Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan
Bollywood actors Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan address during the inauguration of 28th Kolkata International film festival in Kolkata Image Credit: ANI/AFP

I never knew colours given to us by bountiful nature had political allegiance.

I didn’t know that saffron, one of my absolutely favourite colours, which finds a place in my beloved tricolor flag had taken a call to only associate with a specific bunch of Indians.

As I battled a virulent virus, I was astonished to learn that even Amitabh Bachchan — the doyenne of the Hindi film industry — a man who has never willingly wades into a political controversy seemed to have had enough of Bollywood being bullied by trolls of one colour.

Bachchan, always extra cautious after his previous brush with politics, seemed to take courage in both hands and spoke of the Freedom of Expression (FOE) at a film festival in Kolkata attended by Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal, among others.

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Shah Rukh Khan, superstar and the target of those with aggrieved sentiments was also present.

If the powers that be, currently waging information warfare with Bollywood, thought that he would withdraw into silence by their threats, they were wrong.

Khan, always charismatic and witty, spoke of how he was “positive and happy” and most importantly “zinda” (alive) which brought the crowd to its feet as they cheered their favourite superstar on.

When I track and report the campaign of attack against Bollywood, I often wonder whether is the global popularity of our actors — India’s inimitable soft power — that bothers the thin-skinned locked in an imaginary popularity contest with them.

We saw Deepika Padukone as brand ambassador of the venerable Louis Vuitton at the award ceremony of the finals of the beautiful game — football World Cup in Qutar.

Deepika Padukone, who unveiled the glittering gold trophy that went to the men in blue and white after the two contenders went down to the wires, for the avid stargazer there was enough to write home from Qatar's Lusail Stadium. Image Credit: AFP

Shah Rukh Khan was also present spreading stardust and glamour. While, the world fetes our superstars, they suffer the ugliest possible attack at home.

As a woman I found it particularly distasteful and perverted that they would zoom in insane close ups of Deepika Padukone in her bikinis in the song ‘Besharam rang’ and post it all over social media.

Fairly basic actually if you claim you are offended by a song and the clothes worn by the leads, don’t watch it. The zooming close ups exposed those who claimed hurt sentiments.

So has Bollywood decided to fight back after eight years of boycott calls, threats of physical violence? 

Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone in Besharam Rang Song in the movie Pathaan.
Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone in Besharam Rang Song in the movie Pathaan. Image Credit: YouTube screengrab

The qualified answer: it is too early to tell but, when Bachchan speaks up you know a sort of nadir has been reached with Bollywood having had enough of being victimised and blackmailed.

Take the case of the insane targeting of Aamir Khan’s Lal Singh Chaddha which flopped because of the barrage of negativity or the campaign unleashed against Brahmastra starring Ranbir Kapoor which was subjected to similar trashing but, emerged successful.

You don’t need to be a genius to figure out that these campaigns are organised and well funded to bring Bollywood down to its knees.

Because Bollywood is a national obsession, it keeps Indians fixated and helps with the headlines. If you can’t solve their issues, them a circus and is a permanent distraction.

All those frantic headlines “nepo kids” and “justice for Sushant” (an actor who committed suicide) keep the gullible busy.

My admiration for Shah Rukh Khan has risen. He has taken on the trolls publicly, supported by unlikely ally — Big B.

Khan has proved he’s “zinda”.

Now others in Bollywood need to do the same. Tell the blackmailers that the obituaries of Bollywood demise are premature. They are alive and creative. The stardust continues.