Film fraternity has lately been divided into a Pro and Anti-establishment groups. How does it help them in any way to further their prospects or, otherwise, project them as activists or social crusaders? All that their stand taken on various issues is succeeding in creating controversy, name calling and trading of insults. The film fraternity does not take kindly to controversial people and keeps them at arm’s length.
The film folk all along avoided any kind of controversy and kept to their task. It was an unspoken law to keep away from the people that mattered, mainly the authorities. A film’s producer bore all the risk and if any of his team did something that would harm the interest of a film or its maker, he was shunned; made a persona non grata in the film industry.
The film industry depended too much on the powers that be, paying all sorts of taxes and duties but getting nothing in return except that feeling of ‘Or Else.’ Any filmmaker going out of line could be disciplined at the time of issuing a Censor Certificate.
If at all, some film folk had political aspirations, this had better be on the lines of those in power. So, while the film producers and other creative personnel kept their distance, some actors of that era did align with the regime. Manoj Kumar, for instance, believed in spreading the good word of patriotism through his films. Sunil Dutt and Nargis Dutt had formed their group, Ajanta Arts, which visited border areas to entertain army jawans.
Otherwise, having little interactions with the Centre, industry was the first to come forward at the time of a calamity or a national disaster to raise funds.
Well, the film fraternity lived an insecure life. Their existence depended on success. Their first priority was to somehow deliver the film prints for the releases when completed and move on. Whatever the injustice, they never even thought of seeking justice in a court of law, how would they even think of taking on a government?
So what has changed now that anybody who is nobody decides to become a social crusader whatever the cause or lack of it?
First thing first: Unlike olden days, not everybody connected with the film industry (now Entertainment Industry) has stakes or has something to lose. They may have other means or assurance of survival besides the fact that these lobby consists of either those who are past their prime having had their time with the film industry or those who could never amount to anything in the films or, say, the entertainment industry.
But, what gives them courage is that the advent of the social media. Social media came as a platform to post views, opinions, discuss topics and exchange ideas. But, soon, lobbies were formed for who it became an instrument of abusing, deriding, demeaning, not only others but also the country!
The exercise actually started as reaction to film reviews on various websites which were unfavourable. The artiste’s being an insecure community, would get their stooges on the job and post hundreds of comments running down the portal and trying to discredit the critic. The stars and their men were not net savvy and one single reply, poorly written, usually in all caps, would be posted using various IDs. It was a pure giveaway.
Now, social media has given a kind of veil to hide behind and make all sorts of comments, mostly of derogatory nature. Some of these may be educated at a college level but their ignorance is evident when it comes to general knowledge, world affairs and, mainly, logic. The social media protects them from instant retribution or bodily harm. I remember an incident when at a film industry function at a hotel in Mumbai, Asrani was holding the mike and, in jest, made a comment about much respected late actor. His was supposed to be a joke. But, another actor, Baldev Khosa, did not quite get the humour and instantly rushed to the podium and attacked Asrani!
No such fears on social media. It gives freedom of expression a new dimension.
If you followed these social media, you would think that this brigade which makes comments against the regime knows better than millions of Indians instrumental in electing a government and that they themselves knew better how to run the country than the ones doing it!
Sadly for them, all those who spew anti national venom enjoy no following in their professional life. The social media following is a notional high, most of those who follow you could well be having fun at your cost.
Take for example Javed Akhtar. He, along with Salim Khan, wrote some successful film scripts. That was like 40 plus years ago and his name means little to the generation today. The media can be blamed for keeping his name in circulation. Again, they display a lack of conviction, creativity and purpose as all of them post the same thing drafted by someone else.
Javed was the most logical, well informed film person I ever met. The conversations with him were enlightening. He was and still claims to be an atheist. But, now his stands on social media come across as motivated. Same is the case with Farhan Akhtar who takes similar stands. Once, when he joined a protest gathering in Mumbai, it turned out that he did not even know the purpose of the protest he had joined! There are others like Naseeruddin Shah, Aamir Khan etc who have made out of turn comments only to be abused and called names. Their respect and dignity are brought to dust with just one comment, wrong or right on the social media. Social media is unforgiving, whatever your past glories.
There are some petty starlets and some film directors who have failed in their own chosen craft and made it their full time job to post ill-informed comments on national affairs. Not having been able to make a career in films, taking anti India stand is the only way they can stay in news with the content starved media lapping up whatever anybody has to say!
Then there is the other side. The positive influencers who make it a point to stand by and support the Country. They stand up for a noble cause whenever required and without asking as so many popular stars have proved during the Corona pandemic as well as the floods in the Eastern parts of India. These include Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn, Sonu Sood, Salman Khan, Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Varun Dhawan, Amitabh Bachchan among others.
Akshay Kumar, in fact, has rendered help much beyond expectations. He donated 25 crore to the PM Care fund, three crore to the Mumbai Municipal Corporation, two crore to Mumbai Police besides depositing monies in the accounts of out of job film workers who earn daily wages.
Ajay Devgn has been instrumental in equipping a 200 bed hospital set up on an urgent basis in Mumbai with oxygen cylinders and ventilators besides providing with ration kits to 700 families of Dharavi settlement in the city.
However, the one to pull all the plugs to come out and help the migrants left to fend for themselves is Sonu Sood. He has fed 25,000 families in Bhiwandi near Mumbai through the month of Ramadan besides sending a huge number of migrants home on buses and trains, attending to them personally. He even booked a flight to send 177 women from Kerala to their home state, Odisha. Earlier, Sonu had offered his 24 room hotel in Juhu, Mumbai, for medical workers tending to Corona patients.
The thing is that, while a group of people use social media to deride the nation, create divisions and any and everything good that happens in the country, there are people who do their mite in such times when the country is braving a pandemic like Covid 19. They don’t need to post comments or their noble acts on social media, thousands of others do it for them.
(Vinod Mirani is a veteran film writer and box office analyst. The views expressed are personal)
–IANS, Vinod Mirani