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.
— Rbhatia Sikh Hindu (@Rakeshbhatia444) October 28, 2016
— Hrithik_Mania🇮🇳 (@Hrithik_Mania67) October 28, 2016
We shall watch Shivaay in Cinemas.
If u r going to movie,go to Shivaay if u love India.
If u r an Indian,u won't go to a Pak actor's movie. pic.twitter.com/9J9OwfRp6r
— UTKARSH KUMAR SHAHI (@ukshahi) October 28, 2016
ADHM vs Shivaay is now being sold as a Pakistani VS Hindutva debate.
More than angry, I'm impressed by the level people can stoop down to.
— Sapan Verma (@sapanv) October 28, 2016
Glad that people are watching #ADHM in large numbers.A tight slap for trolls and goons who think they have a monopoly on nationalism
— Siddharth Mazumdar (@mazumdar_sid) October 28, 2016
— Future's Canadian 😯 (@IamAntares) October 28, 2016
— Romance Zindagi ❤ (@iamromance1) October 28, 2016
We should not worry about this paid chu critics ultimately janta will decide keep promoting shivaay m sure it will do wonders at box office
— Ishaan Dutta (@IshaanDutta32) October 29, 2016
If #Shivaay will not hit, it is the loss by Industry not Mr.devgn & truly bollywood dnt deserve this type of high action holly. type movies
— Akshay jain (@Akkieyy) October 28, 2016
— Suresh Mathew (@Suresh_Mathew_) October 28, 2016
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.
Would our nationalists shout against Raj Thackrey for hurting families of martyrs the same way they reacted to ADHM? https://t.co/OX6i6BJlno
— Bhak Sala (@bhak_sala) October 26, 2016
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.