Is Shahrukh Vs Sena a gimmick?
I have been watching the situation in Bombay or should we call it Mumbai with a lot of concern. The Shiv Sena wanting to find its clout in the metropolis is resorting to politics of intimidation. On the other hand, the makers or actors of My Name Is Khan slated for release this Friday are going on giving interviews to top TV channels. On the face of it, the interviews are for the promotion of the film but the obstacles being created by the Shiv Sainiks for its release are also giving them added publicity. The Shiv Sainiks are not protesting over the contents of the movie but are adamant that its hero Shahrukh Khan should apologise for expressing himself in favour of the inclusion of Pakistani players in the IPL. The whole thing is so ridiculous that it has put our country to shame internationally.
There are many dimensions other than publicity (which I won’t be surprised is the main reason and this would be proved if an amicable settlement is reached between the makers and the Shiv Sena by Thursday evening). First and foremost is the right of any individual or a set of people to make a movie and ensure its uninterrupted release once it is passed by the Censor Board. Any attempt to prevent its screening due to invalid reasons such as those offered by the Shiv Sena are an infringement of our constitution. The second point is about the challenge to the rule of law posed by the lumpen behaviour of the Sena. Those who are encouraging this should be strictly dealt under the law and booked. The third element pertains to how the police is going to be deployed in the city of Bombay to ensure the release of a film whose proceeds are not for charity but if it succeeds will fatten the bank balance of those who have produced or acted in it. In other words, the police meant for maintaining law and order and welfare of the common citizens is going to be pressed into service to enable a certain set of people to make more money after taking refuge in the right of creativity and expression enshrined in our constitution. I have no quarrel with either the film or its title or its release. We have often criticised our Netas for using the police force for their security at the eexpense of the security of the common man. But the Netas are at least elected representatives of the people and are there because of a mandate in their favour. The argument, which is likely to result, is that should private parties be given the kind of security, which is going to be on display in Bombay in the next few days.
This has not been the first time that a commercial venture gets to be promoted in the name of creativity. In the past, there have been protests after M.F.Hussain made some allegedly vulgar depictions of Hindu gods and goddesses. The artists’ fraternity came out in his defence that it should be seen as a work of art and not as something, which should be viewed with an intolerant mind. All at the argument level is fine. But practically when one knows things would hurt somebody, why do such acts, even if they pertain to art. Has somebody ever asked Hussain why he has not tried to paint or draw a caricature of the Prophet? If he does, he knows that all hell will break loose and he will be on the hit list of the jehadis in no time. The shortpoint is that certain acts are indefensible if one sees them from the prism of public order.
In the latest instance, the said movie is a totally legitimate venture aimed at entertaining the common man. It should be released and those who wish to see it should be allowed to see it without any threat to their life and property. After all the movie brings back Bollywoods number one hero Shahrukh Khan and Kajol together after a long gap and is directed by Karan Johar, one of the finest young directors we have. In fact, I am looking forward to watching it next week in Delhi, which unlike Bombay still does not have a party like the Shiv Sena or the MNS. But what I think is that if the release of the film on whatever count is going to put the safety and security of the man on the street in jeopardy, ways should be found to counter any such eventuality. If I would say that the Shiv Sena leaders should be locked up under the relevant sections of law, it would help in resurrecting the party which is fast losing relevance. If I would say that stop the screening of the movie in Bombay for a while since its release would lead to apprehension of breach of peace, the action would be questioned and the government will be accused of playing into the hands of the Sena. If you use all the state machinery to counter the Sainiks on the streets, it would mean that it is being done at the risk of compromising security for the majority of the citizens.
Certain issues are sometimes beyond the explanations given by the civil society. I have always maintained that Mumbai is a city like Delhi where people from any part of the country can live. Political parties like the Shiv Sena get their strength when the policy makers fail to see that the issue in these places is not the one only between locals and migrants but also that of the survival of the city itself. That can be the subject matter of another blog sometime. But for Ashok Chavan, the Maharashtra Chief Minister, the appropriate decision will be extremely difficult to take. Because the tense situation is not his creation but a result of bigoted politics. Someday when he retires from politics, he may think of making a movie then. Its possible title could be “My Name Is Not Khan’’.