Are you sure you want to #SayNoToBollywood?

Published: November 8, 2014
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We should not forget that the things that we want to boycott have become a part of our society and our economy. PHOTO: TWITTER

It has become quite common for any news headline to become a hot topic of discussion over social media. The same happened in the form of the prevalent tensions between India and Pakistan regarding the Line of Control (LoC) ceasefire violations. Pakistan’s reaction to this was creating a hashtag pushing people to boycott Bollywood. Thus, a debate commenced on social media, with the hashtag #SayNoToBollywood being one of the trending initiatives in Pakistan.

Though it is natural to have a reaction, considering the hostility from the other side, the hashtag itself actually raises a lot of questions about the influence of Bollywood in our society. As shallow as it seems, it makes one wonder as to what extent Bollywood has penetrated in our country in general and in our society in specific. In that context, there are many relevant questions that need to be addressed before we proceed with the boycott.

We all know how fond our people are of watching the latest Bollywood releases. We give them a huge business, don’t we? Boycotting Bollywood would mean stopping ourselves from going to cinemas to watch their successful productions. If that is the solution, then are we ready to ban Bollywood movies in Pakistan?

Furthermore, embargoing Bollywood would mean saying no to Bollywood songs as well. That means, we would have to stop buying music CDs, stop downloading their music and stop watching and listening to Bollywood songs that our music channels keep playing. Even our local radio channels play Bollywood songs day and night. Even our wedding ceremonies include Bollywood songs to a certain extent, with our Mehendis revolving around them. Are we really prepared to shun their music altogether and changing our wedding trends?

Every few months, we look forward to their award ceremonies which our private and cable TV channels air every now and then. Are we going to stop anticipating watching those as well?

And let’s not forget that our TV commercials, mobile ads and lawn billboards etcetera, endorse Bollywood actors as well. So should we stop watching all the TV channels that are running those ads? Or are we just going to boycott all those brands that are promoting their products via Bollywood actors and actresses?

Last but not least, boycotting Bollywood would mean holding back our own artists from expanding their horizons across the border. Are we ready to disown our own people for that matter? Because on one hand, we encourage our actors and singers to make a name for themselves in Bollywood, make our nation proud, while on the other, we do not want to have anything to do with their industry?

Saying no to Bollywood is similar to another boycott that was seen trending on social media in Pakistan; boycotting Israeli products. No one is questioning the justification of the boycott as the world has undoubtedly seen the sheer brutality of the Israelis on the Palestinians from time to time. But the point is, do these boycotts really have an impact on us?

A famous fast-food chain is one of the brands that is Jewish owned and was declared to be one of those things that should be boycotted as part of saying no to Israeli products. But let’s be honest and ask ourselves, did you stop going and eating there after the recent Gaza massacre to show your support?

I don’t think so.

CocaCola is yet another very popular brand which made it to the boycott list. Wouldn’t boycotting CocaCola then mean boycotting Coke Studio as well, since it is promoting and being sponsored by the same brand? Have we protested against the on-going Coke Studio season because of the recent Gaza carnage? Well, if that was the case, we wouldn’t have had the #CokeStudio7 hashtag trending on social media either.

We cannot deny the fact that Bollywood plays a huge part in our society and our lives. We have Bollywood tunes playing at our weddings, in our cars, in our markets, even in our news bulletins! And if you look around you, you will notice that many of our shopkeepers have also named their products after Bollywood movies. I remember coming across a shopkeeper who was selling some “Devdas jewellery” to his customers in a famous market in Lahore. Are we to boycott that too? Or are we going to make the excuse that the actor in the movie is Muslim and hence, it would be okay to watch the film? The singers in Coke Studio are Pakistani so it is okay not to boycott it. There will be dozens of people uprooted from jobs if you act upon something like this. Yet, we use it as a hashtag so carelessly? Do you see the magnitude of it? Can you reasonably reduce this entire issue in to a hashtag? In fact, can you use your liberty on social media so carelessly so as to start something you yourself will not be able to conform to?

All I can say is be careful what you wish for.

It would be absurd to say something only because of the hatred we have for the country to which Bollywood belongs. The impact of the same industry is so vast that even when #SayNoToBollywood was trending with social media warriors claiming to show their “support”, our people were running to the theatres to watch the latest Bollywood release Bang Bang’. That right there was enough to prove how we make a fool out of ourselves.

If we want to boycott anything, we must prove through our actions by practicing what we keep protesting against on social media. A mere discussion for the sake of spewing hate is useless. At the same time, we should not forget that the things that we want to boycott have become a part of our society and our economy.

Let’s be honest and talk about things that we can eventually turn into reality because so far, we have not proved anything to be actually happening. So let’s not make a fool of ourselves by boycotting companies, industries and countries only for the sake of having trends and hashtags, which, in reality, have no plans of practical implementation whatsoever.

If you are not prepared to handle the results, don’t start something you cannot finish.

Kiran Wali

Kiran Wali

A business graduate working in the corporate sector. She tweets @KiranW_ (twitter.com/KiranW_)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.