When political parties hold Bollywood celebrities to ransom
The escalating graph of farmer suicides in the state has been an area of concern for several years now even as political parties trade clame scramble to stake their claim as the true champions of farmers' interests. On Tuesday, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) issued a letter to Bollywood artistes, film producers and directors, appealing for help for farmers reeling under the drought crisis — but with a veiled threat. It mentions that in case of non-cooperation by the tinseltown folk, films of the celebrities, who do not extend assistance, will be boycotted.
In its letter, president of the Maharashtra Navnirman Chitrapat Karmachari Sena has mentioned that although stars like Aamir Khan (right) do charity, a lot more needs to be done. Pic/Shadab Khan
Issued by Ameya Khopkar, president of the party's film wing Maharashtra Navnirman Chitrapat Karmachari Sena, the letter reads: "These artistes spend lakhs on parties, in fun and frolic. But it seems their minds are obscured and they are blind to concepts such as gratitude and humanitarianism. It would now be necessary to black out their films and throw more light in their darkened heads (sic)."
Salman Khan's charity efforts have been lauded by the MNS
Khopkar also mentions that while many "may be selfish" but some celebs like Salman Khan and Aamir Khan have been keenly involved in charitable acts and the others must take a cue from them. "Our film industry has always come forward to fight for our legitimate rights. Why not now? Do not put ideas into the heads of the people of Maharashtra. And, therefore, before they retaliate, we appeal to you through this letter," writes Khopkar.
Although seeking the assistance of B-Town is a thoughtful gesture, subtle hints about blacklisting the films has not gone down well with the industry celebs. Says actress Swara Bhaskar, "It sounds like the intention is noble, but issuing a threat of this nature completely ruins the effort. I don't understand why the MNS cadre express themselves only through hooliganism and vandalism, even for a good cause. How self defeating is that? This is juvenile and dangerous."
Echoing her sentiments is Adil Hussain, who was last seen on the big screen in Zed Plus (2014). "Asking for help for drought-affected areas is very legitimate. And I think the industry should help.
But disrupting screening of Hindi films is a threat. If threats are to be treated as requests, I don't have any problems. Otherwise, it is equivalent to extortion."
He also questions why the MNS hasn't threatened the state government yet. "The same party (ruling the state) is at the Centre. Is the BJP government not going to protect the farmers? Why doesn't the Navnirman Sena go to the Ambanis and Adanis and ask for help? Just a thought," adds Hussain. Mukesh Bhatt, president, Film and Television Producers' Guild, echoes Hussain's sentiments when he says. "Let them approach the Ambani brothers before coming to us."
Gulshan Devaiah feels that Bollywood should rise to the occasion, but does not need to do it at anybody's behest. "Some use diplomacy, some use war, but unfortunately we now associate the MNS with the latter option. I think ideally Indian entertainment industry and its corporate machinery as a while, regardless of what diaspora it caters to, should do what it can about such situations without anyone asking or ordering do so," he states.
Producer Goldie Behl, on the other hand, says that the film fraternity has always tried "in its own small way to contribute to any and every crisis situation". Vipul A Shah also says, "The film industry has always supported all good causes, so we would do our bit happily. The threat won't work. If they want our support, then they have to do it with love."
Nepal earthquake, 2015
When the Himalayan nation was ravaged by the quake, actors like Alia Bhatt, Dia Mirza and Anil Kapoor extended financial support to the victims and urged people to donate to an online fund raising site co-founded by Kunal Kapoor.
Assam floods, 2014
Musicians like Papon, Vishal Dadlani, Shekhar Ravjiani, Arijit Singh, Benny Dayal, Shilpa Rao, Neeti Mohan, Harshdeep Kaur and Indian Ocean band came together to organise a fundraising concert for Assam flood victims. The calamity affected lives of nearly 42 lakh people.
Kashmir floods, 2014
Celebrities such as Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Hrithik Roshan and Shraddha Kapoor backed a campaign to raise money for the victims. Actor Amir Bashir, who hails from Kashmir, was personally involved in the rescue work. Farhan Akhtar, Aamir Khan, Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma and many others took part in a fundraiser organised by a TV channel.
Uttarakhand floods, 2013
Amitabh Bachchan auctioned his clothes for flood victims and raised R11 lakh for the victims while Shah Rukh Khan donated R33 lakh from the collections of Chennai Express for the relief and rescue operation. Celebs like Dharmendra, Vidya Balan, John Abraham, Abhishek Bachchan, Nargis Fakhri and Raveena Tandon also took part in a
Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Sunjay Dutt, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra, Lara Dutta, as well as singers Sonu Nigam, Kumar Sanu and Rabbi came forward to do a music and dance concert to raise funds. Artistes from across the border such as Meera, Mona Rana, Raahat Ali and Waaris Ali too joined them.
Actors Nana Patekar and Makrand Anaspure have donated a sum of Rs 15,000 each to the families of farmers from Latur and Osmanabad who had committed suicide, because of the severe drought in Maharashtra.
Nana visited the families to personally hand over the money. He is also planning to approach the government to join the cause. He has already met 112 widows in Marathwada Beed and now plans to interact with 700 more in Nagpur, Latur, Hingoli, Nanded, Aurangabad and other parts of the state.