One can charge Rajiv Gandhi with the usual stupidity and naivety that is now being associated with Gandhi(Nehru) family, but there is at least one action which should be credited to the then young Prime Minister of India. What did he do that now sets him apart from the other Gandhi family members? It was not bringing computers to India as they would have arrived sooner or later. But it was the fact that he allowed screening of Ramayana on Doordashan in 1987 to help propagate cultural values among Indians. Whether Rajiv Gandhi himself pioneered this Hindu revival is questionable given that his government first appeased the Muslims in the Shah Bano case and only later turned to Hindu appeasement.
But Rajiv Gandhi is not important for this article, what is rather important is to understand the role of mass-media in defining cultural values. No amount of public education or newspapers had achieved what Ramayana and Mahabharata achieved through one hour telecast every week for few years. It rekindled a new life in the Hindu soul that was devastated from the slavery of past centuries. Not only BJP, a non-Muslim appeasing party, rode to power riding this new Hindu renaissance but it also led to bringing down of Babri Masjid and changing the passive Hindu bania image for some time. It was very well reflected in the opposition by the leftists who were taken aback by the popularity of these serials. The reaction of the then Director General of Doordarshan, Bhaskar Ghose, a leftist makes it amply clear:
There was far too much ritual and not nearly enough story. He (Sagar) had used the worst extras he could get, because he was doing it on the cheap.
The leftists are master at propaganda and know very well the importance of rituals in upholding cultural unity. Bhaskar Ghose, the father of Sagarika Ghose, tried every possible way to kill Ramayana half way, but sadly for him the mass hysteria around Ramayana had grown out of control by then and untameable by any official writ. The position of these epics in Hindu psyche was further cemented by Mahabharat which was aired after Ramayana in 1988.
But why are these events from three decades ago relevant today? They are relevant because even though we have seen the rise of SM, most of the thoughts are still seeded by the culture as depicted in the mass media. The left understands it well and has its foot-soldiers placed in all the high echelons of power. The outrage against appointing Gajendra Chauhan as chairman of FTII (Film and Television Institute) should be seen under this light. Although his appointment like any other appointment can be debated, but the high decibel campaign that was unleashed on him can only be explained by the heart-burn of career leftists.
While Hindus are becoming increasingly assertive of their identity and rise of Rajiv Malhotra and other scholars have given them the required intellectual fire-power to support the Hindu cause, the mass-media infiltration is going on at snail’s pace. Intellectual discourse is very important but one can only disregard influence of mass-media at his own peril. Hindus had assertive scholars like Sitaram Goel and Arun Shourie even during the dark ages of early Congress rule, but the Ramayana and Mahabharata played a much bigger role in awakening the Hindus and build a consolidated Hindu voting bloc for the first time in India. Intellectual discussion will fail to realise its objectives unless it achieves active domination over mass media.
The domination of popular culture is not only important from the point of achieving current political objectives but also to create a sense of cultural unity and prepare future leaders. Popular culture created by mass media is the stepping stone towards developing an ecosystem which will then generate the next generation of pro-Hindu intellectuals. The role of Amar Chitra Katha and Panchatantra stories has been paramount in helping many grown up Hindus to rediscover their roots after being brainwashed by leftist school books for years. The closest current example of such an effort to capture young minds is the animated series called Chota Bheem, whose character is partially lifted off from the Bheem of Mahabharata. India has abundant treasure trove of literature to dig into, but the only problem is that this potential for generating popular mass media has not been yet exploited. Also, unlike Abrahamic religions, Hinduism does not sell victim-hood and has many positive stories to tell and many super-heroes who would give Batman and Superman a run for their money.
After having understood the benefits of infiltrating mass media, the only analysis that remains is to look at the current state Hindu representation in the mass media. While on the intellectual front one can boast about Rajiv Malhotra as one of the guiding forces, there are hardly any popular figures to recount on the mass media front. There are many right leaning media personnels but most of them restrict themselves to economic libertarianism without much sympathy for Hindu identity. Zee News has finally started to push an alternate narrative on the news front but it is almost impossible to find pro-Hindu voices in the movie industry.
Anupam Kher is making a lot of noise lately but he plays by the rules of the left and does not command the same fan following as the Khans. Given the complete dominance of the Khans in Bollywood for the last two decades, does it come as a surprise that Hindus are forced to gulp down the insults to Hindu icons as in PK? The chanting of pro-Azadi slogans in JNU are the manifestation of this loose control that Hindus had had over the Muslim-Left dominated popular culture as amply demonstrated through movies like Haider. Bollywood is often called the national movie industry but doesn’t it shock you that it hardly brings out any movies that can build national image or cement cultural identity. The stories about our martyrs are on an ignore list, while the industry keep pumping out inane trash on glorifying mafias. Also, it is impossible to ignore the demographic damage done by the Khans as they more or less have succeeded in portraying the harmless nice Muslim guy image in the popular culture, making girls swoon over Muslim men and become susceptible for love-jihad.
So what is the way forward? Well, burning down theatres showing Haider or boycotting Dangal are only short term measures. The real way forward is shown by S.S. Rajmouli through his epic Baahubali. There is no other recent movie which has portrayed Hinduism in such glory. Given how well it did on the Hindi box office despite being a Telugu movie clearly shows that people are fed up of watching old midgets sold as heroes by Bollywood. If Hindus need to mainstream their culture and make it cool, they need to get their hands dirty and churn out people of all artistic hues. They need more Rajmoulis as well as more Amish Tripathis. This movement which has been building up unconsciously for too long, should be pursued at much faster pace and given some covert state patronage. There is no reason to stop and get contented just by erasing the left agenda from school books. PM Modi- are you listening?