Indians have a great attachment to the filmdom. A few decades ago, villagers used to go to the city for family outings watching movies as the main attraction. Farmers would go to the market to sell fruits & vegetables, and many would return after watching the cinema. Many students in educational institutions used to skip their studies to watch movies. Such unlimited attraction towards cinema in the name of entertainment cannot be considered fair.
The education level in the country has improved a lot in the past few decades. With the electrification of villages, television and other means of entertainment have also become available. In cities, the reach of television and other means of entertainment has expanded.
Electrification, television, the internet, computers, smart mobile phones, etc., have eliminated the difference between the city and the village. These modern resources also play an essential role in disseminating information and increasing awareness. In addition, social media platforms have also allowed expressing their views.
The Hindi cinema audience has been giving a lot of respect to Bollywood celebrities, considering their ideals. Attracted by their idealistic acting, the youth have been seen practising to be and behave like them. For a few decades, many films and episodic shows have been observed to have been stuffed with cruelty, obscenity, indecent dialogues and indecent body exposure by actresses, etc., to take maximum advantage of this attraction in society. The same has happened in advertisements too. Also, society is being imparted (direct-to-home) training to humiliate the family members and the respected near & dear ones by making fun of them in the name of comedy.
Protests by a section of society fall on deaf ears, saying it is the demand of the story or the audience’s choice. A few arrogant stars even challenge society that watching the show is their choice; they are not forced. Sometimes those who protest or criticize the shows are insulted by calling them contractors of the society and culture.
As the information about Bollywood celebrities is disseminated through the media, the attraction towards them in society is diminishing. After the death of the actor Sushant Singh Rajput in June 2020, the statements made by film stars and revelations from media trials & police investigations made society understand that all that glitters in Bollywood is not gold. Many of these celebrities suffer from all those evils generally detested by society. Favouritism, unethical conduct, corruption, drug abuse etc. evils have become the identity of many of them.
A large section of Bollywood has been observed against Nationalism and the Hindu culture in real life as well. Several stars have often been observed to remain silent on topics like love jihad, cow slaughter, forced conversion and brutal killing of Hindus, etc. But they become secular and make statements in favor of Muslims, even on rumors without authentic information. Many support the anti-national propaganda on insecurity for the Muslims and filmmakers in the country. Some make derogatory remarks about the Indian Army occasionally, while a few challenge the nation’s identity by naming their children after the brutal invaders and cruel rulers. Some openly support anti-national activities. Their behavior and rhetoric at the time of the anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) movement cannot be forgotten.
Over the past few decades, a new promotional model has evolved in Bollywood. Under this model, controversies are provoked at a wide scale in society by putting controversial content in films, dramas and advertisements so as to ignite eagerness to watch the show and that the ad occupies the mind for a long time. This promotional model has often been successful too. The glorification of criminals, Muslim society, humiliation of the Hindu faith, distortion of history, etc., have been a part of this toolkit. Till now, dozens of films have been reported to be controversial. A few episodic shows and advertisements can also be considered in this category. The censor board is helpless in this regard.
Actor Paresh Rawal hurt the Hindu faith by first insulting the Shivling (Lord Shiva) by calling it black stone, followed by making fun of offering milk in the film Oh-My-God released in September 2012. Also, while promoting the film, actor Akshay Kumar openly opposed pouring milk on Shivling, pouring oil on the idol of Lord Hanuman and breaking a coconut in the temple. The movie PK, released in December 2014, openly mocks social beliefs and the Hindu faith throughout. On the other hand, an advertisement by Tanishq (a jewellery brand) in October 2015 glorifies the secular behaviour of Muslim families (affection of a Muslim mother-in-law towards her Hindu daughter-in-law). The film Padmavat (renamed from Padmavati), released in January 2018, has been accused of presenting Queen Padmavati unacceptably. The movie was banned in many states due to widespread protests, but the Supreme Court allowed the release of Freedom of Expression. The decision of the Supreme Court is supreme, but society felt severely disappointed with this decision.
Bollywood and some other film celebrities also keep hurting the country’s cultural heritage and Indian identity in the name of creative freedom or freedom of expression. In July 2022, filmmaker Leena-Manimekalai released the poster of a documentary film Kali, in which Maa Kali was shown smoking a cigarette and holding the 7-colour flag of the LGBT community. Not only this, but she also tweeted a picture of the artists playing Lord Shankar and Maa Parvati, in which they have seen smoking. However, legal action against the filmmaker is still awaited despite the multiple FIRs filed in different states.
Controversial issues generally lead to free publicity. Still, even after deliberately hurting society’s sentiments, the hands of the law often fall short of strict action against filmmakers, actors and comedians. The constitutional limitations on Freedom of Expression have become ineffective, and these have been divided on a communal basis.
Social awareness is emerging, and the toolkit of the controversial content-based propaganda models is also being understood. Now the only option left for society to curb the tyranny of Bollywood is to boycott it on social media. After all, society is responsible for bringing the derailed film industry back on track. The youth community participating in the Boycott Bollywood campaign is fulfilling its responsibility.
Here it is important to understand that in a democratic election, both the manifesto of the political parties and the candidate’s character are important to the voter. Similarly, in the field of acting, the story’s content and the actors’ character are important to the audience. The content should be of national interest, and the conduct of the actors should be exemplary. Although there are gentle and patriot cine-stars too in the film industry, they have to come out to take the lead from the front and dissociate from others.
However, it is better to take the boycott campaign positively as an opportunity to make a correction, introspect and make reforms to honour the sentiments of the society with a focus on national welfare. They should make the nation a superpower by evolving the film industry as the country’s soft power. This is the principle of survival of the fittest.