By Kahini Iyer Jul. 31, 2018
The Fanney Khan song “Mere Achhe Din Kab Aayenge” is now BJP-approved. The lyrics have been suitably changed to “Mere Achche Din Ab Aaye Re”. The party might as well use it as its 2019 slogan.
What do India and a Bollywood film about a starving artist have in common? A dearth of the promised “Achche Din”.
Last week, when Atul Manjrekar’s Fanney Khan, released a song titled “Mere Achhe Din Kab Aayenge”, the film crew was unaware that it would incur the wrath of the BJP. Did they not get the memo that Kamal & Co have copyrighted the two most famous words in BJP history?
A remake of the Belgian satire Everybody’s Famous!, the film has Anil Kapoor playing the titular role of a yesteryear singer, who works as a cab driver but secretly dreams of making his daughter a singing celebrity. In the “Achhe Din” song, the lyrics are intended to illustrate a character arc where Kapoor’s Fanney wonders if his unfulfilled dream will ever come true.
But Indian internet users had other plans, and took to exploiting its lyrics to troll PM Narendra Modi’s 2014 election slogan. As we all know, if there is one thing the BJP takes seriously, it’s the trolls. Even while the country reels in the aftermath of violence against women and lynchings, to them, the greatest crime ever committed is questioning the veracity of their promises. Even if it’s in the form of an innocent song.
You can probably predict what happened next.
Just 10 days after the song released, the film’s makers were forced to pull it down because “the song was getting politicised needlessly” and because “the producers got a few calls from people in high places”. A new version of the song with a persuasive title was released two days ago. No prizes for guessing the correction: The BJP-approved song is now called “Mere Achche Din Ab Aaye Re”. Might as well use it as the party’s 2019 slogan.
Manjrekar, of course, has rubbished reports of pressure from the government. He claimed that there were always two versions of the song. Sure. His argument would have been a whole lot more convincing had the original version of the song not been promptly pulled down. But who can blame Manjrekar for wanting to avoid a #FanneyBan or having to release a hostage video, like Karan Johar and Sanjay Leela Bhansali?
It’s not even the first time a film has had to bow before the “alleged” demands of the BJP either. Last year, Tamil film Mersal was hauled up for criticising GST and PM Modi. The end result? The makers of Mersal had to cut out a 2.5-minute sequence, even after the CBFC had cleared it. And, just this week, Mission: Impossible Fallout grabbed headlines for censoring the K-word.
But who can blame Manjrekar for wanting to avoid a #FanneyBan or having to release a hostage video, like Karan Johar and Sanjay Leela Bhansali?
It’s long been clear that any criticism of the government, whether in the movies or other media, is no longer acceptable in our democracy. But if a song about a middle-class cabbie, who like a former chaiwallah, yearns for more, can threaten the BJP’s delicate grasp on the national narrative, where do Indian filmmakers go from here? In an industry that is forced to align itself with the ruling government’s arbitrary whims, will it become impossible to release any film that stops short of singing its praises?
As the list of BJP-forbidden words, deeds, and thoughts is only growing longer and more absurd, it wouldn’t be surprising if the only films we are left with in 2020 are Akshay Kumar’s greatest hits, and the 18th installment of Housefull. That and remakes of that great biopic, Chalo Jeete Hain.
Kahini spends an embarrassing amount of time eating Chinese food and watching Netflix. For proof that she is living her #bestlife, follow her on Instagram @kahinii.