Bollywood: A Political Pawn

It is crystal clear now that India’s ruling party’s control over cinema is the exact shadow of Nazi control in Germany.

People get easily trapped in these baits because lately, the characters in such propagan­da movies are played by their fa­vourite actors. Seeing their favourite artists stand alongside the country’s premier, receiving Na­tional Awards for their work, deeply influences the audience. They trust these artists implicitly, believing they would nev­er manipulate information. While they may question Modi’s inten­tions, they never doubt the integ­rity of the country’s superstars, who have earned a place in their hearts through their remarkable work. This is where the evil genius of Modi lies: he doesn’t spread mis­information himself but relies on trusted individuals to do the job.

It’s unfortunate to note that even an icon like Shahrukh Khan needed a movie like “Pathan” to make his grand comeback. For Khan, the old, cliche, and typical story of ISI and RAW won him his stardom back, but on the other hand, it further fostered the agenda of the BJP. For Modi and his political party BJP, Bollywood is a scapegoat. It has been for a decade now, and the in­fluence has deepened to the extent that it wouldn’t be wrong to say that movies helped a lot in the elec­tion campaigns of Modi. One can analyze this from the fact of how many times he faced the media. I think the last press conference of his was a decade ago. The rea­son is that cinema is now his new press room to answer questions and queries, and even to pin down the opposition in the most mani­acal way. For instance, the movie “Accidental Prime Minister” was yet another nail in the coffin and it excellently served the purpose to defame the ex-Prime Minister of the country by portraying him as a perplexed and confused political figure, which definitely wasn’t true. BJP got away with this, and anoth­er movie that would definitely be the prime example of narcissism is “Narendra Modi” starring Vivek Oberoi. On one hand, a movie on the ex-Prime Minister portrays him as a weak and unfunctional Prime Minister, while on the other hand, a movie on the sitting PM portrays him as soft-spoken, friendly, deter­mined, confident, and selfless. Such self-love acts are enough to explain the true intentions of the premier; in the next elections.

In recent times, Modi has become a staunch figure in Indian politics, so strong and influenced that he over time became the invincible politician of the country. And one major weapon that helped him be­come invincible is “Bollywood.” It is crystal clear now that India’s rul­ing party’s control over cinema is the exact shadow of Nazi control in Germany, and the writing is on the wall for BJP to recognize its conse­quences. As of now, they are enjoy­ing the ultimate support through this medium, but the amount of ex­tremism and hate towards other ethnic groups, especially Muslims, and wavering support for Hindu­ism, has been augmented. Not only has it created like-minded zom­bies and war-mongering creatures, which are indeed a threat to the whole region, but its consequences are evident within India’s territory as well. We have seen how Hindu­ism is considered the superior reli­gion in the country, and it has suf­focated and constricted the space for other religions in the country as well. Through propaganda films, the BJP has sent a clear message that they are insecure about the ex­istence of other faiths in the coun­try as well as in the region. To keep moving forward, we have to be ut­ter extremists in the social and cul­tural corporations with people belonging to different faiths and communities. This polarized mind­set has nipped the idea of secular India in the bud.

If there is one thing that can aid Bollywood in this crisis, it is the acknowledgment of the problem. Though they themselves are deep­ly trapped in it, what is more con­cerning is that they are not seeking a way out of this burning build­ing. They all have to sit down, not only for their credibility of work or profit in this business but also for the unspoken promise to the au­dience and for the honest nature of art, which has only one task: to provide information and truth to the public in the form of art. They have no time to delay this realiza­tion process, as the situation has already reached a critical point, akin to what happened in Germa­ny or after the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, which later bur­ied Afghan cinema. That’s what is soon going to happen with Bolly­wood. It is not that films wouldn’t be made, but there would be no one seen in the theaters to watch the recycled stories they have been producing for a decade.

Secondly, there comes the resil­ient approach to this art. The best example they can learn from is Ko­rean cinema. From the days of Jap­anese occupation, stringent cen­sorship stifled Korean cinema, and subsequent regimes continued this authoritarian trend. But when cen­sorship laws were relaxed in the 1990s, Korean cinema flourished after the Korean people relentless­ly fought democratic struggles. The global acceptance of K-pop and Ko­rean cinema is a living truth for India to learn from. They fought against tyranny and snatched what they deserved. Later on, they de­picted these struggles in films so that there would be evidence of their hardship, which could lat­er tell their tales. India has to un­derstand that if the shackles of art can be broken in Korea, then it can happen anywhere in the world. History can repeat itself.

If the government’s control over art continues and creative space is stifled in this manner, then they must keep in mind that the con­sequences of this would be so se­vere, tragic, and profound that the world will forget about Hitler and his propagandist Goebbels’ con­trol over art. In the annals of his­tory, Modi and the BJP will be re­membered as references for such suppressive acts.

Usama Asghar
The writer holds a degree in International Relations. He tweets @usama_1599 and can be reached at usama.maverick@gmail.com

The writer is a freelance columnist.

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