Skip to main content

Bitter on RSS' Love Jihad campaign, top director Mahesh Bhatt regrets lack of secular ethos in Bollywood

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RA9mhc836kM&feature=youtu.be
Click on the image to watch the interview on Youtube
By Our Representative
Top Bollywood director Mahesh Bhatt has said that the bandwidth of Indian tradition has been open and wide enough to have a Buddha 2500 years back, questioning the very basis of the Hindu system, which is based on caste system. “The RSS is seeking to narrow this tradition to a bitter and narrow perspective of faith, denying India its diversity and pluralism, which has been its uniqueness and strength”, he has pointed out in an interview with Teesta Setalvad for Communalism Combat and Hillele TV.
“Can there be development without democracy? Can there be progress without freedom?” veteran Mahesh Bhatt asks the younger generation, which, he believes, has “chosen profit over values to catapult an extreme rightwing government to power, a gover1nment whose ideology militates against the founding fathers who wrote our Constitution.”
“Nations that become intolerant, totalitarian or majoritarian run the risk of becoming sterile, where culture is dead and fear walks tall, likening this attempt in India to ape some West Asian countries, where aspirations centre around huge structures, flyovers and bridges while human beings are made and forced to turn against one another in private”, Bhatt says.
Criticising RSS’ Love Jihad in this context, Bhatt recalls his last directorial venture, “Zakhm”, which is based against the backdrop of the 1992-93 riots in Mumbai. Saying that it depicted his “personal anguish”, he recalls how actor Ajay Devgun, portraying Bhatt in the film declared, “Ma aur mulk badle nahin jaa sakte” (mother and the country cannot be changed).
The boy “determinedly tries to bury his dead mother, Shirin Mohammed Ali, while mobs shouting chilling slogans of “Shuddikaran and rashtra ki safai” (purification and cleaning up the nation – familiar sounds today) which prevent his free passage to the Shia burial ground. “Daddy aapse isliye shaadi nahin kar saken na kyonki aap Mussalmaan hai? Kya Hindu Musalmaanse nahin shaadi kar sakta?” (daddy couldn’t marry you only because you are a Muslim isn’t it? Cant Hindus and Muslims marry?), wonders the young actor tearfully clinging to his mother.
“These lines sit well16 years later when the hate cries of Love Jehad are the new methods of bloodletting and moral policing”, Bhatt says, recalling how under a restrictive BJP-led NDA-I regime in early 2000s he was compelled to “digitally change scenes that depicted the mobs on Mumbai’s streets wearing saffron headbands and also dilute a scene that showed the rank communalisation within the police force.
“Those scenes for me were straight from the ugly mobs atop the Babri Masjid”, says Bhatt who recounts how for every film maker, writer and dissenter, the personal is the political, adding, “My mother suffered deeply because of this intolerant Nagar Brahmin stream to which my father belonged”.
“The trauma of Partition could be dealt with and a minority made to feel safe within India largely due to a man like Jawaharlal Nehru – India’s first Prime Minister - whose consciousness was shaped by Mahatma Gandhi and who could be seen chasing a murderous mob with a cane at Delhi’s Connaught place when it tried to burn a Muslim shop”, Bhatt says.
“The efforts of the current regime in Delhi to denigrate Nehru are cheap bids to snatch away the narrative from political opponents by altering the historical narrative. The inability of the leadership of ‘secular’ parties to confront the fanatics and fundamentalists within and outside their ranks has resulted in the abysmal state of affairs today”, he believes.
Speaking about the current-day Bollywood and Hindi cinema, Bhatt says, “until the advent of the neo-liberal phase of the Indian political economy, it was wedded to the values of Indian nation building where plurality had to be preserved and diversity celebrated.” But now, ‘profit at any cost’ ideology of neo-liberal economics has “tried to flush this fundamental concern out though it has not succeeded completely.”
Bhatt recalls how Dilip Kumar a la Yusuf Khan “in the roles he has played and the values he represents embodies these values though he has suffered from the fanatical rightwing tendencies that have attacked him… Many of his roles for which he received praise and acclaim were those he played a Hindu, singing bhajans and celebrating this vast land. Yet the “Hai Ram” he uttered at the climax of the film, ‘Ganga Jumna’ generated heat and dust with vile requests for its ‘cuts’ until the veteran actor put his foot down.”
Bhatt also spoke in the interview about his successful efforts to breach the Indo-Pak divide through joint productions even though hate mongerers have dubbed him an ‘ISI agent’ for these productions. “How do you deal with the hatred? You have to take it on your chin and always remember that it is a price you have to pay for being you! Even the Mahatma was the targeting of bitter hatred”, says Bhatt.

Comments

TRENDING

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

BSF should take full responsibility for death of 4 kids in West Bengal: Rights defender

By Kirity Roy*  One is deeply disturbed and appalled by the callous trench-digging by BSF in Chetnagachh village under Daspara Gram Panchayat, Chopra, North Dinajpur District, West Bengal that has claimed the lives of four children. Along the entire stretch of Indo-Bangladesh border of West Bengal instead of guarding the actual border delineated by the international border pillars, BSF builds fences and digs trenches well inside the Indian territory, passing through villages and encroaching on private lands, often without due clearance or consent. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Don't agree on domestic subsidies, ensure food security at WTO meet: Farmer leaders

Counterview Desk  The Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM), a top network of farmers’ organizations in India, in a letter to Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry, has asked him to “safeguard food security and sovereignty, even as ensuring peasants' rights" at the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO MC 13), to take place from 26 to 29 February 2024 in Abu Dhabi.

Students, lawyers, professors detained in Delhi for demonstrating in support of farmers

By Our Representative  About 25 protestors, belonging to the civil rights network, Campaign Against State Repression (CASR), a coalition of over 40 organisations, were detained at Jantar Mantar for holding a demonstration in support of the farmers' stir on Friday. Those detained included students, lawyers and professors, including Prof Nandita Narain and Prof N Sachin. 

Solar energy funding dips 9% in 2023; 2024 'kicks off' with US$1 billion investment

By Lakshmitha Raj*  Solar energy tech companies have already secured slightly over US$1 billion in funding in 2024 (till Feb 7, 2024) after total funding into Solar Energy companies in India fell 9% to US$1.55B in 2023 from US$1.7B in 2022. A total of 39 $100M+ rounds have been closed till date, with Delhi leading the city-wise funding, followed by Gurugram and Mumbai.

Social justice day amidst 'official neglect' of salt pan workers in Little Rann of Kutch

By Prerana Pamkar*  In India’s struggle for Independence, the Salt Satyagraha stands as a landmark movement and a powerful symbol of nonviolent resistance. Led by Mahatma Gandhi, countless determined citizens walked from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi in Gujarat. However, the Gujarat which witnessed the power of the common Indian during the freedom struggle is now in the throes of another significant movement: this time it is seeking to free salt pan workers from untenable working conditions in the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK).

Sharp 61-85% fall in Tech startup funding in India's top 'business-friendly' States

By Rajiv Shah Funding in Tech startups in top business-friendly Indian states has witnessed a major fall, a data intelligence platform for private market research has said in a series of reports it has released this month. Analysing Tech startup data of Telangana, Maharashtra, Delhi NCR, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, Tracxn Technologies Ltd , the Bengaluru-based research firm, finds that except for Kerala, funding witnessed a fall of anywhere between 61% and 85%.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Jallianwala massacre: Why Indian govt hasn't ever officially sought apology from UK

By Manjari Chatterjee Miller*  The king of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander, apologized in July 2023 for his ancestors’ role in the colonial slave trade. He is not alone in expressing remorse for past wrongs. In 2021, France returned 26 works of art seized by French colonial soldiers in Africa – the largest restitution France has ever made to a former colony. In the same year, Germany officially apologized for its 1904-08 genocide of the Herero and Nama people of Namibia and agreed to fund reconstruction and development projects in Namibia. .