New Delhi, June 23: “One Nation, One Tax, One Market”, affirms Amitabh Bachchan in a video on the virtues of GST, while Akshay Kumar is out to make his “humble contribution to Swachh Bharat” through his new film “Toilet: EK Prem Katha”.
Bollywood, it seems, is striving to stay on the right side of the ruling dispensation.
Amitabh, one of Indian cinema’s most globally recognised faces and whose friends-turned-foes history with the Congress is not unknown, has been made brand ambassador for the Goods and Services Tax (GST), a sweeping tax reform set to roll out on July 1.
It is not surprising because Amitabh has remained in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s good books for quite some time. Remember, Gujarat Tourism’s “Khushboo Gujarat Ki” campaign with Amitabh as the brand ambassador?
The Congress, on whose ticket the megastar had contested the Lok Sabha election from Allahabad in 1984, is clearly not happy.
But it is worth mentioning that during the Congress regime only, Unicef had appointed the megastar Goodwill Ambassador for Polio Eradication in India. It was a success, given that the nation was declared polio-free in 2014 by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“Both Prime Minister (Modi) and Finance Minister (Arun Jaitley) know that the government is not ready nor does it have the infrastructure to roll out GST. That’s why it is using a legend like Amitabh Bachchan so that he becomes the fall guy and has to face the brickbats,” Mumbai Congress President Sanjay Nirupam has said.
When it comes to campaigns, Big B is certainly a lucky mascot.
What does the actor have to say?
“I was asked, I did it,” the 74-year-old veteran, who endorses other government initiatives like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and is recently seen in ‘Darwaza Band’ campaign, tweeted about his decision to push the GST buzz.
As far as Akshay is concerned, he is doing his bit through films like “Toilet: Ek Prem Katha” and “PadMan”.
A dekko at the trailer of “Toilet…” hints at how Akshay’s entertainer will perhaps set an example of wielding Bollywood’s soft power in giving a hard push to menacing social concerns like open defecation, gender discrimination and myths around menstruation.
“Here is my humble contribution towards a Swachh Bharat, ‘Toilet: Ek Prem Katha’ trailer,” read a social media post from Akshay, who even met Modi to talk about his movie last month.
“Good effort to further the message of cleanliness,” Modi lauded the actor.
The latest in the grapevine is that Akshay, who won the Best Actor National Award for “Rustom” earlier this year, has landed a chance to play Modi in a film. Some contrary reports refute that claim — but from what one can tell, Akshay is in the good and ‘right’ books.
There are more.
Filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar’s “Indu Sarkar” is making a noise ever since the launch of its poster featuring Neil Nitin Mukesh bearing resemblance to former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
The film captures the Emergency period of India during the rule of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1975 — obviously ruffling up feathers in the Congress.
In his defence, Bhandarkar says the film is “70 per cent fiction and 30 per cent realism”, that he has not named any politician and that the project is “not sponsored”.
Even the government-backed censor board, which is readily asking filmmakers to bring NOCs for films on real life personalities, is ready to offer leniency to Bhandarkar as his project takes no names.
Veteran actor Anupam Kher, who is in “Indu Sarkar”, is also going to play former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in “The Accidental Prime Minister”.
The film will be based on a book by Singh’s media adviser Sanjaya Baru, who had controversially depicted his former boss as not being in full control of his own cabinet and being subservient to Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
Prodded about playing a Congress man, the pro-BJP actor, whose wife Kirron Kher is a BJP MP from Chandigarh, told IANS in a recent chat: “It’s too early to talk about it.”
But at a press conference he took a dig at Singh, saying: “It is not a silent film.”
A master of wit and sarcasm, Rishi Kapoor had last year stirred a political storm with tweets slamming the Congress party for naming important places such as roadways, railways and airports after the Nehrus and Gandhis.
Back then, the Congress said people were targeting the Gandhis “to get into the good books” of the ruling BJP, which has a string of Bollywood supporters like Paresh Rawal, Hema Malini and Shatrughan Sinha.
They say films are a mirror to the society and Bollywood fraternity is certainly doing its bit to propagate the initiatives of the NDA government by highlighting them in their cinematic offerings.
By Radhika Bhirani
(Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at [email protected])