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SRK, Deepika, and the outrage against ‘Pathaan’: How the Indian Left and Bollywood are responsible for the current predicament

The Indian Left has long co-opted Bollywood to promote its pet projects on social activism, historical bastardization, and imposing western ideals, often at the expense of India's millennia-old civilisational heritage and cultural ethos. The ongoing outrage against 'Pathaan' needs to be seen in this context.

Bollywood was once considered India’s most potent symbol of soft power. It provided a gateway for India to present its worldview and to foreigners, a medium to understand its rich heritage, cultural diversity, and pluralistic and ancient traditions.

Shah Rukh Khan, or King Khan, as his fans refer to him, emerged as the quintessential embodiment of what Bollywood stood for. He commanded a massive following, which bordered on frenzied adulation, with fans from across the world going gaga over his romantic movies; his iconic pose of stretching his arms wide and beckoning his lady love to draw nearer in a bear hug became an integral part of his path-breaking Bollywood career.

Similarly, Deepika Padukone, much like SRK but not more than him, became one of the most trusted ambassadors of India’s soft power, Bollywood, across the globe. She broke numerous glass ceilings and established herself as an accomplished actor, displaying her versatility and commitment to her art.

The fraternisation of Bollywood and the Left saw the former’s undoing in the Indian film industry

But all of that changed in the last few years as Bollywood allowed itself to be co-opted by postmodernist forces in the West that enabled the global scourge of wokeism and chipped away at India’s unique culture, painting it as primitive, barbaric, and regressive. As a consequence, ideals cherished by Indians and traditions enshrined in its millennia-old civilisation were looked down upon and treated with contempt by Bollywood, which began warming up to western ideals and imposing them on Indians through their movies.

However, as statistics prove, the bent towards the West turned out to be a costlier mess for Bollywood, which is paying for its harakiri to this date. Audiences stopped going to theatres to watch Hindi movies that appeared distorted and perversely aligned to the Left’s ideological narrative.

Recently, IMDB released its rankings for the Most Popular Indian Movies for 2022. And predictably, there was just one Hindi movie in the list of top 10 films widely talked about by the Indian audience in 2022. Incidentally, it was ‘The Kashmir Files’ by Vivek Agnihotri, the same movie that saw a vicious barrage of attacks from sections of Bollywood and the Left firmament, which vehemently objected to the film because it brought forth the harsh reality of the sufferings endured by Kashmiri Pandits in the 90s in the Valley.

The list was dominated by South Indian films, which have been using the canvas of the silver screen to glorify India’s civilisational beauty, diversity, and magnificence as against Bollywood’s insufferably hackneyed tropes. RRR topped the IMDB list, with Kantara and Ponniyin Selvan-I among the top 10.

Amitabh Bachchan recently expressed his concerns for civil liberties and freedom of expression during an event. It was ironic he chose to speak at an event that was organised in Kolkata, West Bengal, where the ruling TMC is accused of indulging in post-poll violence and repressing the civil liberties of its political opponents. Shah Rukh Khan also spoke on the impact of social media campaigns, alluding to the online ire his movie Pathaan has attracted in the last few days.

While SRK, Bachchan, spoke on the need to protect civil liberties and safeguard Freedom of Expression, they both had been conspicuously mum when former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma came under Islamist attack, unleashed by Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair, over her comments on Prophet Muhammad. The actors, who command a massive following, could have wielded their power and asked their followers to respect the Freedom of Expression of one of their co-citizens, even if they did not agree with her views. Sharma has been condemned to oblivion, with the threat of an Islamist attack perpetually hanging above her head.

The handwringing over FoE underscores the hypocrisy of Bollywood stalwarts over vile attacks against Nupur Sharma, The Kashmir Files

However, none of the actors came out in support of Nupur Sharma or express solidarity with her. Instead, propagandists such as Swara Bhasker weighed in on the controversy, indirectly legitimising the attack against Sharma by criticising her for her remarks and not urging Islamists to back off from targeting her.

Similarly, during the highly motivated smear campaign against ‘The Kashmir Files’, very few actors and stalwarts from the Bollywood industry came out in support of Vivek Agnihotri, the director of the movie that chronicled the sufferings of the Kashmiri Hindus in the Valley leading up to the exodus. Amitabh Bachchan and SRK, among the foremost members of the Bollywood industry, did not feel it necessary to voice their concern for the rabid attack faced by The Kashmir Files from the Indian Left, which sought to project the travails of the Kashmiri Pandits as a figment of Vivek Agnihotri’s imagination.

Despite the damning evidence in form of numerous news reports, and video interviews with the survivors and the kin of those killed by Islamic terrorists in Kashmir, the Indian Left continued its motivated attack against ‘The Kashmir Files’. Far from standing in support of Vivek Agnihotri, many Bollywood actors, directors, and others aligned themselves with the Left to rail against the movie. Anurag Kashyap, a fading Bollywood director, assailed ‘The Kashmir Files’, implicitly legitimising the attack it faced from the Left.

None of the so-called warriors of FoE, civil liberties—including Naseeruddin Shah and Javed Akhtar, who are vocal about a range of national issues—in addition to Amitabh Bachchan, and Shah Rukh Khan, who are reticent in raising their voices—called out the Left’s bullying and throw their weight behind ‘The Kashmir Files’ for the constitutional right that guarantees its makers to create and screen movies in theatres across the country.

SRK maintained a stoic silence when Leftists used his son’s detention to propagate the myth of Islamophobia in India

In addition, Bollywood actors have allowed themselves to be used puppets for the Left to defame India on global platforms. Last year, after the NCB detained Shah Rukh Khan’s son in a drugs case, the leftist propagandists fell over themselves to characterise a routine police procedure as rooted in the Centre’s “deep-rooted” Islamophobia and to “teach” SRK a lesson for his unfavourable comment made against it years ago. Rana Ayyub, a donation-fraud accused, peddled in her column for the Washington Post that SRK’s son, Aryan Khan, was arrested because of his Muslim identity. Other ‘liberals’ too promoted the canard that the narcotics watchdog detained Aryan because of his Muslim identity.

The entire cacophony surrounding Aryan Khan being arrested and kept in prison because of his religion was to malign the country—to prove that hatred against Muslims in India is so prominent that even eminent personalities are not spared. This narrative jibed perfectly well with the hackneyed liberal propaganda to portray the Modi government as the enemy of the Muslims. Instead, many others were detained along with Aryan, but the Left continued to push the ‘Muslims in Danger’ narrative and sweep under the rug the religious identities of others who were arrested by the NCB, lest it would debunk their propaganda as Hindus were also involved in the case.

But Shah Rukh Khan did not publicly denounce the allegations that his son was detained as a part of a procedure followed by the NCB. He did not explicitly call out the Left’s skulduggery and their attempt to drag his name to attract global attention to their hobbyhorse of slandering the Modi government. Instead, he allowed the Left to use him as a stick to beat the current dispensation. Neither did other Bollywood actors come forth to stop the Left from weaving an insidious narrative that Muslims in India faced religious discrimination.

The Left, on the other hand, is known for harbouring Hinduphobic tendencies, evident in their disdain for concerns raised by Hindus. This unholy nexus between Bollywood and the Left and their antecedents have left an average Hindu under perpetual suspicion over intentions and motivations peddled in their movies. Such distrust toward Bollywood has spawned protests like the one witnessed against ‘Pathaan’, where legions of protesters have demanded the movie be banned from screening in theatres.

How Bollywood’s dalliance with the Left has fuelled the latest outrage on Pathaan

Bollywood, for its part, has been silent about the Left’s perversion. Silence often does not reflect neutrality. It is a sign of complicity. Being silent in the Nupur Sharma case or the attack against ‘The Kashmir Files’, or during the Left’s treachery in dragging Shah Rukh Khan’s religion, the Bollywood actors and directors tacitly backed the Left’s narratives on the said issues, even if that trampled over the civil liberties of individuals, suppressed Freedom of Expression, and spread falsehoods about imagined ‘Islamophobia’ in India in global publications.

SRK, Deepika, and Bollywood, in general, have more than enthusiastically lent themselves to the Left’s overarching aim of whitewashing harsh realities, distorting India’s millennia-old civilisational heritage, and allowing itself to be co-opted for propagating the myth of ‘rising Islamophobia in India’. The ongoing outrage against Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘Pathaan’ movie needs to be seen in this context. There is a trust deficit between Hindus, who have become politically and culturally more conscious, with Bollywood and its association with the Left. It is this trust deficit that has fuelled the protests against ‘Pathaan’ across the country and on social media.

Thus, the ongoing outrage against Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘Pathaan’ movie needs to be seen in this context. Surely, the outcry is misguided and has little objective value, but it stems from the symbiotic relationship between Bollywood and the Indian Left, which is manifested through the bastardization of Indian history, undermining of cultural mores, and whitewashing of Islamist atrocities, in movies that are created under the garb of ‘artistic freedom’.

In their attempt to undermine the Modi government, defame the country, and weaken the BJP, the Left has vitiated the public discourse to such an extent that Hindus are forced to outrage on issues that nobody would have cared about a few years ago. The Hindi film industry, by being complicit with the Left, is therefore responsible for the current predicament they find themselves in. They alone have the solution to extricate themselves from this mess. The question is whether they would heed that solution or continue to pander to the leftists, watching their counterparts in the South Indian Film industry surging way past ahead of them.

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Amit Kelkar
Amit Kelkar
a Pune based IT professional with keen interest in politics

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