Why Singer Kailash Kher Wants Yogi Adityanath To Take The Proposed Film City In Uttar Pradesh Beyond Films
Kher's advice to the CM is simple, straight, yet profound — If you want to transform Uttar Pradesh into a hub of creativity, make it for the 'kalaakaar sadhak' and not shallow and 'filmy'. Make it an 'enlightenment industry', instead of a plain entertainment industry.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath unveiled an ambitious plan for the setting up of a new film city in Gautam Budh Nagar last week.
Adityanath is taking brisk steps towards the proposed film city, since the announcement made on 18 September.
The film city, he has said, will be the "largest" and the most beautiful in the country.
Adityanath's announcement for the proposed site hasn't come as a surprise.
His government has taken steps previously to woo the film industry. UP has announced incentives to filmmakers in an effort to push the state in their creative preferences.
Films made in Braj, Bhojpuri, Bundeli and Awadhi have the chance to earn subsidy.
Shooting in the state and involving artistes from the state in film projects, too, is being encouraged under the state's ambitious film policy.
Adityanath's approach to the proposed film city seems to be going for more than what's already being covered or being addressed by the government.
It seems to be going for "culture" and manasikta" — perception, and mentalities that involve entertainment.
The initial set of activities and decisions from the Adityanath government towards the proposed film city has come when disturbing controversies relating to nepotism, molestation, bullying, and accusations on many top actors relating to the use of drugs, are clutching the Hindi film industry or "Bollywood".
Establishing a fresh space for genuine creativity, in the Hindi film industry set in Uttar Pradesh, at a distance from the make believe world for and by Bollywood, is a good idea.
The perception swiftly taking shape, alongside the current of negatives in the Hindi film and entertainment industry, is that people of the Hindi speaking states need entertainment that engages and involves their own cultural sensibilities.
Among the developments taking place towards the proposed site related to its form and infrastructure, Adityanath came up with a unique initiative earlier this week.
He held an interactive session with celebrities from the film and entertainment industry, including actors, directors, lyricists and singers.
One of the celebrities that Adityanath met is singer Kailash Kher.
At the meeting with Adityanath, Kher's voice stood out, just as it does in his playback: bold, sandpapered and different.
Kher told this author, "I told him that if you want to create Uttar Pradesh as a hub of creativity, make it a creativity hub of the kalaakaar sadhak (the devoted artiste), and not the shallow restriction to 'films'. Make it enlightenment industry — instead of a plain entertainment industry."
At the meet, Adityanath clearly placed Uttar Pradesh as the core of the project with states that are UP's neighbours, and Nepal, as participants, audience and platform.
He said that the state government will extend full support to the project.
He mentioned "Indianness" and said that we should not run away from it.
"Don’t get carried away by glamour, CM"
Kher gave Adityanath a set of suggestions: not to get carried away by the glamorous celebrities; not to get carried away by the superficial; and to think of the proposed project as a project for the larger interests of Bharatiyata.
However, one of the suggestions that stood out in Kher's brief interaction with Adityanath was that the CM should aspire to make the proposed film city a hub for creations in the arts, and not for the lone purpose of 'film' in 'film city'.
Kher told this author in a phone conversation why he stressed on the arts in the "film" of the proposed "film city" in his interaction with Adityanath.
He points out that during the era in which a film on Raja Harishchandra was written, India was going through difficult times. Yet, there were people who worked hard to bring the extraordinary stories of our civilisation to cinema.
He says, "It is a reflection of their times. Art, in totality, played a formidable role in representing the socio-cultural scenario of the times. Hum prarambh to hue kisee sachche dharaatal par. Moolyon ke dharaatal par. Aur achaanak hamari 'mati' ho gayee kumati (we started on the solid grounds of cultural values, then, our wisdom vanished gradually)."
Kher mentions that the fact that a Yogi "and not a bhogi" is making efforts to expand the space for creation in the field of 'entertainment' through the proposed film city, is good news for art and artistes.
He believes that the representation of the core — the Indic civilisation — has been missing in films set in the Hindi-speaking belt.
He uses Ganga as a symbol to explain the civilisational in Bharat — and the portrayal of Bharat in films today.
He says, "There are drains that flow into Ganga. A time comes when the Ganga herself breaks these drains clean. Bharat is Ganga. Bharat is devalaya. Is dharti ko rakt se seencha gaya hai. Uttar Pradesh is a vital cultural khand of Bharat."
Kher, whose career in the entertainment industry spans 15 years, believes that it is time to put the power that the common man possesses, to good use through art.
He explains it with the help of an example. It's a cliche. Yet, Kher goes for it — One line from a popular song from the 1960s.
He says, "In Mera Joota hai Japani" — one line stayed has stayed with the Russians — for decades. 'Sar pe laal topi Roosi'. Just one line, about a hat from their nation has moved people of three-four generations. Emotions engage people. They feel powerful. How to make people realise their power through art is upon us."
The power that Kher is pointing to, is not the power of films — but the power of their own culture and emotion.
Kher doesn't point it out, but this is the juncture where UP's soft power comes in.
The power of a destination
As evident in the various cultural initiatives taken by Adityanath over three years of his rule, it is evident that he is approaching Uttar Pradesh's soft power locally first.
That his announcement for the proposed film city has come during a phase when Adityanath's initiative of encouraging one product in each district is making progress points at his multi-pronged approach to soft power of Uttar Pradesh within India (first).
The UP chief minister wears saffron. Many outsiders see him as a "monk CM".
The announcement and steps towards the proposed film city from his government, at least for now, seems to carry the mark of his trademark serious approach to any other initiative — be it in the arena of business, culture, local strengths, or health.
This cuts a perception: that Adityanath is trying to provide an alternative to 'destination Mumbai' to the current generation of aspiring actors, film makers, singers, screen play writers, directors, producers and others, from UP and neighbouring states. And audience.
It cuts an image — of a timely intervention from Adityanath — where he seems to create space in Uttar Pradesh for the Hindi entertainment industry in order to keep the creation part of it to the Hindi heartland.
The aspect of employment, here, works like the sympathetic strings in a musical instrument. Their sound comes to play when science starts to work between them and the set of main strings.
The proposed film city could become one of the main strings to give related employment opportunities the sound in Uttar Pradesh.
Along with that, to the local arts, cultural sensibilities of the region, and talents.
Without taking names, Kher says that there are some people in power who are thinking beyond themselves. "This could turn things around. Ye saadhak hain (they are devouts). They are not into greed. They are not pushing their own people into projects, which had been happening in the name of intelligence trying to look cool and to appear progressive on the global stage."
Targeting the target audience
Kher points out that confusion has been nurtured in an already confused generation in the name of intelligence. A generation has been kept away from the "devkrit" texts that we have as heritage.
This is the time for bringing change, he says, especially in how gender and beauty are being portrayed in films, and in how "culture" and the "cultural" are being presented.
"Sirf sharirik sundarta, usmein bhi lust. Ek hota hai sensual hona. Ek hota hai behooda hona. Behoode ko hee fashion maan rahe hain. Aur jo sach mein sabhya hai usko 'un-cool' maan rahe hain," he adds.
Kher, and others who think culture in "film" and "film city" his way, could actually make a positive contribution to Adityanath's thinking of the setting up of an "industry" in the state.
There is another dimension to the current scenario.
The death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, who hailed from UP's neighbour-state Bihar, has prompted many users of social media to voice concerns on the safety of young and upcoming actors and artistes in the Hindi entertainment and film industry.
This has led people to question the "culture" Bollywood represents and how its understanding of the "creative" and "creativity" rubs and blunts the aspiring actors from small towns, their talents and skills.
Over the last few months, ordinary folks have questioned the foothold of certain families and actors on the industry and the power they hold in the creative process towards content, evidently, on social media.
They have begun to question "Bollywood's" constant dissociation with Indic themes, "Indianness", the misrepresentation of 'North', appropriation of culture and the superfluous glorification of the "gaalis" — cuss words.
Many Bollywood films are set in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. They target the audience in these two states (largely) and seem to address the "North".
Many of these films seem to glorify and sensationalise the use of of cuss words.
The Need For Discarding Misrepresentation
Kher has noticed the trend and has an opinion on it. "The use of cuss words in the name of creativity is a bimari," he says.
He picks an example: a film (he doesn't name it) set in Banaras.
"There is a problem. Kashi is reflected in the glorification of gaalis (cuss words). Usmein bas Banaras ko highlight kiya gaalian dikha dikha ke, as if apshabd is the only culture."
How does Kher define "enlightenment" in his suggestion for creating an "enlightenment" industry?
"In which you reflect the kartavya paalan — performing duties well. Jismein aap insaniyat ki baat karein. Let Bharat remain Bharat. And bring Bharat in the bigger context, he adds."
There is a process to confusing generations and it is systematic. Kher seems to have a grip on the matter.
The younger generations have been confused with the help of narratives and portrayal by those who are opposed to the idea of Bharat, he says.
He equates it with the systematic deterioration of 'nasal' (generation) and 'fasal' (crop).
"Bharatiya value was removed from education and art-based education. Nasal aur fasal inhone barbaad kar dee. Hamari agli peedhi inhone barbaad ki hai. If you talk about Bharat, if you talk about the true Bharatiyas, you would be considered old-fashioned," he adds.
Kher says that Adityanath has agreed — there should be a phase in entertainment that is based on the civilisation so that it inspires the world, and expresses our character and art. Change will come.
Why is he confident?
"Manasikta jab desh ke hit mein hoti hai, fir aap itihaas rachte hain. Fir aap yug parivartak hote hain. Fir aap path-pradarshak ho jaate hain," he adds.
When the mentality is to serve the nation, one creates history, and paves the path for a generational change.
Kher is thinking culture beyond songs and music in UP in the context of Bharat. There are songs that go beyond music and some governance scripts that go beyond perceptions. Adityanath, hopefully, will respond to the right voices, sounds and tones while working on this new script.
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