Such is the cynicism in Mumbai, that I was actually asked whether the current controversy over 'UPwalli' Jaya Bachchan taking on Marathi manoos Raj Thackeray was a well-thought out publicity stunt to promote Amitabh Bachchan's new film, The Last Lear . When I laughed at the suggestion and dismissed it off, pointing out that the movie was a comparatively small budget effort with not much riding on it in commercial terms, the cynics still didn't get it! It has come to the point where the aam janata believes Bollywood is a gigantic blob with a single objective - and that is to make a monkey out of audiences by staging one stunt after another. The sole purpose of these publicity gimmicks being to drive box office earnings and fill the coffers of avaricious moviewallas . To point out the absurdity of the argument and suggest to the contrary, invites a derisive retort. "Oh... you must be in the Bachchan/Thackeray camp... that's why you are not willing to see the obvious link between the controversy and the timing of the movie." Camps. Chamchas . Acolytes. These are words that get tossed around with such ease in an environment that refuses to look beyond manipulation and fixing. Whether it is the Jaya issue, the Aarushi murder case, or the Sanjeev Nanda sentencing. If it is high profile, there has to be some heavy duty golmaal involved. Very few people are willing to believe that not everything is 'fixable' or that some high profile developments may actually take place devoid of invisible string pulling and influence peddling. Like in Jaya's case. Yes, she is a politician, but she was not at a political rally when she made that rather gauche remark. Sure, she should have known better. Perhaps, she was appealing to her core constituency as an MP - and that constituency is indisputably in UP, not Maharashtra. Call the off-the-cuff remark indiscreet, if you will. Even naive and naughty. Like Guddi, the memorable filmi character Jaya is still known by more than 30 years later. But to believe she and Raj were co-conspirators or in cahoots in this imbroglio, is totally ridiculous. Raj is not the producer, financier or distributor of the film they are supposed to be pushing through this stunt. His party has nothing to gain in financial terms by the film hitting a jackpot at the box office. If anything, the MNS has come off shabbily in this round, by indulging in acts of wanton vandalism. No matter that Jaya's apology has brought an end to the tamasha that was threatening to spiral out of control. Peace prevails as of now, while Mumbai focuses on a far bigger challenge - getting its beloved Ganpati to go home in peace during the visarjan. In another couple of days, the Jaya-Raj incident may well be forgotten. File closed. The Last Lear will attract the art house audience it was designed for, and the Bachchans will heave a sigh of relief that saner sentiments prevented this unsavoury incident from deteriorating further. But does it end here... or are we seeing the beginning? Is it just a teaser trailer of an explosive script that is about to unfold? Are Bollywood biggies likely to do a Singur and take their business elsewhere? Will the ultimatums and threats continue to terrorise a large community that for years has spoken in just one language - the language of cinema? Several other states and cities across India would be only too happy to roll out the red carpet in case Bollywood decides to relocate. The process may take another 10 years. But it is a distinct possibility given the present hostile working conditions in Mumbai. Today it's the Bachchans and SRK (the solitary Dilliwalla attracting flack). Tomorrow, it could be just about anybody who is not seen as a 'native'. Can Maharashtra afford to lose its chief asset and jewel in the crown? Bollywood is not a Nano, that can be manufactured anywhere. Raj is not a Mamata. And Jaya is no Ratan. Outcome? Chaos! Bollywood bachao ! This is an SOS!
6 months ago