dares to enforce a ban on cultural expression, be it films, books, plays, cartoons, paintings, stand-up comedy, etc, solely because it does not cohere to its ideology, or because it allegedly hurts nationalist sentiments.
And unfortunately, the government seems toothless where a chief minister becomes a mute spectator and his office becomes a place to settle a deal between two parties.
The state government barely asserted its authority standing up to the brand of hooliganism followed by parties like MNS and responsibility to ensure law and order. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who belongs to the same party to which Mr Fadnavis belongs, had announced that all measures would be taken to aid the release of the film. But Mr Fadnavis himself could not stand for the politically weak section of Bollywood fraternity.
More to follow?
Such a stance clearly sets a precedent that such meetings may happen in the future where again Bollywood artists would be forced to bow down to the political pressure to preserve the sentiments that are highly subjective. Next in line can be Gauri Shinde for Dear Zindagi starring Ali Zafar that is set to release on November 25. Shah Rukh Khan may also be in the queue for the release of his film Raees, which has Mahira Khan in the lead. MNS, a party that has negligible shares in the State Legislature or in policymaking, has been trying to retain its public relevance by consistently using threats of violence against chosen communities (migrant workers from north India, the film industry, etc), threats that are eventually ignored by the state. Mr Fadnavis’s silence over Mr Thackeray’s demands is a mockery of democracy and the position of Chief Minister.
Parties like MNS or Shiv Sena always try to set a benchmark of patriotism in the country. If we go by their principles, patriotism has now come down to offering money. No one has the authority to force somebody to pay to the Indian Army’s relief fund. A soldier’s sacrifice cannot be compensated with money.
Art and culture get targeted every single time
Unfortunately, it’s only the artists, the cultural ties and recreations like cricket games that transcend national boundaries and caste, bear the brunt for political gains. Such bans are not demanded over business dealings, exports and imports or tourism. India’s exports to Pakistan rose from $92 Million in 1999 to $2 billion in 2016 and the imports from $57 million in 1999 to $441 million in 2016. From cotton to nuclear reactors to plastic to vegetables, the two countries exchange from the very basic to the sophisticated. But in all these years of conflict, the trade and commerce were never the bone of contention. Just because Bollywood exerts a popular culture in the country, the people associated with it are made scapegoats.
Business between India and Pakistan(Infographic created by Suresh Ediga)
In a city like Mumbai that has always embraced liberal thoughts and marched towards progress taking everyone along, such constriction of viewpoints is a disturbing matter to see.
How even citizens have chosen their scapegoats
In time, when citizens need to stand together and demand sanity from the politicians, we are also following the politicians’ line and are speaking the same language as theirs. Even the Central govt. has not banned the Pakistani artists. The tax from the movies that are released in our country even if they have Pakistani artists aid to our country’s economy. The politicians/media houses who demand to ban the movies/cricket matches, never demand to ban visas, stop the businesses and media houses also don’t stop bringing the panellists from Pakistan, who are paid to be on the show.
Incidents like Uri attack must be condemned and we should look for solutions, so that our army persons are not killed. The real relief for a soldier’s family is when the soldier returns home, not inside a casket, but alive in flesh and blood. In the event that a soldier’s body returns home, no matter what the compensation is, the soldier’s sacrifice can never be compensated.
While the hate mongers try to exploit the uncomfortable situation and the tense relationship between India and Pakistan for their political gains, sometimes by cancelling the cricket games, sometimes by threatening the cultural exchanges and sometimes calling for a total ban on everything – the reality is that the two countries have always had a continuous engagement.