Raj Thackeray 'raising' money from Karan Johar for army is dubious patriotism
From making Marathis fight against Biharis, bullying actors, writers, and artistes, digging cricket pitches to turning into a self-anointed fundraiser for the Indian Army, Raj Thackeray has indeed come a long way.
From a patriotic Marathi manus fighting against immigrants, taxi drivers, and daily-wage earners, Thackeray has made the ultimate transition a modern Indian deshbhakt dreams of: He has put the gun to the film industry's head for the Indian Army; become a real Sainik for the real Sena.
If patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, extortion in the name of the Army must be its defining trait. Thackeray's Money Navnirman Sena (MNS) has just proved it.
On Saturday, after a meeting with the democratically-elected chief minister of Maharashtra, the leader of the party with just one legislator in the 288-member Assembly, agreed to allow the screening of Karan Johar's Ae Dil Hai Mushkil.
It says a lot about the clout of Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis when he has to seek the approval of MNS, a party that was dumped by people with just three percent votes in the Assembly polls, for allowing the screening of a film cleared by every legitimate Indian institution. Raj Thackeray, it is evident, is the de-facto extra-constitutional Boss of the state and Fadnavis has been chosen just to act as an interlocutor between the MNS and the people it bullies.
Fadnavis has not only been forced to keep Thackeray in good humour but also been arm twisted into letting Thackeray set conditions for the film's release. According to reports, Thackeray has insisted that producers of films that have Pakistani actors in the star cast will donate "Rs 5 crore" to the Army's fund as penalty for working with the enemy and run an ode to our security forces at the start of the film. The MNS chief, after imposing a penitence penalty on Johar, also hoped that Indians would boycott the film.
Only Thackeray can answer how he arrived at the deshbhakti cess for the Army. If Thackeray's logic that having Pakistani actors in a film insults our soldiers, is Rs 5 crore then the price of getting away with it? Once Johar pays that price, will the audience — the ones who watch Ae Dil Hai Mushkil in theatres instead of downloading pirated versions — be relieved of their moral burden and allowed to gleefully dance to the tune of the Breakup song, aware that the deshbhakti cess paid from the sale of tickets mitigates the pain of Uri? Almost like what we Indians habitually do: Offer a gift to God to seek pardon for a sin!
By any chance, did Thackeray, being such a fan of Bollywood, get inspired by Yash Chopra's Lamhe? In that film, when Anil Kapoor is asked to pay a lakh for slapping Sridevi's cousin over a property dispute, he hits them again five times and throws a few more bundles of money at them. Everything has a price, no?
Filmi comparisons apart, the serious question here is this: Is the Army willing to allow Thackeray and his party extract money in its name? If that be the case, will it legitimate henceforth for anybody to act as a fund-raiser for our soldiers by bullying businesses and businessmen? And since the deal was reportedly brokered in the presence of the Maharashtra CM, will our governments now get involved in such extra-constitutional deals?
If yes, we should be grateful to Fawad Khan and other Pakistani artistes. They have helped us figure out how to turn patriotism into a profitable enterprise.