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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 24 July 2024

God Forsaken

In the early 90s, when online disinformation had not yet taken over the world, and print magazines had a wide readership, a bunch of powerful actors had gotten together to teach entertainment journalists a lesson

Bharathi S. Pradhan Published 09.06.24, 10:10 AM
Anupam Kher.

Anupam Kher. Sourced by the Telegraph

Recent events have once again proved that when any human, be it a political leader or a superstar, begins to believe that divinity has entered his being, a power from above strikes to remind him that he too is but a mere mortal.

In the early 90s, when online disinformation had not yet taken over the world, and print magazines had a wide readership, a bunch of powerful actors had gotten together to teach entertainment journalists a lesson. While every person has the right to decide whether he wants to be interviewed, a handful of actors certainly don’t have the mandate to force an entire industry to toe their line. Spearheaded by Anupam Kher (who would today be ashamed of his role in it), Sanjay Dutt and Salman Khan (two entitled celebrities always bristling over something or the other), the actors gathered under the Cine Artistes’ Association. It was presided over by the eloquent and formidable Amjad Khan.

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If the disgruntled actors had stuck to peace talks wherein ground rules would be set to control yellow journalism, it may have worked. But they vowed to force all film magazines to down their shutters and see all journalists on the streets, jobless. It was this role of playing God that did them in.

Sadly, Amjad Khan died of a heart attack. A near-fatal car accident in 1976 had inflicted permanent damage on him. With an iron rod in his leg and unable to exercise, the slim villain in army fatigues who’d terrorised the nation with his “So jao, nahi toh Gabbar aa jayega”, gained weight and by 1992, was often out of breath.

The movement lost some steam. Mithun Chakraborty tried to take his place but Babri Masjid, communal riots, the Bombay blasts and Dutt’s arrest followed. Nobody would’ve foreseen any of it. But it was a reminder that no Khan, Kher or Dutt had the power to render a community jobless.

More recently, a less harsh verdict was handed to Shah Rukh Khan when he re-launched himself in 2023. However, after doing away with traditional promotions and playing with box-office numbers to give cult status to Pathaan and Jawan, he wasn’t satiated. Press conferences organised to celebrate the success were turned into boisterous, fan-club affairs where SRK went to the extent of cordoning off the media. There was no way anybody could ask him even an innocuous question. SRK could have simply done away with calling a “press conference” but he succumbed to his need to humiliate and twist the knife.

Undoubtedly, SRK’s superstardom can survive without entertaining the traditional media. But when he tried to do a triumphant hat-trick with Rajkumar Hirani’s Dunki, he couldn’t create the same box-office perception as Pathaan and Jawan.

Attempting a godly hat-trick can be humbling. As they say, “Baazi palatne mein der nahi lagti”. Last week, X was awash with protests after a poster of Junaid’s debut film Maharaj was put out. Instead of assessing a film after its release, the hero’s surname seemed to bother some quarters. One post read: “Aamir Khan handing baton of Hindu bashing films to his son now with a film based on Missionary hit job ‘Maharaja Libel case’ of 1862 praising the British/colonial judicial system as great reformers & defaming Pushtimarga sampradaya. (sic)”

An NY-based author said, “...Look at the evil-looking Brahmin with tilak in the poster. A Vaishnava sect which prioritizes seva is all set to be vilified. But no Khan will make a movie on the unspeakable atrocities being inflicted on young boys in madrasas… Can we stand together and make this putrid crap sink at the box office? (sic)”

No. Get used to the idea. Nobody can play God. At the hustings or at the box office.

Bharathi S. Pradhan is a senior journalist and author

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