Nationalism vs. Anti-nationalism in Bollywood

The recent happenings in Bollywood have necessitated the debate on this issue. There cannot be any doubt that the Indian film industry is getting increasingly politicized. Our filmmakers have begun to make films heavily driven by their political agenda. It’s either done subliminally or blatantly.

There is nothing wrong in politicization of art. It has always been like that. Filmmakers and artistes have been known to take political sides. While the art-house cinema leans towards left-liberalism and political correctness, the mainstreams films nurture patriotism and nationalism. They are often branded as retrograde and jingoistic by the left-liberal establishment that dominates the media space.

For decades, the popular south Indian cinema was deliberately used as a vehicle to promote political ideologies and turn larger-than-life stars into political giants. Even now the mainstream political parties in southern Indian states fund films, own TV channels and cable networks to manipulate public opinion and top-line stars invariably gravitate towards electoral politics as they begin to age.

Bollywood walked a different path. It’s not that Bollywood stars didn’t make forays into politics. They didn’t succeed the way Karunanidhi, MGR, NTR and Jayalalitha succeeded. They generally joined the mainstream political parties that used their popularity to win key contests. In rare cases a few, who served the party for sufficiently long time, also got ministerial berths.

The inevitable intertwining of popular art and politics, both deal with masses, is all right and one cannot really crib about it. However, one will have to draw a red-line here. When bitter no-holds-barred variety of politics takes anti-national dimensions and begins to follow a path that leads to harm our national interests, one cannot sit silently. Such trends must be resisted in every possible way.

We are a nation with a lot of cultural and ethnic diversity. We actually celebrate diversity like none else in the world. That’s our strength. ‘Ekam Sat, Viprah Bahudha Vadanti’  (Truth is one, people express it differently) is the mantra of our civilizational existence. We don’t believe in universal toleration but acceptance. We believe that multiple points of views can co-exist without generating murderous conflicts. This idea is embedded in our genes. We have survived for more than 5000 years because of it.

In such a long civilisation existence we also developed a few social fault lines that could not be repaired because of a thousand years of oppressive and destructive foreign rule that did its best to destroy the ethos that nurtured our socio-cultural-political existence. The iconoclastic alien ideologies waged multi-pronged attacks to demolish the foundations of our polity, unity and existence, trying hard to deepen our fault-lines. They could not succeed.

However, these Breaking India forces, ‘Bharat tere tukade honge gangs’, never stopped trying. Some of the Bollywood filmmakers have become a willing pawn in their hands and are furthering their divisive, subversive, deceptive, and devious agenda overtly, covertly, or foolishly. That’s unfortunately a sad development in the history of Bollywood and Indian cinema that was founded by a staunch nationalist like Dada Saheb Phalke. Can we allow anti-nationalism to be promoted through cinema in the name of the freedom of artistic expression?

Thankfully, there are Bollywood filmmakers who have absolute faith in the idea of a resurgent India and we have seen how films with nationalist and patriotic themes have done very well at box office. We hope and pray such trend continues and Bollywood does not abandon its nationalist moorings.

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