So Raj Thackeray has proven yet again that he is a true heir to his uncle's legacy. Remember all those film stars, industrialists, cricketers who used to literally prostrate themselves in front of the original Shiv Sena supremo? Actually, Raj Thackeray has gone one better than Balasaheb: he got the Maharashtra chief minister to formally 'broker' an agreement with film-maker Karan Johar by which the producer of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil has agreed to pay the armed forces Rs 5 crores in exchange for the film being allowed to be screened without any violent interruption. And a promise not to sign any Pakistani actors in the future. Just for the sheer brazenness with which Raj has proven that he is an extra-constitutional Sarkar Raj (or should we say Goonda Raj) in Maharashtra, he deserves to be given his due. And before a crucial municipal election, a much needed boost in prime time publicity.
And what of Devendra Fadnavis, the promising, young chief minister of Maharashtra? Yes, we elected him to ensure law and order in the state and by striking a 'deal' with the MNS hasn't he done just that? Now, we won't need a police posse outside theatres. Think about the savings for tax payers. Do we really want our police constables to be spending their Diwali weekend guarding our cinemas? Won't they be better used at various checkpoints in the city to look out for the 'real' terrorists from across the border? What an idea sirji: political goons at home can be checkmated with a few crores, it's the masked terrorists who have to be dealt with through AK 47s.
Moreover, hasn't Mr Fadnavis only followed the glorious tradition of Maharashtra CMs dating back to the Congress's Vasantrao Naik in the 1960s of 'appeasing' the Senas of Mumbai? Forget 'minority' appeasement, this is the real deal: appeasing the party of Mumbai's native 'majority'. And did anyone seriously think that the BJP is a party with a difference when it comes to law and order? After all, it's only the pesky 'liberals' who will be frothing at the mouth. The 'nationalists' will be delighted, won't they? And in the age of 'hyper-nationalism' why should anyone succumb to the evil designs of woolly headed 'anti Nationals' who might like to see Pakistani film stars perform in Indian cinema. The union home minister may promise protection to the film producers, but why trust Rajnath when Raj can do the job? Also, the other Thackeray maybe useful in the future should the BJP look beyond the unreliable Shiv Sena as a potential ally. Kya strategy hai.
And what of our frothing media warriors? For weeks, they have been calling for a complete boycott of Pakistani artistes. Now, when the MNS has done their 'job', can any of them seriously accuse the saffron warriors of extortion? Once you've given the lynch mob the moral authority of the television studio, can you suddenly accuse them of breaking the law or holding the state to ransom? TRPs surely matter more than constitutional niceties. As does that amorphous notion of public or national 'sentiment' (has anyone asked the tribals of Jharkhand whether the fate of Pakistani film stars matters more or their livelihood issues).
But above all else, you have our valiant film fraternity revealing their true colours. You know all those tough, muscular stars who fight ten villains at a time on screen? Did you see the 'brave' performance of an Ajay Devgan when he spoke out against Pakistani film stars (did he mention that he had campaigned for the BJP?) or KJo's video when he looked like a frightened rabbit trapped in the headlights, or Amitabh avoiding a question on the issue? Sharukh is silent (once bitten, twice shy?) Aamir has a film about to be released, Salman may have spoken out but he isn't really an 'intellectual' is he? As for all the other celebrity actors and producers: hey, why should they speak up and jeopardise their careers? If India's biggest stars are silent, do you really want some minion to stand up to be counted (OK, Anurag Kashyap reassuringly is not quite a minion!) I mean today it is ADHM, tomorrow it could be someone else.
The bottom line question then: Should political/business interests matter or some abstract notion of cultural freedoms and Indo-Pak people to people contact ? As India's richest Indian Mukesh Ambani chanted, 'it's all about India First!'. What he didn't quite say, in the age of pseudo-patriotism, it's first about the money honey.
Post-script: the last hope in this moral vacuum and constitutional darkness lies with our brave soldiers and their families. One can only hope that 'izzat' or honour matters to them and they reject the Rs 5 crores being offered to them as a 'price' for their sacrifice. While the rest of us prepare to watch ADHM on the Diwali weekend, they will be guarding our borders. Happy Diwali.