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Tavleen Singh and the circus of denial

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I work for the media and write anonymously here because that is the only way to write about Critics of Hinduism and BJP without professional consequences. The Critics themselves can do so openly because they are assured of no consequences.

While I mostly read the columns of Tavleen Singh in school, I never imagined I would ever be typing out the critique of one. The romance waned in college and disappeared after her senseless tweet about Priety Zinta’s manhandling complaint. On Twitter, one has only been tolerating her. She mostly, sounds cross and impatient and spouts sermons like a dictator. Her image as the hands on, first hand information, well-researched journalist has all but disappeared. I am not sure if that is really her or just what Twitter does to us. The woman who once, stood up to the Durbar is now acting like the head of one herself with all the self-absorption and superciliousness she can muster.

But this article is not about her. It is about a recent column of hers that someone sent me which I initially mistook for the script of a stand-up routine. Ms Singh has written with great admiration about Bollywood standing up against the ‘malevolence normal.’ I am pretty sure this phrase has been gifted to her by her son Aatish Taseer because it fits his delusional political writings in the American media. Why he bothers about India after being so overwhelmed at being accepted by the Stars and Stripes is almost incomprehensible until one realises that this is perhaps the only way for him to get visibility there. Also, Pioneer Special Correspondent J Gopikrishnan had once, tweeted about how profitable it is to write an India-bashing piece as a native. Of course, British born Taseer would argue that he is hardly, the native, what with his cancelled OCI status. Sorry, he won’t argue, he will just write another piece of fiction and sell it to the Time magazine as news because they don’t seem to be able to tell the difference. Honestly, I feel that Taseer’s problems find their source closer home and are more related to parenting than the Indian Prime Minister. But I won’t go there as it’s a private matter, even if he insists on making it public everywhere.

So we were talking about Ms Singh and Bollywood which she claims that ‘powerful men’ are out to destroy. That is a strange way to present a citizen movement that rose with the death of Sushant Singh Rajput. It was in fact, the apathy with which the industry bigwigs merely shrugged their shoulders with after his death and the suspicious irregularities in investigation of the Mumbai Police that really created it. I never supported the individual name calling but like many did wish justice for his family. The media only picked the story up when the people refused to relent, so maybe she can save the drama for her upcoming film script which I am assuming is the real reason behind this article.  

She follows this up with the customary RSS BJP bashing but the charge is so weak that I almost call her an old hag but don’t as I find the term to be terribly sexist. She mentions that an ‘RSS intellectual’s’ words uttered in 2014 have begun to haunt her. The man said that they were training Hindu boys to have six packs to reduce the power of the Khans. Here, Ms Singh fully reveals herself as a privileged one percenter who is haunted by this as if this is an attack. Sigh! Firstly, Ms Singh we can never have enough of six packs. Secondly, most of the Khans are pushing past 50 anyways and Bollywood heroines don’t last beyond 35. How large do you want this age gap to be?  She follows this up with another dodgy claim that there are channels out there which peddle the government’s propaganda. They do, only that government is the one that has been out of power for the past 6 years.

The Modi government has taken some momentous policy decisions in these 6 years. How many do you see properly represented on any news channel? Communication is perhaps the weakest point of this government. There are two kinds of news channels in India, the ones that follow Congress propaganda and one’s that follow their own, the third category exists more in the minds of Ms Tavleen and her ilk than real life. She goes on to talk about the defamation suit filed by Bollywood on four news anchors which I feel they have every right to. No one likes being defamed and image is a big part of what sustains the influencers in this business. Though I feel this image is hampered more with their ignorant views and fake campaigns on political issues than the ramblings of a new anchor. But asking a Bollywood star to get a reality check is a stupid idea and star journalist stars are not far behind.

Ms Singh goes on to uphold the industry as having ‘secular values in Hindutva Times.’ This is the line that made me stay up late and type this article. If you have a functioning brain, you know that the word secular is the most abused word in Indian English. Secular here means anti-Hindutva which I know immediately is another word which Ms Singh does not know the meaning of. Secular should mean divorced from religion or atleast about equal treatment of religions and anyone who follows Bollywood knows neither is a value followed here. Bollywood brazenly put Hindu religious leaders in the line of questioning in court in the film Oh My God. The film was a hit and its brazen protagonist  played by actor Paresh Rawal has since received an MP’s ticket from the BJP. Is there any film that can do the same for Islam or Christianity? Have we since then seen any film or heard about a film being developed that is willing to take this risk? And yes, Bollywood or no Bollywood, questioning Islam and Christianity is a risk in this country.  

So secularism in Bollywood is a farce. In fact, Twitter handle @GemsOfBollywood has exposed Bollywood films espousing polygyny in Islam as a noble pursuit. Bollywood films have stereotyped all communities but these stereotypes have been degrading only towards Hindus and Sikhs. Years ago, when being politically correct was not as big a cult as it is now and the internet was not in the hands of the people, an Indian scriptwriter had confessed in an interview that a bad Muslim character always to be balanced by a good Muslim character in films, it was merely the industry norm. The shared silence on non-Hindu religious issues is a legacy that thrives in Bollywood. The chatty media-styled feminists of Bollywood hardly celebrated the momentous striking down of Triple Talak and remained unfazed by the horrifying actions of Bishop Franco Mulakkal. If in the times of Hindutva, people are still afraid of voicing opinions against Non-Hindu crimes, clearly Hindutva is not a problem.

Ms Singh is infatuated by Bollywood because she hears Hindi songs abroad and has seen pirated Hindi films in Lahore and Karachi which she includes in her list of things she is pleasantly surprised by. If Ms Singh had taken the time to watch an average Pakistani film her surprise would have wafted away itself. Also, yes, cultural exchange is important and Bollywood certainly has its contributions but why single out one Indian film Industry in a country of many others and when the Telugu Industry film Bahubali has made the biggest mark abroad.  

Also, the fact that other cultures can listen to our music and watch our films can’t be a reason to give Bollywood a free pass.  The Drug syndicate is a dangerous criminal organisation and Bollywood or anyone for that matter would be healthier without these addictions. Ms Singh’s reading of nepotism seems to deliberately incorrect or we have just gotten another gory view of her one percenter mindset. For Bollywood, religion and caste are based on influence. The son/daughter of an industry insider is the right religion and an A-lister is the right caste. Most actresses are still cast on the approval of the almighty Heros and they are the Lords whom everybody needs to please to get work. There is even the right skin colour to be a Bollywood leading lady and those who do not have it have to acquire it through treatments. As for the nepotism debate, denying acting opportunity on the basis of family background in an industry like films should be unacceptable in independent India.

Her limited worldview is further displayed when she speaks about hate on social media platforms as perpetuated by Hindus only. How can someone active on social media be so myopic? Shehla Rashid had to delete her Facebook account after getting threats from her own community for mentioning that Muslim women can marry outside their community. Journalist Barkha Dutt was sent a circumcised dick pic. Cricketer Mohammed Shami’s wife was trolled by Islamists for wearing a dress while he was trolled for celebrating his daughters birthday. Irfan Pathan’s wife was trolled by the same brigade for wearing nail polish. Cricketer Mohammed Kaif was trolled by Islamists for doing the Surya Namaskar and celebrating Christmas. Sara Ali Khan was royally trolled for sharing Ganesh Chaturthi pictures with the tagline of Ganpati Bappa Morya as she was reminded that she was the daughter of a Muslim father and should not be committing haram.

This is not to say that Muslims only troll Muslims but yes, they do brutally troll their own when they steer away from the fundamentalist ideas of being a good Muslim, or just paint their nails, so cut Hindus some slack. During the ridiculous fake CAA protests, Muslim protestors chanted La Illah illallah which translates to there is but one god and that is Allah which is basically trolling every non-Muslim religion. Even Shashi Tharoor faced Islamist trolls when he objected to this and mentioned Islamic Extremism.

The last bit about self-awareness is the one that reads most like satire. While, the news Channels screamed about drugs and nepotism, Ms Singh smelled a Hindutva conspiracy. She and her son are now writing about their delusions and selling their thoughts as news. Ms Singh has failed to rise above the current petty politics of her profession where one has to do the unnecessary and unconnected RSS and BJP bashing to be considered to be a professional of repute. She may make a few anti-Congress mentions to appear independent and balanced but it’s a façade that she can only fool herself with. Others can see through it to recognize that she is now merely another puppet in the media circus of denial.

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