PURNIMA SINGH | 18 DECEMBER, 2019
Furore Over Bolly Bigwigs’ Silence
Why is Bollywood silent? #CAAProtests
After the violent clash between Delhi Police and Jamia Milia Islamia University students in Delhi on December 15, 2019, a barrage of videos documenting the violence soon started circulating online, especially on Twitterverse. Students from various educational institutes across the country extended their solidarity and also took to the roads a day later in massive campus protests all over India. While solidarity statements and support for students pour in, it is Bollywood’s continuing silence that drew the ire of many a twitteratis.
Though students found an unusual ally in John Cusack, celebrated Hollywood actor, it is the collective lull of Bollywood bigwigs that has led to a storm of tweets by fans, asking Bollywood to speak up against the ruling government’s attack on dissenting voices. So much so that hashtags like #ShameOnBollywood and #BollywoodKeBekaarBuddhe are trending today.
On the other hand, Cusack, who’s starred in movies like 2012 and Serendipity, has been very vocal on Twitter. One of the first celebrities to extend his support to the students, he retweeted several posts and shared videos of what went down in Jamia Millia Islamia University on Sunday evening. “Reports from Delhi are it was a war zone last night- Fascism is not a joke- we use the word with the understanding it’s deadly,” tweeted Cusack. He later shared author Arundhati Roy’s statement on the protests in India against National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and encouraged people to “Stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters and students in solidarity being brutalized by Modi”.
It’s not that none of the Bollywood stalwarts have refused to speak up. Actors like Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub, Swara Bhaskar have been voicing their concerns against the CAA for quite some time now. After the violent clashes, more voices from the film community flooded in to extend their support. Not just actors, but directors like Sudhir Mishra, Anurag Khasyap and Anubhav Sinha have also spoken against the State's brutal crackdown on students in institutions like Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Milia Islamia.
While they might have taken their sweet time to speak their mind, a wave of celebs extending their support to students soon swept over Twitter. Actor Ali Fazal too shared his hesitations about speaking up and ‘playing it safe’. He acknowledged the fact that many from the film fraternity will not speak up at all. Soon after Fazal’s tweet, other celebs like Huma Qureshi, Parineeti Chopra, Siddarth Malhotra, and Sonakshi Sinha took to Twitter and pronounced the government’s actions as ‘barbaric’.
But much of fans’ furor was directed toward the bigwigs in Bollywood. Mostly calling out the likes of Big B and the Khans, they expressed their frustrations over the silence of their idols. Bollywood heartthrob Shah Rukh Khan, an alum of Jamia Millia Islamia University, was called out by many of his fans on Twitter.
The curious case of Akshay Kumar liking a tweet that celebrated the violence that Jamia students were exposed to, became even more interesting after the superstar tweeted that the like was a ‘mistake’. But the comment only led to more backlash, with several twitteratis expressing their anger over said mistake.
However, it’s not all roses for the ones who didn’t choose to stay silent. Right-wing trolls instantly started attacking actresses like Parineeti Chopra and Sonakshi Sinha in comments. Actor Sushant Singh, host of popular crime show Savdhaan India, joined students in Kalina on Monday in the Mumbai protests. He later also shared that his stint with the show was over. While it is not confirmed whether this was a consequence of the actor joining the protest, but his interaction with a fan suggested that it might have been a ‘very small price’ to pay. The actor went on to say, “Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, aur Rajguru ko jawab kaise denge?” (How will we answer Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, and Rajguru?)