The great Bollywood divide

Actors weigh in on the ongoing stir in Bollywood, over a letter sent to Narendra Modi regarding lynching.

Bollywood’s predominantly insulated attitude to the world outside and its insurmountable problems has come crashing down, what with eminent film personalities, spearheaded by Aparna Sen, submitting a protest letter regarding the increasing incidents of mob lynching.


Forty-nine of Indian cinema’s biggest names including Adoor Gopalkrishnan, Mani Ratnam, Anurag Kashyap, Binayak Sen, Soumitro Chatterjee, Aparna Sen, Konkana Sen Sharma, Revathy and Shyam Benegal signed the petition pleading with the PM to prevent lynching incidents.

Now, in a counter-move, 61 high-profile figures from Indian cinema have signed a letter questioning the “selective outrage” and “false narratives” of those protesting against lynching. Among the 61 speaking out against the anti-lynching petitioners are Prasoon Joshi and Kangana Ranaut.


Bollywood has never been so openly political and polarized.

Comments Shabana Azmi, an incurable activist and an ardent opponent of the Modi government’s seeming intolerance to criticism, “Firstly to call the letter to the PM by Aparna Sen, Ramachandra Guha, Shyam Benegal and others a ‘Bollywood petition’ is a gross injustice to the 49 signatories who are eminent people from different disciplines .”

Shabana feels protest is a healthy tool of expression in a democracy. “I have no problem with either party writing letters to the PM. It is their democratic right. Now read and decide for yourself which group’s language is more temperate and focusses on the issue and which group’s language is biased, accusatory and deflects from the issue.”


Another strong Bollywood voice, Renuka Shahane, wonders why there is a hue and cry over a section of powerful voices opposing the lynching incidents. “Why is it such a big issue if 49 people write to their PM about something that is bothering them? What is there to be so outraged about?”

As for the 61 voices which have objected to the anti-lynching petition, Renuka feels they are constantly defensive of the Modi government. “Those 61 who are outraged about the ‘selective’ outrage of the 49 have always outraged on behalf of the ruling party very selectively so it’s a case of the pot calling the kettle black.”


Renuka feels the lynching incidents must be prevented by law. “Ultimately, any case of mob lynching on the basis of rumours, be it of any person from any religion, gender, caste, is totally outrageous and should be dealt with strictly. It should be a national shame for us and the accused should be dealt with strictly rather than celebrated.”

Says Swara Bhasker, “I think it’s commendable that 49 filmmakers have come out to speak up for the most vulnerable and marginalized sections of our society, namely those dying in horrific incidents of lynching. These incidents are a blemish on us all as a society.”

As for the people who have written an open letter against the petition, Swara opines, “Everyone is free to voice their opinion. I do however feel that a false parallel must not be drawn between the two letters. One speaks up for the hapless victims of these grave injustices. The other speaks to shield the powerful and perpetrators of these horrific crimes. History will see the difference.”

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