Sushant Singh Rajput’s alleged suicide has exposed the dark underbelly of Bollywood. As information unravels about how Bollywood Mafia destroyed Sushant’s career by ensuring that he loses films, outrage on social media and hushed discussion in mainstream media is increasing. Bollywood has always been in the eye of storm for accusations of nepotism, casting couch, etc.
More than nepotism, grave charges of spinning anti-India pro-Islamist-Leftist narrative have raised concerns. Films like Article 15 converted OBC rapists of Dalit girls into Brahmins. This was done to give a Leftist anti-Brahmin twist to the story. Same is the case with many other films and now even web series. The latest example is Patal Lok where the story revolves around showing the majority community in a bad light. Same movies and web series will never gather the courage to speak honestly about acts by one specific minority community. Similarly, films like Raees and Haseena Parkar were intelligently scripted to whitewash crimes of terrorists and project them as innocents or patriots or victims.
Similarly, movies like Haider furthered anti-India narrative. How did these films get censor board clearance? Can artistic creativity and freedom get a free pass to distort facts, especially in sensitive areas like national security and integrity? This can create controversy because India is a democratic country with everybody having the freedom of expression.
If this phenomenon of why movies are scripted in this particular manner is investigated, it stops at money flow. No film can be made without money. There is money chasing scripts that can create a divide in the society and the country. How does it work? Everybody is aware of Dawood Ibrahim funding Bollywood for a very long time. In the last two decades things have worsened. Now Dawood is a front of ISI and is efficiently used by Pakistan and other Islamist groups to run their propaganda.
India has become a playground for various foreign interest groups like global Left and China, who are pumping money into films and web series. In 2008, George Soros bought a meager 3% stake in Anil Ambani’s Reliance Entertainment for US$ 100 mn. There would be many more people who are directly or indirectly funding such divisive films. Do we know all foreign sources funding movies and web series in India?
Another way of funding movies is through film festivals and awards ecosystem. This is in the form of grants given to select filmmakers to create films that serve their purpose. Premiering the film in various film festivals and ensuring it gets awards overseas, makes the film look credible for the gullible masses. Very subtly the propaganda is pushed down their throats, without them even realising the same.
Nominating Indian films for Oscars and other awards is a way to create the credibility of directors, producers, actors, scripts, etc. compliant with the ecosystem. This gives recognition to those artists and strength to the underlying propaganda. This is used as a building block for award winners to raise funds for their forthcoming films. The glaring example is a mediocre film like Gully Boy—that shows India as a backward country, was sent to Oscars and failed to get nominated. How did it happen? Check the people on the committee selecting films from India. Don’t we have credible people to select good films from India that can get nominated in Oscars? Why isn’t Oscars used as a platform to present India’s side of the story and India’s narrative?
Underworld and other funds can flow in films and web series either through hawala route or through legitimate formal means like Soros investing in Reliance Entertainment. It is impossible to plug this route because slush money can flow through legitimised corporate structures set up as production houses or venture capital funds. Steps can be taken to force transparency about sources funding various films and web series. The most crucial link in the chain is the control over distribution and exhibition. In 2010, India had around 10,000 single-screen cinema halls and about 800 multiplex screens. Approximately 60% of the total single screens were in four South Indian states and around 10% in Uttar Pradesh. In 2019, India has about 9,600 screens with nearly 3,000 multiplex screens. This shows that in the last decade more than 3,600 single-screen cinema halls have either shut down or got converted into multiplexes. According to global consulting firm E&Y, multiplexes now account for 50% of the box office collections in the country. This shows a slow and steady transition from unorganised widely dispersed single screen industry to organised cartelised multiplex industry.
Bollywood Mafia controls the same with extreme impunity. Can any pro-India movie get released and get adequate number of screens across the country? The answer is a big NO. Between three large production houses, they control a significant majority of screens across the country. Multiplexes are a natural choice of producers, due to transparency in reporting box office collections. Dwindling single screens and the rise of multiplex chains have increased the stranglehold of Bollywood Mafia and ensures that outsiders’ films are not released, or they don’t get adequate screens. Maharashtra and Bengal Governments have ensured that Marathi and Bengali films get screen space in multiplexes. Similar modus operandi is required to promote films made by new and small filmmakers.
Everybody is aware of Dawood Ibrahim funding Bollywood for a long time. In the last two decades things have worsened. Now Dawood is a front for ISI and is used by Pakistan and Islamist groups to run their propaganda
Along with legislation and trade practices, India needs huge investments in multiplex chains. Compare India with China. In 2010, India has around 11,000 screens, whereas China had about 6,250 screens. In 2019, India has around 9,600 screens and China has around 70,000 screens. China has one screen per 20,000 odd people, compared to 1 screen per 1,44,000 odd people in India. New investments by independent investors, who are not part of this cabal, is essential. It will not just create a platform for new talent to exhibit their work, but also break the exclusive control of this cabal in distributing films.
Bollywood urgently needs an alternate team of talented professionals who can identify, nurture, and promote talent, identify good scripts, create pro-India production and distribution houses making nationalist content. This fresh crop of talent, making excellent films with a strong nationalist message and equally good film making can weaken the stranglehold of Bollywood Mafia. Without talent and content, Indian viewers will be forced to fall back on the default system: Bollywood Mafia.
(The writer is a Chartered Accountant by qualification and a Corporate Finance and Investment Professional. He is also the author of “Diagnosing GST for Doctors” published by CNBC Books 18)