Bollywood may not always be churning out sensitive films, but when it comes to sensitive issues, almost the entire industry joins hands. It did that in the infamous Bharat Shah case, followed by a protest against human trafficking, standing up in unison for the Haiti earthquake victims, 26/11, distributing videos for peace during the Ayodhya verdict earlier this year and so on. This time too, it has expressed solidarity with social activist Anna Hazare on a fast-unto-death on the Lokpal Bill.
Within a day of Mr. Hazare beginning his fast, several joined the campaign through blogs, tweets or press statements. The frenzy has caught up with the seniors and juniors in the industry, right from Aamir Khan, to Hritik Roshan, Shyam Benegal, Farah Khan, Mahesh Bhatt, Om Puri, Anupam Kher, Raza Murad, Tom Alter, Madhur Bhandarkar, Neetu Chandra, and others. The list goes on.
Usually tight-lipped on anything other than his music, Oscar-winning music director A.R. Rahman spoke on the phone from New Zealand: “The congregation denotes the voice of the people for a corruption-free government/nation. It is literally the voice of India, which, ultimately, is bound to bring justice to its people.” He expressed his happiness that such a mass movement had been started.
Sharmila Tagore was more circumspect. “I have great respect for Anna. He has devoted his entire life to social causes and made very important interventions in Maharashtra. Now he has chosen corruption, which is at the top of everyone's mind, as for the last one year, week after week, we are hearing of mounting corruption. But I know nothing about Lokpal and Janpal Bills but I am told that both have a lot of problems. So, a fair committee should be formed to first look at these Bills. I am afraid the movement, with the presence of Baba Ram Dev and Shri Shri Ravi Shankar and other [saffron] brigades, is acquiring a different colour. So, we should not pressure our government, but wait for a healthy outcome.”
Actor and filmmaker Aparna Sen viewed the movement with a cool head. “Normally, we select our representative through a voting process and don't get to participate in the law-making activities, and hence, the elements of the bureaucracy remain both the subject and the king. The movement has some credible names such as [dancer] Mallika Sarabhai, [activists] Medha Patkar and Swami Agnivesh, who can be the representatives of civil society in the new law-making decisions.”
Ameen Sayani (80), the famous broadcaster who dominated the radio scene for almost four decades, also joined the movement, albeit not physically. “No movement can be a success if it is not supported by a common cause. Since corruption has tested people's patience, it is high time for them to get up and demand justice — not just from the government or sub-government offices but also from the entrepreneurs, industrialists and mafias. It is a necessary campaign which will again test the patience of the people.”
Famous singer Shaan and actor of yester-year Padmini Kolhapure too have voiced their support for Mr. Hazare.
The young guns of Bollywood are gradually joining the fray and called for immediate drafting of the Bill.“The government clearly apprehends that if the civil society is a part of the law-making process, more and more government officers would be exposed. Half the Cabinet would be empty if it denies ticket to netas who have cases against them, so they don't want to face the music,” said Shaan.
Although the majority from the industry show unequivocal solidarity with Mr. Hazare, some continue to have reservations. Actor Rahul Bose, for instance, is keeping his cool as he absorbs the complexion of the movement. “I am a little confused about the complexion of the campaign. Who are the people who are aligning with it and who are not? I am not a great fan of middle-class radicalism. From what little I know of the Lokpal and Janpal Bills, neither, in my opinion, are close to being suitable. While one doesn't give enough power to the people, the other goes to the extreme. Neither of them is a balanced mirror to democracy. I would like to know Anna Hazare better before jumping into the campaign in a knee-jerk reaction.”
Mumbai Staff Reporter writes:
Bollywood personalities Pooja Bhatt, Shabana Azmi, Dia Mirza and Urmila Matondkar on Friday lent their star power to the movement started by Mr. Hazare.
The celebrities joined the agitation at the Azad Maidan. They sported the “I am Anna Hazare” Gandhi topi, which has now become the emblem of protesthere. In the evening, huge crowds of protesters thronged the Gateway of India in Colaba for a candlelight march. A similar march was also held at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.