Karan Johar, who was largely silent against the Uri Attacks, now seems to have discovered his latent patriotism on the eve of the release of his movie, in the face of a big financial loss
Someone just forwarded me the recent video statement of Karan Johar, the director of the movie Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (#ADHM). The mood of the video is funereal. Karan Johar is clad in a sombre black, speaking with a serious face against a grey background. He mouths some platitudes about the bravery of the army and then moves to the crux of his appeal. He states that he ‘respects the country’s sentiment today’ and he will not work with Pakistani actors in future, but meanwhile, ‘to ban the film is unfair’.
That Karan Johar is aware of the ‘country’s sentiments’ is obvious. If you observe the music videos and promos of #ADHM being aired on TV carefully, you can clearly see that he has minimised Fawad Khan’s presence to a ‘blink and you will miss him’ frame. The posters feature only Ranbir Kapur, Anoushka Sharma and Aishwarya Rai. The songs feature mostly Ranbir Kapur. Johar is no fool. He knows exactly what the current mood prevalent in the nation is like. Johar knows fully well that the people of India are so outraged against the cowardly #UriAttacks and the silence of Pakistani actor Fawad Khan over the incident that they are considering a spontaneous boycott of his film.
Most importantly, Johar knows that spontaneous boycott by the audience hits where it hurts – on the economic front! A few months ago, Shahrukh Khan’s movie, ’Fan’ failed at the box office because Indian movie-goers decided to boycott it spontaneously after Khan’s #Intolerance comment. E-commerce giant Snapdeal was forced to issue a statement distancing itself from its brand ambassador, Aamir Khan’s views on the manufactured #Intolerance debate after ordinary citizens enraged by Aamir’s views deleted the Snapdeal app and gave it negative ratings as a protest against Aamir Khan’s position that India has turned ‘intolerant’.
Filmmakers like Karan Johar and actors like Aamir, Shahrukh and Om Puri live in their own ivory towers in distant Mumbai, far away from our burning borders. They start getting concerned only when terrorism threatens their own backyards, as it did on 26/11. On all other days, for them, patriotism is a cumbersome burden to be borne only by our men in uniform!
The average Indian citizen is different. He/She is a patriotic person who respects the nation and its armed forces. Movie makers like Karan Johar understand that sentiment. In fact, Johar has exploited this feeling of patriotism for commercial purposes several times in his movies. In his blockbuster family entertainer, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, there is a beautifully crafted scene where the Indian National Anthem is sung in London at a party by the same Shah Rukh Khan to please his ‘patriotic’ wife Kajol and all the guests at the party, including white people, stand up in respect.
I remember what it was like when I went to see KKKG in a movie hall in Mumbai. The mood was electric when this scene was being screened. The entire audience stood up from their seats and sang the National Anthem with the characters on the screen. When the last notes of Jaya He, Jaya He, Jaya He died away slowly, people spontaneously and raucously shouted slogans like ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’.
It is the same audience that is feeling hurt and outraged now. It has been a whole month since the #UriAttacks, where 19 of our soldiers were butchered in cold blood by Pakistani terrorists, Pakistani actor Fawad Khan has not issued a single statement unequivocally condemning the terror attack. The only statement Fawad Khan has issued reads like a Miss India acceptance speech where he mouths meaningless platitudes about ushering in ‘a world full of peace for our children’.
Karan Johar too has been largely silent against the Uri Attacks. He seems to have discovered his latent patriotism only now, on the eve of the release of his movie, in the face of a big financial loss. But even in his video statement, there has been a careful and concerted attempt to mention the word ‘ban’, whereas, in reality, there is no official ban on the movie at all.
The opposition for the movie has come largely from the Cinema Owners and Exhibitors’ Association of India (COEAI). They have announced that single screen theatres will not screen any movie that features Pakistani actors and technicians. This is a voluntary decision and it is not legally binding on anyone. Political organisation, MNS has also threatened that they will not allow the film to be screened in Maharashtra. However, the Maharashtra government has already stated that such a demand is illegal and the administration will provide adequate security to movie halls that want to screen the movie. There is no ban on ADHM, merely the threat of a spontaneous boycott, which is a democratic right of the people involved.
Karan Johar’s video statement deliberately attempts to obfuscate the difference between an enforced ‘ban’ and a voluntary economic ‘boycott’. The liberal echo chambers have already started to amplify this view. Journalists like Barkha Dutt and Shekhar Gupta have already started disseminating a carefully manufactured narrative of ‘creative freedom’ being curtailed in India under this ‘oppressive’ government.
This is not the first time that the liberal ecosystem is trying its hand at manufacturing a narrative. They did it quite successfully in the past with the fake ‘Intolerance’ debate and by organising a carefully orchestrated #AwardWapsi campaign.
Unfortunately for the liberals, this time, things are different. ‘Patriotism’ may just be another construct to be exploited in his candy floss movies for the likes of Karan Johar, but for an ordinary Indian, it is a real feeling.
The other day, I was travelling in an auto rickshaw in Pune. The minute a song from ADHM, ‘Buleya’ started playing, the driver switched to a different FM channel.
‘Why did you change the channel? Don’t you like the song?’ I asked the driver.
‘I don’t want to see this movie. We must teach a lesson to ‘these Pakistanis’, said the driver calmly.
The auto driver knew exactly what to do. I suspect Karan Johar knows it too, and knows it only too well.
By Shefali Vaidya
(The writer is a popular columnist)