Amid nationwide CAA protests, Bollywood stays mostly mum: It's time to move from reel posturing to real action
Most Bollywood celebs have been caught sitting on the fence, especially those who are more worried about self-preservation than genuinely speaking up from the heart.
“To tweet or not to tweet.” It’s times like this that often confuses Bollywood’s PR machinery.
The country’s been burning for a few days now, with protests intensifying against the highly divisive CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act). Students in every corner of the country, from Srinagar to Mallapuram and Ahmedabad to Guwahati, have come out in large numbers to take a stand against what they believe is a law that is unconstitutional and against the very idea of a secular democracy. In a country where the majority of role models are from the fields of cricket and films, how then have our celebrities responded to this clarion call for justice?
Apart from a few brave voices like Richa Chadha, Swara Bhasker, Kubbra Sait and Anubhav Sinha, most of Bollywood responded with its usual stony silence. South Indian actors Siddharth and Parvathy Thiruvothu too have been very vocal about the treatment meted out to students by the government.
It was only when videos of Delhi police’s brutality against the hapless students at Jamia Millia University began flooding social timelines on Sunday, a few more voices began to be heard. Bollywood personalities like Dia Mirza, Riteish Deshmukh, Sayani Gupta, Vishal Bhardwaj and Huma Qureshi spoke up in solidarity with the students. Anurag Kashyap came out of a self imposed four-month silence with a tweet saying, “This has gone too far.. can’t stay silent any longer.” He went on to call the government ‘fascist’ and expressed his anger at the silence from his fraternity; voices he feels can actually make a difference.
Most of the rest, though, have been caught sitting on the fence, especially those who are more worried about self-preservation than genuinely speaking up from the heart.
Also read on Firstpost: Citizenship Amendment Act: Bollywood celebs who took a stand, sat on the fence, and remained mum
Take for example actors with newfound success like Ayushmann Khurrana, Bhumi Pednekar, Rajkummar Rao and Vicky Kaushal, all of whom put out wishy-washy statements condemning the way students have been treated by the police. Each one of these statements came with a corollary about refraining from violence, thereby indirectly passing judgment on the very same students for perpetrating alleged acts of destruction. That there is little or no evidence of this destruction being caused by these students seems to have completely gone unnoticed by these people.
After all, the easiest way to discredit a peaceful movement is to throw in a few rioters and frame the protesters — it’s an age-old trick used by politicians to sway popular opinion against dissenters. And if sitting on the fence were an art, then putting out memes is like tying a hammock to the posts, putting on your noise-cancelling headphones and waiting to see what unfolds. Varun Dhawan and Sonakshi Sinha might have felt pressured into saying something, but a meme just says they don’t care enough to really take a stand.
Akshay Kumar is the only A-lister who’s shown any sign of acknowledging the Citizenship Bill or the protests that have erupted subsequently. Only he firmly stuck his foot in his mouth by pleading guilty to butterfingers after liking a video that mocked the Jamia students. After a quick retraction, the Khiladi actor became an object of ridicule as #BoycottCanadianKumar began trending on Twitter within an hour of his supposed faux pas. Most of our other A-listers unsurprisingly, have been silent about what’s happening in the country.
Where is that angry young man fighting social injustice? Where is that common man doing superhuman things? Where are our heroes?
We’ve spent the better half of the last century telling stories of hope on the silver screen, stories that influence millions to stand up for what’s right. The faces that front these stories are icons that people follow feverishly, and whose influence is undeniably huge. What’s the point of having all that influence, when all you’re doing with it is helping to sell truckloads of banians and shampoo? Influencers have a public duty towards the audience that follows them, and keeping silent on an issue that affects the very fabric of this country just shows apathy and an utter lack of courage.
A Bollywood celebrity’s voice that can reach millions is a superpower in itself, and when one wields that kind of power, what you do or don’t with it says a lot about you.
Those citing commercial reasons like hundreds of livelihoods depending on a film, or actors losing out on work and endorsements fail to see the larger picture. When you give in to the bullies, be prepared for a future on their terms; prepare to tell their stories; prepare for all-out censorship; prepare to lose your freedom of expression; and, prepare to live in constant fear.
If 17-year-old Anaswara Rajan who is one film old can risk her entire future and take a firm stand, it’s shameful that our A-listers can’t confidently stand atop the collective bodies of their work and call out what’s wrong
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