When Your Patriotism Is Judged By What You’ll Watch This Weekend

Posted on October 29, 2016 in Culture-Vulture

By Saswati Chatterjee: 

With the nationalism vs anti-nationalism debate being all the vogue these days, nobody is surprised with it eventually spilling over to Bollywood. It’s taken on a special edge with the surgical strikes, with ‘denouncing Pakistan’ being seen as the sole indicator of ‘nationalism’. This charge was led by Ajay Devgn who, on being asked if he would work with Pakistani artists, said, “Not at the moment. I am very clear on this because you are an Indian first. I don’t care if my film doesn’t release in Pakistan… country comes before money.” His words were hailed by many as the ‘correct’ thing to do, in this time of heightening tensions between the two countries. Falling squarely on the opposite side of the debate is Karan Johar’s “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” or ADHM which faced the ire of public sentiment for casting Pakistani actor Fawad Khan, albeit in a minor role.

On this fateful Friday, Ajay Devgn’s “Shivaay” and Karan Johar’s “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” released together. Twitter immediately sprang into action with many seeing supporting “Shivaay” as supporting ‘nationalism’ and those supporting ADHM as being ‘anti-national’. It’s nice when all you need to do to prove your patriotism is watch a movie.

For some, Friday open with an almost battle-like sentiment:

Comedian Sapan Verma (of East India Comedy) was on point with his disgust:

There was an interesting dichotomy with some people insisting that since “Shivaay” was doing well, it was a loss for ADHM, while others insisted that since ADHM was doing well, it was actually a blow for “Shivaay”.

One user seems to have made up his mind:

Another pointed out that Karan Johar seems to have taken an unusual step to placate the those baying for his blood:

ADHM’s tiff with the Raj Thackeray-led MNS or Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, with Thackeray demanding that Karan Johar pay Rs. 5 crore to the Army Relief fund for hiring a Pakistani actor his film, has spilled over the virtual space as well. One user, noting the Army’s response to this controversy, raised a pertinent point.

The larger question we ask here is that: at what point do we make watching a movie or hating an entire country as the barometer for our ‘patriotism’? As actor Farhan Akhtar noted, the 5 crore ‘deal’ that was brokered between MNS and Karan Johar set a ‘terrible precedent’, one that the Army itself rejected. The discourse about nationalism vs anti-nationalism has reached a point where there is no place for nuance or diplomacy or even a reasonable discourse. It has become an ‘identity’; which either you embrace by hating everything that is ‘anti-nationalist’ or you become ‘anti-nationalist’ yourself.

That is a very dangerous position to be in and for a country like India, with its diverse background and ethnicities, doubly worse. An issue like this has no straightforward response which is ‘attack them!’ or ‘kill all those who oppose us!’. Doing this would put us in danger of ignoring very real problems and issues which are not that easily explained. And this is something that is the most necessary, especially now.

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