My heart danced with joy when Amitabh Bachchan gave it back to a troll who had insensitively cursed the superstar to die of COVID-19 while he was recovering at Nanavati Hospital in July. “I shall ask my 40 million-plus followers to annihilate you, I’ll tell them ‘thok do saale ko’,” Bachchan had thundered on Twitter and had gone to the extent of asking the troll to “burn in your own stew”. Although quite uncharacteristic of Amitabh Bachchan, the reply did underline the impact a troll can have on a celebrity’s mind. The reason why I was thrilled was that despite his illness, Bachchan had played the typical Hindi film hero, waiting to bash up the baddie.
If a 75-plus star could react in this fashion when someone posted a horrendously nasty message to him on social media, you would expect him and every younger and older star to spew more venom if someone were to say an equally mean thing about his (star’s) mother, right? Unfortunately, all the stars have proven us wrong.
It would not be incorrect to say that Bollywood is the mother of each and every top star because although they were brought into this world by their respective mothers, they owe their birth in the film industry to Bollywood. Surprising then that not a single top hero has exhibited any heroism even while the mother — Bollywood — is being called an abode of the mafia, Bollywood stars are being referred to as drug addicts, heroines are being touted as sleazy and ever-willing to sleep around to bag roles in big films, producers and directors are being passed off as plotters and planners, manipulators and murderers. Television news channels have made such a mockery of Bollywood in the last two-and-a-half months, after the unfortunate demise of Sushant Singh Rajput, that many among the public have begun to think of Bollywood as the worst place to be in. I’ve said this in the past too, and I repeat that the hit which the reputation of Bollywood has taken in the last 75 days is of the kind it has never taken in the past. Yes, there may be some in the film industry who do drugs and nobody can deny that, but to infer and announce that 99% of the industry is addicted to drugs is taking things too too far. Yes, there may be nepotism in the film industry and no one can deny that but then, where does nepotism not exist? And if it can be tolerated in every other industry, why should nepotism in Bollywood be made a tamasha of, why should talented star-kids be mocked at and ridiculed as if they had committed a crime by being born into the families they were born into?
Just recall all the nonsensical theories that have been put out about Bollywood between June 14 and today, by TV news channels, social media, digital news portals etc:
(1) Sushant Singh Rajput was murdered by the nepotism gang, whatever that meant. THEORY DISCARDED AS IT HAD NO LEGS TO STAND ON.
(2) Top stars and filmmakers had ganged up against Sushant and ensured that he did not sign new films. THEORY THROWN IN THE DUST BIN AFTER IT WAS ESTABLISHED BEYOND DOUBT THAT SUSHANT HAD REFUSED A NUMBER OF FILMS AND THAT HE WAS ALL SET TO START A NEW FILM.
(3) 99% of the industry people do drugs. THIS IS SUCH A BAD JOKE THAT ONE WOULD HAVE TO BE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF DRUGS TO ACTUALLY ENJOY IT.
(4) Bollywood heroines are gold diggers. THE ENFORCEMENT DIRECTORATE HAS FOUND NO FINANCIAL IRREGULARITIES COMMITTED BY RHEA CHAKRABORTY IN THE ACCOUNTS OF SUSHANT SINGH RAJPUT.
(5) A Bollywood heroine, Rhea Chakraborty, gave Sushant improper drugs to sedate him. IT HAS TURNED OUT THAT THE MEDICATION WAS CHANGED BY SUSHANT’S SISTER RATHER THAN BY BOLLYWOOD’S RHEA.
(6) A Bollywood heroine, Rhea Chakraborty, was not allowing Sushant to retire from films although he wanted to leave the film industry and do farming at a small place. THE TRUTH THAT HAS EMERGED IS THAT RHEA WAS ONE WITH HIM IN HIS PREMATURE RETIREMENT PLANS.
(6) A Bollywood heroine, Rhea Chakraborty, had taken Sushant to the cleaners by siphoning off his money. IT HAS EMERGED THAT SHE HAD ACCOMPANIED SUSHANT TO FUND MANAGERS FOR HIS FINANCIAL PLANNING AFTER THE EARLY RETIREMENT HE WAS CONTEMPLATING.
(7) Bollywood was cooking up the story about Sushant’s mental illness but the actor was mentally stable. SUSHANT HIMSELF ADMITTED THAT HE WAS BIPOLAR.
Yet, it seems, no star’s blood has boiled enough at the ridiculous allegations levelled against the industry they owe their careers, name, fame, wealth, and power to! Or do they open their mouths only and only when they are paid to speak dialogues? Do they need written lines of bravado to prove their heroism? Even if that is true, why don’t they ask the many wonderful writers Bollywood has, to pen some factual lines which they can utter on a public or social media platform? In the age of social media, silence is akin to acceptance. Even as Bollywood’s image is being demolished (tarnished is too mild a word, the stage now is one of demolition), the stars, who can actually give a jaw-breaking reply to the ones who are involved in this game of finishing Bollywood, are sending the wrong signals to the world and to the crores of Bollywood fans and buffs by maintaining complete silence.
Why is Aamir Khan quiet? Is it because he doesn’t like distractions while shooting for a film — in this case, Laal Singh Chaddha? Not even if it is the question of protecting and restoring the honour of the film industry?!? What’s the secret behind Salman Khan’s silence? Is it because he is at his farmhouse in Panvel? Probably, there is no internet connectivity at Panvel? Shah Rukh Khan? Oh, it must be because he is still making up his mind about the film he should sign next, so where’s the time to protect the image of Bollywood! Akshay Kumar? So what if this does not have any political angle, he can at least safeguard the interest of the industry which embraced him with open arms although he was an ‘outsider’ without any Godfather or film connection! Ah yes, he’s quiet, probably because he is shooting in London for a film titled Bell Bottom. Hence he may be ensconced in the era when bell bottoms were in vogue and when social media did not exist! Anushka Sharma’s silence can, perhaps, be explained by the fact that she is busy preparing for her first baby. In her excitement to become a first-time mother, she must have let go of the first opportunity to stand up for her non-biological mother, Bollywood. And Kareena Kapoor Khan and Saif Ali Khan, likewise, are gearing up to welcome their second baby and hence they, just maybe, have no time to issue any statement. Ranveer Singh and Ranbir Kapoor must surely be more busy learning the tricks of superstardom which is what they want to achieve. But they had better understand that they would be superstars if Bollywood is allowed to survive in the first place. And Amitabh Bachchan? Why is the angry young man of the 1980s not getting angry in August just like he did in July? He may have single-handedly and verbally annihilated his detractor on Twitter two months back, and didn’t need to tell his millions of followers to take action against the troll, but now, Bachchan must use all his 40 million-plus army of Twitter followers to set right the image of Bollywood. Why is he not making his typical heroic entry which made his millions of fans clap in applause and whistle with glee in the cinema halls? Come on, Mr. Bachchan, we want to see you as the quintessential Hindi film hero who comes to save the damsel in distress in the climax. This time, the damsel may not be the hero’s girlfriend, she’s the hero’s mother. And, Mr. Bachchan, you know very well, the sentiments evoked among the audience by the mother and the motherland in our films. Be the typical hero of the 1980s, not the policeman who came in the climax but after everything was over. And… errrr… ummm… even some of the best-known retired top cops of Bombay have in real life joined hands and moved the high court to defend the Bombay police as the force’s reputation is being tarnished in what they feel is a highly politicised investigation and a trial by media into Sushant Singh Rajput’s alleged suicide. Trial by media and tarnishing of reputation are the ills you all also need to fight. Can’t believe that retired top cops have done what top Bollywood stars can’t do!
Just Taapsee Pannu, Vidya Balan, Raveena Tandon and Minissha Lamba taking up cudgels on behalf of the industry to protect its honour is not enough. Rather, it is shameful that four leading ladies have taken the lead while Bollywood’s leading men are still in deep slumber. Wake up, stars! Don’t allow the reputation of your Bollywood to be trampled upon, mauled, destroyed and thrown into the funeral pyre. Even if the public returns to the cinemas when they reopen with the government’s permission, they may not love Bollywood as much as they did before they heard the horrendous stories about it during the lockdown. And that won’t be right for Bollywood. Our heroes should definitely make an attempt to erase all the nonsense fed into the public memory. One virtual press conference addressed by the top ten stars of the country… and imagine the coverage it will get! Envisage the impact it will have on the public in general. Frankly, the stars are underestimating their own power to influence people and thereby set the record straight. Unitedly, they can fight it. There’s no fear of being singled out. Film stars have been chief ministers of states in India, and a film star has been the President of the USA. Stars like Hema Malini and Sunny Deol are the elected representatives in the Lok Sabha today. They represent the film industry in politics. Why are they quiet? The industry today is as much their mother as it was when they were only stars rather than star-MPs. Ditto for the presidents of the film trade bodies like CINTAA (Cine And Television Artistes’ Association), IMPPA (Indian Motion Picture Producers’ Association), Guild, etc. These Associations were quick to ban Pakistani artistes — and rightly so — when the need arose. Why are they quiet today when it’s the question of the public image of Bollywood? Please remember, dear stars, the Hindi film industry will never forgive you all for remaining mute spectators.
Dear Bachchans, Khans, Kapoors and Sharmas, you are stars, you are superstars. If people can clap in the cinema halls at the dialogues you speak on the big screen despite knowing that they are not written by you, imagine how deafening their applause will be when, for once, the dialogues will come from your hearts. Speak the truth. It has the power to move mountains. Leave the verdict on the Sushant Singh Rajput case to the CBI and/or the courts. That’s not your domain just as it should, rightly speaking, not be the domain of the television channels which seem to have hijacked the case. But you, as children of Bollywood, definitely need to educate the people that all the nonsense spoken about Bollywood is not the truth. Present the whole story before them because they have formed opinions on the basis of half-baked facts and a lot of fiction being passed off as facts by those very TV channels which rely upon stars like you all to garner their TRPs. Fans of Bollywood have been misled, just bring them back on track. They still want to love you, laugh with you, cry with you, and believe in you. Be their hero! Eliminate the evil!!
NOTE: This article has been reproduced with due permission from Komal Nahta (Film Information).
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