As Shahrukh Khan starrer Pathaan crossed ₹1,028 crores worldwide and claimed the tag of the number one Hindi film in India, another battle against Bollywood is in the making.
The film Bheed on the pandemic induced lockdown and the misery that poor migrants, forced to walk home, faced - has been made by well-known director Anubhav Sinha, who is facing a concerted and sponsored attack.
Self proclaimed critics and entire troll farms have been unleashed on Sinha, a hard-hitting and brilliant filmmaker, and someone who calls a spade a spade.
Success of Pathaan
What I find chilling is that the actual plight of the migrants who walked for thousands of kilometres to get back to their villages didn’t cause any anger, but the celluloid depiction of it does.
Clearly we don’t want to see our ugly face on film for posterity, especially as the authorities claims they have no numbers of migrants who walked and who died during the Covid pandemic.
The campaign against Bheed is freighted with the usual tropes of #antinationalbollywood and #banbollywood which have become predictable rituals when a new Hindi movie releases these days.
Pathaan faced a similar frenzied campaign yet Khan triumphed. The success of Pathaan gave hope to a beleaguered Bollywood, which has been under seige for years now -- attacked by an invisible enemy, cloaked in bigotry.
Frustrated by Pathaan’s success and Khan’s refusal to kowtow to those behind the attack, Bheed is facing a dialled up backlash now.
A dignified response
A director who I spoke to for this SWAT analysis told me that the entire film industry was awestruck as Khan maintained a dignified silence even when his son Aryan was sent to jail for a month in a fake drug case, which unravelled later.
Khan has never been confrontational but has never succumbed to being a cheerleader for those in power. In a powerful but, quiet way he has resisted his superstardom being harnessed to political power.
What the director left unsaid was the legions of actors who had quietly made deals with power. But, even here I think there is hope because the public has recently been discerning enough to reject their movies that have serially flopped even after emotional claims for returning to Indian citizenship.
I remember Amitabh Bachchan had once said when he was in politics and representing Allahabad (now Prayagraj) that a fan came and handed him a letter. The letter said please don’t be in politics, it divides people.
This fan reaction goes to the heart of the matter. Fans don’t like actors peddling political lines they want to be able to colour in themselves in the characters the actors portrays and they register their disapproval by not watching the political actors films.
Bollywood is open for all
Sadly for the ones who want to whip the film industry in to being a propaganda arm of a political party, Pathaan being a hit has taught them no lessons.
A host of handles which peddle hate against minorities and Bollywood also openly ask for funding from those who follow them on social media.
They claim the “research” they do should be funded by the majority community which is in danger and has been fooled by Bollywood. This communal campaign against Bollywood is extremely divisive and is being done with two goals.
The first to ensure that minorities, who work in Bollywood in big numbers, face the same discrimination that is currently their lot in other fields and jobs. Till date Bollywood is open for anyone with talent.
The second is the campaign to reduce Bollywood to a propaganda arm of a particular ideology, harnessing huge star power and charisma to its cause.
Go watch a film
Bheed clearly doesn’t play according to this script, and hence the vicious attack. The battle against Bollywood has just begun but it may get worse in the upcoming years.
If you want your movies to be creative, fun and free of any ideology helmed by genuine superstars, be vociferous in your support.
Bollywood is India's soft power. One should go and watch a film to be entertained or have one’s prejudices challenged, not to cheerlead a bigoted ideology.