I hate it and you ought to

“Let us watch My Name is Khan four-five times and defeat these communal bigots” yelled Congress Spokesperson Jayanti Natarajan in a news channel during one of the hot and stale discussions on the Sena versus Shahrukh controversy. Controversy, it should be noted, is the key word. What began from the personal comments of the owner of an IPL team has snowballed into, what it seems like, the greatest crisis of our times.
The Shiv Sena and their ilk have been into this for quite long. A customary spar on February 14, burning copies of magazines which contain articles critical of Balasaheb Thackeray and going on a rampage like wild bulls high on country liquor is nothing but usual for the Sena. Ten years back, the same Sena had an issue with Deepa Mehta’s Fire, which showed a lesbian relationship between the two protagonists. The Shiv Sainiks of course are ignorant of the fact that in ancient India, lovers worshipped Kamadeva during the spring festival for the fulfilment of their love. Similarly, the Shiv Sena’s India does not include the temples of Khajuraho, which artistically combines the divine and the erotic to bring out the essence of the Kamasutra, a classic treatise on sex.
Why just the Sena, every organization or outfit today seems to have some problem or the other with every work that comes out. In 2007, the Rajput pride, which perhaps was asleep for the past 50 years when Mughal-e-azam ran and re-ran in theatres creating history in the annals of cinema, took a blow when Ashutosh Gowarikar brought out the love-story between Akbar and Jodhabai. In 2006, the BJP and the NSUI in Gujarat had serious problems with Aamir Khan’s Fanaa as the actor had lent support to Medha Patkar’s agitation against the Sardar Sarovar Dam. The timing of the support, which coincided with the release of the righteous drama Rang De Basanti, is of course a concern of Mr. Khan’s PR team. Many Sikh groups had problems with Singh is King and Jo Bole So Nihaal; the latter even faced violent reactions upon its release.

But what happens with a controversy is that even a poor work gets free publicity and at the end of the day, any publicity is good publicity. It evokes curiosity with all the veils of hatred, awe and mystery that it evokes. Most of the Mahesh Bhatt movies run some smoke prior to their release and it often ends up as a smoke sans any fire. Many Muslim groups have some serious issues with Taslima Nasreen’s Dwikhandito and Lajja so much so that for the past few years, in a tragic-comic fashion, she is being kicked around the world like a football by those who bay for her blood and the state, which claims to provide her security. With all due respect, it must be said that sans all the controversy, Ms. Nasreen, with all her average works, would have been just another writer struggling to sell her books. A cartoon on the Prophet is drawn in Denmark and the heat is felt in India. The citadel of India’s civilization seems to fall when M.F.Hussain paints Bharat Mata in nude or worse when an Arts student in Baroda comes out with something blasphemously erotic with the strokes of his brush. Are our civilization, culture and religions so weak that the strokes of a pen and brush can wipe them away into obscurity? Why live with something so weak and brittle then, which cannot stand by itself and needs a bunch of goons for its protection?
Take these cases. Devika Rani kissed Himanshu Rai for four long minutes in the movie Karma way back in 1933! Rohini Hattangadi appeared topless in the 1980s movie Party. Did these snippets of information go without much mention because there was no 24×7 television pandering to the interests of those who live on a diet of controversies. Perhaps it was not a prospect attractive enough to gain fame overnight ala the Sri Ram Sene , an unknown outfit, which gained national notoriety after attacking pub-goers in Mangalore last year.
The issue is not trivial. If, in a country, a normal citizen has to think a hundred times and fear a thousand quasi-state forces, then it must be acknowledged that our democracy is at dangerous crossroads. To think that one’s likes or dislikes can lead to serious repercussions is a reflection of our tolerance sliding to dangerously low levels. We all can agree to disagree. But if that disagreement means slitting one’s throat or banning one’s work, then for heaven’s sake we are not in a democracy. The likes of the Sena have all right to protest, as long as it remains just that – a protest. An inch further and they enter another person’s territory. The future of Indian politics belongs to those who can see the Catholicism and syncretism in our culture.

But controversies have many facets to it. Concocted controversies seem to rule the roost, where bipartite or tripartite clashes go on before the 24×7 news cameras in plush conference rooms. The masses, after all, were not idiots to miss the whodunit drama neatly sketched and stretched over the first week of the release of 3 Idiots. Similarly, all the attempts of a leading national TV channel, which has been hand-in-glove with the producers of My Name is Khan ever since the controversy started, seems to be a big waste. The channel has taken the actions of the Sena as a personal affront, looking more grieved and enraged than Shahrukh Khan or Karan Johar. As for Ms. Natarajan, I beg her pardon, for I am, by all means of practical patience and sense, unable to find My Name is Khan to be worth more than a one-time watch. But that, of course, is yet another story.

3 thoughts on “I hate it and you ought to

Add yours

  1. Amazing !

    This is the most acerbic piece of work from you. Your are absolutely right. Politicians, news channels and any body in business is ready to play havoc with people's sentiments; enrage, instigate or more importantly, confuse them to achieve their means – be it political mileage, TRPs or 15 minutes of fame.

    Mob mentality leaves nothing much to be said. It's like lighting the firework at one end. Give people a reason, and they are set on fire!

    Some things need to change.


  2. Hmm… People want issues to rack their mind… thats it… For short time there wud be big noise and then again silence…. Yups… like u said, some get free publicity…

    Another good one from ur pen…


  3. Are you really 23 years old? Coz i could not imagine a person of such young age, if he is not gifted enough, thinking so beautifully.

    Particularly your article about GODAN and the post about Rahul Gandhi and SITA have impressed me immensely. Your posts about Abhiman, Guru Dutt, Dev Anand, Hrishikesh Mukherjee were Superb.

    I generally donot follow film reviews but since reading your Cinema blog, the love for films, that had died down in me has revived again.

    I have been following your blog since last 7 or 8 months, i must say that you figure right at the top of my estimation of bloggers along with Mr. Bishwanath Ghosh of “On the Ganga Mail”.

    Even this article has not been different. Since the release of this film My Name is Khan, i have read many articles related to this film, but you have thought and written completely from a refreshingly different angle.


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