Uddhav Thackeray is a Ghulam Ali Fan, Just Not a Fan of Pakistan
Ustaad Ghulam Ali’s tribute concert for the late Ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh, to be held in Mumbai, was cancelled recently, thanks to Shiv Sena’s strong refusal to allow the event to take place in the city. The Quint spoke exclusively to Randhir Ranjan Roy, the founder of Panache Media, the organisers of the event, to understand why the party’s anti-Pakistan sentiment hindered this cultural exchange, despite Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s assurance of providing the event full police protection.
Q: Mr Roy, we’re all aware of Shiv Sena’s anti-Pakistan sentiment and its track record of opposing cultural exchanges between the two countries. Did you not foresee their reaction to Ghulam Ali saab’s performance in Mumbai?
Randhir Ranjan Roy: Not really, we have done several shows with Ghulam Ali saab throughout India, and in Mumbai we’ve been doing this for the last three years continuously. We’ve never faced any trouble before. He is a reputed artist and in my opinion Atif Aslam and the likes are more ‘political’ than Khan saab in a sense. So I feel it’s just a matter of getting the timing wrong. Because currently, the situation at the India-Pakistan border is so bad that everyone is a bit agitated about Pakistan’s actions. Recently four Indian soldiers were killed as you know, and also seeing the cold behaviour of the Pakistani Prime Minister towards our PM at the UN, all these things we’ve been hearing about in the media. So the anger seems to be at its peak right now, probably that was the reason.
Unfortunately Ghulam Ali saab has just been a victim to this situation.
– Randhir Ranjan Roy, Founder Panache Media
Q: Why did you choose to cancel the show despite the Maharashtra CM’s assurance of providing full police protection to the artist, audience and venue?
Randhir Ranjan Roy: As an organiser I have to look after other aspects as well. Firstly from the aspect of the audience, after making this a political issue at a national level, the audiences coming for the show would feel a bit threatened and might not like to attend a show that has a security threat. They’re a very different class of people who come to watch the show. Secondly an artist of his stature, and he’s also 75 years of age, would not have the mental peace to be able to perform, given the tension around this issue. So understanding both these factors, as organisers, we took the decision to call it off right away. Especially because ghazal as a genre is supposed to be very relaxing, both to listen to as well as to perform. And that didn’t seem possible given the current scenario.
Q: Aren’t we then buckling under the pressure of just one set of people? Because the rest of the country loves his music and wants for him to perform.
Randhir Ranjan Roy: To be very honest, I was talking to Uddhav Thackeray ji just yesterday and in fact he’s also a big Ghulam Ali fan. He told me that “I’m a big fan of Ghulam Ali. I don’t have any personal issue with Ghulam Ali. Everyone including my party members listen to Ghulam Ali’s ghazals. It’s just that the country from which he hails, is creating problems at our borders and killing our soldiers. We should not support anybody from Pakistan. It’s not only about Ghulam Ali. So tomorrow, if someone else comes from Pakistan, we will not support him either”.
Q: So what about Pakistani actor Fawad Khan and singers like Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Atif Aslam, who visit regularly and are a big part of Bollywood now? How come Shiv Sena has no issues with them performing in Mumbai?
Randhir Ranjan Roy: It’s just about being victimised right now. Because you can see that Rahat Fateh Ali Khan is singing for every second Bollywood film. But also, they are not doing anything publicly in India as such. They’re doing all the recordings in Dubai or somewhere else. So I think public appearance was only Ghulam Ali saab’s. And that’s probably why they (Shiv Sena) want to send a strong message to Pakistan.
Q: Shivsena threatened to use ‘their own style’ if the concert takes place. What does that threat mean to you?
Randhir Ranjan Roy: That only Shiv Sena can clarify. I have never seen, or personally experienced ‘their style’ so I wouldn’t be able to comment on it.
We had a full house for this Jagjit Singh tribute concert as many wanted to hear Ghulam Ali, but I guess, it’s been bad luck at the last minute.
– Randhir Ranjan Roy
Q: Doesn’t your move to cancel the show signify your lack of faith in the state government and Mumbai police’s ability to safeguard the show?
Randhir Roy: I’ve been doing shows regularly in Mumbai. There have been times when the police has stood by me completely, and they’ve always been supportive. But this is our organisation’s personal decision to call off the show, and it has been taken in the interest of the public. As far as the CM and Mumbai police go, they’ve always been supportive and I’m sure we’ll do shows in the future also. But we just wanted to calculate the risk factor and hence decided to hold on to it for now.
Why take a chance with a single thing going wrong, or a single audience member getting hurt? We take that as our personal responsibility, which is why we decided to call it off.
– Randhir Ranjan Roy
Q: So will Ghulam Ali’s performance be postponed or rescheduled in the future
Randhir Roy: As of now, I’m flying to Delhi to meet him personally and see how we can take this further.