A CORRUPT, VIOLENT party is a dangerous thing, but it is even more so when it finds itself getting irrelevant. That is where the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, led by Raj Thackeray, finds itself today and also explains why the party is in a hurry to send Pakistani actors back.
If you find a Fawad Khan or an Ali Zafar in Bollywood, then there are our own Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone in Hollywood. India has not launched terrorist attacks on the United States, but then no Pakistani actor was part of the group of terrorists who attacked the Army camp in Uri. How do you ask every one of them in India to take responsibility for the actions of terrorists from that country? And if that is the standard, then every Indian everywhere is accountable for every action by any Indian. The end result of any such outlook is profiling human beings based on their identity, the slippery slope that leads to evils like racism and xenophobia and the ideology behind riots and holocausts.
There is a reason why Pakistani actors are in Bollywood and the answer to that question is also tied with up with why any US director would cast Deepika or Priyanka. Fawad Khan finds a place in a Karan Johar movie because it makes commercial sense. He has a star appeal back home which provides a novelty factor that gets him cast in a Hindi movie that then gets him a fanbase here. That is also how Priyanka Chopra made her way into Hollywood.
No one really expects Raj Thackeray or his party to appreciate the nuances of how art and artistes cross borders. They have to survive and the movie business is the surest way of getting some airtime. Municipal elections in Mumbai are coming up, and the decimation of the MNS in it would more or less mean the end of the party, or perhaps a humiliating merger with the Shiv Sena from which it had broken away. But when they promise to use open violence to stop the release of the Karan Johar movie Ae Dil Hai Mushkil that stars Fawad Khan, then you would think that in self-interest at least the BJP state government would act. Instead, you have its finance minister defending such rhetoric only because the popular sentiment is all for bashing anything Pakistani now.
Many decades ago, when the Congress was in power in Maharashtra, it orchestrated the rise of Bal Thackeray by allowing him to spew his hate, seeing him as a counter to the Communist parties then. It changed the complexion of Mumbai, unleashing a terror against migrants that could be switched on and off depending on Thackeray’s calculations. It is a formula that his progenies relentlessly try to emulate, though not with as much success. If the BJP government allows free rein to forces like the MNS because it is momentarily useful, then it would be asking for history to repeat itself.