How quickly times have changed! Not too long ago, celebrities from Bollywood were enjoying immensely lecturing us and quite eager to assume the bearers of the moral standards of the society. As a natural consequence of living in an echo chamber their entire lives, they had unwittingly come to believe that their views were in consonance with those of the common man. While the intolerance drama was falling apart, they were rudely awakened from their deluded fantasy and they received a healthy dose of criticism and rebuke.
Consequently, Bollywood superstars came to realize that the common man did not quite appreciate the relentless hectoring which was meted out while expressing their political opinions and it would be better for them if they stuck to their job of entertaining people instead of getting embroiled in matters that are much better left to politicians and their ilk. It was a crude shock, I imagine, for Bollywood when they realized that Indians will not take kindly their irresponsible remarks and their unnecessary comments on issues that aren’t any of their concern will eventually impact the Box Office collections of their movies.
The online brigade which led the assault on the hypocrisy of Bollywood, often dubbed as ‘Trolls’ by those inconvenienced and abusive vulgar bullies by others, was primarily the online support base of the Bharatiya Janata Party. As has become the fashion, opposing the supremacy of the elites and exposing their hypocrisy results in endless name calling and demonizing the entire group. In this case, members of the group were demonized as trolls and vulgar and abusive by virtue of association with a few people who were actually all those because it helped perpetuate the notion that these liberal elites were morally superior to their critics and hence, their views and opinions inherently better.
‘Bhakts’, as the BJP online supporters have come to be known, weren’t too happy when these Bollywood actors participated in a highly politicized discourse regarding Nationalism and promoted the notion that Narendra Modi is actually responsible for the rise of intolerance in India. When you have facts and logic and some common sense on your side, it’s not too difficult to destroy the hypocritical and extremely ridiculous arguments of these actors who assume that they will escape criticism when they insult India or attack Patriotism and Nationalism merely because of their celebrity status and their popularity among the masses.
Eventually, Bhakts decided to hurt Bollywood superstars where it hurts most, the Box Office collections.
And so it happened, that after an online campaign by Bhakts to boycott Shah Rukh Khan’s movie, Dilwale’s performance at the Box Office was underwhelming to say the least. It became quite evident that the boycott campaign launched by ‘Internet Trolls’ had a significant impact on the Box Office collections of the movie. It was perhaps then that Bollywood stars begin to realize that they couldn’t get away with their irresponsible remarks and getting embroiled in political discourse will have adverse impact on their collections.
Thus it came to pass that when Demonetization was announced by Narendra Modi, Bollywood superstars were only overeager to heap praises on the government for the move. Even Aamir Khan, who suffered a scathing attack for his extremely ridiculous and Rahul Gandhi-esque remarks on intolerance in India, showered praises on the move by the Prime Minister. And it’s really not surprising now that his movie, Dangal, is just around the corner.
Time has come for celebrities to make peace with the fact that people do not watch them or love them for their political opinions. And by participating in political discourse, they risk alienating large sections of their consumer base with no significant gains to boast of. Bhakts have shattered the house of Glass they seem to live in and forced them to reckon with the reality of facing consequences for their irresponsible comments. And now, it’s only to be expected that Bollywood celebrities want to get back into their good books by complimenting Narendra Modi at every step and turn. Will Bhakts forgive them for their transgression now that the message has been well understood by the celebrities? Only time will tell. Celebrities would do well to remember, people watch them for entertainment, if they wanted to be lectured on politics and ethics and morality, they would much rather go to politicians and Gurus and Temples. If celebrities make an attempt to assume the role of the latter, they wouldn’t enjoy the taste of the inevitable backlash.