Dil Vakei Hai Mushkil …
The exact wordings of the song are Aye Dil hail Muskhkil, jeena Yahaan, Zara hatke, Zara Bachke, Yeh hai Bombay Meri Jaan insisting that your heart is indeed in deep trouble since the city in which you live in Bombay, now called Mumbai. It seems like sheer serendipity that a film named as Yeh Dil Hai Mushil should find itself in trouble in the city of Mumbai and that too from a group that poses itself as the champions of the development of Maharashtra, the state that has Mumbai as its capital city. The political group is known as the Maharashtra Navnirman Samity, or the MNS, a name that sounds as though it is a civil society group but is an intrinsic parastatal of the right wing party in power, the BJP. The apparent reason is that the film deploys a Pakistani actor called Fawad Khan in the movie. Fawad Khan is not a new face for he has been around quite a bit in television serials and in a movie called Kapoor and sons. As a television actor, Fawad has topped the popularity charts and been appreciated for his film histrionics.
However, in the film mentioned above he has played the role of a homosexual man, something of a great disgust for the right wing persons. The tirade against Fawad Khan is thus not merely about his being Pakistani, his Pakistani identity appears to come in good stead to stall his further development as a homosexual. The structure of Bollywood is such that stars, especially those who become popular are supposed to keep repeating their acts; clearly then the MNS feared that his sexuality may find furtherance in the “to be released” Karan Johar’s film. Karan Johar too is suspected to be a gay man and hence already looked upon with scepticism by the right wingers.
Fawad Khan’s rising popularity created a risk of making him into a star, a competition for many Indian wannabes and a buzz against him may already have been there which the MNS picked up. Let us never overlook that among the studio hands in Mumbai, there is a block of support for the Shiv Sena and its family parties. The anchor of Sudarshan television who has equated the Pakistani actors with the damageability of terrorists fear that Pakistani men and women may run over Bollywood throwing our actors out of jobs. An actress, Prachi Adhikari even went to say that aspiring female actors may find their way into prostitution if the Pakistani actors are not stopped from infiltrating into India. Clearly, the ban on Chinese goods, the ban on Pakistani actors and in fact the entire politics of the right wing, riding high on nationalism and a high moral ground of culture is an innate fear of competition.
The Sudarshan channel went on to a voice bombing on Pakistan, moving from the Pakistani actors to the directors who create opportunities for them, to the co actors who act with them and moved on to Muslim actors of the Khan trinity insisting that they have connections with Dawood. It was clear that they were trying to hit at Bollywood in general and the Pakistani actor was only a veneer of the tale. Voices rose, pitch shrilled and sentiments rolled out and finally came to an interesting resting point – Bollywood cinema itself.
The right wing attacks institutions, Universities, democracy, cinema, literature, poetry. Book burning episodes have chequered history through ages, which is a part of power struggles between empires and often social orders. Muslims have attacked and broken idols, looted and killed, Hindus have attacked relics and monasteries, Buddhists have attacked pagan sites and Jains have known to waged wars as well. Christians have burnt at stake people over centuries. Every religion has its own history of violence, its saga of cruelty. To my mind, all of the above must be clubbed together in order to understand the idea behind the attack of institutions lie deep inside societies as its angst. When institutions can no longer absorb the social change, when they can no longer respond to human aspirations, they no longer carry any meaning for the individual, they are attacked as junk. Beneath the attack of Fawad Khan and his cohorts, I see not so much the MNS as I see the ennui of the audience with Bollywood.
The Sudarshan channel clearly said that how long one could go on watching romances, one gets so bored. Did not the audience say this in the early 1970’s when Amitabh Bachchan emerged as the action hero? Amitabh changed the mood, after romance one of now engaging with the world through activity, struggle, and action. Amitabh was a new level of engagement, a new tire of involvement. The rise of the right wing often happens out of an unfulfilled need for action, a desire for engagement, a need to be gainfully employed. Romance is unemployment, a withdrawal from the world of action. No wonder then the soldier is becoming the hero, for him we are required to feel guilty when we light lamps in the evenings or cook food for children as they return home from school. Right wing politics of anarchism is thus an expression of the same forces that create a desire for nihilism, expressed through Prophetic religions of hate and envy and violence all struck through a call for a higher moral order, fascism unleashed with supercilious nationalism, popularity of football over more sedentary cricket, action movies over romances.
What do we make out of all this? To my mind, this is the time for new thought, new levels of reflections by institutions and establishments, a call for new ways of engagement and perhaps even new forms of social existence. The glory of institutions can only return with their reinventions.