Friday, February 5, 2010


...Asha Bhosle and Nana Patekar and Madhuri Dixit and Ritesh Deshmukh and Amol Palekar and Madhur Bhandarkar and Ashutosh Gowariker and Mohan Agashe and Sai Paranjpe and Rohini Hattangadi and dozens of other illustrious and not so illustrious people who have won hearts, minds, fans and big bucks in Bollywood. Just in case you failed to notice, all these personalities are Marathi Manoos. Some are legends who have already become immortal and most have enriched Bollywood with their incredible talent and performances. I am deliberately appealing to Ritesh Deshmukh instead of his father Vilasrao Deshmukh because neither you or I really expect politicians to stand up and be counted when it comes to defending the idea of India.

But I earnestly appeal to these theatre, film and music personalities to defend colleague Shah Rukh Khan. As things stand now, the movie My Name is Khan will probably not be screened in any theatre or multiplex in Maharashtra unless Shah Rukh Khan apologizes for a crime he has not committed. Just as Amitabh Bachchan was forced to apologize in the recent past when the screening of The Last Lear was disrupted in Mumbai. This madness is going too far and now threatens to destroy the very foundations of India where all citizens have equal rights to talk, work and pray. Shah Rukh Khan the individual or the superstar or the icon is not really the issue here. The issue is far bigger and demands artistes to finally decide that enough is enough.

I doubt if there ever was – or will be – a better singer than Lata Mangeshkar. But just imagine Lata tai: if this kind of parochialism had prevailed even in the past, would you have sung haunting melodies written by Sahir Ludhiyanvi and composed by Madan Mohan. Would you have captivated us with the delightful duets that you sang with Mukesh, Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar? And Madhuri Dixit, would you have delivered hits like Dil Toh Pagal Hai and Hum Aapke Hain Kaun without co-stars Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan? I can cite such instances ad nauseam and it won’t make a damn difference unless Marathi artistes come out and support not Shah Rukh Khan, but his freedom to work and speak. Many of the personalities in the ‘appeal’ list are quite well read and will know that this demon will sooner or later devour even their freedom to work and speak.

I think they need to be inspired by the words and deeds of another icon, arguably one of the greatest Maharashtrians of modern times. Yes, I am talking about Sachin Tendulkar. More than his centuries and records, he really made India proud the day he rebuffed narrow-minded parochialism by publicly defending the idea of India. That one gesture made a world of difference. Imagine the difference it will make if legends like Lata Mangeshkar, Nana Patekar also step up and publicly defend the idea of India

I think the Shiv Sena and the MNS have every right to espouse the cause of Marathi Manoos. They have every right to publicly protest and criticize anything and anyone they think is infringing on the rights of Marathi Manoos. But do they have the right to stop other Indians from working and speaking? I would be happy if Lata mangeshkar and Nana Patekar answer that one.


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