Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Aye Dil Hai Mushkil – How true!

- Uday Oak
Poor Majrooh Sultanpuri! When he wrote “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil…,” he wouldn’t have imagined that the refrain would come back after sixty years, in Nostradamus mode!

Karan Johar (KJo) as a film-director can be appreciated, tolerated or ignored, as per personal choice. Even Karan himself won’t be under any delusion that he is one of the important and/or meaningful film-directors of this time. He produces much better films (Kaal, Dostana, Wake Up Sid to name a few) than he directs.
So when his to-be-released film “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” caught up in a controversy, some cynics smelt ‘any publicity is good publicity’ kind of marketing gimmick behind it. As the events unfolded, it turns out that the said critics had their sinuses cleared and nose vacuumed, and had their sense of smell spot on before they smelt anything.
A bit of background needed here. On 18th September, ‘militants’ attacked an army camp in Uri, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. There were nationwide protests as usual. Then unusually, India went for ‘surgical strikes’ across the LOC, unilaterally declaring the operation and its success. Pakistan is still uncertain either about what exactly happened or about exactly how to react.
KJo was busy making a movie, abovementioned ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’. Slated for a Diwali release (THE biggest release opportunity for any film-maker in India), the film was already in post-production when the attacks happened.
Another sequence was playing out in the political arena. Shiv Sena, the coalition partner of BJP in Maharashtra, has been whining/roaring {action same; verb selected depending upon whether you are an independent observer or SS supporter} over ‘neglect’ by BJP. Even after two years, SS still hasn’t come to terms with the fact that BJP is ‘senior’ in the coalition now, by virtue of winning 122 seats against SS tally of 63.
With the BMC elections approaching, both BJP and SS are full time in muscle flexing and jibing.
Here the plot thickens and a subplot is introduced.
Raj Thackeray, the founder of the flyspeck political party, MNS, was desperately looking for an opportunity to prove to the cadre that the party is not defunct.
A side note here – Raj Thackeray is less of a politician and more of a socialite and businessman. He has excellent personal relations with the who’s who of Bollywood, including the Khan group.
So Raj Thackeray did some quick and realistic calculations (must have been a first for him!) and declared his opposition to the film. For good measure, he also trained his guns on another film, Raees, as well as all other (unnamed) films that employ Pakistani artists.
Here the CM of Maharashtra comes in, joining the plot and the sub-plot and the original plot. Phadnavis is a devout believer in Peter Principle and wants to prove beyond reasonable doubt that CM’s post is his level of incompetence. So half of his agenda is earmarked for getting scared that someone will attack him from below. The other half is devoted to worrying about what the bosses at the top would say and/or do. But these two activities are not full-time, and the leaders below and above are busy. So he has a lot of time on hands. He brought KJo and Raj Thackeray together for a summit, right at the Chief Minister’s official residence.

Another bit of background needed here. Raj Thackeray started his political career on a high, as a carbon copy of Bal Thackeray. He spiked his party’s fortunes in 2009 assembly elections by winning 13 seats, quite commendable for a three year old party. And in 2014 MNS was promptly reduced to one seat.
Raj is afflicted by the same disease that is in the DNA of the Thackeray clan – lack of philosophy and consistency. Raj raised his voice against the lack of transparency in awarding the toll contracts across the state. MNS workers kept a 24X7 vigil on all toll booths and collected real data. At the end of it, Raj gave a rousing speech in Pune (that lasted for barely 20 minutes), quoting heavily from the data collected and targeting the then PWD minister, Chhagan Bhujbal. And then? Nothing. Deadly quiet. Raj Thackeray lost more support through the silence than by any mindless utterances.
So, back to our complicated plots and sub-plots. Raj Thackeray enters the fray, threatens violent stir against ADHM (as the film has been referred to), CM gets him together with KJo, Raj Thackeray comes up with a solution that only a daft ‘patriot’ can come up with – (i) Pay INR 50 Million to the Army Welfare Fund (ii) Display a slate before the film show, giving tribute to the soldiers killed in Uri attack and (iii) No Pakistani artists will henceforth be allowed to work in Bollywood films.
Mukesh Bhatt, President, Film & TV Producers Guild of India, and KJo accepted the solution.
CM came up with a rock-solid, logical and rational explanation – if talks can be held with Hurriyat and Naxals, why not MNS?
This is a sweet deal for both the CM & MNS. CM gets to thumb his nose at Shiv Sena. MNS gets a much needed boost to get it up from its comatose condition. Shiv Sena gets a bitter carrot to chew (the ‘patriotic’ vote bank is now firmly tilted towards MNS) and the threat of a stick stinging its backside (if MNS gets in coalition with the BJP for the Mumbai Municipal Elections, SS will crumble like a super-stale cookie).
So the refrain of the song is prophetically true – O heart, it is really difficult!
And if all this is not enough, some ‘liberal artists’ have to come up and declare intellectual bankruptcy by chanting the sacred mantra – common man good, politicians (and ‘forces’) bad. This mantra ensures that your credentials as ‘liberals’ are established beyond doubt.
One question for such ‘liberals’ – let’s wholeheartedly accept their doctrine. Then where do the politicians and forces in Pakistan come from, if not from ‘common man’? Or are there two separate independent nations within Pakistan? That’s an interesting ‘two nation’ theory!

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