Updated: January 9, 2017 6:42:25 pm
Meryl Streep’s powerful speech at the Golden Globes, to quote her own words ‘sank its hooks in my heart’. It also made me recall how our own award nites are nothing but blah. It is exactly what actor Govinda says it is: “One camp announces the award, another from the same camp receives it while a third one from their camp sits in the audiences and claps vigorously.” That’s a Bollywood awards night for you where nepotism rules supreme and God, along with corporate sponsors, find frequent mentions in thank you speeches. But never even once will anyone ever do what Meryl Streep did.
Will you ever see Karan Johar (an eloquent speaker) openly talking about the troubles he and Bollywood at large had to face from MNS, a political outfit that is not even in power? Shah Rukh Khan preferred a quiet settlement rather than taking the bull by its horns, which in the prevailing circumstances looked like a smart move. Their continued public silence emerges from the fact that every time they have aired their opinions on an issue that is political in nature, it has only earned them political wrath and calls for forcible bans on their films. Both Aamir and SRK have suffered for their statements on intolerance made in the past. Not wanting to invite anymore trouble, all major stars have now clamped up and adopted the ‘silence is golden’ method when faced with such questions.
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Questions asked by the press on public podiums about such issues are either disallowed or met with ‘no comments’ response. For those who feel like reacting, opt for the safe way out – record a video in the safe confines of their luxurious house and post it on Twitter. This provides them the immunity from speaking about it on a public platform. “I have already said what I wanted to on Twitter,” is their terse response if ever asked about it by the press. While to expect Bollywood stars to speak their mind out will remain a Utopian dream, what I couldn’t avoid noticing is how Streep’s speech could be a perfect one for SRK to address the Pakistan controversy at an upcoming awards nite. And here is how it should go with some minor changes.
“Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you. Please sit down. Please sit down. Thank you. I love you all. You’ll have to forgive me. I’ve lost my voice in screaming and lamentation this weekend. And I have lost my mind sometime earlier last year. So I have to read. Thank you, Bollywood press. You and all of us in this room, really, belong to the most vilified segments in Indian society right now. Think about it. Bollywood, foreigners, and the press. But who are we? And, you know, what is Bollywood anyway? It’s just a bunch of people from other places. I was born and raised in New Delhi. My co-star Mahira Khan was born in Pakistan. Sunny Leone like all the nicest people was born in Canada. Alia Bhatt is British. Deepika Padukone was born in Denmark. Where are their birth certificates? And the beautiful Katrina Kaif was born in Hong Kong, raised in China, Japan, France, Switzerland, Poland, Belgium, Hawaii and then London. Bollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners. If you kick them all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but cricket and Arnab Goswami (he makes his debut on Republic Day) which are not arts. An actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us and let you feel what that feels like. And there were many, many, many powerful performances last year that did exactly that, breathtaking, passionate work. But there was one performance last year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person not sitting in the most respected seat in our state intimated someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life. And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modelled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose. This brings me to the press. We need the principled press to hold power to account, to call them on the carpet for every outrage. That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedoms in our constitution. So I only ask the famously well-heeled Bollywood Press and all of us in our community to join me in supporting the committee to protect journalists. Because we’re going to need them going forward. And they’ll need us to safeguard the truth. And to quote Meryl Streep’s dear departed Princess Leia, ‘take your broken heart, make it into art. Thank you.”
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