The Extremist Culture Of Extreme Boycotting And Why Should We Care?

Film boycotting movements have made us question the intolerant nature of the nation. Let’s deep dive into what effect it has and why it matters? 

Who isn’t aware of the famous Besharam Rang controversy? The Shahrukh Khan and Deepika Padukone starrer film released its first song, Besharam Rang on 12th December. In the music video, the duo can be seen dancing on a beach. Some people found themselves outraged by the color of clothes, which Deepika Padukone wore in a particular scene of the song. Soon after the song’s release, hashtags like #Boycottpathaan were trending.”Social media is often driven by a narrowness of view making it divisive and destructive. Cinema brings to the fore humanity’s immense capacity for compassion, unity and brotherhood,” is what Shahrukh Khan responded with amidst the ongoing controversy. If you log in to your Twitter account once in a while, you must be aware of all the boycotting and anger people show over insignificant things. Whether it’s a movie, a book, advertisement or even a person, no one is spared from this phenomenon. Being outraged by things has become more prevalent than ever in India but where did it all begin and why does it matter?

Boycott Movements
Boycott Movements
Where did it all begin? 

The culture of “Boycotting” started in Ireland around the 1880s. Charles Cunningham was a British land tax collector whose tyrannical ways of doing things got him in trouble. Farmers and peasants rose against him and started the moment of Charles Cunningham Boycott  and hence we got the word. Since then, a lot of movements have used the term to show their resistance. One example of it can be Mahatma Gandhi’s civil disobedience moment that United people against an authoritarian regime.

The contemporary India 

While boycott culture has helped as an effective tool of expression historically, the wide spectrum of it has become haunting for Indian Cinema today. As intolerance in the country is on rise, using the word “boycott” has become more prevalent than ever. Not long ago, we saw how people were urging on social media to avoid watching Brahmastra as the movie supports nepotism and hurts religious sentiments. The internet was split into two after the release of the film. The first group claimed that the film couldn’t draw enough crowd and others claimed that it had. Since the film industry has always been notoriously opaque about the profit and losses, understanding the box office numbers is not an easy affair. But let’s be honest, we have seen a number of movies finding themselves in controversy last year which includes, Akshay Kumar’s Raksha Bandhan and Samrat Prithviraj, Aamir Khan’s Forrest Gump remake “Laal Singh Chaddha, Vijay Deverakonda’s Liger, Kangana Ranaut’s, Dhakad, Anurag Kashyap’s Dobaaraa and the list goes on. Films have been subjected to moral policing before but the trend seems to have risen in recent years.

Boycott Movements
Boycott Movements
Why does it matter? 

After everything we have seen happening so far, we witnessed a culture of intolerance and extremism gaining momentum in the past decade. How we use the internet and technology has taken a drastic shift over the past decade and changed how we connect and interact with each other. Most of these boycotting trends originate from extremism, intolerance, hate and misinformation which itself is a problem. Most of the time these campaigns are fired up by communalist, jingoistic, and misogynistic opinions and they do have the potential to shape perception of people who are being influenced by them. If we talk about the evolution of cinema in India, we have come a long way and tried hard to watch this industry experiment a little more but if intolerance is allowed to prevail, we doubt if we will get to see much experimentation in future.

Apart from this, if we take the sheer size of the industry into consideration, the stakes are high. India produces over 2000 movies annually which makes it one of the largest entertainment hubs in the world. The Indian entertainment and media industry is expected to reach a revenue of Rs. 4.3 trillion by 2026, according to a recent PwC report.

The numbers are high and so are the risks, the rise of intolerance and boycott culture in Bollywood are sure to affect the films made in India. The factor of risk can make producers question their budgets which will ultimately be compromising with the quality of content and jobs in the industry. And a lot of people who directly or indirectly rely on this industry will be affected by any drastic change. 

Boycott Movements
Boycott Movements
What else matters?

The nature and effect of these protests are quite difficult to understand. Some movies did really well at the box office despite the extreme boycotting and the hashtags trending against them. Such movies include recent releases like Pathaan and Brahmastra. If we talk about movies that didn’t do well like Aamir Khan’s “Laal Singh Chaddha”, the film concept was weak to begin with.

We can conclude that the audience is going more after the quality content and such consumers, to some extent, are unbothered by the extremist reviews. But these boycott trends do help them in getting free publicity. Apart from this, going to movie theaters has become a really expensive affair these days and that could be the reason why the theaters are often facing losses.

On the occasion of Cinema day when tickets at cheap prices were offered, the crowd that we saw at theaters was in blown numbers and thus, we can say that part of the reason why people are not preferring to sit in theaters is economic. For many people out there, getting an OTT subscription seems much more economical.

As we mentioned above, these trends often have communalist and misogynistic roots and that can impact the culture on a bigger level if it prevails. The whole entertainment industry is trying to stand up again after the heavy losses it has been through during the pandemic but things are not looking easy amidst this hostile environment. 

Also Read – BBC documentary “India: The Modi Question.”

References – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boycott

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