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Deepika Padukone attended a protest in Delhi in support for the students attacked at JNU. The women of Bollywood are taking a stand.
Bollywood A-listers like Deepika Padukone, Sonam Kapoor and Alia Bhatt have spoken out and shown support for the students attacked in JNU. Though some claim that this is just another publicity stunt, others say that any dissent is welcome, even as a publicity stunt. While Bollywood still needs to get its act together, one hopes that this signifies better things.
Swara Bhasker, Anurag Kashyap, Shabana Azmi and others have always been vocal critics of the current government. But Bollywood bigwigs have either stayed silent or have openly lent their support to the government and policies. Dissent in Bollywood has been rare.
It does seem however, that some of the prominent names in Bollywood have finally had enough.
Deepika Padukone was seen at JNU, supporting the students attacked on Sunday evening. Sonam Kapoor too expressed solidarity with the students on Instagram, “It’s always been a hidden truth that you may be punished if your opinions are too loud or unpopular. But now it’s there to see. And that scares the shit out of me. My thoughts are with the students at JNU you are so much braver than I could ever be.”
This came just a day after Alia Bhatt, in her Instagram stories expressed her anguish with respect to the attack on the students. “When students, teachers and peaceful civilians become victims of physical assault on an ongoing basis, it’s time to stop pretending that all is fine. We must look truth in the eye and acknowledge that we are a house at war with itself. We, the people of this country no matter how different our ideologies, must find a human solution to all of our complex problems, and reinforce the peaceful and inclusive ideals upon which this country was built,” she wrote.
Celebrities including Taapsee Pannu, Dia Mirza, Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akhtar and others were seen at an overnight protest against the violence. A video of the celebs singing the song Baawra Mann, in support of the students was shared widely on social media.
It was also reported, that most Bollywood stars stayed away from a dinner with Union Minister of Railway and Commerce Piyush Goyal and National Vice President of the BJP, Jay Panda. The meeting had the agenda of discussing the “myths and realities” of the Citizenship Amendment Act.
All these incidents seem to indicate that Bollywood is finally waking up to certain realities.
Many however, have their doubts. Deepika Padukone’s attendance in JNU, in particular, seems to have attracted both supporters and detractors.
Even some on the left side of the political aisle were leery of her motives. And wondered if her attendance at the protests was only a way to promote her upcoming movie Chhappak.
Supporters pointed out that even if it were, it was still a brave move, given the sort of nasty responses it is likely to evoke from those on the other side. And indeed, shortly after the news of her visit to JNU broke out on Twitter, BJP’s Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga called for a boycott of her films. “RT if you will boycott movies of Deepika Padukone for her support to #TukdeTukdeGang and Afzal Gang,” he wrote. Some other tweets by supporters of the ruling party, referred to her as a “jihadin” and one asked that “what happens in the film Chhappak (acid attack) should happen to her in reality.”
However, as many others have pointed out, for Bollywood, any publicity, but especially negative publicity, is a boon. For others, even if it is a selfish move, it is worth highlighting, because of the sort of cultural impact that Bollywood celebrities have.
Meanwhile Bollywood continues to make films that feed into existing polarising narratives, and capitalises on already flaring public sentiments. For instance, the trailer for Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s movie Shikara, dropped recently. One cannot help but wonder if the timing of the movie, about the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits, is appropriate, considering that Kashmir has been on lockdown, and its citizens suffering, for months now. To clarify, there is no doubt that the story itself is important and must be told, but is it really necessary to bring it to the fore now, when the situation is so sensitive.
What effect the speaking up of Bollywood celebs will have, and whether this dissent will endure remains to be seen. However, as Swara Bhasker points out in this insightful roundtable discussion on the Bollywood’s role in India’s heated political environment, it is always more commendable that the youth of the county have taken the lead in these protests. And that celebrities, including herself, are all “compromised and complicit in different ways, and so we should think about causes for their own merit, and keep emphasising that this is a student led thing, it’s organic, it doesn’t have those typical star leaders.”
In her own words, “Don’t trust celebrities.”
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Vijayalakshmi Harish is a book blogger and writer. To paraphrase her librarian, she is a
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