The TN BJP, by making loud noises about the latest Vijay-starrer for some, albeit untrue, references to the GST, demonetisation, has ensured much wider publicity for Mersal both within and outside the usual catchment area of Tamil cinema.
This was foolish, to say the least. In any case, it is not the business of some low-level party apparatchiks in Chennai to protest the contents of a movie which had been duly passed for public viewing by the Central Board for Film Certification. To be fair, the BJP expressed its displeasure in only a democratic manner. But it would have been much more sensible if it had overlooked the whole thing.
The Tamil Nadu BJP leaders probably wanted to earn brownie points from the central leadership. Only a few months earlier, the Congress leadership was up in arms against Madhur Bhandarkar’s Indu Sarkar, which was loosely based on Indira Gandhi’s Emergency excesses.
In short, Indian politicians seem to have a rather thin skin when it comes to cultural and artistic sensitivities and sensibilities. The Mersal controversy also illustrates the duplicity of senior Congress leaders insofar as they seem to be drawing vicarious pleasure from the backlash against the ruling party over critical references to GST.
The point is that if the BJP protest against critical references to GST in Mersal is ill-conceived, the Congress, by seemingly endorsing those criticisms, exposes its own double-facedness. The Mersal episode recalls the earlier protests by a group of people in Rajasthan against the alleged depiction in poor light of their elders in the then under-production Padmavati. The elaborate sets of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film were vandalised by members of an obscure outfit, Karni Sena, in the name of protecting the pride of Rajputs.
There are numerous other cases of attacks on artistic freedoms of the creative people, be they belong to the world of literature, cinema or other arts. The climate of coercion with the attendant threats of violence militates against fundamental freedoms and ought to be resisted.
Instead of concentrating on ‘vikas’, injection of entirely avoidable emotional issues with no relevance to the bread-and-butter concerns of the ordinary people can eventually spell trouble for the BJP. If the party thinks that by raking up diversionary issues such the antecedents of the Taj or Mersal, people will cease to hold them accountable for the broken promise of ‘acchhe din’, it is living in la-la land. And is bound to come to grief.
Voters are not fools. Failure to deliver good governance cannot be compensated by the incessant flow of the divisive dribble. Get to work, instead of raking up peripheral issues such as a Tamil movie here or the relevance of the Taj there.
Therein lies the larger good of the people — and the BJP’s own long-term interest. All else is guff, and ought to be left well alone.