Bollywood with placards on a tragedy
Snapshot
  • In the aftermath of a gruesome tragedy, a group of rich and famous people saw the opportunity for some easy publicity and chose to grab it with both hands. And that’s not done.

Dear Bollywood,

You are not Hindustan.

Or Bharat. Or India.

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You consist of a micro minority (0.001 per cent or lower) of the total population that enjoys the kind of riches, perks, and luxuries that the rest of us 99.9999 per cent cannot even begin to imagine. None of you have ever worried about municipal water supply timings, or about finding a job after graduation. You have never worried about rains destroying crops or getting stuck on the road due to a public transport strike. If anything, you represent the glittering face of the grotesque income and wealth inequality that has been eating at our society like a cancer. You belong to the elite group that has the first claim on meagre resources we as a nation have, so I will be damned if I just let you appropriate my nation for the sake of your next promo campaign.

What you are, however, is part of the problem. The problem of sexual violence against women that keeps rearing its ugly head again and again. And if you are done with your carefully orchestrated, targeted-at-Hindus photo ops, the rest of us, the ones with actual skin in the game (let’s face it – the probability of us suffering a situation like Unnao or Kathua is much much more than what it would be for you) would like to have a sober conversation about it.

The problem is, you won’t shut up. Every time a social malice requires attention and intervention, your hunger for publicity takes over all the channels and the moment a campaign like the ones you launched is unleashed, television channels relish the dual prospect of continuing to fawn upon you while taking a break from reporting on your child’s summer attire. The next thing you know, it’s all everyone’s talking about. Until the public memory slacks, until the next crisis gets underway, until the next victim is found.

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Until you get your fix of publicity.

To start with, free your minds of Hinduphobia. The riches that you enjoy are primarily the result of the actions of theatre-going, ticket-buying public who pay steep ticket prices to watch your movies. And if India is a Hindu-majority country, then a majority of your patrons are Hindus, so show some gratitude for once in your entitled life and stop bullying the masses for the sake of your politically correct causes. Don’t dismiss questions about your lack of protest when the victims were Hindus as ‘whataboutery’, don’t call those exposing your hypocrisy as trolls. Your Hinduphobia, seen many times on the silver screen in your clichéd narratives, is out in the open, and if you are being questioned about it, don’t try to be a bully and shut down the debate.

Second, read some books for god’s sake. Some of you were holding placards saying “Ban Rape”. Watching educated, urban, rich women ignorant about the illegality of the act of rape would have been hilarious, had it not been so tragic. Every minute that someone takes to social media with her “Ban Rape” placard is a minute not spent on serious debate about fixing the problem of sexual violence. There are many people from social work, psychology, law and order, and other backgrounds who may have serious contributions to make to this debate, only if you selfish publicity hounds stop hogging all the limelight.

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Next – own up the inherent misogyny in the industry you work in. You work in an industry where male stars get paid more, get more screen time, and have longer shelf lives than the female stars. You work in an industry that has made flirting and eve-teasing rites of passage before a woman falls for a man. Your heroes have abducted heroines and threatened to rape them and your heroines have forgiven their rapists and settled down to marry them. And yet the only time one of you raised her voice against it was when they showed a proud woman preferring death over rape by a barbaric invader. It scares me that people who work in an industry with such a twisted value system are advising society, one that, contrary to what you would like to believe, has a value system far better than yours.

Further, stop playing fast and loose with law and order. You cannot demand leniency when one of you stores guns in his house or shoots a protected species and then asks the legal system to come down upon someone you have decided is guilty. It’s not a question of difference in crimes – I understand that the rape of an eight-year-old is far more heinous than the shooting of a black buck. I just wonder whether you understand that and what your response would be, should the rapist turn out to be one of your own. Based on your silence over Tarun Tejpal and the rampant casting couch culture in Bollywood, I somehow don’t see you standing up with placards like this one if tomorrow a movie star is accused of rape.

Why do I bother with you people, you ask? Let me tell you why.

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Because the moment the Kathua rape issue went from “against rapist” to “against BJP”, it lost some supporters who didn’t wish to have any part in the politicisation of this debate. You have now introduced the element of religion into it, thus pushing people further away. And all of this for your naked greed for more clicks, more retweets, more TV time. Do you realise that your hunger for publicity is changing the terms of the debate on rape when the victim and her family can ill-afford it? She was a poor girl; her only hope for justice is in the outrage of ordinary Indians at the atrocity committed. By making the discussion about “devi”sthan and Hindustan, you have pushed the limelight away from where it should have been – the barbarism and the torture the child was made to undergo before being murdered. This is the limelight one would not wish upon one’s worst enemy and yet, you, the rich and the famous, couldn’t stand it, so you had to turn it back on yourself.

When stripped of all of its social justice and virtue-signalling rhetoric, this placard campaign is yet another classic example of India’s class war. A group of rich and famous people has seen the opportunity for some easy publicity and chosen to grab it with both hands. That their ham-handed approach to this crime might either cost a poor child’s family much-needed closure or keep another group of poor men from their constitutional right of free and fair trial doesn’t bother them one bit. The victim and the alleged perpetrators are not from the Hindustan these people live in.

The rest of us 99.9999 per cent ought to take note and ensure that justice is not sacrificed at the altar of publicity.

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