Kolkata/New Delhi: Actor Amitabh Bachchan’s comments in Kolkata — on “questions being raised on freedom of expression” — have sparked a Twitter fight between Bengal’s Trinamool Congress and the Centre’s ruling BJP, bitter rivals who accuse each other of “tyranny”.
The fight comes in the backdrop of BJP leaders’ boycott calls against ‘Pathaan’, the upcoming movie by Shah Rukh Khan, who was on the stage at the Kolkata film fest besides Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Trinamool MP Nussrat Jahan today hit back at BJP IT Cell head Amit Malviya, who had tweeted: “Amitabh Bachchan’s words couldn’t have been more prophetic since they were spoken in Kolkata, with Mamata Banerjee on the dais. It is like holding a mirror to the tyrant.”
Ms Jahan quote-tweeted it and said “signs of tyrannical rule include banning movies, detaining journalists, and punishing common people for speaking the truth”.
An actor before she became a politician, she accused the BJP of “capping” freedoms “while Mr Amit Maviya is busy accusing others”.
Mr Bachchan, known to avoid anything remotely controversial, on Thursday spoke about British era censorship and communalism, and then said, with Shah Rukh Khan on stage with him: “Even now — and I’m sure my colleagues on stage would agree — questions are being raised on civil liberties and freedom of expression.”
Mr Malviya immediately shared the comment with a sarcastic remark, calling Mamata Banerjee a “tyrant under whose watch India witnessed the bloodiest post poll violence”. After last year’s bitter poll contest in West Bengal, the BJP has been accusing Trinamool cadres of attacking BJP supporters.
At the nub of the latest row, however, are BJP and other Hindutva organisations’ calls to boycott ‘Pathaan’ over what they call “love jihad”, pointing towards the Hindu actress and Muslim actor’s pairing and their “saffron” and “green” attire in the song ‘Besharam Rang’. In Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, ruled by the BJP, its leaders have threatened to have the movie banned.
The film’s makers have not reacted, but Shah Rukh Khan did appear to address it in his speech at the Kolkata film fest on Thursday: “The collective narrative of our times is shaped by social media. Contrary to the belief that social media will affect cinema negatively, I believe cinema has an even more important role to play now.”
“I read somewhere that negativity increases social media consumption and thereby increases its commercial value as well. Such pursuits enclose the collective narrative, making it divisive and destructive,” Mr Khan added.