Bhakt backlash

We hear a lot about the BJP and RSS bhakts—how they are so faithful and so rabid. But, there is another army out there that has got them firmly beat. Unquestionably, Salman Khan has the most largest and the most rabidly loyal fan following in the country. Unlike say, the Indian cricket team fans, who turn mercilessly on their idols the moment they lose a match, the Bhai-bhakts are staunchly supportive of their God. They copy his hairstyles and his sunglass styles, they defend his various indefensible antics (both on-screen and off screen), they faithfully sing the praises of Bhai’s latest girlfriend, whoever she may be, their pecs, biceps and deltoids, wax and wane according to his.

Which is why it was both so startling and so heartening to see a hashtag like #wedontwantDabangg3 trend over the last couple of days. Apparently, Race 3 (a family-feud franchise famous for Saif Ali Khan, Abbas-Mustan, and the hit song Allah Duhai hai) is such an execrable pastiche of action film tropes that even the most servile of Salman’s faithful fans have finally revolted.

(They are worried that the just-announced Dabangg 3 is going to go the same way as Race 3, hence the trending hashtag.)

Illustration: Bhaskaran

The protest has been voiced in the least hurtful possible manner, of course—it blames the ghastly, glittering, diamond encrusted turd of a film on Bhai’s generous nature and large heart, which causes him to ‘give breaks’ to sycophantic directors, indulge in shameless nepotism featuring family members and current and ex-girlfriends—but they have done it, nevertheless. We love you, Bhai, these bhai-bhakts have sternly warned their over-fed hero, but, please stop making these mindless movies featuring a rapidly ageing beefcake, with scripts as flimsy as the button fastenings on Jacqueline Fernandez’s blouses, bloated budgets, cheesy dialogues, an untalented support cast, and gratuitous car explosions.

Instead, just work hard and produce cohesive, quality films like Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Sultan, and the first Dabangg—with top-notch directors, themes and scripts—and you can be assured of our continued love.

Do not get arrogant, do not get lazy, do not get greedy, and do not forget what made us love you in the first place or we will pull out the red carpet from under your feet.

Do not take us for granted, basically.

Advice that the deities venerated by various other bhakt armies would do well to heed. In these churning times, you cannot take devotion for granted. If Salman bhakts—the very epitome of fawning devotion—have grown questioning and restive, and are demanding unreasonable, previously-unthinkable things like script, logic and (gasp!) acting from their God, then the BJP-RSS bhakt brigade and the conglomerate of kiss-ups at the Congress party headquarters may follow this intoxicatingly heady example (fevers spread quickly on the internet) and turn on their Gods, too. The smell of mutiny is definitely everywhere.

With elections studding the entire coming year, this is a good time to listen to feedback, introspect, and remember what made you a beloved leader in the first place. What lies at the core of your appeal? What was your maine pyaar kiya moment, your dabanggi debut? What promises made people buy your tickets, vote for you, wear your colours and want to be a part of your dream? What is the real meat, and what is just gravy and garnish? Rehashed item numbers and slow-motion walkaways from exploding sports cars won’t hack it any longer. The paying public is demanding a quality performance and it is time to deliver or get knocked out of the race. Truly, Allah duhai hai.

Chauhan is an author and advertising professional.