The phenomenon of film actors joining forces with politicians is not a new thing. In the South, it happened much earlier while the Hindi film actors took the cue a bit late. One of the reasons the Hindi film industry kept away from politics for long was that the rulers and, as such, politicians were seen as enemies of film folk. Not one, there were many Swords of Damocles hung over the film industry by the rulers and usually used as tools.
If at all, film folk wanted to be part of politics, the only option was the ruling party. The ruling party was well armed with excise duty (on prints), import duty on film raw stock (India kept making the highest number of films but never did anything about setting up a manufacturing unit for raw film), there were last-minute income tax raids a day before a producer's film was due to release, blocking censor certification and so on.
So, when the film men's move to politics started, it was all towards the Congress. Starting with Sunil Dutt and followed by the likes of Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna and so on, who joined the bandwagon. I think the filmmakers got bolder after 1977, in the post-emergency period. Dev Anand along with some likeminded industry folk had also gone ahead and formed a political party (The National Party) to contest elections to be able to put forward the film people's views. This era also coincided with a new generation of film men, the educated and the aware lot. Sunil Dutt was among the first ones to join electoral politics.
Quite a few actors who joined politics were disillusioned quickly and gave up after a while. Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna, Dharmendra, Govinda were those who called it quits. Those who were inducted through the Rajya Sabha, seemed least interested except for Jaya Bachchan. Raj Babbar is the one who has become the true blue politician, changing parties and surviving; from the Janata Dal to Samajwadi Party to Congress.
Things started changing a bit since the emergence of a stronger opposition to the ruling Congress as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerged as a party to contend with. Filmmaking and all things about films is a business of instincts. Somehow, since the emergence of the BJP, more and more film people seem inclined towards the party and this time it is not only the stars. It may sound a bit odd but, of late, most of the film people either joining the party or advocating their cause is the BJP! And, those joining the BJP are not joining because they are either scared of the ruling party or want favours done.
Of late, even the films that are being made and are working at the box office are those promoting social issues and nationalism. That is in keeping with the national mood (as said earlier, film folk have great instinct).
But, things have changed now. Film folk are no longer moving to politics as an alternative when their film career is over. Looks like they are no longer scared or shy of coming into the open. For or against the ruling set up. Yet, claims of all of them are not to be trusted. For example, Vivek Oberoi, who has played Modi in a biopic, claims to have been approached by any and every party to contest elections.
There is no reason to believe his claims. As against that, Sunny Deol has been roped in by BJP in place of his father, Dharmendra, to defend Gurdaspur constituency, represented by the late Vinod Khanna. From the look of it, the BJP seems to be getting more saleable stars (in the film industry, they are the ones who matter).
Coming back to film folk, this coming election got into news vis a vis the film industry because of some six hundred people like Naseeruddin Shah forming a group to promote anti-Modi sentiments! The problem with this lot is that none of them has a popular appeal. Also, they have no explanation for why they want Modi to be defeated! They just wanted Modi out.
Curiously, there is also a lot that has a grouse against the present day dispensation that there is no freedom of expression! Whatever the problems, film people never risked talking against the government. The fear of victimisation was always there. But, things seem to have changed now. While the popular film stars are joining the ruling NDA, a section of film people has branded it as intolerant. What is surprising is that most of these people have no assignments nor have anything to do with the government, directly or indirectly! This lot organized a signature campaign against the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. Fine, what now? What are these signature worth since most of the signatories carry no appeal at the box office nor do they enjoy a fan following.
Many in the media and otherwise including these signatories have made it their business to badmouth the Prime Minister and continue to do so. Can't call that intolerance by any yardstick! What is worse, even in the entertainment industry, nobody seems to care for the opinion of this lot as more and more popular film personalities are either joining the Modi bandwagon or are associating with him.
- by Vinod Mirani