So Karan Johar, nay, the film industry, has lost and street power has won. The aggrieved party seeking justice from the state now stands guilty. Johar has to atone for his mistake of dishonouring the Army. The mistake has a big price tag: Rs 5 crore. Surely, prayaschit or penance is a word that would trouble him for the rest of his life. Worse, he won’t ever know what all prayaschit he has to undertake when he makes a film the next time.
When Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil went to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis a few days ago, to discuss its release in view of the threat from the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, they expected him to act against the latter, not play peacemaker. They expected him to ensure protection so that MNS activists did not vandalise theatres and hurt artistes. After initial talk of tough action, Fadnavis suddenly decided to broker peace.
While bringing both sides to the negotiating table, he effectively made the aggressor equal to the aggrieved; accorded legitimacy to the action of the former. An everyday example would explain it better though. The neighbourhood strongman issues a threat to a shop owner asking him to close his establishment during Diwali season, when business is at its peak. The harried shop owner approaches the police seeking protection. Instead of initiating tough action against the strongman, the latter asks both to negotiate. The shop owner ends up forking out a hefty sum and the strongman, who had nothing to lose in the first place, claims victory.
There’s something egregious and blatantly unfair about the police’s conduct in the above example. The strongman was asked no question on why he would demand shutting of the shop, and by what authority. He was never warned not to repeat what he had done. The police’s action was, in fact, encouragement for the strongman to target his next victims under whatever pretext. The MNS-Johar case may be a bit different because there's 'cause' involved, but the state’s action looks no different from that of the policeman.
To put it in blunt words, the state failed the film industry and everyone who expected the government to assert itself against street power and regain its moral authority.
Now, who would be the next to swallow one’s pride and surrender after Johar? Well, it could be me, you or anybody. So long as there’s a cause, manufactured or real, but with good emotional content, and there are organised groups out to make capital out of it, nobody’s safe. It’s humiliating for any free citizen of a free country to be submitting to threats, but that’s our reality. Let’s accept it. The power of the intellectual is a sham. Raj Thackerays will always score over Karan Johars.
It needs no emphasising that the state governments have been acting too timid against groups that operate through intimidation and coercion. It’s true not only of Maharashtra but of other states also. Many times the silence of the government is interpreted as collusive. Sometimes it is. The reason could be ideology or plain opportunism. Whatever the case, the targets are those who won’t or cannot respond to goon power with goon power. They would look for the state to intervene on their behalf. The intervention would be absent or inadequate.
That should bring us to this question: what makes intellectuals so powerless in our democracy? The most important answer is that they can never present a united face and thus exercise their collective bargaining power. Driven by egos and mutual distrust and dislike, they are cursed to remain hopelessly divided as a class. The film industry stayed divided even as Thackeray threatened to stall the screening of Johar’s movie. Some leading lights hid behind the patriotism argument to distance themselves from the issue. They ignored conveniently that they could be the target next time or they have to put severe restrictions on their own freedom, creative and otherwise, when they think of a movie project next.
No one has questioned why Raj Thackeray is a greater patriot than anyone in the film industry, there has been no voice asking what made him a bigger supporter of the army than anyone else and who gave him the right to impose his views on others. We ensure employment for lakhs of people, what do you do? No one asked him this. Of course, the questions would have crossed the minds of all. But fear and mutual jealousy kept them silent. In unity lies strength. They would say this only in movies.
If they want to live with dignity, members of the entertainment sector, including television industry, have to leverage their collective strength. With an annual turnover of over Rs 60,000 billion and still growing, and jobs for around six million people, the strength is impressive. If only they new how to use it as a bargaining chip with the state!
Updated Date: Oct 23, 2016 11:52 AM