Is Akshay Kumar Modi’s Leni Reifenstahl?

It was only a matter of time before a Bollywood celebrity would cash in on the populist nationalism permeating across India.

Few would have thought that it would be Action Man Akshay Kumar though – a man who once lipsynced to the lyrics “pyaar, pyaar, pyaar, Hookah bar!”

After the success of his Gulf War drama, Airlift, however, the actor seems to have done away with his usual frivolous fare and decided to gravitate more towards films with meatier content like Rustom, Jolly LLB 2 and his latest, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha.

Released just under a month ago, Toilet has already garnered over 200 crores at the worldwide box office. Many would say that the film’s success is due to the fact that it shines a light on a very important issue in India that affects a third of the country’s population, the issue of open defecation.

Although Toilet: Ek Prem Katha and Triumph Of The Will are worlds apart in terms of quality, they’re both vehicles for populist leaders who advocate for cultural hegemony and have dubious human rights records.

Others however say that the film is a subdued propaganda piece, a love letter to right-wing leader, PM Modi, and his Swachh Bharat sanitation campaign.

Many have lambasted the film because of this.

After watching the film, I would have to say that I belong to the latter camp.

I was very happy to see a film addressing a burgeoning issue in India. However, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the first thing that came to mind as the credits started rolling was Triumph Of The Will, a propaganda film released during the height of Nazism in Germany made by Hitler’s friend, Leni Reifenstahl.

Despite its chilling subject matter, Triumph Of The Will is considered to this day a masterpiece of early cinema on par with Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane and Sergie Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin. Leni Riefenstahl directed other propaganda films for Adolf Hitler such as The Victory of Faith but Triumph of the Will remains her most popular work.

Although Toilet: Ek Prem Katha and Triumph Of The Will are worlds apart in terms of quality, they’re both vehicles for populist leaders who advocate for cultural hegemony and have dubious human rights records.

Yes, Adolf Hitler, the man responsible for the death of over 15 million people and the destruction of several nation states, was infinitely more evil than PM Narendra Modi could ever be but the similarities I’ve mentioned are inarguable.

The question is whether Kumar will duplicate the massive success of Toilet by releasing another film with a pungent Modi sentiment.

Rumors were circulating months ago about him playing Modi in a biopic. Reliable sources quickly squashed those rumors but as the old adage goes, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

It seems like the squeaky clean superstar who once shied away from pushing the envelope is now ready to tear it to pieces.

 

 

ARTWORK BY: EGON SCHIELE

Rashad

4 Comments

  1. Yes the writer is absolutely correct- trying to raise awareness about cleanliness is political propaganda. We deserve to live in garbage. If prior governments did not consider cleanliness as important then there should have been a movie promoting open defacation. We go abroad and complain about our country not being clean, but if somebody tries, we will oppose. A country like this can never be clean

    • First off, sarcasm and passive aggression doesn’t become of anyone.
      Secondly, I agree with you completely, open defecation and all of its ramifications is one of India’s biggest problems.
      However, there’s a fine line between shining a light on this issue (which Akshay Kumar nobly has) and praising Modi, who is a divisive figure.
      Perhaps I was too harsh with my critique of Kumar. I am very, very happy that his film addressed this terrible issue but I feel like there was also an ulterior motive.
      I could be wrong.

      Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. I appreciate it.

      • Which politician is not a divisive figure? Everyone is…. dont oppose just because you are in the opposition or your ideology matches someone else. Cleanliness is a basic issue. Its like government asking you to wear helmet while riding or putting on seatbelt while driving- if you meet an accident, it is your life at risk. Government will not be at loss. Same way your surroundings are clean, you will be free from diseases. So, if somebody is raising such a basic yet important issue, should he be praised or not?

        • Like I said, I am over the moon that this film addressed this burgeoning issue in India however the film is also a valentine to a politician. I am on the fence when it comes to all Indian politicians. I’m not a fan of any of them. Yes, I’m a pardesi but I’m well-informed when it comes to Indian politics.
          Let’s forget about this film for a second – the fact that Kumar is also reportedly planning on playing Modi in a biopic is also troubling news. I mentioned that in the article.

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