Hrithik Roshan and Saif Ali Khan with 'Vikram Vedha' filmmakers Gayathri and Pushkar
Hrithik Roshan and Saif Ali Khan with 'Vikram Vedha' filmmakers Gayathri and Pushkar Image Credit:

Bollywood and cricket, India’s soft power, are - to use a current term much in favour — “India’s influencers” bar none. Besides the influence, both are billion dollar plus industries, which provide employment to a huge amount of people.

Mumbai is a city of dreams particularly because people flock here from across the Indian heartland to make their big screen dreams come true.

Often enough, dreams do come true like Shahrukh Khan who had stardust sprinkled and turned in to the King Khan, beloved across the world. The “struggle” to become a star is given a near mythical status with sometimes “strugglers” sleeping on benches.

Shatrughan Sinha, the actor, once told me that he had gotten used to sleeping rough on benches and one day pulled out his last bank note and sort of looked up at the sky hoping for divine intervention. The next day, he signed his first film.

These rags to riches stories keep people hooked. Cricket is similar. The only thing that matters is talent and a big match temperament. The heady mix of power and glamour with the ability to pull in millions of people gets political parties and leaders extremely interested.

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Aamir Khan's latest release Laal Singh Chaddha was subjected to relentless boycott calls Image Credit: Supplied

The reason for the long preamble, my dear readers of SWAT analysis, is that while we have seen politicians wear a cricket control handle as the ultimate power accessory of having arrived, Bollywood was a tougher try, simply because creative talent is hard to harness and put controls on.

I monitor social media (bigoted sewers of it) professionally. After organised campaigns against movies like the Aamir Khan starrer Lal Sing Chaddha and Ranbir Kapoor starrer Shamshera, it appears that the trolls tasted blood.

To save his film against the most high voltage ban campaign that I have seen, Khan had to offer a public Mea Culpa but the film still tanked. I still don’t know why they wanted Khan to apologise but, if the apology was over his comments on intolerance in India made many years ago, the trolls and their paymasters certainly proved his point.

The attack on Ranbir Kapoor was even more ridiculous. An interview where he said he liked red meat was made viral. Now I am a practising Hindu, who is a vegetarian but, I certainly feel no outrage at another person’s dietary choices.

Though the film did well, Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhatt starrer Brahmastra also became a victim of cancel culture in India Image Credit: Supplied

A host of social media handles have come up clearly well-funded, who claim to dissect "anti-Hindu" biases in films and repeatedly ask people to fund them while boycotting Bollywood. These bigoted handles call Bollywood “Urdu wood” and peddle barely hidden Islamaphobia.

For years, a powerful self-described cultural organisation has been peddling a conspiracy that the three Khan superstars — Shahrukh, Aamir and Salman were part of some international conspiracy. Yes, a conspiracy to provide entertainment to millions.

Now the same bigoted set of people want to totally control Bollywood and the stars who are loved by millions of Indians. Emboldened by the Lal Singh Chaddha boycott success, they went after Ranbir starrer Brahmastra, peddling insane conspiracy theories.

Happily the audience decided to choose for itself and Brahmastra was a hit, helping the Covid-hit Mumbai film industry to revive itself.

Ranbir Kapoor in 'Shamshera'
Shamshera was accused of hurting sentiments and calls for boycott were made across India’s social media platforms

Two things have become the norm when a big movie releases. Some publicity hunter files a case claiming hurt sentiments and the makers have to deal with this nuisance. The other — a paid trending hashtag on social media, asking for a boycott on the film, citing the superstars who star in the film being “anti-Hindu”.

Currently the perpetually angry lot are asking for a ban of Hritik Roshan and Saif Ali Khan starrer Vikram Vedha. I trust my erudite readers of SWAT analysis can figure out why.

The campaign to control Bollywood and the content it makes and who stars in the films is pretty open now. People are drip-fed poison and hate against their favourite movies and filmstars.

It’s an attempt to dethrone the superstars and have content tailor-made for a particular ideology. These hate handles that have popped are not a coincidence but part of a paid troll army.

Here is hoping against hope that Bollywood, that bastion of India's pluralistic ethos, with its magic stories and stardust, doesn’t cave in.