karan johar

BOLLYWOOD IS SO VULNERABLE!

A very ugly incident arose on Friday when Wake Up Sid (WUS) released across the country. The film, directed by debutant Ayan Mukerji and produced by Karan Johar, has several characters calling Mumbai by its old name, Bombay. Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, Raj Thackeray’s party, was furious with this and its members tried stopping the screening of WUS at two theatres in South Mumbai and at a couple of places in Pune. Johar, fearing that the matter may go out of hand, immediately went to Thackeray’s Shivaji Park residence and apologized to him. He assured that he had no intention of hurting anyone’s sentiments and that he would add a disclaimer in the film in 2 days.

The incident created a furore and Raj Thackeray’s rivals perceived it differently, of course, with vested interests and Johar was made a scapegoat by all of them.

I discussed this issue with more than 50 people (many of them Maharashtrians) and not a single person felt that there is any harm in calling Mumbai as Bombay. Go to South Mumbai and many residing there still refer to the city as Bombay. In fact, South Mumbai is often called SoBo (Bo is the short form of Bombay). Then there are so many organizations and companies whose name consist of ‘Bombay’. Bombay Stock Exchange, Bombay Blues (a famous chain of restaurants), Bombay Times, Bombay Parsi Punchayat, Bombay Catholic Sabha, Bombay Dyeing etc are the classic examples. The sunset point in Mahabaleshwar is called Bombay Point since decades. Jet Airways uses the code ‘BOM’ to refer to Mumbai. The funniest part of this whole incident-Raj Thackeray’s son Amit Thackeray studied in a reputed school called BOMBAY SCOTTISH! Ha ha ha!

It was equally shocking to know the quotes given by Raj Thackeray’s rivals. Maharashtra CM Ashok Chavan called the whole incident a publicity stunt. That is, all this drama was created so that WUS gets more audience. A stupid comment, in my opinion, as Johars has and will never resort to such tactics to market their films. Also, there was no need for Johar to do any kind of publicity stunt as WUS had already aroused lots of curiosity amongst youngsters. The film already witnessed massive advance bookings, even before the audiences learnt of this controversy. Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut was of the view, “If he (Johar) really feels sorry about it, he should apologise to Maharashtra and the millions of Marathi manoos staying here”. Arre, who cares if Mumbai is called Bombay? People here are more interested in having a better infrastructure, traffic-free roads, organized transport system and sense of security. No one’s sentiments are going to hurt if anyone uses the word Bombay. BJP leader Kirti Somaiya claimed, “Nobody has the right to refer to it by the old name when it has already been renamed Mumbai”. Again, a senseless statement as there’s no law that makes calling a city by its old name illegal. One can fearlessly refer to Mumbai as Bombay, Kolkata as Calcutta, Bengalooru as Bangalore, Vadodra as Baroda, Thiruvananthapuram as Trivandrum, Chennai as Madras and also New York as New Amsterdam!

Raj Thackeray questions, “Why can’t people accept Mumbai if they can accept Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram?” But he should be told that people in these Southern cities don’t have to apologize to any tom, dick and harry if they use the old name of the city. And Thackeray has always been comparing with the Southern States. Last year he justified his signboard campaign (threatening shop owners to change their signboards into Marathi) by stating, “In Kerela and other South Indian states, all the signboards are written in their language, so why not the same in Maharashtra?” Maybe then Raj should make a comparison on all fronts. Kerela has high levels of literacy-why doesn’t he strive to attain the same in Maharashtra too? At least that’ll help the state. Changing the signboards to Marathi and revolting when someone uses the word Bombay is not going to help Mumbai progress even an inch.

Coming back to the film WUS, it depicts reality. Also, in one scene in the film, Konkona Sen Sharma says that she hails from CALCUTTA! No one in West Bengal protested. Also, there have been so many movies that have characters mouthing Bombay. In Dasvidaniya, when Svitlana Manoylo asks Vinay Pathak where he’s from, he replies that he’s from Bombay! This is just one example-one can find lots of such instances. And whose sentiments got hurt?

Karan Johar was also criticized. Many feel that he should have not apologized. But did he have any choice? If he had not done so, Thackeray and his men may had called for a ban for the film in Maharashtra and the state govt would have stood as helpless spectators. Crores were at stake and not to forget, Johar would have to answer his distributors. So I feel Johar’s actions were superfast and completely justified. 2 days back, director Ayan Mukerji, while interacting with movie buffs in the Bollywood Hungama Live Chat session rightly said, “He did what he felt he needed to do at that point to protect our film. It is not possible to understand from outside how much a film means to the people who have created it. It’s like having a baby or something-when someone threatens to hurt that baby, you put your personal pride and ego away to protect it. That’s all that Karan did”. Well said!

Finally, this incident proved that Bollywood is so vulnerable with no protection whatsoever, esp in such situations. A film passed by Censor Board can be released has to undergo politican’s clearance. Thackeray proved that he’s here just to be in the news and to please Maharashtrians with such tactics. His rivals made a fool of themselves with their comments. All this happening with an eye on the elections! God save BOMBAY!