And they all answered their master’s call. India’s action heroes are out in force kicking, not on-screen baddies, but real-life “bad girls”. The pinch-hitters are waving their willows at the windmills of “international conspiracy” much like Don Quixote.
A six-word tweet from pop icon Rihanna has sent the world’s largest democracy, its government, and its “icons” in full fire-fighting mode. A teenage climate activist has fired up the self-claimed largest political party in the world that currently rules India. A former porn star has sent the entire right-wing ecosystem in India in a twist.
They are coming. The regime is screaming. And all the big guns have been rolled out to battle the “anti-India propaganda”.
The copy-paste job of outrage by the Indian celebs in trying to defend the country from a bunch of farmers and their “international conspirators” is the most outrageous assault on the country’s and by extension global sensibilities.
These very phantoms couldn’t muster courage to say a word in support of the farmers who have been braving cold and government abuse and oppression for the past three months. So much for the on-screen and on-field bravado. But one signal from the master and they line up to be counted as the saviours of the nation.
India needs new heroes. Ones with spine and integrity to see and speak the truth. Heroes who don’t just use their star power to sell underwear and toilet cleaner, but heroes who use it to amplify the cause of justice and human rights. Those who don’t talk to the masses only on the eve of their film releases to shore up ticket sales, but those who stay engaged with the masses on issues of basic rights. Those who show the courage to stand up for the people and not just crawl before the power.
India needs heroes who don’t try to cover up stinking injustices with their gleaming selfies with the powerful. But those who use their stardom to shed light on the issues that matter to the people.
A crop of new and vocal artists have shattered the silence of the servile stars. And most of them are women, who speak their mind. They have refused to be the regime’s drum-beaters and cheerleaders, even as most of their senior colleagues are either prostrating in front of the power or have just zipped up.
This other popular section of outspoken, fearless, and “liberal” artists still walk with their spine straight. They talk of secularism, liberalism, equal rights, and constitutional values – all things that the current regime and its supporters have worked overtime to erase. They speak when there is injustice with any group or people.
The likes of Swara Bhasker, Tapsee Pannu, Richa Chadha, and many more have refused to dance to the master’s tune. They need to be recognised for the real stars that they are. They may not have opening day box office numbers, but they have spine and their heart is in the right place and beats for the right causes. And they are standing up at a great personal cost. They are abused and threatened by the regime’s online supporters, their shows and movies are regularly threatened with boycott calls. Many have suffered professionally as the corporate-owned film industry has tried to squeeze their avenues.
But these women stand tall among all the hollow men. They live with their courage of conviction, their belief in basic human rights, democratic and liberal values. They still answer the call of their conscience, and not that of the power. More power to them.
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