Bollywood is finding a voice. This is good news | HT Editorial
Two days after masked goons attacked students and teachers at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi, actor Deepika Padukone visited the campus to join a protest against the violence. While she did not address the gathering, her presence sent out a powerful message. The image of Bollywood’s leading female star standing behind Kanhaiya Kumar, the former JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) leader who is charged with sedition, and Aishe Ghosh, the current JNUSU president, who was brutally attacked and charged with a previous case of vandalism, even as they chanted slogans against the government, was hugely symbolic.
While many, particularly supporters of the government, saw in Ms Padukone’s visit a publicity stunt ahead of a movie release, this is unconvicing. In fact, by associating with JNU — which is the subject of polarised opinions — she risked alienating a set of her admirers. She has also risked antagonising the current regime. She has also put her career at risk, risked projects, for producers and distributors are careful not to be on the wrong side of those exercising power. And she has risked vicious trolling, as can be seen in the social media attack against her.
But this is not about Ms Padukone alone. She is one among the increasing number of people from the Mumbai film industry, generally known for its silence and lack of engagement with contemporary political concerns, who have taken a stand on recent issues. Irrespective of one’s political affiliations, the fact that these citizens, who command enormous following, have stood up against violence, and for equality and justice, must be applauded. Their interventions have enriched democracy.