The solidarity with Salman Khan displayed by the film fraternity at the conviction and sentencing of the actor for poaching may have outraged every sensible citizen who is not star-struck. When an actor who stands with the convicted star also retweets a tweet pinning the blame for Mumbai’s traffic bottlenecks on a certain party singularly, his political leaning becomes clear. The situation is worrisome because the young get swept off their feet even by the sheer nonsense that some celebrities come up with every now and then. Leftists exploit the sentiments of the gullible in forms that are worse. An audio clip goes viral on WhatsApp, where the father of a Kashmiri terrorist says he is proud of the son even as security forces cordon off his hideout. When a filmmaker moves from advertising commercials to feature filmmaking after a while, he discovers to his horror that the entire industry bears a general ill-will for people right of the centre. Another filmmaker, more right than left at heart, struggles to impress upon the government for three years the import of cultural prevalence, fails and switches to the leftist camp to secure his career*. But there is, unfortunately, no parallel narrative that can challenge the existing one. When the so-called right wing assumes power, it is found blissfully ignorant of the political discourse the community of artists and artistes is capable of imposing on the country. One of the tasks the Narendra Modi government has left untouched — or was too intellectually challenged to appreciate — was making the people on its side man crucial posts in the institutions of the industry. In the private sector of the entertainment industry, a Vivek Agnihotri makes a Buddha in a Traffic Jam to expose Maoism in university campus politics; he not only fails to rope in stars to make his production a commercial success but also does not succeed in getting state patronage. It is rumoured that Madhur Bhandarkar is a right winger, but he is perhaps too intimidated by the ambience of the industry to announce his ideology from the rooftops. In the public sector, Gajendra Chauhan as the first FTII chairman appointed by the government becomes an embarrassment. An actor who did not spare the dispensation in that period replaces him later: Anupam Kher. Despite his ostensible connections with the BJP, he had declared on Times Now, then anchored by Arnab Goswami, “even” he would not dare accept the post because he was not qualified enough; he obviously implied, in comparison, Chauhan was puny. If that was not enough, there was Pahlaj Nihalani as the head of the Central Board of Film Certification as the icing on the cake!
In departments that are more ‘government’ in nature, the Sangeet Natak Akademi is still a bureaucrats’ den, with several secretaries owing their allegiance to the ancien regime. It takes about three years to replace the appointees of UPA government in DD News. A recent effort to post Abhijit Mazumder and Siddharth Zarabi in Prasar Bharati comes a cropper. In the meantime, taking advantage of the tug of war between the national broadcasting regulator’s chairman A Surya Prakash and Information & Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani, the director generals of the news and national divisions fiddle with programmes at will; among other things, they stop further shooting of the iconic Krishi Darshan. While Rajya Sabha TV recently comes under Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu’s control, Lok Sabha TV continues to be practically run by a secretariat comprising 5,000 odd glorified clerks.
Of course, it is not always the political executive’s fault. The camp on the right is notorious for its members’ insecurity, jealousy and infighting. When the regime offers one of them a job, the peers start a whisper campaign against the person. The new occupant of the office, in turn, excommunicates all fellow nationalists other than those who cosy up to him/her; it’s the same story across DD News, LS TV and RS TV. In certain instances, journalists of the same camp have been noticed trying to cut one another to size. On social media, those who got a chance of their lifetime to shake hands with the prime minister are ridiculed by the epithet of “Super 150”. In contrast, nobody hears a squeak of dissent in the leftist camp, much as they are not a monolith, evident from the fact that they do not have just one party or union to represent all of them. Unless the self-styled right wing —these people do not mind the negative connotation the term carries internationally — recognises this flaw in their character, as well as intelligence, and makes amends, the nation will continue to subscribe to the stronger, cleverer appeal of the veiled secessionists that the leftists are.
* Links to the posts of two filmmakers have not been provided to safeguard their interests in the tinsel town