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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 49, New Delhi, November 20, 2021

A Bollywood Celebrity of Hindutva | Bhabani Shankar Nayak

Friday 19 November 2021

by Bhabani Shankar Nayak *

The Hindi film industry in Bombay has contributed immensely in the growth of peace, solidarity and secular nationalism, and progressive popular culture in India. The actors, directors, singers, artists, producers and writers of Bollywood have challenged power and stood behind people and their citizenship rights by upholding highest traditions of art and cinema. The market driven commercial culture motivated by profit has diminished such traditions within the tinsel town. The commercialisation has led to the separation of ‘passionate interactions’ from ‘professional performances’ within art and cinema, which has dehumanised, distilled and alienated actors from the people and their issues. The profit driven advertisement industry helped this process to grow to sell dreams and alienate people from their everyday realities. The market and religious forces have used popular culture of art and cinema to promote and propagate their ahistorical and reactionary ideology to capture power in the name of culture, religion and nationalism. Such transformations have produced celebrities like newly inducted Padma Shri Kangana Ranaut.

Kangana Ranaut said that "as far as Aazadi (freedom) in 2014 is concerned I specifically said physical Aazadi we may have but consciousness and conscience of India was set free in 2014... a dead civilisation came alive and fluttered its wings and now roaring and soaring high...," the actor further justified her earlier obnoxious statements. She acts and speaks as the mouthpiece of Hindutva propaganda machine. But she is not alone within her ideological narratives. From Narendra Modi to most of ministers, MLAs and MPs of Hindutva politics believe, share and promote Kangana Ranaut’s position. Her rants are very popular among the ruling dispensation today. Many Bollywood celebrities are adherent Hindutva politics and openly admire Mr Narendra Modi led BJP governments in India.

The cocktail of ignorance and arrogance of Bollywood celebrity status defines the views of Kangana Ranaut. Her abhorrent and ahistorical views on Indian freedom struggle, Mahatma Gandhi, contemporary governance and different welfare policies are products intellectually bankrupt climate created by the Hindutva street politics. Kangana Ranaut’s support for mass violence against minorities defy any form of human logic. However, Kangana Ranaut is not an individual aberration. She is a proud product of Hindutva factory of hate. She is victim of Hindutva propaganda and a culture of ignorance promoted by the Hindutva mass culture. Hindutva politics militarises the minds of people against science, reason, history and human civilisation.

The idea is to discredit heroic history of national freedom struggle in which Hindutva forces did not participate. Hindutva forces were with the British colonialism in opposition to the Indian freedom struggle. They weakened national struggle for freedom then and weakening India and Indian constitutional democracy today. The celebrities are joining Hindutva forces for their personal gain and help to legitimise and normalise ahistorical reactionary Hindutva politics in India. The celebrities need to understand that Hindutva is a dangerous trap for the future of art and cinema. If such trend continues, it is dangerous for the people of India in long run. The celebrity endorsement of Hindutva politics of hate diminishes the power of art and cinema. It transforms art and cinema as merely tools of ruling class propaganda of mass domestication where idea of freedom and creative liberties are buried alive.

Celebrities as citizens are the shareholders of Indian democracy and secular society in India. It is in the interests of celebrities, their art and cinema to reclaim the lost glories of film industry which had a history of questioning power in defence of people and their citizenship rights. We swim together as citizens or sink together as slaves in the ocean of Hindutva ignorance. The only alternative is to stand together in defence of science, society, art, cinema and citizenship rights in India before Hindutva fire engulfs one and all in India.

* (Author: Bhabani Shankar Nayak is affiliated to the University of Glasgow, UK)

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