Now that the Prime Minister has shown magnanimity in appealing to his supporters to not be antagonistic towards the Hindi film industry, will Bollywood also reciprocate by creating meaningful and socially responsible content?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for caution on the #BoycottBollywood trend on social media is a welcome move. It is learnt that at the recently concluded National Executive party meeting, the Prime Minister at length gave directions to the party cadre to refrain from negative public discourse including incessant calls for boycotting Bollywood movies.
This comes weeks after a prominent film personality appealed to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to urge people to stop the #BoycottBollywood trend. The film industry is worried that the overall footfall in theatres has drastically gone down.
PM’s statement is reflective of and in line with our constitutional values and fundamental rights. His instructions to his cadre are a clear indicator that the Prime Minister believes in Bollywood’s right to freedom of expression even if its movies are obnoxiously in opposition to his party’s philosophy or his government’s policies. PM asking his party workers and his followers to desist from unnecessary comments is a sign of a mature democracy that provides space to diverse points of view.
But to look at #BoycottBollywood as some right-wing ploy to attack the Hindi film industry for political ends is both far-fetched and misleading. Sure, there could be some elements who look at Bollywood films and actors as soft targets to gain instant publicity. But to automatically discard it as an irrational response of publicity-hungry politicians would be a grave mistake.
The #BoycottBollywood trend has gained traction parallel to two other developments – one, people have stopped buying tickets and visiting cinema halls, and two, South Indian films far outstrip regular Bollywood content both in qualitative merit and in business. It shows people’s frustration with the socially irresponsible content served by the Hindi film industry.
It is necessary that Bollywood introspects on the role it has played in glorifying the villain as a hero and create a culture where society is supposed to appreciate the anti-hero.
Not just negative fictional characters, Bollywood’s fetish with underworld Dons and empathetic treatment of terrorists and terrorism have long troubled Indians. When a large section of Bollywood questions the aesthetics of Kashmir Files, a film made on true events, it is seen as legitimate criticism. Yet, Bollywood remains blind to the crimes and violence-related sleaze it dishes out in the name of entertainment.
It’s not just the BJP cadre, common people have also used social media as a tool to express their anger and refuse to spend their hard-earned money on content that is disrespectful toward Indian sensitivities and sensibilities.
PM has shown his commitment to the vision enshrined in the Indian Preamble, but Bollywood which operates and thrives on the soil of this nation is also bound by the same constitutional values. Bollywood’s indiscriminate promotion of vulgarity bordering on soft porn, drugs, terrorism, violence, and gore are in contradiction to the values of our Preamble and are in fact, promoting ideas that run diametrically opposed to an equal, just, free, and harmonious nation.
This is not to say that Bollywood needs to follow any prudish conservative diktats by anyone but creative freedom cannot be used as a license to make films that are detrimental to the well-being of our children and overall society. The question is now that the Prime Minister has shown magnanimity in appealing to his supporters to not be antagonistic towards the Hindi film industry, will Bollywood also reciprocate by creating meaningful and socially responsible content?