I think, the corrupted term ‘Bollywood’ for Hindi film industry was a popularized by Shobha De as the editor of Stardust.  For her and those who promoted it, it may have been pure fun. But, this inferiority complex and slave mentality to look at our own film industry through the eyes of West has been the undoing of Hindi film industry.  Aping of the west in its degradation, not in its wonderful story telling, began dominating Bollywood and original Indian content lost out to 5-star nowhere-world, slowly detaching itself from reality.  There were some who fought this stranglehold but it was tightened further by the underworld. Slowly the voices of true India got weaker and weaker.  

The crass commercial cinema buried the real world of Bimal Roy, Raj Kapoor, Hrishikesh Mukerjee, Gulzar, Basu Chatterjee et al that sprouted from the Indian soil. We hardly realized how Hindi film world was taken over by English speaking, rootless wonders.  We hardly noticed how underworld glorification became a part of our thinking.

Situation turned so pitiable that when a producer went to a TV Channel to produce a series on immortal Hindi writer Premchand,  he was asked to provide the profile of Premchand!  New actors and actresses proclaimed with pride, “Mere ko Hindi bolna, padnaa nai aataa hai,” even after spending a decade in Hindi cinema and milking it to enjoy a luxurious life. You can’t expect such people to know Bharat or its culture. Recall, how Manoj Kumar, the only unabashed Bharat loving film person at one time, was lampooned?  Think over, when did Hindi films awards function become an English programme where an award winning person felt awkward to speak in Hindi?

I can share another story to illustrate the how deep the rot is. A few year back, a much respected writer-director approached me through a friend to get a translation and transliteration of his ambitious project on a historical hero. Translation of screenplay from Hindi to English, and transliteration of Hindi dialogues into Roman script. I, of course, did it. But, on enquiring, he told me that apart from him, Shri Amitabh Bachchan and very few others, no ‘Bollywoodiya’ could read or write Hindi!

There is a subaltern film world populated by people coming from hinterland who give some sleeper hits. They are hardly honoured in award functions though they are the saving grace of this industry. They live in their own ghettos; some trying to trespass into the charming world of Karan Johars and Aditya Chopras. If nothing, get embraced  by likes of Mahesh Bhatts and Javed Akhtars.  Who doesn’t wish to rise in life and get a chance to sip from the same crystal glasses that the elite do? If you read interviews of some who managed to ‘arrive’ or break into the champagne class, you can discern how they were discriminated till by sheer force of work or ‘chamchagiri’ they broke into this rarefied ‘swarglok’ of Bollywood.

Hindi film industry has been corrupted and deracinated by the Bollywood ‘townies’ and ‘Tonies’.  There were camps earlier too. Teams, who worked with a set of writers, heroes, heroines and music directors. There was keen competition, but there was a great deal of kinship and friendship too. Nobody tried to cut other down or suppress someone using underworld or media.  Who doesn’t know of competition between the golden trio of Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand and Dilip Kumar aka Yusuf Khan? There was competition; there were heartburns, but no underhand pulling down. I never read about a Dharmendra or a Manoj Kumar or a Sanjay Khan being hounded or insulted for trying to be super stars. It was a genteel world.

Cut to 1990s, advent of underworld in controlling the cinema on one hand and arrival of next-gen film makers and actors cut off from the soil with their club-class life, elite English education;  born literally with silver spoons.  Slowly, the Bollywood overtook and over powered the Hindi film industry. The situation has gone from bad to worse.  

We have a Karan Johar, the prima donna of this class for whom poverty is living in a 3 bedroom house, not a palace, for whom driving an Indian car not a ‘Merc’ is poverty.  Whose poorest characters wear designer clothes.  People, whose only problem in life is getting hooked to a rich guy or a gal; everything  else is sorted out. These poor people generally live in the West or hop into those countries, like you hop into a neighbourhood mall.

You look back over these 20-30 years, you will see how talented people suddenly disappeared or dropped out of the race, for no apparent reason.  One reason, ofcourse, is the casting couch which many can’t adjust to. Other is the strong camps that strangle a new talent who may challenge their of the English speaking, elite ‘families’. Tragedy is that some, who had suffered earlier, have got co-opted to survive and the hunted have become hunters.  

These groups have become so strong that veteran actor like Anupam Kher who was a lucky mascot of Yash Chopra films gets dropped out of the charmed circle because he becomes a fan of PM Modi. I name him because he is the most recognized, most successful and talented actors who made nearly 500 films before he committed the sin of showing his ‘communal’ fangs.  He had to move to Hollywood to keep the actor in him alive.

This case tells you how the Bollywood privileged, the secular-left and the underworld form a discreet alliance. I know scores of such people who have been side lined. I could’ve named some more big favourites too who have become the new untouchables in this elite English crowd, but let it be.  Advent of professional studios  may have mitigated the problem by giving space to the hinterland, but this segment too is controlled by the same ‘secular-left crowd’, so getting a story that is not semi-porn, Hindu-baiting or divisive is not easy. I know of an award winning leftist writer director, who consciously left the Left. Now, his screenplays don’t get passed by his erstwhile friends, who are gate keepers of these studios.

This is where the story of a Kangana Ranaut or a Sushant Singh Rajput becomes important.  We have heard Kangana speaking out boldly since some time now. Her Republic TV interview will be a landmark in this fight of Hindi cinema vs Bollywood. But, we couldn’t hear the pain of Sushant Singh Rajput.  Kangana is a fighter from the mountains, she might still survive.  But, should this deracinated Bollywood be allowed to survive and present a twisted world view to our youth?

The only way to see genuine Hindi cinema thrive is to clearly differentiate between rooted Hindi cinema and the Bollywood. Do not mix them up. Amitabh Bachchan has expressed the view that the corrupt word ‘Bollywood’ should not be used. But, none heard him, because it represents certain values, certain culture that is grafted onto our Mumbai Hindi cinema. No other regional cinema in India suffers this disability. It would have been possible to retrieve Hindi cinema if the Central government and its supporters had understood this and stopped chasing the Bollywood and paid more attention to the Hindi cinema. They could promote good cinema, but an institution like NFDC that promoted  good cinema in early days, is comatose.

Now, it is up to audience to make a success or failure of an actor or cinema, and not go by publicists and lobbyists who manipulate our minds.  The noise in the social and electronic media after the unfortunate suicide of Sushant and the reverberations throughout the industry amplified by Kangana should not subside after this initial sense of outrage.  It should make the elite controllers of Bollywood to set their house in order or lose public esteem and money.

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