The reverberations of Amitabh Bachchan‘s blog comments on the Academy Award-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire are now being felt in the “cesspool” of Indian journalism.
In his reaction to the movie, Bachchan wrote in January:
“If SM projects India as [a] third-world, dirty, underbelly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots, let it be known that a murky underbelly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations.”
That prompted a column in The Times of India by its in-house satirist Jug Suraiya on March 2.
Suraiya wrote that the reason people like Bachchan were angry with SM was not because it showed the world how pitifully poor India was, but because it revealed how culpable all of us were in the “continuance of poverty”.
“The real Slumdog divide is not between the haves and the have-nots; it’s between the hopers and the hope-nots: those who hope to cure the disease of poverty by first of all recognising its reality, and those who, dismissing it as a hopeless case, would bury it alive by pretending it didn’t exist.”
All very harmless, boilerplate stuff, but a month later, on April 3, Bachchan chose to respond to Suraiya with a long rejoinder that attacked the journalist.
“I accuse the journalist Jug Suraiya of failing his professional ethical code of conduct by means of wilful error in the collection of facts…. He should be thoroughly ashamed of himself, not only as a professional journalist, but as a human being too. Mere opinion and ill-supported prejudice are contemptible in both species.
“My blog did not ‘spark off the current round of controversy on India’s poverty’… Nor am I ashamed of anything about my country. I may be highly critical in judgement, as any citizen of any nation should be, of the society to which I hold allegiance. In this light, I do not find that material poverty in India is ‘a terrible family secret’ as Jug Suraiya alleges.”
Now, Suriaya has hit back in the latest issue of Magna Carta, the in-house newsletter of the Magna group of publications, which had carried Bachchan’s rejoinder.
(Magna owns the movie magazine Stardust, which led a 15-year-long boycott of Bachchan at the prime of his career.)
In a letter addressed to the Magna group’s proprietor Nari Hira, Jug Suraiya writes:
“The newsletter said there was an ‘eerie silence’ from the press to Bachchan’s rejoinder. This is not quite true. The Guardian newspaper, which Bachchan had cited along with my column, has I am told done a detialed rejoinder to his rejoinder.
“In my case, I did not choose so much to maintain an ‘eerie silence’ as to exercise my option of fastidious disdain: I hold Bachchan beneath my contempt and shall not dignify him with an answer to his rantings (which, I am told, are written for him by an ex-journalist hack).”
Suraiya recounts meeting Bachchan years ago in Calcutta. He says he greatly enjoyed his performances and complimented him on them.
“Since then, of course, he has become an international celebrity who uses his iconic status to endose any and all products from gutka paan masala to cement, cars to suiting. There is a word for such indiscriminate commercial promiscuity. I leave it to you to figure out what it is.
“This together with his much-publicised ritualised religiosity makes him an object of scorn for me, all the more so in that he is, regettably, a role model for so many people of all ages, in India and elsewhere.”
Photograph: courtesy The Times of India
Also read: How Big B has pushed India to a regressive low
Jug is right and Amitabh is thoroughly wrong! We are poor, thoroughly corrupt, bride burners, rioters, baby killers (infanticide) and whatnot! The situation is so serious that it need some real-eye opener and yet there are foolishly enthusiastic people like AB who are blissfully happy that the glass is at least half-full! Amitabh was sleeping when 3000 people were massacred in Gujarat but so awake when a few stray incidents happened in Australia, huh!
A 15-year long boycott of Big B! I had no idea!
I am a fan of Big B, as an actor. But the fact that he blogs likes a 15-year old schoolgirl, taking offense on even tiny bit of criticism, and his compulsion to respond to every one of them, don’t help! 😦
I do not agree with the comments of Jug Suraiya. AB is a object of scorn for Jug because of his religiosity ! This is what Jug is saying. And with that count, any religious person would be an OJECT OF SCORN for him. What has he (Mr Jug) for poor people ? May be he has done a lot and I am unaware of that but it is a shame that some one who has been associated with news media for so long (as Mr Jug has been), his contribution to poverty elevation is zero.
Jug is not a demi-god as AB is, he has no temples after him, neither he has millions of bucks gulped up in swiss bank accounts. He has eaten up no fallow lands of (poor) farmers, nor has he evaded taxes year after year. If I feed a famish soul for a whole month it would go unnoticed, but but AB’s dropping a coin is a cause celebre. What has he done to earn a real life cult status? Did he ever stand up for a national cause? For record he took a U- turn in SRK vs/ Shiv sena issue, albeit himself being involved in a similar issue not so long ago.
Mind you! Jug is as much a hero for the journos as AB is for your glam-world, only sans the glossy covers
Magna Carta — what an unlettered (arrogant??) name for the “in-house newsletter” of an entertainment firm.
I dont know who’s going to read it but i want Jug Suraiya’s email ID or address . I need to contact him.
I cannot agree more than Debojit. “….Mind you! Jug is as much a hero for the journos as AB is for your glam-world, only sans the glossy covers”… AB’s attitude, perhaps, is that of the jackal which felt those ‘grapes were soar’! I like Jug so much that I feel so gratified in this life that I am living when a great personality like that of Jug Suraiya is living. He inspires and motivates through his wonderful writing art as many as AB does on the celluloid.
Sir I am a big fan of yours I also have a great interest in writing please suggest me how can I turn my interest into a worthy proffession….
whatever the case Jug Suraiya is the only genius of 21st century and when I am on my deathbed, would like to have a glimpse of him, as I know that a humble person like me won’t get a chance to see him in my lifetime.
and forgrt computers, Jug Suraiya is a super computer…
There is is quote “Roti (Bread)khaiae (Eat) shakkar (sugar) duniya (Mankind) thagiae (Befool) makar (Corruption)se”.
THIS IS THE REALITY OF THE PRESENT DAY WORLD.