A response to Aakar Patel’s “call to action” to Bollywood

The Fault my dear Aakar is literally not in your stars or why major movie stars have not joined the award return bandwagon.

Dear Aakar,

I read your piece comparing Hollywood’s response to Senator Joseph Mc’Carthy’s witch-hunt in the 50’s to the Bollywood stars “silence” in today’s India. I spent a couple of minutes whether to let this one go or not, but then your post provides so many opportunities to make fun of, that I simply could not resist.

First of all, my impression is your entire knowledge of Mc’Carthy affair is based on a single viewing of George Clooney’s “Good night and Good luck”. Unfortunately, my dear Aakar, the “witch-hunt” of the 50s is not as cut and dried as you imagine it was. It is true Senator Mc’Carthy was censured, and it is true that he died a broken and discredited man. But now investigations have revealed that many of the people he suspected of spying were indeed complicit in aiding the Soviet cause and today many conservatives criticize Mc’Carthy, not because he went on a wild goose chase, but because his approach destroyed the credibility of a legitimate concern and allowed the spies to thrive.

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However, this is small change compared to your assertion that today’s Bollywood has, in your words, chosen to remain silent (on the “intolerance” in the country) through calculated and deliberate cowardice. But are they right wing (or BJP or Hindutva, pick your mode of slander please) sympathizers? Oh please! For ages Bollywood has sucked up to Congress and the left socialism in ways too numerous to count. But allow me to recount a few anyway:

1. These geniuses have made propaganda songs that ranged from historically inaccurate (de di humein azadi bina khadag bina dhaal, Sabarmati ke sant tune kar diya kamal) to nauseatingly pandering (Aman ke dushman, jung ke beta bhool gaye ab chaal, atom bomb se ja takarya Veer Jawahar Lal) Really?? I mean really?.

2. From Aamir Khan’s terrorist in Fiza Fanaa to Pankaj Kapoor’s “now a terrorist will wipe tears” terrorist in Roza and from Shahid’s “misguided youth” in “Haider” to Maoists as the champions of the poor in “Chakravyuh”, Bollywood has often gone the extra mile in convincing us that at times people have legitimate causes to kill us, and that the police and armed forces are full of rapists and any action against terrorism is an action against humanity.

3. Last year they wrote a half-assed letter asking us to “vote our conscience” in other words “keep Modi out”. And some even landed in Varanasi, aggressively campaigning against Modi.

4. And who can forget FTII? India’s “premier” Film training institute which is a heaven for communists.

So my dear Aakar, you as a known sympathizer for Congress, and Bollywood, cannot have a falling out. At best, it is a lover’s tiff, at worst you are seeing them as a beast refusing to bite the enemy of its feeder. In any case, please leave free speech out of it.

So then why as your only correct observation in your entire piece states have major movie stars remained away from the protest brigade? Once again you are right in your assertion of their cowardice but you are wrong about the cause of this cowardice. If you had read the entire transcript of the legendary Edward R Murrow’s moving speech against Senator Mc’Carthy you would have arrived at the same conclusion that I am drawing.

Mr. Murrow states “The senator asked “upon what sour meat does this Cesar feed? Had he looked 3 lines earlier he would have found this line in Shakespeare’s Julius Cesar which is not altogether inappropriate ‘ the fault my dear Brutus is not in our stars but in ourselves“. Well there my dear friend is the answer to all your questions.

Movie stars have not been cowered by BJP’s thugs. These are the people who defend gun-toting and drunk-driving superstars with impunity. They are not scared of people in khaki shorts. Nor are they afraid of taking an unpopular stand. These are the guys who did not hesitate in shaming the countrymen for demanding jail time for Sanjay Dutt and Salman Khan. What you are seeing in Bollywood is not cowering down before the “poison of Hindutva” to quote your words but  sheer despondency of shrewd business people who see Congress lose election after election and still refuse to sack the mother-son duo at top. They are not scared Aakar, they are simply refusing to go down with a losing cause.

It is not hard to understand why you are especially upset with actors not taking a stand, they would have given your hate mongering propaganda some instant eye-balls. And it is precisely for the same reason why major actors are not touching your protest wagon with a ten foot barge pole. Writers and lyricists can get away by towing the “secular” line and still not risk loss of business. Why would a major movie star risk his career for the sake of propagating a lie? Also before you jump to another similarity between the black list and this, please note the Hollywood black list was made by the government and forbade studios from giving work to people on it. Ordinary people choosing not to see a movie is called freedom of choice.

To be fair to your movie stars, they threw a last rope to INC in April 2014 with that letter. People responded by reducing INC to double digits. The fault my dear Aakar is literally not in your (movie) stars, but in your leadership. Stars know so long as Rahul Gandhi is waiting in wings as the leader Congress is not going to win an election and so they are not souring their prospects by pissing against the wind.

With this piece of yours, you are trying your best to prod them into action, to lend some more steam to the “intolerance is rising” engine. Your piece is nothing but a public shaming of Bollywood, who you call “selfish, inward-looking and craven” only because they did not do what you wanted them to do. If of course the other sides resorts to such public abuse and name-calling, you will be the first to call it “intolerance”.

Since you started with the Mc’Carthy hearings, allow me to finish with a quote from Mr. Murrow’s speech about the same:

“We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of un-reason”

Sorry, the nation ain’t buying.

Jai Hind!


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