‘Chhapaak’ comes under Hindutva acid attack
Calls to boycott Deepika Padukone’s Chhapaak by the flag bearers of Hindutva nationalism indicate that even watching a socially relevant movie in the theatre is likely to be seen as an act of rebellion.
Laxmi Agarwal, whose life as an acid attack survivor has inspired an upcoming Bollywood film Chhapaak, recalled, during a TEDx talk in March 2017, the horrific day when she was attacked in New Delhi.
She told the audience, “The man (Naeem Khan) and his younger brother’s girlfriend (Rakhi) were following me. All of a sudden, it all ended within a second…That lady had brought acid in a bottle. She pushed me on the road and threw acid on my face and I fell unconscious…” In her petition as well, she had told the court that “on April 22, 2005, I was going to my workplace (at around 10:45 am). Near the bus stand of Khan Market, one lady, Rakhi, approached me alongwith a boy named Guddu (Naeem Khan). Rakhi pushed me on the road and threw acid on my face and body. Thereafter, they fled the spot on a motorbike.
The name “Khan” on Wednesday, January 8, however, was picked up as fresh ammunition by the right-wing cyber warriors to attack Chhapaak actress and co-producer, Deepika Padukone—who has 26 million followers on Twitter and 42 million on Instagram—for throwing her weight with the so-called “Tukde Tukde Gang” of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). They alleged that the Muslim identity of the attackers had been whitewashed by the filmmakers to show Hindus in a bad light.
As #BoycottChhapaak and #BoycottDeepikaPadukone trend on Twitter, the boycott brigade has been propagating on social media that the acid attacker Nadeem Khan is depicted as Rajesh in the movie.
A few journalists who have been privy to the screening of the film did clarify that Laxmi has been named Malti Agarwal and antagonist’s name is Babboo alias Bashir Khan but to no avail.
Reacting to the rumours doing the rounds on social media, several Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders recalibrated their attack on Padukone and her film.
Subramanian Swamy has gone a step further, announcing on Twitter that if the reports were true, a legal notice will be sent to the makers for the same. “Ishkaran is drafting a legal notice to Deepika Padukone & producers if they have changed the name of accused from Muslim in real life to a Hindu name,” he wrote.
List of films that Bhakts tried to boycott— Dhruv Rathee (@dhruv_rathee) January 7, 2020
- Padmavat (₹580 Cr)
- PK (₹850 Cr)
- Dangal (₹2000 Cr)
- Veere Di Wedding (₹140 Cr)
Now wait for Chhapaak to become the next super hit ????
Unsettled by the blockbuster picture that shows Deepika Padukone standing hands folded with JNU students—which has been blazing brightly on media and social media—the boycott brigade has been leaving no stone unturned to demean the actress, whom they now label “mediocre”.
In their endeavour, the troll army seems even to have forgotten that Chhapaak is not about Padukone but about the hundreds of women who have been disfigured in acid attacks in this country.
The cyber warriors have been flaunting on Twitter that they have cancelled the tickets for Chhapaak and would rather watch Ajay Devgn’s Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior, for pride and patriotism. Devgan’s movie is said to be based on the life of Maratha warrior Tanaji Malusare, who was a trusted military leader of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
When the Pakistani military spokesperson, Major General Asif Ghafoor praised Padukone for visiting the JNU campus, his tweet was lapped up by the boycott brigade. Even though Gafoor later deleted his tweet, its screenshots kept making rounds on social media.
To reinforce their point, many have even dug out a ten-year-old TV interview in which Padukone had lauded Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. Some have resorted to sharing her old pictures with fugitive economic offender Vijay Mallya and men friends. Others have even gone to the extent of suggesting that Deepika had adopted a Hindu screen name, like yesteryear actresses Madhubala (Mumtaz Jehan Dehlavi) and Meena Kumari (Mahjabeen Bano) and Nimmi (Nawab Banoo).
The actress is also being accused of showing up at JNU to promote her upcoming movie. A by-now familiar section of the media has even accused Padukone of standing with the “anti-nationals”, asking if ‘Mastani’ gave more importance to her film’s promotion than the country.
Full support and thanks to @deepikapadukone for showing courage that a LOT of people from Bollywood don't.— VISHAL DADLANI (@VishalDadlani) January 7, 2020
Those downtrending #Chhapaak, you have already lost! Your petty hatred CANNOT stop brave women! #ChhapaakIsABLOCKBUSTER ! Mark my words, and trend THAT!
As soon as Padukone made a brief appearance at JNU on Tuesday evening, the right-wing social media users declared a war on Chhapaak and her. Delhi BJP spokesperson Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga gave a call to boycott her movies. “RT if you will Boycott Movies of @deepikapadukone for her Support to #TukdeTukdeGang and Afzal Gang,” the BJP leader tweeted, posting a picture of Padukone standing with the agitating students in the JNU campus.
BJP supporter and film-maker Vivek Agnihotri tweeted: “By standing with this small community of anti-India students she has sent a message that she doesn’t support 98% India-loving students. What do you think?”
Filmfare has also come under saffron fire for tweeting pictures of the actress and lauding her courage to show solidarity with the JNU students, who were attacked by a “Salwa Judum”-like mob on Sunday, even as the police stood by as mute spectators.
Significantly, the 34-year-old cine star has voiced her concern at a time when most of the Bollywood’s A-listers have maintained studious silence amidst the rising anger and protests against CAA, NRC and acts of violence against university students.
In a recent interview with AajTak, the actress—who had faced death threats from Karni Sena for her film Padmaavat—said, “What I wanted to say I said it two years ago when Padmaavat was released. What I am seeing today, it pains me. I hope it doesn’t become the new normal. That anyone can say anything and they can get away with it. I fear and I’m sad. This is not the foundation of our country.” On the JNU incident, she said, “I am very angry at what is happening but it is worse than no action is being taken.”
Noted film-maker, Anurag Kashyap—who is among those who have come out in support of the actress—has accused the governing party of dividing citizens into patriots and traitors. “There are only two groups of people for the government”, he told Rajdeep Sardesai on India Today TV, the “Deshdrohis (traitors) and Deshbhakts (patriots). Whoever agrees with them is a patriot and whoever questions them is dubbed a traitor.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, he alleged, have encouraged some people to act like hooligans and take on the so-called ‘enemies’ of the nation within the country. “These ruffians genuinely believe that they are doing great service to the country by beating up students, intellectuals, Muslims and other critics of the government,” he remarked, stressing that “the government has persistently been creating ‘enemies’ to evade questions (from concerned citizens).”
The calls for the boycott of Deepika Padukone, her upcoming movie and the brands that she endorses, only tend to give legitimacy to his analysis. In a sharply polarised new India, even watching a socially relevant movie in a theatre is likely to be seen as an act of rebellion. ‘Chhapaak’ is released worldwide on Friday.