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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Bollywood plays its part in India election season dominated by Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is widely expected to win multi-phase national elections that begin on April 19, partly thanks to his consistent wooing of the majority community as well as to strong economic growth and handouts.

A Bollywood film about young Indian women recruited by Islamic State has sparked renewed controversy ahead of India’s elections, with the opposition saying its screening on national TV on Friday night could “sow seeds of religious animosity”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is widely expected to win multi-phase national elections that begin on April 19, partly thanks to his consistent wooing of the majority community as well as to strong economic growth and handouts.

Read more: Bollywood Actress Kangana Ranaut Joins Politics, Nominated as BJP Candidate

The BJP has also fielded many actors in the elections, votes from which will be counted on June 4.

But Bollywood’s involvement in the election takes a complicated turn on Friday night when “The Kerala Story”, set in the southern coastal state of the same name that is run by an opposition party, is aired on government-owned national broadcaster Doordarshan.

The small-budget movie, a surprise hit since its release last summer, follows three women who are indoctrinated and convert to Islam from Hinduism and are then sent to Islamic State camps in Afghanistan.

Critics say the film incites negative sentiments against India’s minority Muslim community.

As Doordarshan is free for consumers, the channel reaches many homes right across the country.

Read more: Fatima Bhutto slams Bollywood actors celebrating destruction of Babri Mosque

“Doordarshan is not an agency to undertake communal campaigns for BJP candidates,” Kerala’s chief minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, said in a statement regarding the airing of the film.

“Secular Kerala will stand united in resisting such subversive attempts aimed at fostering communal discord.”

The main opposition Congress party has also spoken out against the planned airing.

The federal ministry for information and broadcasting, which runs Doordarshan, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A BJP minister said the screening had nothing to do with politics.