Even as Covid-induced health emergency is yet to end, attempts are afloat to convey to the world that Kashmir will emerge from the impact of virus and is ready to welcome the tourists once again. The main push behind these efforts is seen in Bollywood celebrities. Few days back, Indian army apart from being in line of duty organized a two-day winter festival at Gulmarg featuring Bollywood celebrities – Vidya Balan, Arbaaz Khan and Siddharth Roy Kapoor. The festival was aimed ‘to provide a platform to local artists to showcase their talent and to provide a fillip to the tourism industry in Kashmir and lend support to the people who rely on this industry for their livelihood.’
Earlier, a delegation from Bollywood was invited to ‘motivate’ film crews from Mumbai to explore film shooting in the valley.
The presence of Bollywood celebrities in the festival triggered a buzz as media quoting the actors flashed stories about the comeback of Bollywood crew into the valley with film shooting projects. The storyline seemed strange as Bollywood and other filmmakers in other parts of the countryhave continuously been visiting Kashmir even in odd times when security situation was a cause of concern.
Bringing celebrities from Bollywood as guests in the name of tourism promotion is not something out of box initiative. Over a period of time, such activities have become redundant. It may have added flavor to the tourism promotion activities in pre-1990 era, but the kind of mess in the Bollywood industry exposing the real life of even the top reel celebrities has disillusioned the general public. More particularly in the last couple of years, most of the celebrities are fast losing their ‘public hero’ image owing to the controversies engulfing them where their social and moral character stands slapped with big question marks. Now such Bollywood celebrities have become sensational content for newsmen for their ‘involvement’ in clandestine acts and hardy find place in media for their good work.
Currently, the Bollywood industry is in dark phase if we analyse the events which unfolded and continue to unfold after the suicide of promising actor Sushant Singh Rajput (SSR) last year on June 14. The events taking in and around the industry involving big names for wrong reasons has maligned the big platform which the Bollywood would set for bringing cheer in people’s lives. It has almost lost its tag of powerhouse of communication and entertainment to bring social change in Indian societies for betterment. In fact, SSR’s death in suicide has opened a Pandora box, exposing the underworld nature of high voltage Bollywood celebrities – be it actors, directors or producers – who have been caught in a whirlpool of controversies. The most dangerous aspect is that allegations of “cruel and unforgiving” nature of the industry against the celebrities have been leveled by their own fraternity. Drug trafficking within the industry allegedly being operated by some Bollywood bigwigs is the most concerning activity which has shaken the common people. Notably, some reputed actors have already admitted either being victims or players of the abuses rampant in the industry.
The celebrities, who used to be role models of younger generations, are now fast losing their connection with the audience. Can they be now role models of our younger generation when allegations of drug abuse and sexual abuse against the some of the celebrities in the industry have surfaced? This question must definitely be lingering in the minds of common people.
Apart from the dirt enveloping the Bollywood industry, a good number of films produced in the past few years have neither been secular nor democratic in nature. Historically speaking, patriotism as a theme has been used in many films. And in no way it’s bad to tailor the content of a film promoting patriotism. But, over the years the concept of patriotism promoted by the Bollywood players is mostly flimsy and is loaded with tendencies of hurting different sections of societies at the cost of pleasing one. In fact, the filmmakers leave no stone unturned to use the same patriotic sentiment more to mint money than exhibiting or promoting love for the country.
Precisely, the filmmakers have been infusing the fever of tailor-made flimsy patriotism into the audience in a most objectionable way and blatantly misuse the power of cinema. This way, they trigger unrest among sections of general public to get noticed and make hefty profits for themselves.
In the past columns, I have dealt with the concept of patriotism promoted by the Bollywood industry. Let me repeat my observation. If we look at the past, the theme of patriotism has been framed in Bollywood movies many a times. There were times when Indian movies typically screened the hero in love with his motherland and ready to die to save the honour of his country. ‘ Kranti’, ‘Purab Paschim’ , ‘Shaheed’ , ‘Mera Gaon Mera Desh’ etc were the films carrying a plot around truest form of patriotism reflecting a society emotional about its country and its rights.
Today, young generation in India must have no clear idea about what patriotism means, courtesy filmy patriotism promoted by the Bollywood industry.
In the words of a Bollywood friend, for decades together Bollywood hungama was run by giants like V. Shantaram, Mehboob Khan, Bimal Roy, Raj Kapoor, Guru Dutt, Vijay Anand, Raj Khosla, Yash Chopra, Ramesh Sippy, Prakash Mehra and Manmohan Desai. Today, we don’t have one such iconic filmmaker. Even as directors like Karan Johar, Rajkumar Hiran, Rohit Shetty, etc. are current breed of promising filmmakers, but the allegations of being ‘cruel & exploiters’ leveled against some of them by other industry players has put their reputation at stake.
The Bollywood has pushed itself into such kind of situations which breeds all sorts of hatred and unrest among societies and communities in the country. Let the filmmakers revisit the Eighties, when films used to be scripted purely in line with the interests of general public and the nation.. Let them breed communal harmony, which is need of the hour.
In the backdrop of given Bollywood scenario, the use of celebrities from the industry cannot get desired results. Kashmir is a place which needs no introduction when it comes to its unmatched geographical beauty. In fact, the beauty of Kashmir has been explored by the Bollywood for decades for themselves to get noticed and praised. There are scores of actors, producers and directors who have capitalized and captured the beauty of Kashmir in their frames to make lifetime fortunes for themselves. Even
A glance at the performance of Bollywood vis-a-vis destination Kashmir after the advent of armed militancy testifies their acts of flirting with the Kashmir situation in their storyline. Most of their films glorified the turmoil in Kashmir in bad taste, which was neither good for Kashmiris nor the country. Not only it dented the reputation of Kashmir as ‘Paradise on the earth”, but it also breed hatred against Kashmir’s majority community across the country. It would not be out of place to mention that the growing religious intolerance in the country has its base in the films which contained such plots having script revolving around terrorism and only terrorism, bringing disrepute to the brand Kashmir.
I think, it is the time to have content control of the films which describe a story in Kashmir. Let them promote human interest stories projecting Kashmir in positive frame. As far as shooting of films in valley is concerned, the emphasis should be laid on raising infrastructure required for film making. We have seen filmmakers getting infrastructural support, both men and machinery, from neighbouring state as the valley lacks such facilities.
Even local human capital in the field of film making needs to be integrated into any film project which Bollywood will pursue in the valley. This way it will create jobs for the local talent available in abundance in the field of film making. Otherwise asking Bollywood to come with crew and shoot projects here is again wastage of opportunity and filling the coffins of others at the cost of our immense resources.
(The views are of the author & not the institution he works for)