Indian writer Nayantara Sahgal (writes in English and is a member of the Nehru–Gandhi family) is unhappy with Bollywood’s silence over suppression of free speech, and feels that the industry does not stand up for anyone, anything. Sahgal says that the Hindi film industry has on numerous occasions failed to defend its own legends fearing a political backlash.
Nayantara Sahgal, who was not allowed to inaugurate the 92nd Marathi Sahitya Samme in Yavatmal following threats from MNS workers, cited the example of Naseeruddin Shah who was called a traitor for saying that the death of a cow had more value today than that of a police officer in India. She said even during the #Me Too allegations, the top Bollywood celebs maintained complete silence on the matter.
Mumbai is known for its film industry and we take pride in it. But why did the film industry not speak for a great actor like Naseeruddin Shah? We are living in dangerous times, and if we remain silent, the regime will come upon us-Nayantara Sahgal
Author Nayantara Sahgal had returned her Sahitya Akademi award following the killing of Mohammed Ikhlaq by a mob in UP’s Dadri in 2015, and as per this report, she was praised by a United Nations(UN) monitor for cultural rights for doing so.
“Art has to ask questions to the society. Art is not only about being pretty; it’s also about disturbance. Disturbance has to be there in art; its job is to be a voice of resistance,” Carnatic music legend TM Krishna, whose concert in Delhi was cancelled due to Right Wing protests.
When Bollywood Took a Stand Against the Government / Political class
Here are instances when Bollywood celebrities opined or took a stand against the government/judiciary/political class, but had to face backlash (although there are some who openly support the ruling government).
So is Bollywood worried about facing backlash?
Bollywood superstars, especially the Khans, have been facing backlash (from all quarters) for their comments on broader issues, plaguing the country, something which they have not done earlier. After being at the receiving end for their comments, it seems Bollywood has decided to play it safe by keeping mum on the JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) controversy.
In recent times, most Bollywood actors have started giving an opinion on almost everything, including burning issues, (Yakub Memon, Church vandalism, Intolerance…and thanks to Twitter for making it so easy)
JNU students had organised an event on on the day after Afzal Guru’s third death anniversary (Afzal Guru who was hanged in 2013 for attack on Indian Parliament) and its alleged that students shouted ‘anti-India’ slogans at the function, which snowballed into a huge controversy in India.
However, it seems, the real reason that most celebrities didn’t speak on the JNU issue is because it could impact their business. It hurts Bollywood more when a movie flops or when they are unable to release a movie because of protests. After all, crores of rupees are at stake.
- No doubt Dilwale was an average affair, but SRK’s comments on intolerance, made collections even more difficult in India
- Aamir Khan’s comments on intolerance cost him endorsements deals.
But this time, no comments have been made by Bollywood celebs on the JNU incident. It seems, Bollywood has become more cautious and is more concerned about business.
Anupam Kher Tweets ‘India Undergoing Pest Control’, Is Compared With Hitler
At a time, when it seemed Bollywood had distanced itself from the JNU controversy (because of their earlier experiences), Anupam Kher got into a war of words with well-known journalist Rajdeep Sardesai on Twitter (the social media platform is turning out to be a platform for such battles).
There’s no doubt that Bollywood actor Anupam Kher is a self-professed supporter of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and of late, has been commenting a lot on issues, not related to the entertainment industry.
His latest tweet says that the country is going through “a pest control”, because of which insects like “cockroaches are crawling out”.
Here’s what Anupam Kher said.
घरों में पेस्ट कंट्रोल होता है तो कॉक्रोच, कीड़े मकोड़े इत्यादि बाहर निकलते है। घर साफ़ होता है।वैसे ही आजकल देश का पेस्ट कंट्रोल चल रहा है।
— Anupam Kher (@AnupamPkher) February 20, 2016
Anupam Kher’s tweet didn’t go well with many (some were amused, some furious), including well-known journalist Rajdeep Sardesai, and many of them replied to his tweets.
Some people want 'pest control' to remove 'insects' in society? Last time that analogy used? sadly, during Holocaust in Nazi Germany!
— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) February 21, 2016
Cockroaches? I had chosen to forget Adolf Hitler's Nazi diatribe; letting Baygon be Baygon. :-)) But it's back. https://t.co/dLMQYkrJrz
— Sanjay Jha (@JhaSanjay) February 21, 2016
— Akash Banerjee (@akashbanerjee) February 21, 2016
However, Anupam Kher is a known supporter of BJP and speaks in favor of their actions/policies. So here we take a look at other instances.
When Bollywood Celebs Took a Stand Against the Political Class, Had to Face Backlash…
Here we take a look at the various instances when Bollywood celebs faced the heat for taking a stand or giving their opinion against the government/political class/judiciary.
Aamir Khan on ‘Intolerance’
Next it was the turn of actor Aamir Khan to get engulfed in the “rising intolerance” debate in India. Speaking at the Ramnath Goenka Awards function, Aamir khan casually said that his wife Kiran Rao asked if they should move out of the country, as she feared for the safety of their children in a climate of insecurity.
And all hell broke loose for Aamir Khan after that. Aamir earned the ire of many, including politicians as well as fellow Bollywood colleagues.
Shahrukh Khan on ‘Intolerance’
Ever since the BJP government took over, lot of people in India have been voicing concerns about the rising intolerance in India. Shahrukh Khan also joined those select few and commented on the growing intolerance in India. Least did he expect that his comments will snowball into such a big controversy, with several political leaders and religious organisations condemning his statement.
Despite Shah Rukh’s clarifications about what he meant, his film Dilwale was banned across many cities in India. The intolerance row only got uglier when Shah Rukh Khan’s car was pelted with stones in Ahmedabad during the shoot of his upcoming film ‘Raees’.
Salman Khan on Yakub Memon Hanging
When convict Yakub Memon was handed over the death sentence for his role in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, there were some who were of the opinion that Yakub Memon should not have been given the death sentence as he surrendered on his own accord.
With a number of people engaged in this debate on the execution, even our Dabangg star joined in and tweeted several posts against the death penalty…basically saying why Yakub Memon is paying for the crimes of his brother, Tiger Memon.
As expected, several political activists protested against the star, and Salman had to face the political fire. Here are a couple of them:
1. Public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam reportedly warned the actor of legal action if he didn’t take his comments back as it amounted to contempt of court.
2. BJP politician threatened to send a letter to the governor requesting for cancellation of Salman’s bail in the car hit-and-run case
The only politician who supported Salman Khan…can you guess? It was Shatrughan Sinha, father of Sonakshi Sinha, whom Salman had launched in Dabangg.
Under pressure from friends and dad Salim Khan, Salman later retracted his tweets.
But just a couple of days back, there was an article in the leading newspapers, where a late RAW official (who was instrumental in getting Yakub Memon to India) wanted leniency for Yakub Memon, considering there was an arrangement and Yakub Memon had surrendered to the Indian security officials.
Neha Dhupia on Mumbai’s Flood Fury
Life in Mumbai comes to a stand still even with moderate rains nowadays. No doubt, Mumbaikars are frustrated, but when Neha Dhupia tweeted about the agony of the people on the streets (basically slammed the government for failing to provide relief to Mumbaikars), she was targeted by a political party.
Neha had posted: “One rain n the city comes to a standstill. Good governance is not about selfies n makin us do yoga, it’s making sure ur citizens r safe.”
Obviously, she was hinting at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Selfie With Daughter and Yoga Day campaigns! And she had to face the wrath of Mr Prime Minister’s followers.
Later Neha defended her tweet by saying, “The intention of my tweet was not to demean or personally attack anyone. It was the mere frustration of a helpless citizen of Mumbai. I have wholeheartedly and consistently supported the government’s movements like Yoga Day and Swachh Bharat and will do so in future as well. I hope we can focus on the issues that matter and that my appeal to improve our civic amenities is taken in the right way,” said Neha Dhupia.
Shobhaa De Against Diktat to Screen Marathi Films During Peak Business Hours in Multiplexes
Many had expressed their displeasure when the state government asked multiplexes in Maharashtra to screen Marathi films during the peak business hours.
Author & Page-3 celebrity ‘Shobhaa De’ had expressed her displeasure and tweeted “No more pop corn at multiplexes in Mumbai? Dahi misal and vada pav only. To go better with the Marathi movies at prime time.”
A political backlash followed and the Shiv Sena had even filed a notice of breach of Privilege (where Miss De would have to explain her views before the Maharashtra assembly, with possibility of a jail term) against Shobhaa De for her tweet.
Fortunately, everything calmed down in the end.
Shruti Seth on Narendra Modi’s Selfie With Daughter Campaign
Some time back, actress-anchor Shruti Seth (she was the anchor on the popular show ‘comedy circus’) expressed her views on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Selfie With Daughter campaign on Twitter.
She stated, “A selfie is not a device to bring about change, Mr PM. Try reform.”
And the result? As expected! A social media backlash that eventually forced her to delete her tweet eventually.
In an open letter addressed to Modi, she stated, “Selfies don’t bring about change, reform does. So please try and be bigger than a photograph. Come on!”
When Rishi Kapoor Called ‘Beef Ban’ Nonsense
Rishi Kapoor was brought back to Twitter by Abhishek Bachchan, but never did he realize that soon he would find himself in a soup for his tweet. Soon after the Beef-ban was enforced in Maharashtra, Rishi kapoor had called the move as ‘Nonsense’ on twitter. Rishi, who’s known to speak his mind, had said that food and religion must not be equated.
Post the ban, 5-star hotels were found serving see venison, kangaroo and lamb meat for buffet. “This is the effect of banning beef. They start killing other animals for meat.’ Never in my life have I seen venison, which is deer meat. The deer was dear to Bhagwan Shri Ram, we were told, ” said Rishi Kapoor.
However, in a country where majority of the population worships cow/bulls, backlash from Hindu organisations was expected.
Jaya Bachchan Kicked Language Row
In 2008, after the MNS political party launched a campaign asking shopkeepers to convert all shop names/signs in Marathi, Jaya Bachchan insisted on speaking Hindi at the music launch of her son Abhishek Bachchan’s film Drona, in Mumbai. She had then stated, “Hum UP ke log hai, isliye Hindi mein baat karenge. Maharashtra ke log maaf kariye. (We belong to Uttar Pradesh and will, therefore, speak in Hindi. People of Maharashtra, please forgive me).”
Obviously, she had to face the wrath of MNS, especially Raj Thackeray, who had said “Guddi buddhi zhali pan akal aali nahi.” (Guddi…one of Jaya’s famous film characters…has grown old but has not attained wisdom with age). The veteran actress had to apologize later for hurting the sentiments of Marathi speaking people.
Raj Thackeray, chief of Political party ‘Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’ (MNS) had always criticized Amitabh Bachchan for showing more loyalty to his home state, Uttar Pradesh, than Maharashtra, where he had earned all the fame.
When Aamir Khan Refused to Budge
Concerned that the Narmada dam project displaced several villagers without adequate compensation, in 2006, Aamir Khan had extended support to the farmers who got displaced due to the Narmada dam project in Gujarat. Ammir demanded proper rehabilitation and compensation for them, and soon a controversy erupted on this matter.
The ‘Lagaan’ star refused to budge from his stand. The state government, showing its displeasure against Aamir Khan, had imposed a ban on his 2006 film ‘Fanaa’.