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Bollywood watches Meryl Streep’s speech in stunned silence, that’s all it can do

2016 was a hard-lined witness to the flak Bollywood faces for being vocal about national issues and witnessed many "anti-nationals" being converted to "bhakts."

In 2015, Bollywood actor Aamir Khan expressed his discontentment with India’s intolerance following murders and violence over beef and award wapsi. But what followed has moulded Bollywood’s stance on anything faintly political.

At an event, Aamir Khan voiced his wife’s fear regarding India, saying “(Wife) Kiran and I have lived all our lives in India. For the first time, she said, should we move out of India? That’s a disastrous and big statement for Kiran to make to me. She fears for her child. She fears about what the atmosphere around us will be. She feels scared to open the newspapers every day. That does indicate that there is a sense of growing disquiet.”

Soon enough, he was removed as the brand ambassador of Snapdeal, e-commerce website after his contract wasn’t renewed. Furthermore, his contract with the government’s Incredible India campaign wasn’t renewed. And according to recent reports, a social media team member of the ruling BJP disclosed that there was a mass social media campaign driven by their seniors in getting Khan removed from Snapdeal.

After all the water down the Ganga, Aamir Khan is now an ardent supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation. In an event of his film Dangal‘s promotion, he said, “I think these issues which are concerning our country are more important. We shouldn’t see the short term impact of it. The things that we need to do for the country, we should do it. Even if it (demonetisation) causes loss to my film, I will see it as a small thing.”

This long example of an activist-actor turning into the cyclostyled-yes-man of the ruling party and the Prime Minister is required before one asks oneself why actors in India don’t take up cudgels for the poor and the weak who queue up to buy tickets and watch their films.

But the immediate provocation on this cold Delhi January afternoon, is Meryl Streep’s stellar taking down of US President-elect Donald Trump at the Golden Globes over his policies, racist remarks, derogatory statements, and insult of the press. Despite leading Hollywood lights showing up in support of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, it was the much-derided Trump who won the poll convincingly.

Streep’s strong stand at the awards ceremony got huge applause at the event and far-and-wide appreciation across media. Even though Trump ignored it saying she is just a Clinton supporter, the reaction to her speech across various mediums is worth a thought.

With Streep’s speech as an example, if we cast an eye at Bollywood all that we get are yes-men, yes-women and yes-yes folk. Yes-sir-yes-sir-three-bags-full-sir. Those with the power, the voice, the public stand and audience have taken it upon themselves to approve every stand of the government, and those who criticise have been long lost and bashed too unashamedly to continue doing so.

2016 was a hard-lined witness to the flak Bollywood faces for being vocal about national issues and witnessed many “anti-nationals” being converted to “bhakts.”

When the superstar of Bollywood Amitabh Bachchan sang National Anthem for 1 minutes and 22 seconds instead of 54 seconds, he was charged with a complaint. The same man, who when asked on a very pressing issue like award wapsi, said he didn’t know about it and said that he doesn’t want to know about it. For the record, Bachchan is also the same man who asks each and everyone of us to spend some time in Gujarat and enrich the Gujarat Tourism department.

The recently-deceased Om Puri was threatened when he made “insensitive” remarks following Uri attack when all he did was to defend the continued use of actors from Pakistan in Hindi films. Though director Karan Johar apologised via video for casting a Pakistan-based actor in his movie Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and then was “national” enough to release the movie, Puri took the opponents to the cleaners on the now-missing Arnab Goswami’s gladiatorial TV show. But the trolls did not forget. They hounded him. Into silence.

Learning it the hard way with suffering box office collections and vicious backlash, Bollywood has now started down the Hindutva path of heightening jingoism during peacetime. This is clearly seen across public platforms when Bollywood comes forward to defend the government’s stand while public cries foul at the trouble. All these have been lauding PM Modi’s “bold” move of demonetisation and shows a stark change-of-heart of Bollywood.

Following the “enlightened path” of nationalism, where speaking your mind out has cost fortune and brought risk to life for Bollywood, they have learned that using its Right to Speak against the government would be tantamount to betraying the country.

Ms Streep, lage raho, nobody here can match up to you. In acting or in taking a stand.

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