The next big-budget Bollywood flick to hit the screens is Brahmastra and just like every other B-Town production these days, it has fallen prey to the boycott gang ever since the first teaser dropped. But now, just days before its release, Ranbir Kapoor fans have united to counter the boycott efforts on Twitter by attaching the Hindu devotional slogan 'Jai Shri Ram' to the movie's name.
Meanwhile, another faction is calling for a boycott for not just ‘Hinduphobic’ elements, but also Alia Bhatt’s family! From Mahesh Bhatt 'supporting terrorists and drug-taking Bollywood stars' to Alia Bhatt and mother Soni Razdan 'funding journalist Rana Ayyub’s career', all sorts of conspiracy theories are floating around.
The Hinduphobic controversies and the general Boycott Bollywood discourse: When the teaser and trailer of Brahmastra dropped on social media, some Hindu viewers took particular offence with one scene in particular: Ranbir Kapoor entering a mandir without taking off his shoes. Even though the film does deal with Hindu mythological figures and weapons, it is only ironic for Brahmastra to join the pantheon of films considered ‘Hinduphobic’.
And then of course, after Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, the general discourse on boycotting Bollywood movies (particularly that of star kids like Ranbir and Alia) has been quite common, even affecting the general Bollywood box office collections to an extent. With his bad boy image, beef-eating and drug-taking habits, Ranbir would obviously be targeted or condemned by many. The actor’s loyal fans, some of whom call themselves are ‘Ranbirians’, seem to be an endangered species.
The fans strike back with Jai Shri Ram: From being a slogan devoted to God Ram to finding a new life as a popular cry among extremist right-wing organisations, the three words ‘Jai Shri Ram’ have undergone an amusing evolution.
Currently, it is being used by Ranbir Kapoor fans and fan pages to defend the film, highlighting how it is showing Hinduism in a positive light. After all, the very name of Ayan Mukerji’s directorial venture refers to one of the greatest weapons created by Brahma in Hindu mythology.
Pranam, from another Sanatani to another.— Banka (@LeMukka) August 29, 2022
If you're a true Sanatani as you claim to be, let's join hands and try to ensure that the movie Brahmastra showing our Hindu culture and deities becomes a massive hit & reaches everyone worldwide like RRR did.#Brahmastra
Jai Shree Ram pic.twitter.com/GBzMCZSCms
The music video for the song Dance Ka Bhoot provides another angle that can help the makers defend Brahmastra as a pro-Hindu movie. Ranbir's protagonist Shiva dances in what seems like a Dussehra procession, prays in front of a Ram idol, and then shoots a fiery arrow at the Ravan effigy. This is prompting some audiences to even feel that watching Brahmastra is their 'duty as a Hindu'.
Boycott because of Alia Bhatt’s family: When you have members like Mahesh Bhatt and Pooja Bhatt in your family, you are no stranger to controversy. This is the case with Alia Bhatt whose family’s alleged ‘anti-Indian’ and ‘anti-Hindu’ connections are being brought out by some right-wing folks calling for Brahmastra’s boycott.
These are the several conspiracy theories that are being circulated:
- Mahesh Bhatt believes that 26/11 was 'a conspiracy by RSS and other extremist Hindu organisations' as is evident from his presence at the book launch for 26/11: RSS Ki Saazish by Aziz Burney, an event where Congress member Digivijay Singh was also present. Singh has constantly propagated the theory that 26/11 could have been an inside job given how the late ATS (Anti Terrorist Squad) Chief Hemant Karkare (who was martyred during the terror attack) had been receiving death threats from Hindu extremists.
- Alia’s half-brother Rahul Bhatt is known to have alleged connections with David Headley, the American terrorist who is currently serving a 35-year-long sentence and was one of the main conspirators behind 26/11. During his stay at the Taj Hotel in Mumbai, he befriended Bhatt who introduced him to Mumbai’s party scene.
- Alia’s sister Pooja Bhatt marked her comeback with the Netflix drama series Bombay Begums, a show that was marred by several controversies including claims of ‘Hinduphobia’. Some viewers were offended with a tilak-wearing politician from a saffron outfit serving as the series villain.
- Alia and her mother Soni Razdan’s friendship with journalist Rana Ayyub is another reason that the boycott gang has been highlighting. Razdan’s previous statements in support of Afzal Guru have fuelled the fire further.
And then, some are even referring to Alia Bhatt as an 'Islamist terrorist supporter' for even trivial details such as an Arabic calligraphy image hanging in the background in one of her photographs!
The Gangubhai Kathiawadi actress however is not bothered by the whole boycott fuss as she clearly stated in a Mid-Day interview, “If you don’t like me, don’t watch me.”
Given how the film took nearly a decade of production and a budget of Rs 410 crore, Alia's 'don't-like-me-don't-watch-me' might not be quite a great move. A lot of expectations are riding on Brahmastra. To what extent would the boycott trends affect Brahmastra’s business, will be seen this Friday onwards.