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Feeding the Bully

Friday, February 03, 2017
By Deepa Gahlot

It’s ironical that the bigger and more powerful Bollywood gets, the more vulnerable it is.  It must be clear as daylight to anyone that any fringe group that wants to get media mileage finds Bollywood a soft target.

That’s because the Mumbai film industry is known to be divided into camps; also, when a film is about to release, the people associated with it are most defenceless. By making top stars and filmmakers bow to their diktats, politicians in search of a valid cause, show the world (the media and its consumers, mostly) how powerful they are that the biggest star or the richest producer in the country bow to them.

It doesn’t take much to terrorise the film industry—one theatre stoned or a few hoardings burnt—or even the threat of it—and the producer, director or star of the film goes scurrying to the door of the man (usually a man) making the threats and pose for we-are-buddies pictures, all in the presence of a media contingent. Because, calling the bully’s bluff and saying, do your worst, we will release our film, is too much of a risk. Money lost, property damaged—it doesn’t take any time or effort to get ten goons to start a riot. It’s this fear of financial loss that makes Bollywood crawl each time when asked to bend.

And the gain for a small political group is tiny at best—15 minutes of fame.  Does anyone remember the name of the man who had objected to the word ‘chamar’ in a Hindi film song? Does anyone remember the group that forced the word ‘Barber’ to be cut from the title of the film Billoo Barber? But they got their way each time, and proved that a little hooliganism goes a long way.

It happened a few weeks ago when abject apologies were made by the film industry for casting Pakistani actors in their films. Now a mostly unknown group in Rajasthan attacks Sanjay Leela Bhansali and disrupts his shooting in Jaipur. Instead of the industry coming together, and telling the goons where to get off, they are whining on Twitter and asking for government help. Meanwhile, the fringe group that did it is basking in media attention.  

On the one hand nobody can decide whether or how a person should face such threats. But on the other, feeding the bully each time is creating a monster that will eventually be too big to vanquish.

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