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The shame of the Ae Dil Hai Mushkil episode is not that the MNS used intimidation. The real shame is that Devendra Fadnavis surrendered instead of protecting KJo’s (director Karan Johar’s) rights. What is more, this will not end KJo’s problem. More gangs, flying anti-Pakistani flags, will try extortion. After this, anyone who can wave a flag and gather 50 strong armed people out on the street will extort money. The state government will protect the extortionist, not the victim.
The irony of KJo’s Rs 5-crore deal is that the song on which the film title is based on is about the dangers of living in Bombay (as it then was). In the film CID, as Johnny Walker and Kumkum sing the song, it is the man who is worried about life in the city. In ‘Bambai’, he says, cut-throats are called businessmen. She tells him to be realistic, and says here in Bombay, you reap what you sow. Yet she ends on the line, ‘dadagiri nahin chalne ki yahan, ye hai Bombay meri jaan’. The message is clear. Bambai may be troublesome, but Bombay the modern city is a place where bullying does not work.
How the times have changed. The song was a loving tribute to Bombay in the 1950s, before the creation of Maharashtra. From the ’60s onward, Bombay began its journey from a multi- lingual, cosmopolitan city, to the one dominant language and one dominant community town. It remained neither Bambai nor Bombay; it became Mumbai. It was a mark of how the Shiv Sena has reshaped the city.
The Shiv Sena was founded in the early days of Maharashtra. It championed the cause of the struggling Marathi families who needed help in obtaining services, which were promised but never delivered by the government. The Sena used intimidation to get the results. But it won the support of the people by being helpful. The Congress was in power then. It found the Shiv Sena useful to break up the communist trade unions. This weakened the Communist parties and gave the Congress a free run.
Bal Thackeray converted his street clout into political power. The Shiv Sena became a political party contesting elections. After the Emergency, the BJP began to emerge as a major opposition with the Hindutva theme. With the RSS having its headquarters in Nagpur, Maharashtra became a fertile ground for the BJP. The Shiv Sena and BJP became allies, though with different agendas. The BJP had national ambitions while the Sena was a Mumbai party with the ambition of being the leading party in Maharashtra. They thrived.
The Congress began to lose power across the country in the 1990s. The Shiv Sena could now legitimately be in power. The BJP became the dominant power in the alliance with the Sena after winning at the Centre. In Mumbai, Bal Thackeray became the arbiter of all disputes and the man who had to be paid tribute by all. Power was not with the forces of law and order but Balasaheb, who had the clout.
Balasaheb died a hero. His death caused a rift in the Sena. The rivalry between the Thackeray cousins split the party. Raj Thackeray founded the MNS. He may not win elections but his party does have the ability to intimidate, especially the soft Bollywood world. He has won big time.
Dadagiri chalegi yahan; ye hai Mumbai meri jaan.