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Geek by profession, thinker/writer/artist by passion. Part-time blogger,social media enthusiast and a tramp by nature :) A Man Of Mud

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Friday, February 12, 2010

The Battle For Mumbai

The battle for Mumbai is on! No, I am not being melodramatic! It has really turned ugly now that Multiplex owners in Maharashtra are not willing to screen MNIK despite assurances by the state government. Negotiation between the Shiv Sena and producers/distributors of the movie is on but the legitimate government of the day is sitting on the fence. WTF?! This is not Somalia or Afghanistan where warlords wield far more power than the governments, we are talking about Mumbai -the commercial capital of the vibrant democracy called India. A city which best showcases India's pluralistic culture.

Yet, the fact that theater owners lacking confidence in the potency of the state machinery seems to indicate a war-like situation. Only this time, the war is being fought through newspapers, television, Internet and of course through Twitter too. @iamsrk @kjohar25 and those with vested interest in #MNIK are actors whose role have been taken much beyond the original script. It seems controversy must have been a part of the larger marketing script. The very title of the movie would certainly have offended 'sensibilities' of a few ultras who chose to ignore it keeping in mind the prevalent political mood of the nation. However, it seems, ultras in Gujarat have found a "anti-Hindu conspiracy" in the script. The film was probably made with keeping controversy-will-generate-publicity in mind but to make it sure, SRK went ahead and issued a statement lamenting Pakistani cricketers being left out of IPL bidding even though he himself did not bid for any of them. The script if followed correctly would have led to some SRK-bashing by fringe-group leaders in their 30 seconds slot on television, effigy-burning, sloganeering and before long they would have died down leaving a buzz around the movie. Doesn't it sound like a typical "happy-ending" scene from Karan Johar movie ?

But alas, the script seems to have gone awry and are now heading towards a RGV-style climax. Looking the developments over the past week,it wouldn't be wrong to say that the issue has gone much beyond SRK and his utterances. The brouhaha just cannot be over SRK's statement regarding Pakistani cricketers. If the Shiv Sena really wants us to believe then what does it have to say about P Chidambaram's appeal to IPL to include Pakistani players or those participating in Aman ki Asha or even their very own Bal Thackeray's meetings with Pakistani cricketers ? It is not about SRK's religious identity either, in that case there are lot of Indian Muslims who have been part of Indo-Pak peace initiatives. The Senas have not targetted them either. (IMHO, the era when Indian Muslims' patriotism was 'judged' on the basis of their animosity towards Pakistan, is now over. )

Coming back to the topic, the present controversy has far less to do with SRK's statement and more with the political dynamics. The genesis of this issue lies in the last state electoral results which had two important lessons for the Shiv Sena. The first message was from the people of the state who were sick and tired of the party's sectarian and hateful ideology, the second was the shocker that estranged nephew Raj's MNS had wooed away a large chunk of its traditional supporters. The worse part is that Raj upstaged the parent party by adopting the uncle's parochial ideology but far more aggressively and violently. Whatever be the reason, Raj's electoral success indicated that there was a section of Marathi votes is up for grabs and now all parties want it for themselves.

As I said in the beginning it is not about SRK, every time there is a debate on it,the conversation quickly turns to ownership of Mumbai vis.a.vis Marathi vs non-Marathi. Let us not forget that just few weeks back,it was the Maharashtra CM was on air saying Taxi drivers in Mumbai would be given permit only if they could speak,read, write Marathi. If the ruling Congress could say that, the Shiv Sena had to take a more aggressive stand, it faces existential issue. It is the battle for Mumbai

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