Posted by : Amitha Amarasinghe Tuesday, June 1, 2010
From my childhood, I have heard the legend of Raavana in the Raamayan, which always signified the India-Sri Lanka relationships from the ancient age. But, who would have thought the legendary “Raavan” has a role to play in popular Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan’s decision to skip the forthcoming IIFA Award ceremony in Sri Lanka? Even though Big B is not going to tell you that is the case, I will tell you why I am saying such a thing so confidently. First, read on!
The news that Bollywood movie maestro Amitabh Bachchan skipping the upcoming IIFA event in Colombo brought disappointment to many Bollywood fans in Sri Lanka. Big B today announced his decision to skip the event, citing his sensitivity towards “everyone’s sentiments”. Before Big B’s announcement today, his son Abhishek Bachchan and daughter in law Aishwarya Rai (Bachchan) has announced that, they are going to skip the event due to their commitments with “other assignments”.
When it was first announced that this year’s IIFA is going to be held in Sri Lanka; some extremist groups in Tamil Nadu staged protests against the event. These objections and protest campaigns are a part of an ongoing “boycott Sri Lanka” campaign by the supporters of former terrorist group LTTE, who were successfully defeated by the Sri Lankan forces, to bring peace to the island nation after a three decades long civil war. It was a bitter war with bloodshed from both sides, but in the end both Sinhalese and Tamils, living in Sri Lanka welcomed the end of the civil war with fresh hopes and much optimism.
But that wasn’t the same case for the Tamil Diaspora and the Tamil Nadu politicians, who were largely motivated by the interests of the LTTE terrorists, but not by the interests of the general Tamil people living in northern parts of Sri Lanka. The defeat of the LTTE was a huge loss for the Tamil Diaspora, because they lost the rationalization for seeking “political asylum” in the developed world. If there is no civil war, why would someone seek political asylum? On the other hand for the Tamil Nadu politicians, the Sri Lankan Tamil issue had been a “vote machine” in elections during past few decades. Overall, the defeat of the LTTE brought frustration for both these groups. They responded by launching a new allegation of “mass genocide” against the Sri Lankan government, and brought in an argument to the international community that the Sri Lankan government did mass genocide the ethnic Tamils in Sri Lanka during the last stages of the civil war. The Diaspora, Tamil Nadu politicians and few NGO’s in Sri Lanka fueled this new movement of “boycott Sri Lanka”, targeting the two most successful industries driving the Sri Lankan economy; finished garments, and tourism.
Appeal to boycott IIFA event in Colombo is a part of their coordinated attack on Sri Lanka tourism. The Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau is a chief sponsor for the IIFA Sri Lanka, and they plan to boost the tourism industry of Sri Lanka by gaining attention towards the country, among a million market who are expected to watch the IIFA events on TV.
The Tamil Nadu extremists’ attempt became partly successful, when most of the Tamil movie stars vowed to boycott the event in Colombo. Among them are the popular film director Mani Ratnam, superstars Rajinikanth and Kamal Hassan. The extremist groups surrounded the Mumbai home of Amitabh Bachchan, asking him to put pressure on IIFA organizers to change the venue. As a response to these objections, Big B earlier announced that he is concerned about the sentiments of the protest groups. Few weeks after these incidents, Abishek and Aishwarya openly mentioned that they are going to skip the event due to other commitments.
The three Bachchans are very much popular among the Sri Lankan Bollywood fans. Big B himself is a very much popular star in Sri Lanka for several decades, admired by fans of many age layers. When the local news webiste DailyMirror.lk posted the news of Amitabh’s decision to skip the IIFA event in Colombo, the responses from the disappointed local fans sounded too aggressive. One fan commented, “It is hard to be the greatest. To be bravest it is even more hard” while another one commenting “So much dance for nothing....Coward.....!!!”.
In my opinion, Big B's (and his family’s) decision to skip the IIFA event has nothing to do with bravery or cowardice. It appears to me that the decision made by Big B is totally a business decision. When he say “everyone’s sentiments” he really meant the sentiments of Abhishek and Aishwarya, who are playing the lead roles in the upcoming Hindi-Tamil co-production “Raavan”.
Raavan (and the Tamil version Raavanan) is scheduled to launch globally on 18th June, and it is expected to be a bigger hit in Tamil Nadu, than in northern parts of India. I have never seen a Bollywood movie before, which spends this much of money and effort on pre-launch propaganda. The movie is heavily promoted on social media too, and on almost all possible channels. The movie is on Youtube, on Facebook and it even has a Twitter hash tag going on. The film is being heaviliy promoted on Big B’s blog, and on Abhishek’s Twitter account.This is forecasted to be one of the mega successes in the history of Indian film industry.
Extremist groups has threaten to boycott the movie "Raavanan" in South India, if any of its crew take part in the IIFA event in Sri Lanka. The success of Raavan, will eventually turn Abhishek into the next superstar in Bollywood, following his father’s footprints. The movie will also be a critical juncture for Aishwarya’s career in South Indian film industry (which now makes virtually more money than the Bollywood), as she plays the main role not only in th e Hindi version of the movie, but also in the Tamil version. Aishvarya had worked with many Tamil productions even in the past, and she has become equally popular in the South Indian territory. Analyzing these factors; a boycott of the movie “Raavanan” in Chennai and Tami Nadu will shatter the dreams of many people who involved in this mega production. Several Tamil Nadu film producers have stated that in the future they won’t work with any Bollywood star who is going to take part in IIFA in Colombo. Therefore, it is a wise business decision for any Bollywood star to skip the IIFA and maintain a good relationship with the South Indian film industry, which is promising them larger sums of money. If we take a close look at the list of people who are skipping the IIFA in Colombo, the list includes many of the members of Raavan crew, including the producer-director Mani Ratnam, and several others who regularly work with Tamil producers in Chennai.
In the final analysis, there is no reason for Sri Lankans to be worried about Bachchan’s decision to skip IIFA. It is unfair to label Bachchan as an LTTE sympathizer, which he is not. He is never going to be an enemy of Sri Lanka. All he did was what any father would do for a son. He just made a business decision, which helps the careers of his son and the daughter in law. He was right to say, “The sentiments of all must be respected” as he meant the sentiments of his son and daughter in law in particular.