Before you all come at me with your digital pitchforks, hear me out.
There is no question that, ideally, it would be great if everyone had everyone’s back in the industry and advocated for artistic integrity and freedom of expression. But times they are a changin’ and Bollywood no longer has the clout it once did. More than two thirds of Bollywood films released in the past two years have either been dead on arrival or barely broke even. Even the film trivedi, the three Khans, have lost their box office omnipotence – Raees was declared a “semi-hit” by Box Office India and Tubelight was a catastrophe of Biblical proportions.
Aamir is safe. For now.
The drought is so severe in Bollywood that one of the the largest film studios, UTV Motion Pictures, shut down production for an indefinite amount of time last year after losing a substantial amount of money with back-to-back flops Fitoor, Mohenjo Daro and 2015’s particularly god-awful Katti (fucking) Batti, which was not only was a blow to UTV Pictures but was also the final nail in actor, Imran Khan’s once flourishing career.
In fact, nearly all actors’ careers are hanging in the balance with only a select few – and by a select few I mean Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan- delivering hit after hit.
There is also something rotten in the state of Denmark.
India, like the rest of the world, has been hijacked by a violent form of right-wing nationalism.
That’s right – we live in scary times, a vagina-grabbing reality TV star is president of the free world, Alternative für Deutschland, a Nazi party, is gaining an alarming number of seats in the German parliament, Italy is reverting back to fascism and state-elected officials in India are issuing death threats to Bollywood actors.
This whole debacle is nowhere near your everyday trifle Bollywood controversy; it’s shit-in-your-kurtas scary and it has set a precedent for all Bollywood films to come.
Fringe RSS-inspired or affiliated groups have always, as we all know, protested heavily against many Bollywood films but their frustrations never manifested in anything more than a few multiplexes being raided.
However, the political ascension of You-Know-Who has emboldened these groups and we now have a PG-rated musical being torn asunder by them even though none of them have seen the film!
From what we can all gather from the film’s trailer, Padmavati is a period piece in the same vein as Bhansali’s previous film, Bajirao Mastani, that is an acknowledgment of the valor of the Rajput people in olden times and a condemnation of the warmongering Mughals who tried to conquer them. It’s clear that the film does not warrant of the vitriol aimed at it.
That vitriol began to crescendo when BJP Haryanvi politician, Surajpal Amu, recently placed a 10 crore bounty on Deepika Padukone and Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s heads while also threatening to “break the legs” of Padmavati‘s other lead actor, Ranveer Singh.
I don’t know about you but that made me go “What the Theo Van Gough is going on?!”
To make matters even worse, Indian liberals are butthurt that most Bollywood celebrities are keeping their heads down and not coming to the defense of Padmavati and its team.
Of course they aren’t, they’re human beings. Not only are all their careers already in jeopardy but more importantly, they don’t want to end up hacked to death and left in a ditch somewhere!
Due to the fact that politicians have now lost their goddamn minds and are yelling “off with their heads” as though they’re the fucking Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, everything is fair game.
Shabana Azmi and her husband, Javed Akhtar’s efforts to quell this unprecedented disaster is commendable but no one should expect other artists from the industry to follow in their footsteps.
After all, this whole debacle is nowhere near your everyday trifle Bollywood controversy; it’s shit-in-your-kurtas scary and it has set a precedent for all Bollywood films to come.
Will the industry have to run every upcoming release by the Karni Sena now?
Don’t laugh, that could actually happen. In which case, I would strongly urge everyone in Bollywood to retire, GTFO out of India and enjoy their earnings elsewhere.
This new India does not deserve them.
ARTWORK BY RACHNA RAVI