The death of the multi-talented actor Sushant Singh Rajput has created a furore, and with each passing day, new theories of his death and the reason behind it are being explored not only by the Mumbai Police but also by social media warriors. While one section is blaming the “Bollywood Mafia” for the untimely demise of the actor, another section is busy making it look like a “normal suicide” and brushing everything else under the carpet. No matter which side of the fence one belongs, there is no doubt that this one incident has opened a can of worms. Bollywood now stands exposed and what was always spoken about in hushed tones is now out for public consumption.
There is a demand for a CBI enquiry and protests and police complaints lodged against some actors and producers in Sushant’s home state have added a new dimension to the case. Amidst all this, Republic TV aired an explosive interview of Kangana Ranaut, the rebellious “Queen” of Bollywood who spoke at length about her experiences in the industry and threw light on how the murky business of Bollywood is carried out by a cabal who hold the reins of the industry.
In a no-holds-barred tête-à-tête with Arnab Goswami, the actress blasted the mighty and influential Bollywood biggies, including Karan Johar, Aditya Chopra and Mahesh Bhatt. Kangana Ranaut’s accusations are perhaps just a cog in the wheel. In the world of filmdom and especially in Bollywood, there is always more than what meets the eye, and Sushant’s death is one such case.
Kangana’s interview has created a deep wedge among those who stand by her and those who do not, and irrespective of whether or not one believes in her version of the story, it is impossible to ignore her narrative.
One striking fact disclosed by her during the course of her interview on the channel was the treatment meted out to her by veteran filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt. She recalled an incident in which Mr Bhatt had hurled a sandal at her for not agreeing to do a film. Further, she stated that she refused the film because it went against her ideological convictions.
As it seems, Mr Bhatt was trying to make a film called Dhokha based on the life of a female suicide bomber who takes to extremism because of unfortunate incidents that occur in her life. This film was supposed to be an abject celebration of jihadi terror with the intent of condoning terrorism by highlighting the misery of a poor Muslim woman who is left with no other choice but to take up cudgels against her tormentors and become a jihadi.
This disclosure by Ms Ranaut has turned the arch lights on the dominant ideological discourse prevalent in Bollywood. Most of us are familiar with sporadic instances of film personalities supporting causes which hurt the unity and integrity of the nation, a case in point being the anti-CAA protests at the Gateway of India in Mumbai which was attended by many including Tapsee Pannu, Dia Mirza, Zoya Akhtar and the like, however, the insistence of Mahesh Bhatt, the Sugar Daddy of many upcoming starlets, on making a film like Dhokha points to a larger problem which needs to be addressed.
As far the ideological stance of filmmakers in concerned, some bend towards making neutral or escapist cinema while others make films in which the ideological narrative is either implicit or explicit. Many filmmakers in the past have dabbled with difficult themes, and many have also made their ideological standpoints clear through their films, however, what Mahesh Bhatt was intending to do was something beyond the realm of ideology. He was trying to garner sympathy for a jihadi by sugar-coating Islamic radicalism.
Mr Bhatt has been a master of spinning the yarn for many decades but this particular story which he wanted the audience to see is perhaps way beyond anyone’s imagination. The manner in which he has defended terrorists on national television in the past speaks volumes about his ideological persuasions but one can only envisage the monumental blunder he would’ve committed had he completed ‘Project Dhokha.’ True to its name, the film would’ve been a “dhokha” for every person in their right mind. It is deplorable that the industry allows filmmakers to make such films. Creative freedom cannot be an alibi for twisting the truth, and the truth is that a jihadi doesn’t become a jihadi because he or she has been ill-treated. They become jihadis because they believe that killing innocent people will bring them salvation. PhD scholars and school teachers who join Hizbul Mujahideen in Kashmir have certainly not been be tormented or ill-treated, they do it on their own volition because they believe that they are fighting for a higher cause which will help them in reaping valuable benefits in heaven. This ‘misery leading to someone becoming a jihadi’ theory, therefore, it totally fallacious.
Bollywood filmmakers have failed in their duty of calling a spade a spade and while most of them have given in to the dominant discourse which borders on anti-national propaganda, there are some who have created meaningful visual content. Needless to say, such filmmakers have often been ridiculed for being right-wing extremists, while the fact of the matter is that filmmakers like Mahesh Bhatt are actually a bane of the society.