Bollywood celebrities have returned to an old work pitch that provides them instant publicity and acceptance in political circles that have found some of them too fancy for ideology washboard. The pitch also brings them closer to grabbing the anti-establishment peer certificate, regardless of the government or party ruling at the Centre.
This pitch has formed a backdrop to their meaningless song and dance over decades.
The pitch is Delhi.
Delhi also happens to be the centre of, what the country calls, "north India". Here, stirring controversy is easy to operate towards screen longevity of Hindi films and more effectively executed.
With the brave warrior class and history-soaking audience to the west and the Hindi speaking, politically and socially diverse cow revering belt to the east, Delhi becomes a perfect vanity van for film publicity hashtag trends.
Try to scratch a few layers of the "anti-establishment" veneer and it will begin to reveal the dead wood of ideology.
The Improvisation In Trends
In the decade previous to previous, a blockbuster bound ace actor sat on a dharna to lend glamour to a cause.
It had coincided with the approach of a film that would become a blockbuster. One of the young men in this film was from the saffron clan (where all saffron clan men are shown wearing saffron gamchhas throughout the screen time they get).
Since then, Bollywood stars have taken his act as the standard recipe. They have used this standard recipe and improvised upon it to spice up film promotion and publicity with the changing times and trends.
Whether they have sided with left or supported right, it does not matter. Non-left, whatever be the number of audience, or their strength to the government of the time, will always be less fashionable and easily more "fascist". Post 2014, non-left has been redefined.
Hence, the art of showing protest and solidarity has changed too.
It demands quick posters, quick trends, quick skits, quick selfies with the prime minister, quick quitting of this side for that, quick understanding of trends and the quick changing of routes. And to compel people to take sides quickly, Bollywood has begun to use a gem.
It is the gem of 'planned stupidity'.
How The Citadel Of Ideology Lineage Works
Before we look at what is 'planned stupidity', here is a short summary of a seven-decade-old scenario which is needed to understand the new-age Bollywood gem of 'planned stupidity'.
The sarkari culture of handing over film awards ensures that Delhi remains slightly overloaded with Bollywood concerns and whims at all times.
At the same time, meaningful non-Hindi cinema remains unexplored, unknown, unseen, inaccessible or locked away from the ordinary Indic.
The dishing out of films that are made more for the lead actor than the audience, or the common man, or the ordinary Indic, continues.
Some Bollywood actors make the most of this aspect. They dish out what the power play demands. Selfies, or even rare constructive interactions, don't make an ecosystem.
Narendra Modi-ruled Centre, barring a small Bollywood minority, never was or would be Bollywood's favourite. Reason: gharaanedaari. Lineages.
For the ordinary man, at least in this part of the country, it is hard to keep away from Bollywood films. Hindi films also carry sincere stories of humble Indians. The ordinary Indian loves to spend his hard earned money on a good story.
However, going to a film or avoiding one on account of the ingredients that offend the ordinary Indic film's publicity frills, however, is a fairly new phenomenon.
The homogenisation of narrative, which was earlier guarded in precise team work of Bollywood stars and the ruling establishment, has been breached — a hair-thin wide breach.
Neatly executed planned stupidity from some Bollywood actors is reaping good results for them. Well, not just them.
The Gem Of 'Planned Stupidity'
Many times people, who do not agree with the political view of a/any Bollywood celebrity in the current scenario, end up calling him/her "stupid".
This spotting the "stupid" happens from left directed at right, or right at left, or right directed at right. It is never from left to left.
Planned stupidity is a virtue pulled out by the Bollywood celeb's real propellers. For coming up with the gem, they use your own perception of them — the perception of them being ‘stupid’/’dumb’/’ill informed’.
Planned stupidity is a sample of an act in public, meant for public consumption, that makes them appear either ‘dumb’ or ‘intelligent’ or ‘intellectual’ before people.
The idea is to scatter the sheep divided by political beliefs, or strong ideology-based perceptions, to make them break. It is also to consolidate them in parts for quick results or long goals.
Its aim: to impress and win a share of their like-headed peers' support or ideology base. The other aim of planned stupidity from Bollywood is to patronise, sermonise, influence, the gullible, the indecisive, and the easily offended.
It reveals the actor's dark side.
Some Bollywood celebs might not be able to impress everyone across the spectrum of politics and related ideology.
But in themselves, they are tactically briefed, conveniently informed, suitably propped, players with skin in India's now polarised, ever widening, intensifying tournament of Indian politics.
They have a neat understanding of both sides of the story. Their stakes, now, begin where the screen, that you turn up for with popcorn, ends.
Shapers Of Bollywood's Planned Stupidity
Creating planned stupidity is nuisance art. It is an art some Bollywood stars and celebs plate out to their fans often. It is curated by image managers and public relations (PR) professionals.
They may remain incapable of creating propaganda art (unlike entertainers of the older generation or peers who come from traditionally left oriented families).
But they help build immense value as a pretty prop to protest and help arm it with planned stupidity.
The image manager calls it shaping the "intangible", I recently read somewhere. The mention of "intangible" in this context stirred me to an extent that Ricky Gervais appeared in my dream.
"Intangible" is Indic culture and "Intangible" are its forms and diversity and values. "Intangible" is not a perfumed and privileged elite's nuisance value.
Leg Room Discrimination
Many times, Bollywood actors exercise their extra leg room in free speech generously. They must. They are free citizens.
Sometimes, this leg room is used with a spunk of silence. For example: by choosing to stand, solemn, or smiling, depending on what the performance demands.
A nouveau left-liberal's silence and precision are a precious trait.
Bollywood actors also exercise this extra leg room by kicking emotion or kicking away emotion — just a kick.
People don't stop loving the offender. The most self respecting folks begin to trend one movie to upset the offending actor.
No choice. No alternative.
How 'Planned Stupidity' Aims For The Ordinary Indic
The ground for ridiculing the common man using a fictitious character birthed on Twitter, such as "Chander Mohan from Kanpur", is opened.
Coined by a Twitter user, this phrase seems to represent the Hindi-speaking middle class man/woman who may not agree with the supported actor's act of support — just as the prima donna represents the perfumed elite with a spine.
People adoring a certain ideology use names and caste to deride the ordinary Hindu man from Uttar Pradesh. They use a name as a pejorative phrase for an entire community or section of people or belief.
The ordinary man has recently begun to object to this homogenising and coercive cultural hegemony through promotion and protest tactics. Good sign. Small beginnings.
Zero Cultivation Of Entertainment Choices
It is seen that the common man's emotion boomerangs. He is back to boycotting or accepting boycott hashtags for easy therapy.
Then, he has forgotten, neglected and rejected his own traditions and expressions of storytelling. There is over dependence on Bollywood for entertainment. It is easy and glamour-laced storytelling.
The ordinary middle class man has low, limited, negligible or no choice of entertainment because he has no ecosystem for it to bank on.
His rustic and slapstick forms of entertainment, for example "nautanki", too, have no place in Bollywood-defined entertainment.
"Nautanki" is now used as a pejorative to define hyperbole or drama by and among people of the middle class and some of his own.
Then, he and his community, village, town and state, are showing declining interest in cultivating or evolving or transforming local traditions of storytelling, which is required in order to look away from Bollywood for consuming contemporary stories.
Alternatives to Bollywood for entertainment must be cultivated. Until that happens, the ordinary man will continue to depend on the narrative set by Bollywood.
He has to choose indifference and reject the habit of laying out his attention (and money) towards Bollywood inanities.
Failing which he will become permanent audience to planned stupidity from some of Bollywood actors instead of shaping his own narrative and entertainment.
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