Selective nationalism: Self-proclaimed patriots seeking to bring about a change | analysis | Hindustan Times
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Selective nationalism: Self-proclaimed patriots seeking to bring about a change

Have we all suddenly turned from country’s conscience-keepers to peacekeepers or learnt to love thy neighbour? Or did we realise that boycotting a film won’t end terrorism?

analysis Updated: Dec 04, 2016 01:39 IST
Ridhima Shukla
Our nationalism seems to be selective. While people demanded strong counter-action to Pakistan after the Uri assault, Tuesday’s Nagrota attack seems to have found place only in discussions by our ministers
Our nationalism seems to be selective. While people demanded strong counter-action to Pakistan after the Uri assault, Tuesday’s Nagrota attack seems to have found place only in discussions by our ministers(AFP)

For reasons unknown, movies and nationalism have been going hand in hand since the past couple of months in India. The most recent encounter being the Supreme Court’s ruling that National Anthem must be played before every movie in the theaters. Let’s not forget the ‘nationalistic’ hullabaloo and selective targeting of Pakistani actor Fawad Khan for starring in Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (ADHM) in October.

However, the fervour seems to have died down. It has been a week since Gauri Shinde’s Dear Zindagi hit the theatres, beat demonetisation and earned Rs 47 crore in seven days. And why not? I watched the film and found it intriguing.

Except for one itch. It starred Ali Zafar, an actor from the same land as Fawad Khan.

I wondered where all the patriots and self-proclaimed nationalists were? In the bank queues, perhaps?

Let’s jog our memory: Karan Johar’s ADHM was mired in controversy when hardline Hindu-nationalist parties (read MNS) and some patriots called for a ban on the movie in the backdrop of the Uri attacks and India’s surgical strikes against terror camps in Pakistan in September.

Khan ruled my Facebook timeline, Twitter as well as newsroom and drawing room discussions. The major perception on social media was that any support for ADHM will be against the ‘national interest’.

But our nationalism seems to be selective. While people demanded strong counter-action to Pakistan after the Uri assault, Tuesday’s Nagrota attack seems to have found place only in discussions by our ministers. Perhaps our nationalism only sees the light of the day when there are no other issues to be bothered with, such as demonetisation and cash crunch. May be our selective furore against Fawad Khan erupted because we all had sufficient change in our pockets.

As controversy over ADHM spiralled, the Cine Owners and Exhibitors Association of India announced that no films starring Pakistani actors will be released in single-screen theatres while the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) threatened multiplex owners with violence and vandalism. The Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association also announced a ban on Pakistani actors. Soon the BJP, Shiv Sena, Congress, NCP and others also asked Bollywood to boycott Pakistani artistes. Many personalities -- including those from Bollywood -- and news anchors too called for a boycott.

Pahlaj Nihalani, the chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification, also jumped onto the bandwagon, saying: “Producers should restrain from getting Pakistani artistes on-board.” So much so that Karn Johar had to bring out a video, pleading for the safe release of his film and clarifying that he was a patriot, for whom his country came first. He even said he won’t engage with Pakistani artists in future.

Some theatres that released the movie were still vandalised in parts of Maharashtra and screenings were stopped in various parts of the country.

While Fawad’s screen time in ADHM was nine minutes, Ali Zafar’s screen time in Dear Zindagi included two of his songs and some dialogues -- well over nine minutes.

So what happened in just one month? Have we all suddenly turned from country’s conscience-keepers to peacekeepers or learnt to love thy neighbour? Or did we realise that boycotting a film won’t end terrorism?

For a small regional party to behave this way is one thing but what about the millions of Indians who blindly followed the herd, vandalised, threatened and abused anyone and everyone who defended an artiste doing his job?

Nationalism does not mean singling out one issue or an actor and a film just because it does not conform to your standards and munching on popcorn when you are busy with your own problems.