Thackeray’s Growing Influence a Worrying Trend

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The growth of Raj Thackeray’s MNS within Mumbai is a worrying trend within the Bollywood film industry. He recently set himself up as an unofficial censor for the industry and has created a union within the backroom boys on the sets. He said his association would form a parallel censor board to curb all the misrepresentation of Marathi and Maharashtrians in Bollywood. His anti-migration policies are anathema to the concept of One India, a guiding principle since independence. He has spoken out against ‘migrants’ from Bihar and North India. Do we really want to see a Bollywood peopled only by those born in and around Mumbai?

Raj recently criticized the film Jab We Met because it used the word Bombay instead of Mumbai. “Madras is now called Chennai and that is properly used in movies but nobody uses Mumbai in Hindi films. This will not be allowed in future,” he said. He also doesn’t want to see local Maharashtrans seen in low-paid jobs in movies such as maids. His new union, the MNS Cine Workers Association is reported as being supported by Nana Patekar and Suniel Shetty. Salman Khan is rumoured to be a friend of Raj but it’s not known whether this stretches to his political views.

At the launch of the union, Thackeray attacked Amitabh Bachchan for favouring a composer from Uttar Pradesh over a Maharashtran composer. He went on to claim that Amitabh only loved UP and hadn’t even learned to speak Marathi. This is despite Amitabh’s known support for the local parallel Marathi film industry.

The movie industry is playing it cautiously at the moment but Mahesh Bhatt has spoken out. “Since when has he [Raj Thackeray] developed this fantasy of being the head of the censor board? He’s a politician and he should remain that because this is not his jurisdiction. No filmmaker wants to degrade a community. He is not so foolish to think so. I think this is barking up the wrong tree.” (No, he’s gaining front-page publicity, Mahesh, through outrageous stunts — it’s an old trick.)

Bihari-born actress Tanushree Dutta recently ran up against the MNS when she criticised MNS supporter Nana Patekar on the set of Horn OK Pleasss. Now, she claims to feel afraid. “I’m afraid that I’m afraid,” she says. “That’s why I’ve been talking about Nana Patekar and Rakhi Sawant long after she took over the item song from me with him. I feel upset and frightened. The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) workers were put on the job to harass me after I dared to take on Nana for his behaviour. I’m a girl from Bihar. I’m seen as an outsider in Mumbai, and I was reminded about it by a very senior member of the film industry recently. When I told him I felt threatened he turned around to ask, ‘Who do you think you are, Amitabh Bachchan?’ But this is not about being big or small. It’s about my basic right to work with dignity in the industry. Why are people from within the industry trying to rob me of that right?”

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