Veteran lyricist Javed Akhtar and director Mahesh Bhatt addressed criticism of the Modi government and rising Islamophobia in India, and the situation in Kashmir post the abrogation of Article 370 on a recent appearance on the Al Jazeera show UpFront.
In a teaser clip shared by journalist Mehdi Hasan, Javed Akhtar was asked whether he considered Narendra Modi a facist. To which he replied,
“Of course he is. I mean, fascists don’t have horns on their heads. Fascist is thinking and this thinking that we are better than others and whatever problems we have, it is because of these people. The moment you hate people in wholesale, you’re a facist.Javed Akhtar, Lyricist
When asked about the rising anti-Muslim sentiment in India, Mahesh Bhatt said he felt it was being "manufactured", helped in part by a "pliable" media.
“Well, I think Islamophobia - the winds of Islamophobia - blew through the world after 9/11. I think the phobia here is manufactured because I don’t think that the average Indian is so frightened of a Muslim. I mean that kind of fear has been crafted, been structured day in and day out, media persons go out there, the pliable channels are working around the clock to create ‘the other’. They need ‘the other’ to stay in power. And to hate the Muslim is the lifeline of the BJP. Let’s not mince our words.”Mahesh Bhatt, Director
Javed Akhtar and Mahesh Bhatt are among the handful of Bollywood celebrities who have come out strongly against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and condemned incidents of police violence against anti-CAA protesters, especially students of Jamia Millia Islamia University, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Aligarh Muslim University.
Why Is Bollywood Silent on Islamophobia in India?
When asked by Hasan why Bollywood either appears to side with Modi or refuses to criticise him, Bhatt said that fear prevents them from voicing their true opinion. "They feel very vulnerable, but the explosive silence speaks for itself, that these people are frightened to speak their minds, even if they feel completely different to what they are posturing privately," he said.
While Akhtar agreed, he also said that Bollywood's influence is "highly exaggerated".
"Theatre or cinema's influence is highly exaggerated. No country can claim that a revolution or a great social change came into that society because of a film."Javed Akhtar
Bhatt added, "On the ground, I think there are other more serious things which ultimately decide which particular party will rule us. And filmmakers or actors and actresses ... have a very limited role to play in creating the atmospherics."
Watch the full interview here: