If Bollywood cannot have Pakistanis, how can Sajjan Jindal do business with Nawaz Sharif? Asks Ritu Pandey
So Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (ADHM) will hit theatres on October 28. The row between the film’s makers and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena over ADHM’s Pakistani cast was resolved on Saturday after the former gave into the latter’s three demands. The makers have agreed for a share of the movie’s profit to be donated to the Indian armed forces welfare fund. The movie will also have a tribute message for the soldiers killed in militant attacks, and the Film Producers’ Guild has agreed not to work with Pakistanis any more. With this, has ended almost a month of ugly public rhetoric, bringing along some clarity about our power elite, the four gentlemen — Devendra Fadnavis, Karan Johar, Mukesh Bhatt and Raj Thackeray — who attended the closed-door meeting at the Maharashtra Chief Minister’s residence to resolve the stalemate.
Johar’s heft as the most successful producer, and director of Bollywood needs no detailing. His friend lists include the A-list of the industry and he hobnobs with the most powerful people in the business. One expected Johar, for once, to take a principled stand, against this forced xenophobia and push for more cross-border collaborations, which have enriched his industry the most despite long-standing Indo-Pak acrimonies. Single-screen cinemas had already distanced themselves from his film. His team too had been paid, it’s been a while since the film’s production got over. All he had to take care of was his heavyweight distributor Fox Star Studios and multiplex owners till tempers cooled down. Johar, however, has gone ahead and set a historic new precedent. There’s no easy road from here, not anymore.
As the chief of the Producers’ Guild Mukesh Bhatt as well as his brother Mahesh Bhatt have been fighting a lonely battle for better cross-cultural ties for very long, Johar and his ilk have only now discovered what the Bhatt brothers have been pitching for over two-decades; the Pakistani market. One can only pity that today as one of the biggest Bollywood producers surrendered, Bhatt Jr had no choice but to lay down his arms.
Now just the other day, Bhatt and Johar’s colleague Anurag Kashyap had brushed aside MNS as a “redundant and irrelevant party trying to find relevance again by using the film industry.” In an ironical twist MNS chief Raj Thackeray has gone on to prove that even with just one seat in the 228 member Assembly, his party is relevant enough to carry out “legitimised” extortion for the country’s soldiers. What else can it mean when the chief minister of the state calls the man threatening vandalism to the discussion table?
This one instance has settled what has been said for long — that in India the fringe is the mainstream now. It dictates terms, with the tacit approval of the powers that be, while the latter put on the facade of being “liberal.” It also strengthens MNS’ bully persona. And tells us who really is the boss in the Maharashtra Assembly now, Kashyap’s angry tweets notwithstanding. Pakistanis are kept out of Indian entertainment industry, without the government having to get its hands dirty cancelling their visas.
This also shows us the 360 degree change the workings of the Indian government have undergone under the Narendra Modi government. The man with the 56” chest, who gives us fancy slogans of “Make in India” and coerces the United Nations into accepting India’s “soft power” with its declaration of the International Yoga Day. It’s strange if Bollywood does not fit into Mr Modi’s idea’s of soft power and Brand India when he doesn’t shy away from using stars like Amitabh Bachchan and Salman Khan for self-endorsement all the time. And since he has been harping on “Make in India” for a while now, about time somebody explained to him its nuts and bolts. About “Enterprise Risk Management”, the term that refers to investment in security as an ally of profitability and not a burden on the coffers. Because people employed in a business can only add to the profitability if they feel secure and work with a carefree mind. Also about time someone told him to see Bollywood too as a “Make in India” enterprise. The best known Indian brand outside the country, which at certain momentous occasions, needs to feel secure and supported by its leadership. And about time somebody asked him how the Sajjan Jindals (the same guy who organised Mr Modi’s rendezvous with the Pakistani PM in Lahore) of the world can continue to carry on business with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif even after the Uri attack while Bollywood cannot engage with Pakistani artists. Our ‘strong’ prime minister must answer this very crucial question and we must not stop till he tells us his Mann Ki Baat.
(The contributor is a senior Delhi-based journalist & does not reflect upon the editorial policies of this website)