Shiv Sena Vs Shah Rukh
This piece is written at the behest of Ritwick Mallik, a best selling debutant author of school romance. Ritwick has himself put up an excellent piece against the Sena on the FB and the present note is a kind of counter point to that. Naturally to a civilized world, the stamping and charging of the Shiv Sena or the raging and ranting of the MNS against a SRK or Amitabh Bachchan would set our blood to boil because such show of uncivil defiance is not part of legitimate political behaviour in the world’s largest democracy. Indeed, this vigilantism, this impolite vandalism is not what we expect in a civilized nation and least of all in a cosmopolitan city to which we head in search of a fortune. Mumbai cannot be in the control of hooligans because it means so much in terms of the opportunities for the best among us. Besides, India is a democracy that allows a person to reside and work anywhere in the country irrespective of his state of his linguistic nativity. Looked at from this perspective, the Shiv Sena is not only vandalous but scandalous for the Indian Constitution.
But there is a counterpoint and which is necessary because whether we like the Sena or not, or agree with its politics, we need to know the phenomenon and understand why things should be the way they are. The Shiv Sena was born way back in the 1970’s and shared its birth time with various kinds of Naxal movements in the eastern parts of India, namely Bengal and Bihar. The extreme right politics of the Sena did not differ in terms of its ends with the extreme left politics of the Naxals. Both wanted to attack systems and institutions that did not help them in securing opportunities. In the early 1970’s, the Sena imagined that the poor south Indian migrants mainly working in wayside restaurants were a block for the natives of the state, namely Maharashtra. Hence they attacked the south Indians. In those days, the Sena did not affect us and so we were not worried about them, the affair remained an internal matter of Maharashtra. Today, the Sena and its ilk have attacked again and this time it is national news because the ones they attacked are doyens from the Hindi film industry, inseparably associated with the city of Mumbai. For most of us Mumbai, the erstwhile Bombay means the home of filmstars; Bollywood is what we call our Hindi film industry after Hollywood. Though the Sena must be condemned for its despicable act yet there are forces at work that need to be delved into.
I spend one night at Mumbai and immediately understood that for the ordinary Mumbaikar, the cinema was no longer the prime entertainment. Events in the reality like the 26/11 shoot out, Pramod Mahajan’s assassination, Noor Haveliwallah’s drunken driving, student suicide, kidnap of the infant daughter of the Telugu liquor baron were events that far superseded the drama of the K-k-k-iran in SRK films. Somehow the issues covered in the Hindi film can no longer match the drama of the real life events. It seems that the Hindi commercial cinema has fallen behind the more happening reality of Mumbai. This loss of power of cinema reveals itself in the growing audacity of the Shiv Sena to attack the Badshah of Bollywood, Shah Rukh Khan.
The Hindi cinema ever since the middle of the 1990’s is increasingly catering to a class of people who are removed from the concerns of the large majority of us, huffing, puffing, sweating and struggling to get on with life. The increasing income inequality, the growing divide between the English speaking and the vernacular medium and the rapidly widening split between the metropolis and its hinterland have given rise to dramas that the Hindi cinema has little interest in. Bollywood is increasingly communicating hunky dory tales of human conditions in India that are truths for a selected Page 3 but lies for those who must inhabit the crowded and muggy planet yet remain invisible to the typeset of newspapers or in the beams of the channel TV. The sanitization of the Indian life in order to create a designer palette for the NRI who must show-off a world back home that has no reason for her to leave it in the first place, has earned for the new Bollywood a definite contempt of the masses. The masses respond to the growing indifference of Bollywood towards them by a counter indifference sending off films to look for expensive multiplexes with ever rising rentals or pursue intelligent commerce with various kinds of “rights” and copyrights. If people have to watch a film then pirates are tapped; and cinema despite spinning moola mainly through pursuing high value currency in overseas territory is steadily failing to remain that singular moral force that guides nations and creates citizenship. The Shiv Sena’s defiance of Shah Rukh reflects the waning power of the cinema and the masses indifference to film stars who at one point of time were the Gods and Goddesses of Mumbai in straight competition with Siddhi Vinayak and Hajji Ali. No one will vote for the Shiv Sena for attacking Shah Rukh but no one will hold it against them either. This is a serious matter, not for the Sena, but for Shah Rukh and the Hindi film industry in general.
6th February 2010.