First they came for Bollywood, then they will come for you

Kaveree Bamzai
Kaveree BamzaiOct 23, 2016 | 15:28

First they came for Bollywood, then they will come for you

First they came for the Communists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me

And there was no one left

To speak out for me.

What does Pastor Martin Niemoller's poem have to do with Ae Dil Hai Mushkil? Everything. All those who spoke against Karan Johar's hiring of Fawad Khan for the Diwali release, remember it could be you next time.

The last two weeks have seen an utterly shameful display of bullying from MNS and cowardice from Bollywood. A democracy that prides itself on freedom of expression has seen one of its most popular and amiable directors go down on his knees and offer an abject apology to goons who have been tormenting him.

A film industry that prides itself on its communal amity and professionalism has seen certain members denounce their own. A state government that should have strongly enforced the law has in effect played arbiter between a bully and his victim instead of ensuring the victim gets justice.

Ae jaan, really, hai mushkil.

Everyone has forgotten that they could be where Johar is today - an investment from Fox Studios, a crew of 300, a talented cast that has worked hard to tell a story, and months of thinking, shooting, and editing. Ajay Devgn, whose film will benefit directly from any business that Johar's film doesn't do, has been by far the most craven.

When patriotism becomes a business decision, those who encourage it should pause to think - is this what our Constitution wanted? A culture that puts a price on patriotism (the going rate is Rs 5 crore), a culture that encourages its use to sell more tickets or raise TRPs, a culture that forces the unprotected and unsecured into silence and raises the volume of the rabid, is not a culture that is worthy of keeping.

Rabindranath Tagore had said: “Patriotism cannot be our final spiritual shelter; my refuge is humanity. I will not buy glass for the price of diamonds, and I will never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity as long as I live.”  

Everyone has forgotten they could be where Karan Johar is today. (Photo credit: India Today) 

Today the price of patriotism is to cut ties with all Pakistanis. Tomorrow it could be to cut ties with people of a certain religion, or a certain community, or a certain caste.

Then what will the self-congratulatory patriots do? Will they conduct a check on their entire cast and crew and weed out those who do not fit the rubric, like modern day McCarthys? Will they rat on their fellow filmmakers who use people of a particular religion, caste or ethnicity?

Will they force them to exile or prison? And what if they fail? What if the MNS comes to them next for a yet-to-be-thought-of offence? Who will stand up for them?

We blame Bollywood for compromising. We hold them to a higher standard of behaviour than others. Why? We make intellectuals of them, asking them to have views on national issues, and then attack them if they voice what they feel. Not just attack them, but ensure they lose advertising deals.

We first lionise them, then hunt them down. The same people who seek them out to lend glamour to their campaigns and events, whether it be Make in India or Incredible India or even election campaigns, watch silently as they are made public quarries.

We watch Johar judge dance shows, spark water cooler conversations every time his guests reveal a new tidbit on Koffee with Karan, sing his film songs, and ape his fashions, but when he puts one step wrong - and only they get to decide what wrong is - we pillory him.

And then when we see him, apologising on national TV, saluting "our brave soldiers" and quiveringly call himself a patriot, it's schadenfreude. He is, after all, one of us, beaten by the system, terrified of the consequences of acting on freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution, and apologetic about his decisions.

We watch the government trying to effect peace with Pakistan, even while the Army and paramilitary fight the terror its state unleashes on our people. We watch as they turn away silently from the psychological terror thugs unleash in India. There is duplicity there but there is also tacit consent.

From the days of Mani Ratnam's Bombay, Shiv Sena and its offshoots have had the most powerful people in Bollywood at their mercy. What will they do next? Ban every auntie in India from watching Pakistani shows on Zindagi TV?

Or wearing Pakistani kurtas and palazzos? Or talking to their friends in Lahore and Karachi? I'd like to see that. Raj Thackeray in battle with a Punjabi auntie from Delhi. Now that's a battle of equals. 

Not a Bollywood producer/director on the eve of the release of a film he's made after four years.

Last updated: October 23, 2016 | 16:35
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