What do Ajay Devgn, Akshay Kumar's views on Pakistani actors say about Bollywood?

Merely saying you are patriotic is not enough in such situations.

 |  6-minute read |   11-10-2016
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In the aftermath of the Uri attacks, instead of deliberating on possible political solutions that will test our diplomacy skills, an emotional outburst laced with pent-up patriotism is what we have got.

This is possibly expected of our media-induced spectators whose sensibilities suddenly go on an undisclosed sabbatical, showing no signs of returning. Basic sensibilities is what episodes like these demand.

Reason and rationality are heavy philosophical gobbledygook which find it difficult to enter in our hard skulls. Perhaps being reasonable at a time like this is too much to ask from people who either happen to react on extreme events or simply don't evince any interest in the country's political matters.

The  fundamental logic of "political crisis demands political solution" and not an emotional outburst on the lines of saving the motherland is too hard a projection. It almost sounds as an alien language which is already fighting a lost battle. Bollywood, seen in this light, acts as the bulwark of this teary-eyed, earth-shattering response.

Be it Nana Patekar, who in his quintessential philosophical style mocked the value of an individual in front of the country, or Akshay Kumar, whose recent video showed himself moralising about how the country will always come first, one wonders what we really have to say.

Will Patekar show similar concern for the ongoing unrest in Kashmir? When he says "mera desh sabse pehle aata hai", what does he exactly mean? As he was supportive of the farmer suicides issue, will he also acknowledge the institutional crisis that has gripped the Valley?

And as far as Kumar is concerned, he has long been Bollywood's poster-boy for  patriotism. A word against the Army or the government in general might literally get him incensed enough to deliver his famed flying kick across the face of Mr/Miss reasonable.

Ajay Devgn on the other hand says such acts need to be condemned anywhere and everywhere. Is it too much to ask him to stand up for the innocent lives lost in the Valley, which has got much to do with ill-advised conduct of the Army? For someone who purportedly stands for universal norms, his silence on other violations in the very region is deafening.

The problem gets accentuated when the barrage of emotional attacks cuts asunder the traitor who dares to cross the lakshman rekha of hypernationalism. Merely saying you are patriotic is not enough in such situations. The adrenaline zest of praising the vicarious greatness of your nation after all makes for a rousing, visible spectacle. It makes for a good show which need not do much in terms of advertising.

ali-amebd_101116125420.jpg What possible threat an ageing Ghulam Ali carries is something I've never understood. (Photo credit: India Today) 

The army of patriots is always on the look out for such moments. One elite, privileged call addressing the country-first agenda is enough reason to spew venom and hatred on anyone and everyone.  Courtesy the neoliberal boom in technology, the violence can be directed via multifarious online networks.

Those who come up with the hogwash of a basket full of idealistic virtues - dissent, dialogue and reciprocity - are conveniently butchered with impunity. It is no more the act of mere silencing. The anti-national needs to be taught a brutal lesson through a language that is a modern day cocktail of contempt and indifference. 

Nobody is saying that whatever has happened on the LOC should be forgotten. It has to be condemned in no uncertain terms. At the same time, a political, legal response is what should be the instant reaction.

This never happens as the very first reaction in most such cases is a personal one, a whole set of ad hominem attacks. Colourful foul language is on display which will target every small thing that has a Pakistan connection. The reaction  automatically degenerates into a masculine, libidinous diatribe against a group of people whom they haven't even met in their lives.

The call for the boycott of Pakistani celebrities is another added development in this saga of mindless vilification. What possible threat an ageing Ghulam Ali carries is something I've never understood.

I baulked at a politician's hypothesis that they might even be informers or agents of the Pakistani establishment. Comments like these and the way they instantly convince party stooges is bizarre and leaves you flummoxed on a number of levels.

The very people who goad the people to keep the country first, themselves have their understanding utterly seeped in the fictional yet glamourising world of Bollywood.

I believe characters like the one played by Naseeruddin Shah in the Aamir Khan-starrer Sarfarosh seem to be the preposterous basis for this priceless insight! People immediately don the strategic affairs hat and start a never ending saga of Bollywood-style punditry which can even suggest  ingenious ways to sneak into enemy territory for a final knockout punch.

Visual imagery is indeed powerful. The Kashmir crisis or the Pakistan logjam on the other hand is almost perceived as one of those levels in the video game of Counter Strike wherein you have to simply kill everyone to proceed.

A head shot will give you more points. Bestiality is what we revere in our country. It is a badge that we wear on our sleeves with hubris. The boring, time-consuming diplomatic talks fail to evince any national interest. Shout the word "war" and we are ready to play the game on our soothing couch. 

Amid all the war-mongering, the easy target was Om Puri who was overtly supportive of Pakistani actors and their contribution to the industry in general. His tone and tenor might certainly be questioned. But does his ostracising by the media influence intellects the right way to go forward?

Is the call for solidarity and compassion by actors like Ranbir Kapoor, Shah Rukh Khan and Richa Chaddha really a seditious act or a sensible reaction to try and restore normalcy.

The daredevilry engulfs the collective psyche so much that we forget that we are a democracy and not a Hinduised Pakistan. In the process of this extreme denunciation of the perpetual pain of the subcontinent, we forget that our transition toward what we actually pretend to dread has already begun.

Bollywood needs to realise that the "enemy" that they are targeting is an external one. This filmy caricaturing of a villain blinds them to the wrongs happening in our own country, the villain which is "within".

Let us hope to hear some sane voices who do not isolate the domestic and the frontier as both have always been inextricably linked to each other.

Also read: India-Pakistan situation is live and tense: Stop talking

Also read: War-mongering media, politicians posing a threat to India's security

Writer

Suraj Kumar Thube Suraj Kumar Thube

The writer has done his MA in political science with a special interest in Indian democracy and Indian political thought. He also likes listening to Hindustani Classical music and watching football.

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