How Bollywood serve the Hindutva agenda
Since the meteoric rise of Narendra Modi and his pro-Hindu Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in India’s political landscape, a major portion of Indian cinema has been flagitiously and flagrantly toeing the Hindu supremacist line, eulogising Hindu icons and branding Muslim rulers as treacherous, feckless and fatuous villains.
Big budget Indian movies like Padmavat, Bajirao Mastani, Uri, Kesari, Panipat, Tanhaji, Thackeray and several others have neatly dovetailed into the Hindu supremacist agenda of the ruling BJP.
By closely observing the release dates of these movies, one gets to know how meticulously fiction on celluloid has been used to sow seeds of hatred against past Muslim rulers of India and tilt public opinion in favour of the Hindu communal ideology of the BJP.
A year after the BJP sprang into prominence and won the national Indian elections with a thumping majority in 2014, the Hindiepic historical romance film Bajirao Mastani was released. The movie depicted the bravery of Hindu Mahrathas and the pitched battles they fought against the Nizams in the Deccan and the Moghuls in Delhi.
In January 2018, came Padmavat. The movie portrayed the 13th-century Muslim ruler Alauddin Khilji as a brutal, cupidnous beast, reflecting the barbarity of Muslim rulers of India.
Take for example the movie Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran. It was released in 2018, just a year before the Indian general elections. The movie highlighted the role the BJP government led by the late Atal Behari Vajpayee played in bringing about the nuclear test conducted by the Indian Army at Pokhran in 1998. It portrayed the BJP as a party not afraid of taking risks in the interest of the country.
The first three months of the year 2019, when general elections were held again, several big budget films that helped the BJP to propagate its agenda were released.
On January 9, 2019 came Uri: The Surgical Strike. The movie dramatized the Indian government’s surgical strike against Pakistan Administered Kashmir. The movie had actors depicting Modi, India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and then Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
On January 11 came The Accidental Prime Minister. The film was based on a book written by Sanjaya Baru, former media advisor to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The movie highlighted how corruption, prejudice and nepotism are integral to the Congress party, the BJP’s archrival. The film depicted how even a perceptive mind like Dr Manmohan Singh’s was influenced by the nefarious Congress ideology. The film concluded with actual video footage of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2014 election rally, where he declared to his supporters amid loud roars ‘Maa, Betaeki Sarkar Gayi’ Gone is the Government of Mother-Son(Sonia and Rahul Gandhi).
On January 18, the film Thackeray was released. It followed the life of Balasaheb Thackeray, the founder of the pro-Hindu Indian political party Shiv Sena. A major portion of the movie tried to justify the demolition of Babri Masjid and the building of a Ram Temple in its place, a disputed site.
On January 25, 2019 came Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi. The film was based on the life of Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi -- a Hindu Maratha queen. It highlighted the valour with which the Hindus fought against the British Indian army in the famous siege of Jhansi.
On 15 March 2019, a film named Mera Pyare Prime Minister (My Dear Prime Minister) was released. The film propagated the importance of toilets in Indian homes, depicting the saga of a child whose mother was raped when she went out in the night to defecate in the open. The film sent a message to the audience about the importance of Prime Minister Modi’s Swachch Bharat (Clean India) Mission.
On April 12, the film ‘The Tashkent Files’ was released. The movie was widely deemed to be politically motivated in the light of the 2019 general elections. The film indirectly hinted that the Congress was responsible for the death of former Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and that Indira Gandhi was a Russian spy. The use of fictional films to score political goals has become a new norm in Indian Cinema.
Last month, a crime thriller web television series called Pataal Lok was launched. The nine-episode series revolved around the struggle of a police inspector desperate to crack a high profile case only to get the adulation of the department’s bosses. The plot mirrored Indian society in more ways than one.
The series shows the hardships journalists who try to remain objective in today’s India; and how big industrialists dominate the media etc. The renowned TV journalist Sanjeev Mehrais played by Neeraj Kabi. An industrialist, named Singh, owns Mehra’s channel, fires him for being critical of the Prime Minister’s agenda. He suggests to the fired journalist to try organic farming or write a book on the present political scenario in India. “After decades, we have a Prime Minister who is doing something for the country and you are busy finding loopholes. Don’t be a trouble-maker,” Singh warns Mehra before firing him.
Rejected and depressed, Mehra narrates the ordeal to his junior colleague at a bar. “We used to be heroes. People liked us. And something about this country changed. Now we get trolled, killed, fired. We are told to go to Pakistan.”
There is a character namely Kabir M in the series. A person caught while planning to kill Mehrais interrogated. But he refuses to divulge his full name and doesn’t reveal what M in his name stands for. A circumcision certificate is recovered from him. The scene depicts the anxiety in India’s Muslim community which, amid the rising intolerance, is devising measures to keep their Muslim identity discreet.
The series delves further into Kabir’s past, revealing how his father and his teen-aged brother were mercilessly killed by a Hindu mob in a railway station merely on suspicion of eating beef. Cornered by the fanatics, Kabir’s father helplessly tries to assure his killers that it wasn’t beef he was eating.
The series has one more character namely Imraan Ansari, a police officer who cracks the civil services exam. Ansari’s character depicts how the “bothering” of Muslims in India has become a new normal in the country.
“These days, many people from your community are getting selected. It is very good. It will in the long run help change perceptions about your community,” is how a senior officer from India’s premier investigative agency compliments Ansari for cracking the civil service exams.
The series also depicts how easy it has become for the probe agencies in India like CBI to connect any case with cross border terrorism. The assailants caught for killing journalist Mehra are branded as Pakistan-trained terrorists with Kabir M being declared as a dreaded militant trained in Pakistan. In a jam-packed press conference the CBI showcases terrorist literature allegedly recovered from Kabir. Ironically, a Sufi religious text composed mainly of treatises by the Indian hadith scholar Muhammad Zakariya Kandhlawi called Faza'il-e-A'maal is also declared terrorist literature by the CBI in the series.
“But Kabir cannot read Urdu. How could it be his book?,” a police officer murmurs in the ears of his colleague while listening to the press briefing from the sidelines.
The series further highlights how unsafe have prisons become for the Muslims in India. “Bastard Pakistani,” yells a fellow prisoner at Kabir as he slits his throat by a sharp razor in a jail corridor.