Monthly Archives: MAY 2019

Should film actors join politics: The Urmila Matondkar-Sunny Deol Yardstick
02.05.19 - S Pal
Should film actors join politics: The Urmila Matondkar-Sunny Deol Yardstick

"Navjot Sidhu was also just a cricketer and a comedian. And Bhagwant Mann or Gurpreet Ghuggi were just stand up comics on middling Punjabi television shows, sometimes starring in low-budget shoddily-written Punjabi movies. If people accepted them in politics, what is wrong with Sunny Deol? After all, his films give big nationalist message."

If that is the best defence that die-hard BJP leaders are coming up with, then I have even more sympathies for one of this country's brilliant contemporary women politicians, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

The BJP had fielded her to welcome Sunny Deol into the party fold. "I am indeed very happy to receive firebrand, popular, very committed to his art, young great artist from Bollywood, Shri Sunny Deol," she had said.

So, Deol was all these things at the same time: popular, young, firebrand, committed to his art, and a great artist.

We should shelve for a different day the discussion about his being "committed to his art" and being "a great artist" because dragging in the names of Girish Karnad or Shyam Benegal or Govind Nehalani would be unfair to someone identifying himself with an uprooted hand pump, the new symbol of political connect with a people dealing with catastrophic impact of environmental destruction.
The argument about whether a film actor should venture into the electoral political arena is a no brainer. Some have no business doing so, and some enrich our politics. 
And we should immediately concede the argument that Sunny Deol enjoyed reasonable amount of popularity. He, definitely, was popular.

That leaves us with Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's claim that her party's new gift to Punjab is "young." By now, Raksha Mantri should have had some practice in basic mathematics, having calculated and recalculated the new and old prices of Rafale fighter jets, but you can settle the argument with this simple query: how far away is Sunny Deol from becoming a member of the BJP's Margdarshak Mandal? For practice sake, Ms Sitharaman should subtract Deol's age from her own. She'll not only get the correct answer, but will also feel better.

That leaves us with the BJP's biggest claim: Sunny Deol is firebrand.

How firebrand Deol is could only have been known if he had been a part of resistance movements, an advocate for dissent, a warrior in the courts for pro-people causes, someone speaking truth to power while advocating pumping more resources into the domain of culture, or been an activist on the ground in health or education or national security or panchayati raj or environment movement. He is not a Green Peace activist, has never been spotted in any protest against farmer suicides, was nowhere near the India Gate when millions had converged for Nirbhaya and for true freedom for our country's women, and was not to be spotted anywhere near Anna Hazare's stage.

Sunny Deol has not uttered a word on any of the causes. He was a part of India's film fraternity, made movies, some of them undoubtedly popular. He spoke lines written by someone else. He sang songs actually sung by someone else. And he danced steps choreographed by someone else. And that is exactly what he was supposed to do: he was doing a job that he chose to do. Sunny Deol was a film actor and this is no place or occasion to pass a judgement on his acumen in that profession. 

But many in that industry have held strongly political views, and some have often expressed these. Some from the world of films have ventured into politics, many have been part of the politics of culture, and our world is richer because they pushed the envelope and opened spaces that our politicians were afraid to go anywhere near.

Many did their politics through writing, directing films or taking up roles that prised open our minds, bit by bit. Some also straddled the world of activism. Many came into electoral politics and contributed. Some could be the envy of even the most cerebral of our citizenry. 

So the argument about whether a film actor should venture into the electoral political arena is a no brainer. Some have no business doing so, and some enrich our politics. 

Urmila Matondkar and Sunny Deol are a case in point. Both have known each other for decades now. Sunny Deol made it big with Betaab in 1983, the same year Urmila gained wide recognition in the highly acclaimed drama, Masoom.

Urmila Matondkar recently joined the Congress and is the party's candidate from Mumbai North. Most people's memory of her will be from the 1995 rom-com Rangeela, directed and produced by Ram Gopal Varma. 

People tracking the larger Indian political scenario had heard little about the political stances of either of the two — Urmila Matondkar or Sunny Deol. 

So the best one can do is to track what the two had to say once they announced their entry into politics.
Sunny Deol makes a reference to a hand that weighs 5.51156 pounds, though it is not clear exactly what kind of deformity could have been responsible for such an unfortunate condition.
That should not be difficult, particularly when it could be helpful in deciding who should enter politics or stay away from it, and why.

In one after the other interview, Urmila Matondkar has been delving in detail about her politics. She is facing some of this country's brilliant journalists on and off camera. She is fielding tough questions and making out a case for her politics.

Compare her words with the responses of our "young", "committed to his art", "great" and "firebrand" film star: "Mainoo tusi bus tang na karo bahuta..main tuhadi sewa karna chaunda...bus mainoo vote pao, mainoo jitao...main Vinod Khanna jee de kamm nu agge lai ke jaana hai."

And he also makes a reference to a hand that weighs 5.51156 pounds, though it is not clear exactly what kind of deformity could have been responsible for such an unfortunate condition. The role of the hand pump in politics, of course, is a wider area for memes, outside the scope of this article.

Here is Urmila Matondkar, when asked why she decided to join politics: "Over the last four-and-a-half, five years, there have been many issues where a normal person is forced to think about what is happening in the country....Intellectuals being killed in broad daylight — Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare — and incidents related to extreme religious intolerance that have not only grown abundantly in the country but are highlighted and even celebrated. These were very disturbing, and we are slowly moving from a democratic country to a dictatorship and that is very unsettling..."

"I believe instead of sitting passively, it is better to take a stand and do your bit before it is too late," she said.

In an interview with Barkha Dutt, she naratted how her father worked with Narendra Dabholkar and how she is associated with that movement. "I come from a family that is academically inclined, and socially and politically aware," she said. 

"How can you be an anti-national if you question the government on promises not delivered? How can it happen that all of the government schemes have been failures? The cherry on the top is the growing intolerance in society." Matondkar is not tired of tough questions, she is not tired of venturing into the slums in her constituency.

Urmila Matondkar's campaign has been by far the best in Mumbai, but she is clear what will clinch it for her: "I am not naive or stupid enough to imagine that people are just going to look at my face and vote for me. You are dealing with people’s lives, their hopes and aspirations. I have tried to generate hope and trust as a person."

Sunny Deol says he has been already living in people's hearts for decades and now all they have to do is to vote for him. 

Besides, as we all have been informed by the Hona'ble Raksha Mantri, he is "great” and "young.” If we believe our Raksha Mantri on something as sensitive as the question whether or not there has been any corruption in the Rafale fighter jet deal, then we should also believe that she finds him young and great.

Aap ka jaata hee kya hai? Nalka hee to hai!

As for whether film stars, comedians, celebrities should join politics, now you have two arguments: Urmila Matondkar and Sunny Deol. You can test anyone by either of the two scales.

N Chandra's Narasimha (1991) starred both of them. It gave Sunny Deol a larger than life imagery, and had a most hilarious angry young man song. I still find it most suitable for our times, though it felt stupid on the screen. Please feel free to sing it at all the rallies of Sunny Deol, and of Urmila Matondkar. 

Chalo is tedhe ko sidha hum aaj kare
Jo iska ilaz hain wohi ilaz kare
Kaise bhaiya kaise kare kaise kare
Aise kare aise kare aise kare
Pakad pakad khich ke pakad
Pakad pakad khich ke pakad
De dana dan hayya
Pakda gaya hain
Chor bhage na bhaiya
Pakad pakad khich ke pakad
De dana dan hayya
Pakda gaya hain
Chor bhage na bhaiya

Mar saale ko peet saale ko
Dhar saale ko, dede de saale ko
Hayya ho hayya hayya ho hayya
Hayya ho hayya hayya ho hayya

Post Script: Sunny Deol is 62-years-old, Ms Sitharaman is 59. Urmila has made no claims about being young.

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