With the Lok Sabha polls going on in the country, Bollywood celebrities have often come forward to voice their opinion about the incumbent government. Political mudslinging has divided Bollywood into two groups i.e. one which supports Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the other that opposes him. A section of Bollywood is against the BJP’s ideology of Hindutva while there is another group which always comes forward in defence of the party no matter what.
The previous Lok Sabha polls in 2014 had already split the country into those for and against Narendra Modi. It had created a split in the film industry, too. In 2014, several Bollywood actors, directors, and scriptwriters had appealed to the Indian voters to vote for a secular party. In an open letter signed by 60 film personalities including Imtiaz Ali, Vishal Bhardwaj, Nandita Das, Govind Nihalani, Saeed Mirza, Zoya Akhtar, Kabir Khan, Mahesh Bhatt, Shubha Mudgal, and Aditi Rao Hydari, had appealed the nation to protect the secular foundation of the country. On this appeal, director Madhur Bhandarkar had tweeted, “Shocking to see some colleagues, under the garb of stopping so-called divisive forces, are themselves dividing a secular place like Bollywood. Actor Tusshar Kapoor also had taken to Twitter and said that the secular card was being stretched a bit too far. He tweeted, “To cover up for corruption and bad governance, the ‘secular’ card is being stretched a bit too far! No party can claim the secular prize!” Eminent Bollywood personalities like Lata Mangeshkar, Anupam Kher, Vivek Oberoi had voiced out their support to Narendra Modi. Vivek said, “It is not only about voting for someone who is secular but other issues like corruption, quality education, health care, good roads, etc. need to be addressed too.” It is quite a surprise to see otherwise non-committal Bollywood taking a political stand.
Vira Sathidar, actor and President of Nagpur Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) told Afternoon Voice, “This is the first ever election where the artists, writers, and poets have begun a campaign called Modi Hatao. If you want to remove PM Modi, then you must vote in such a way that your vote is not wasted. While established actors like Naseeruddin Shah and Amol Palekar are opposing the government, the newcomers too are openly voicing their opinion against the Modi government.”
“Whenever a country faces such situation, the artists must share their honest opinion. When Nandigram and Singur incidents took place in Bengal, many artists and writers, who were once CPI(M) supporters, protested against the then ruling government,” he added.
Recently, more than 600 theatre artists came together and urged the public to not vote for the BJP in Lok Sabha polls. The list of artists includes Anurag Kashyap, Naseeruddin Shah, Ratna Pathak Shah, Konkona Sensharma, Mahesh Dattani, Sanjana Kapoor, etc. who believe that the Indian Constitution is under threat. Several filmmakers have openly appealed to the voters to reject Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is seeking a second term. BJP came to power with a majority in the 2014 general elections. The BJP is considered as a right-wing Hindu nationalist party and it has often received flak from critics for polarising the voters.
Early this year, PM Modi met the Bollywood ‘creamy layer’ (Karan Johar, Ranveer Singh, Ekta Kapoor, among notable others) to discuss how movies could contribute to “nation-building”. A day later,” Uri: The Surgical Strike” hit the theatres, where Rajit Kapur played Modi, a role approving and deferential of the man. On the same day, “The Accidental Prime Minister” was released, a drama critical of Sonia Gandhi and the Congress. Its trailer was shared by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s account on Twitter and that too received flat from the netizens and political opponents.
Veteran action-director Sachin Pilgaonkar expressed, “I neither have any opinion on rivalry around political ideologies in Bollywood nor I am related to politics. The government should support my field and should work for the welfare of the film fraternity. I am neither anti-Modi nor pro-Modi. I concentrate only on my work and lack knowledge about politics.”
Films centred on prominent politicians aren’t uncommon, but the recent avalanche of Narendra Modi-related films and web series are remarkable. They are functioning as free PR. Bollywood’s Modi-love is both explicit (through biopics or characters) and implicit, referencing him or his policies, often abruptly, in dialogues.
Director Abhijit Phanse said, “Whenever a country has tried to suppress media, that nation has faced anarchy. Democracy is under threat in India and people have started speaking against PM Modi. During Hitler’s reign, he had made several movies on his life for self-promotion. In a similar way, films are being made on Modi’s life to promote him. Not only Bollywood or Tollywood, but even Hollywood has also started campaigning against Modi. Artists are massively followed and many of them will vote against Modi to save the country.”
BJP MLA Prasad Lad said, “Artists campaigning against Modi government won’t make any difference. Artists, writers and journalists express their opinion and it won’t have effect everywhere. Casteism is prevalent in the country. A big cartoon Raj Thackeray is campaigning against Modi and it won’t make any difference.”
It is said that art and literature are the mirrors of society. There is a polarisation in the society and politics of the country. Bollywood can be an exception to this. This is why we see a division in the film industry on the lines of Pro-Modi and Anti-Modi. Indian democracy has proved that its roots are deep-rooted. Bollywood should not worry about it but they have the right to take their stand.