Bollywood, Boycott And Nationalism

JackSparrowcraz thumbnail
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Posted: 1 years ago

The idea of nationalism at first found expression in Europe and America in the eighteenth century, and thereafter reached Asia and Africa in the twentieth century. It is difficult to have a holistic definition of nationalism. Nonetheless, the Cambridge Dictionary defines nationalism as “a nation's wish and attempt to be politically independent” and “a great or too great love of your own country.” Concurring with the latter, I see it as an uncompromising allegiance to one's own country by celebrating its borders. In India, nationalism has been reduced to hashtags and DPs of late. It is measured by the degree of support to the national team in sports. It is also gauged through an ostentatious display of the tricolour in one's house and in boycotting movies which go against the majoritarian narrative. But isn't it a narrow understanding of nationalism? It can be dubbed, at best, as a variant of militant nationalism, which emerged in India during the partition of Bengal in 1905. India's sole Nobel laureate in literature Rabindranath Tagore had a different opinion. He questioned the “idolatry of Nation” and resisted the education which taught that “a country is greater than the ideals of humanity.”

Gone are the days when people like Mahatma Gandhi called for boycott of foreign goods in a bid to promote swadeshi. Now, social media has become the new site for boycott. It is a strange place with its own queer algorithms. When a mob carries a movement forward, it becomes a dangerous cacophony. It is alarming that the cacophony against Bollywood megastars like Aamir Khan and Akshay Kumar has spread like wildfire in social media. And it has adversely affected their much-awaited movies. It is purely one's choice whether to watch a movie. Nevertheless, when this choice is negated by the surge of mobocracy, masquerading as nationalism, it's a matter of concern. 

At the outset, it is important to shed light on the people who trigger such movements. Some international media houses along with a few in the country have accused the right wing for perpetrating the boycotts. However, that Akshay Kumar is also a target, who happens to make movies that woo the right wing, disputes the claim. In fact, he has had a favourable backing from the ruling party, if his interview with Modi is taken into account. His movie based on the life of Prithvi Raj Chauhan, a staunch Hindu emperor, was also boycotted. Hence, it would be fatuous to regard the boycott gang as right wing members. The call for boycott is admittedly carried out by netizens. But who are these netizens? It is a formal cloak for the idle hatemongers with ample time at their disposal. With the rise of social media in the country, such people nitpick trivial issues and exaggerate them, thereby posing them as threats to nationalism. Then it is spread across social media platforms by other folks. It won't be an overstatement to say that the level of unemployment in the country, which has reached new heights after the pandemic, is responsible for the hullabaloo in the social media. “The total global number of unemployed youth is estimated to reach 73 million in 2022, a slight improvement from 2021 (75 million), but still six million above the pre-pandemic level of 2019,” a recent report released by the ILO stated. That a part of the unemployed youth, blessed with copious leisure and cheap internet, has tasked to annihilate the film industry is a valid inference.

Social media's obsession with Bollywood was earlier confined to trolls and memes. It took a turn with the untimely demise of Sushant Singh Rajput. That was the time when netizens slammed seasoned filmmakers for breeding nepotism in the industry. The matter was diluted by the nefarious intent of politicians and media personnel and the core concern of Sushant was out on the back burner. Subsequently, these netizens digged old interviews of Bollywood stars and lambasted them. What began as banter and trolls led to an unprecedented hatred against Bollywood. 

Ironically, these people conveniently ignore that the movie does not belong to the actors alone but also to the ones who take care of the story, dialogues, screenplay, direction, music and other aspects. Even a spot boy is a proud part of the movie he is associated with. This hints at the inherent ignorance at the heart of the matter. Moreover, the actor's autonomy to express his/her view is permissible in a democracy. The beauty of a democracy lies in its ability to embody variegated views. The recent developments show that any opinion that doesn't abide by the majoritarian view of the mainstream is likely to be boycotted. Some netizens even have a prescription for the opposing point of view: Go to Pakistan. This clout of nationalism is, in fact, a replica of the European model, which believed in exterminating the other voices. The right to freedom of speech empowers the citizens to express their views without fear. Nevertheless, the backlash received by some popular actors of late suggests that this right has lost some of its credibility. Now boycott is treated as nationalism. Anyone from the industry who questions the boycott is threatened to be boycotted too. 

Social media is not a level playing field anymore. It is tilted in favour of the majority, which believes in an ostentatious brand of nationalism. Nationalism is no more a thing to be internalised, but a swagger to be put on the sleeves. Riding on this aggressive brand of nationalism, the ruling government had proudly sloganeered for 'Har ghar tiranga', which anticipated the fluttering tricolour in every house and in every DP across social media handles. 

“The Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav means elixir of energy of independence; elixir of inspirations of the warriors of the freedom struggle; elixir of new ideas and pledges; and the elixir of Aatmanirbharta. Therefore, this Mahotsav is a festival of the awakening of the nation; the festival of fulfilling the dream of good governance; and the festival of global peace and development," said Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the official website of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav. To celebrate the Mahotsav, post offices across the country were tasked to sell tricolours for Rs. 25 each. The idea of the prime minister was commendable. We ought to commemorate our glories and celebrate our independence. Nonetheless, we shouldn't turn a blind eye to the pressing concerns that confront the country. Rising fuel prices, communal clashes and surging unemployment are just a few indices which hint at our failure as a nation. If these issues are nipped in the bud, the powerful youth of the country will contribute more to their respective domains and stop tinkering with issues of Bollywood. I would instead prefer a 'Har dil tiranga' campaign to ensure that nationalism penetrates beyond the surface and ushers in unity and peace in the country.

I don't want to directly blame the government for the actions of the netizens. However, the government has followed and promoted an aggressive brand of nationalism, which inspires the masses to take pride in boycotting movies. Take for example the case of Maharashtra government which recently launched an awareness campaign, whereby people were advised to replace 'hello' with 'Vande Mataram' on receiving phone calls. Add to it the gusto of renaming cities and artefacts throughout the country. The move to teach MBBS across 12 medical colleges in Madhya Pradesh in Hindi is another instance which shows the urgency for nationalism in the country. It recalls Yogendra Yadav's critique of current Indian nationalism and the politics of "Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan". The judiciary also complements the government at times as evidenced in the Supreme Court’s 2016 order of making it mandatory for the cinema halls and multiplexes to play the National Anthem before every show, albeit it was later made 'optional'. 

We have two alternatives. We can either celebrate our glories and pretend to ignore our loopholes and claim that our country is the best. Or we can correct our loopholes and strive to improve our country. The former presents an easy way. And the masses can easily be manipulated to believe that they live in the best country. Nationalism, just like religion, is the opium of the masses. In this context, I remember Robert Musil's The Man Without Qualities where the protagonist Ulrich wrote in his essay, “[A]nyone who really loved his country must never regard it as the best country in the world.” This view may not be consistent with the populist view in the country. The present scenario of superfluous nationalism reminds me of James Bryce's quote: “Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong.” We need to rise over symbolic feats. If symbolism had anything concrete to offer, Dalits and tribals would have been uplifted with the two successive presidents of the country. Even though political scientists demarcate nationalism from patriotism (a position that neither idealizes nor condones the country), Tagore's view is relevant for our times of hypernationalism: “Patriotism can’t be our final spiritual shelter… I will never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity as long as I live.”

Source:  Bollywood, Boycott And Nationalism

Edited by JackSparrowcraz - 1 years ago


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NatkhatPyare thumbnail
Posted: 1 years ago

Too bold of you to think anyone is going to read all this. It took me while to even scroll down to the end 😆

TitForTat thumbnail
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Posted: 1 years ago

I seriously thinks that movies have no impact of this Boycott shit.

Movies are getting flopped thanks to their content.

colossial2015 thumbnail
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Posted: 1 years ago

Originally posted by: TitForTat

I seriously thinks that movies have no impact of this Boycott shit.

Movies are getting flopped thanks to their content.

This is true. Content matters. If cannot relate to any movies content or lead then I am not watching it.