Bollywood Fawna

Updated: Mar 17, 2019, 07:31 IST | Meenakshi Shedde

"We are not like that Mayawati, putting our own statues everywhere with that tacky handbag. We are supra-Bollywood royalty. We expected Bollywood only to bend, but it begged to be allowed to crawl."

Bollywood Fawna
Illustration/Uday Mohite

Meenakshi SheddeRaja Andha Yug could not believe his eyes. "All these Bollywood biggies are so keen to make propaganda films about Great and Glorious Me and my Gormint!" he chortled, dancing a little jig.

"And perfectly timed just before the elections, too. All fine by the Model Code of Conduct, Election Commission and Courts so far. Badhaai ho, Maharaj," Guru Tamasoma chimed in. "We are not like that Mayawati, putting our own statues everywhere with that tacky handbag. We are supra-Bollywood royalty. We expected Bollywood only to bend, but it begged to be allowed to crawl."

"There is a spate of about 10 Bollywood films and web series with direct propaganda, grandly praising you, our party and gormint. Or our patriotism or toilets," Guruji laughed. "These are all voluntary propaganda films, of course. Nobody can ever prove that there is a gormint hand in it — unless he or she wants a sedition charge slapped on him," Guruji continued, stroking his moustache. "There is Aditya Dhar's patriotic Uri: The Surgical Strike, in which the Indian army makes kheema of the Pakistani side, and Vijay Gutte's An Accidental Prime Minister, starring Anupam Kher, in which former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is made out to be a spineless wimp; both released on January 11. There's Hu Narender Modi Banva Mangu Chu (in Gujarati), on how India's youth aspire to be like the prime minister. Now, there's even Mere Pyare Prime Minister, in which a boy writes the prime minister a letter asking for a toilet in his slum, and immediately, a toilet magically materialises (March 15). Last year, there was already Toilet: Ek Prem Katha and Pad Man, in both of which Akshay Kumar directly plugged the gormint's Swachh Bharat campaign. There's Sanjoy Nag's forthcoming Good Morning, Sunshine, also on sanitation issues; not so sure it's about the gormint. Now, Eros is producing Umesh Shukla's Modi, a 10-part web series on the prime minister, scheduled to release in April. And, both actor and BJP MP Paresh Rawal, and Vivek Oberoi have announced they are playing the prime minister in two separate biopics, due out soon." Evu chhe (is that so)? Raja Andha Yug exclaimed, as he and his courtiers held their sides and laughed.

Vidhushak cautiously piped in: "An earlier generation of artistic filmmakers was more concerned with the socio-political, economic and human implications of various issues. For eg, Shyam Benegal made Manthan on milk cooperatives; Susman on weavers; Mandi was a delightful satire on sex workers; Samar powerfully critiqued the caste system. Govind Nihalani made Aakrosh, on the plight of the scheduled tribes; Ketan Mehta made Mirch Masala, on a women's rebellion against sexual exploitation. None of them needed to kowtow to the prime minister or effusively praise the party in power or its policies. But today's generation of filmmakers is competing to do hard core propaganda."

Vidhushak scratched his head and mused, "Yeh sab theek hai, but I'm wondering what Bollywood will expect in return? Baad mein ek bada bill bhejenge, ya Censor-pass certificate ya entertainment tax waiver maangenge? Leni Riefenstahl had made Triumph of the Will. Yeh toh hoga Triumph of the Overkill."

Meenakshi Shedde is South Asia Consultant to the Berlin Film Festival, award-winning critic, curator to festivals worldwide and journalist. Reach her at meenakshishedde@gmail.com.

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