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Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Jaya Bachchan lashes out at insiders criticising Bollywood

Rajya Sabha MP from Samajwadi Party and veteran actress Jaya Bachchan yesterday lashed out in Parliament at those from within Bollywood who have been criticising the film industry in recent days for its drug links, nepotism and Hinduphobia. She claimed such critics are ‘biting the hand that feeds’.

Her remarks came a day after BJP’s Lok Sabha MP and Bhojpuri actor Ravi Kishan said there was a problem of drug addiction in the film industry and also actor Kangana Ranaut’s recent tweet calling Bollywood a gutter with reference to the several A-listers she claimed consume drugs.

On Monday, Ravi Kishan said, “We all know that the problem of drug trafficking and drug addiction is growing in our country. There is a conspiracy to destroy our youth through drugs. I am sad to say that our neighbouring countries, Pakistan and China, have a big hand in this – every year, huge amounts of drugs are smuggled from these countries via Punjab and Nepal. There is growing drug addiction in film industry as well…(someone interrupts), please listen!….our government has arrested many people to arrest this addiction, NCB (Narcotic Control Bureau) is doing very good work. It is unfortunate that such activities are done in our industry too, where stars are looked upon as role models…I request the Central Govt. that we must take strict and appropriate action against those found guilty.”

A very balanced view, one would think. Clearly, Ravi Kishan did not brand the entire Bollywood industry but only alluded to those stars who consume drugs and are failing as social role models.

But, for some reason, this speech ignited a furious response from Jaya Bachchan.

Through a Zero Hour mention in Rajya Sabha, Bachchan said the entertainment industry was being ‘flogged by social media’ and asked the government to ‘protect and support it’.

“People who have made a name in this industry have called it a gutter. I completely disagree and I really disassociate…I am really embarrassed and ashamed (referring to Kishan’s statement on the alleged Bollywood drug cartel)…Jis thali mein khate hai Usme chhed karte hai. Galat baat hai (they are biting the hand that feeds, this is wrong),” she said.

She went on to talk about the economic contribution of Bollywood, and claimed that Bollywood was being targeted to ‘divert attention from the economic crisis’. She also claimed that some of the highest taxpayers in the country, who are from Bollywood, are being ‘harassed’. She then added the favourite line that Bollywood likes to believe about itself, that the industry ‘brings international name and recognition’ for the country.

Mrs. Bachchan demanded support from the government and asked it to clamp down on those ‘defaming’ the industry.  She claimed she was very ’emotional’ and wanted to add lots more but was not being given time to speak.

Kangana Ranaut has hit back at Jaya Bachchan in her typical style, asking whether the veteran actress would maintain the same stance if her daughter Shweta or son Abhishek were affected in the same way that new-comers without prior Bollywood links like Kangana and Sushant were treated?


“Jaya ji would you say the same thing if in my place it was your daughter Shweta beaten, drugged and molested as a teenager, would you say the same thing if Abhishek complained about bullying and harassment constantly and found hanging one day? Show compassion for us also,” Ranaut tweeted.

Kangana also mentioned late dance director Saroj Khan’s atrocious comment defending the film industry’s “casting couch” after several big names were revealed as sexual predators during the #MeToo movement. Khan had said in 2018, “At least Bollywood doesn’t rape and leave, gives livelihood.”


Rebuttal to Jaya Bachchan’s comments

Apart from the utter hypocrisy of Jaya Bachchan’s statement demanding total loyalty from Bollywood insiders, and her membership of a dynastic, feudalistic, corrupt political party whose top leader is known for atrocious statements like ‘boys will be boys‘ in defence of rape accused, here is why her arguments are hollow and meaningless –

  • Economic contribution of Bollywood – It is true that Bollywood is a big industry generating annual revenue of around 20000 crore. However, other regional language cinema industries are not far behind, and the entire Indian film industry pales before a sector like the automobile industry which has annual turnover of 7 lakh crores.

How would we react if a manufacturing industry was found to be in violation of environmental norms, denying worker dues, or high-level corruption? Would titans of that industry be allowed to shrug things off by claiming their economic contribution and employment generation? Politicians, bureaucrats, police, media, judiciary – all these professions receive criticism, some of it justified and other not so much. Should they all start crying victim, and ask for govt. protection? On the contrary, Bollywood receives over-the-top adulation most of the time, mediocrities of dubious personal character are elevated to status of role models for youth.

  • Bollywood’s highest taxpayers are being ‘harassed’ – Does paying taxes absolve a person of all other sins? Does it give them a license to break laws, or get preferential treatment? If a Salman Khan runs over a pavement dweller or kills a black buck, or abuses and assaults a woman, should police look at his IT return and give him a free pass? Should we consume glue when a Karan Johar, Anil Kapoor and Akshay Kumar are seen hobnobbing with a dubious ISI-linked British-Pakistani businessman, or a Shahrukh Khan and Naseeruddin Shah describe Pakistan as a ‘very good neighbour’, or an Aamir Khan finds Turkey more hospitable than Bharat?

It is clear that the whole of Bollywood has closed ranks over Rhea Chakraborty’s arrest and are now projecting her as a victim of ‘patriarchy’, never mind the fact that Rhea’s brother Showik and other males were arrested even before her in the Sushant Singh case. Shweta Bachchan-Nanda, Raveena Tandon and many other celebrities have shown their support on social media for Rhea in order to ‘smash patriarchy’.

  • Bollywood ‘brings international name and recognition’ – Sorry, this might be accepted wisdom amongst the chattering classes, but is just delusional. Actually, Bollywood promotes a denigratory view of Bharat and particularly of practising Hindus, who are increasingly showcased as superstitious, rigid, narrow-minded and oppressive. Bollywood’s attempts to whitewash Pakistan are obvious. Moreover, the industry promotes sexualization & objectification of women, and presents an escapist worldview which has little in common with real Bharat.

For all the supposed ‘international name & fame’ generated by Bollywood, the West’s Orientalist view of Bharat has remained unchanged and was best captured by the racist Oscar-winning film ‘Slumdog Millionaire.’ For that matter, if any film in recent memory has engendered pride in citizens of this country about the grandeur of their civilization, it has been Bahubali, a product of the Telugu film industry.

In essence, at the moment there is a very specific charge against a section of Bollywood – that it has a drug problem, exhibits shabby behaviour with those from unprivileged backgrounds, and promotes a jaundiced view of the majority community in this country. It would behoove veterans like Jaya Bachchan to acknowledge the problem and offer solutions, applaud the insiders who have dared to take on entrenched lobbies, rather than brush things under the carpet through outbursts of feigned moral indignation. Such tactics might have worked 10 years back, but not in today’s age of social media and an awakened citizenry.

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