On issues that matter …

The politics of entertainment September 12, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Srirekha @ 9:20 pm
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Some years ago, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, speaking in the context of cross border terrorism emanating from Pakistan had said that one has to learn to live with one’s neighbors. Since you cannot wish them away or change them, and are stuck with them, you might as well find ways to live with them in peace, was the gist of what he had said then.

Although its roots are easily traceable, it is intriguing the kind of love-hate relationship that India and Pakistan share, which is unlike two geographic neighbors in any other part of the world. This relationship is as volatile as it is entertaining.

Okay, let me zoom in to what I am getting at before I lose focus in the historicity of Indo-Pak relations – I am talking about the near obsessive love the Hindi film industry – derogatively called Bollywood – has for Pakistani singers of all kinds. And the unbridled hatred the Maharashtra-based extreme right wing political party Shiv Sena has for anything at all about Pakistan.

Both groups take their respective emotions, and more importantly, the encashing of those emotions very seriously.

So come bomb attacks or hell fire from Pakistani terrorists on Indian soil, the good souls in Bollywood religiously patronize singers from across the border, be they ghazal singers, sufi singers, pop singers or playback singers. Admittedly, I like some of those singers myself. They are good, really.

But it doesn’t end there. The Mumbai entertainment industry routinely brings ordinary Pakistani singers as contestants in various competition-based singing shows on Indian television. Admittedly again, some of those singers too are good.

Over the decades, many an established Pakistani singer has found fame and fortune in India. As also, from time to time, many of them have endured suspicion from Pak-haters (like the Shiv Sena) about their integrity and loyalty towards their Indian fans.

Now here’s the latest case in point: Some Bollywood producers have created a new singing competition for one of the Indian television channels, which is intently a competition between Indian and Pakistani singers. The judges on the show also include Indian and Pakistani celebrities.

Expecting backlash from the more influential protégé of Shiv Sena, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), the producers chose a neutral venue by setting the scene in Dubai.

Still, weeks before the show was to go on air, the MNS began its customary threats of stopping the show from being aired. Their routine refrain: How can you host people from Pakistan when terrorists from that country are killing Indians? They have a point, of course.

But, it’s a game that both parties have almost perfected. Accordingly, the show producers sought out the MNS leaders, apologized for their transgression, promised never to repeat their ‘mistake’ ever again, and begged for the show to be allowed to air.

Lo! The MNS, which was practically inciting war against Pakistan until then, relents and “allows” the show to be aired.

Sure I understand the hatred for Pakistan that is overtly professed by the MNS. But what I do not understand is how individual political leaders in India get away with exerting such immense quasi-judicial powers by dispensing their own justice.

Keeping my sense of humor though, I prefer to see this drama as entertainment. The two – that is Bollywood and Shiv Sena/MNS – remind me of Tom and Jerry. They provoke each other all the time, but in the end, share the spoils together.


Srirekha Chakravarty








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