Bollywood actor Manoj Joshi | Photo: Twitter
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Bollywood actors such as Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Priyanka Chopra and other A-listers haven’t just been the stars of their films or in the lives of their fans. They have also ruled the social media for years with their promotional tweets, vacation photos and workout videos. It’s been the same with top performers in other roles too — singers, directors, lyricists. 

But not anymore.

Bollywood’s backbenchers on social media, those mostly remembered and celebrated for their side roles in films, are now in the driving seat. By being the cheerleaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), they are enjoying the mass popularity they never had, and were almost invisible until the epidemic of hate began to sweep the country and they emerged like frontline warriors. People like Payal Rohatgi, Vivek Agnihotri, Manoj Joshi and others like them have descended on social media with lakhs of followers in tow, telling the A-listers of Bollywood their ways of winning ‘hearts’ are passé. 

The mantra is simple: they can draw massive crowds by hurling a lot of hate towards Muslims and Christians (or anyone they think isn’t completely bending before their ‘Supreme Leader’), by viciously attacking their co-stars (mostly female), by targeting opposition leaders, and by sharing a lot of fake, made-up stuff that would seem out of place even in the most third-rate, senseless Bollywood flick.


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New life, new fame

Who would have thought that tweets of Manoj Joshi, a Bollywood comedian (but an otherwise accomplished theatre actor) will get more retweets and likes than Salman Khan? Manoj Joshi has posted a flurry of tweets in the past two weeks. At first glance, you may mistake him for a BJP spokesperson. After all, he is either doting over Prime Minister Narendra Modi, targeting the opposition, especially the Congress and its leader Rahul Gandhi, inciting violence, or simply passing bigoted remarks.

Similarly, Vivek Agnihotri, who has directed films like Chocolate, Hate Story, and The Tashkent Files is now popular for peddling fake news, engaging in social media fights, spreading hate against Muslims, and for his relentless use of a term called ‘Urban Naxal’. Recently, he posted a picture of Bollywood actor Sonakshi Sinha alleging that she has violated the lockdown. Sonakshi has sought an FIR against Vivek because he had used an old picture.

There is another purveyor of hate called Ashoke Pandit, a producer and director of TV shows such as Tere Mere Sapne and Filmi Chakkar who has taken the responsibility of being the chief troll for the IT cell. He relishes in targeting and humiliating people holding liberal and secular values. Of late, he has started attacking his colleagues from Bollywood. He demands an explanation from celebrated poet and screenwriter Javed Akhtar on almost everything. Only Ashoke Pandit can answer why he simply doesn’t call Javed Akhtar for tuition on national and international matters. After all, he is a ‘friend’ to him, as the latter said in one of his tweets in response.

Both Ashok Pandit and Vivek Agnihotri constantly target female actors such as Swara Bhasker, Richa Chadha and Sonakshi Sinha.


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Old inspirations

All these people relishing their new fame seem inspired by old, established names, mainly Paresh Rawal and Anupam Kher, the Yug Purushas responsible for this recent renaissance in Bollywood. Both accomplished actors who have mostly played side roles in Bollywood films became spokespersons of the BJP a long time ago. They are the unofficial ‘Social Media Inspectors’ of the Hindu Right. They attack the Congress and all political parties in opposition to the BJP, people who are liberal and secular, and go after every progressive view. The irony is that both actors have earned accolades for working in socially progressive and liberal films.

Earlier, much of this social media mockery and slandering was limited to Kamal Rashid Khan, who styles himself as KRK, the actor and producer who, after playing the lead in Deshdrohi, began to torment people with his film reviews, which is perhaps why he isn’t taken seriously by the public. 

But the recent political and communal Samurais of Bollywood have a huge fan following  and their posts and views are lapped up by people on social media with a frenzy, generating thousands of likes and shares within minutes. They have devoted followers who tag them everywhere, bring others’ posts to their attention, and exhort them to engage into fights with female actors and journalists.

Their social media images have overpowered their life and work. In a short span of time, they have become so powerful in their reach and impact that they could go after anyone, from the Khans to the Kumars to the older generation celebrities, basically anyone they wish to. And their fangs come out usually when someone talks logically or intends to spread love and brotherhood.

Their relentless, mostly hateful presence on social media has pushed the bigger and more popular stars of Bollywood into guest appearances, avoiding engaging too much with the public, limiting their interactions to largely promotional stuff. The backbenchers of Bollywood have claimed the space and are unstoppable now. The future will only see more of their likes entering this space where anyone not in support of Modi and BJP is attacked viciously. 

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37 Comments Share Your Views

37 COMMENTS

  1. From both sides only backbenchers r engaging.A Listers from both sides have chosen to b silent. U have named from only one side backbenchers. Other side too have ejaz khan, javed akhtar, swara bhaskar, jishan ayub .u ppl always concentrate on one side while demeaning. Like to juhi chawla, raveena randon fr karwa chauth. Saying unilaterally 1 is progressive others r backward is biased.fr using gau Mutra fr corona u ppl make fun. Bt as soon as tablighi jamat idiocy cm on forum at exponential rate u ppl start saying don’t mk it communal or dry don’t represent whole Muslim society. Don’t relate Islam to terrorism. Jus fallacy&hypocrisy everywhere.

  2. A toodler news agency will teach us how to behave and what to say, you better take your opinion and shove it right up to your ass or else people will throw slipper and paint the face of your reporters black and will ride them on donkeys. Thats what print deserves.

  3. Liberals in india r antinationals who call Army chief Sadak ka gunda,bharat tere tukde honge inshaallah,Hindutwa ki kabr khudegi,Give calls to assassinate democratically elected PM.They give calls to block Siliguri corridor so that Assam connection with rest of india is cut off.Those persons should have died a dogs death in China,Russia or US.

  4. It is always gainful to side with power.
    In any case , majoritarian, racist, communal, casteist ideology and politics is reigning supreme in most of the places in the world now. How bollywood can be an exception?

  5. Articles like these make The Print look immature. It’s not the content, it’s the writing style. This kind of rant seems more suitable to honor the wall post of Facebook.

  6. The writer is herself filled with hate and prejudice for the people she has described. She no different from the pseudo left liberals and seculars.

  7. Character artists are ‘back benchers’? It requires a moron of colossal moronic capability, to write this. After this the article degenerates into a pseudo secularistic rant. No surprise from a filthy grubbing hypocritical journalist, who wrote virulently against cast display, while still retaining hers in her name for everyone to know. So what to do about this shit covered virus infected rag? Obviously follow the best practices in such cases, and dispose it carefully before it infects you, yours or others.

  8. The line “Views are personal” need to be included in the top. This ensures that we are going to read something worth OR just a view point of a rookee or a biased bloggist.
    When I open the article of “The Print”, it is under the impression that information will be with some proofs or reasoning like Shekhar Gupta (he is actually the reason most of us read The Print).
    You condemn Govt , You praise Govt that is not the case = We will read the article if its worth.

    What you wrote about Right Wing bank benchers hold true for liberal side back benchers / Not so starts also viz. Hussain Haidry, Aijaz Khan, HArd Kaur and also some floppies like Swara Bhaskar, Sonam Kapoor etc….How do you justfy their hatred against Modi Supports OR as u say “Bhakts”…

    These type of articles actually neutralizes “The Prints good efforts” such a good reporting done by the head Shekhar Gupta and some others.

    Before Judging me, ” This is my personal view 🙂 ” … Stop shaming media by these type of Articles and don’t Argue the topic by showing what Right Wing Media publishes…..Because u call yourself Liberals which means u shud hate Left Wingers and RIght WIngers equally but Unfortunately You guys don’t.

    People now days are more aware of what they are reading, so plz improve your reporting standard.

    Once Again ” My views are personal too” 🙂

  9. Why this sound like half the news. Have you missed the list of likes of Swara Bhaskar supporting left . There are others in list as well. Nasiruddin Shah, Mahesh Bhatt and the list goes on. It would have been wise if you had include that list as well.
    Thank you

  10. Lol does it matter from where truth is coming a Lister b Lister or c Lister. What a hypocrisy and bankruptcy just for sake of opposition and pathological hatred and that too from those who proclaim themselves as champions of equality.
    What about those cheer leaders who have been writing letters out of grudge for want of doles available in previous regime. The comments are not being published in the name of moderation but shall keep on exposing .

  11. yeah if you abuse hinduism..u r a scholar and if you criticize islam you are hate peddler ,bigot etc. triple talakh and polygamy is liberal when for muslims but absolute stone age if applied on hindus. if you feel for muslims in palestine..you are a mascot of liberals but if talk about plight of hindus in pakistan and bangladesh ,you clearly are a communal bigot. secularism in india isnt liberal but islamic hypocrisy. remember zakir naik dished to hindus and christans day in day out.But for liberals zakir naik was messenger of peace but this vivek agnihotri boy is ‘the problem’. uff so intolerance may be after sonia we should appoint liberal messiah king salman of saudi arabia as congress communist joint secular candidate wat say? jyoti you should focus on ravinder jadeja tweets only or at best suck up to akhilesh and azam khan ji. please for allah sake dont call urself journalist

  12. So sad that certain columnist in The Print are painting A Community as VICTIMS. Both INDIA N pakistan are from the subcontinent but what distinguishes them is HINDUS IN PAKISTAN are raped and forcefully converted and are not being provided rations during covid19 pandemic and a FINAL SOLUTION FOR HINDUS in pakistan is not far. Whereas the minorities in INDIA are increasing their population faster than the majority. Instead of BLAMING others if the decide that scientific education is important they would not require fake narrative.

  13. Just like you print people are doing as back benches of India s print journalism.You have a narrative of showing India in a bad light.
    You have an agenda while narrating incidents.You are pro muslims and proud to show Hindus in bad light.You will never despise some one from minority if he or she commits a crime.You will never question a Muslim why is it that all muslims are not terrorist but all terrorist are muslims.You will even not question why Muslim people all over the world can’t live peacefully not even in their own Islamic country.l have seen two muslim families living peacefully with hundreds of hindu family but not vice versa.

  14. This article is wack. Its full of supporting the leftist propoganda, there is no difference Between them and you guys, they support right and you guys left but media was supposed to be neutral, but thats only in la la land.

  15. The writer of this article seems to be a part of the liberal brigade. Don’t these so called last benchers have the freedom of expressing their views or is that right the monopoly of the liberals only.

  16. Author of this article is clueless about the real situation on ground. She is biased towards those are hellbent on spreading communal hatered across India.

  17. Absolutely one sided narration. You have not mentioned the radicals and extremist Communists like Swara Bhaskara, Anurag Kashyap, Nasiruddin Shah, Javed Akhtar types hate mongering bollywood activists. Bollywood is in the grip of Communists and Islamists. D-Company has very deep grip on Bollywood.

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