MUMBAI — An organisation backed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the BJP, is organising a seminar on Wednesday at Mumbai’s ISKCON temple where it plans to “discuss the significance” of Kumbh with Bollywood stars.
A statement about the event that was seen by HuffPost India said the RSS-backed Naimisharanya Foundation, which has Rajya Sabha MP Subhash Chandra and singer Lata Mangeshkar on its board, is organising the event with the support of Sanskar Bharti, the cultural wing of the RSS.
Chandra, who is the founder of Zee Group, was facilitating the meeting between senior RSS dignitaries and top stars from the Hindi film industry, said a senior filmmaker who said he is working his schedule around so he can attend the event.
“Subhashji (Chandra) is personally making calls to industry people to make sure they show up. Not just that, I’ve also received calls from Delhi, right from the top,” the person told HuffPost India.
The filmmaker, who wanted to remain anonymous, refused to disclose who exactly called him “from Delhi”.
According to a person associated with the event, Amitabh Bachchan, who’s currently in London, has said he will try to make it for the event. An invitation has also been extended to Shah Rukh Khan, who is yet to respond.
Mangeshkar is also expected to attend, this person added.
“Since Bachchan is from Allahabad, which is one of the venues for Kumbh, the RSS is eager that he attend the event,” said the person.
A press release sent by the Naimisharanya Foundation said the “Mumbai Kumbh” will be attended by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma, RSS general secretary Bhaiyyaji Joshi, lyricist and Censor Board chief Prasoon Joshi, director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and singers Alka Yagnik, Sukhwinder Singh and Kailash Kher, among others.
The statement cited earlier had said that director Subhash Ghai has also “thrown his weight behind the event”.
“Special messages” from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat will be read out at the seminar, said the statement.
Another person familiar with the matter said that this is an “ideological” Kumbh where the RSS plans to invite intellectuals to propagate its views on a number of topics, including nationalism, tolerance and the inclusivity of Hinduism.
“The event is to tutor industry members not only on Kumbh but the significance of Hinduism and its broad scope. The (culture) ministry is leaving no stone unturned to make this a big success as this is the first event in a series of events planned across multiple cities. Delhi is directly involved,” the source said.
The Economic Times reported a few days ago that the RSS would hold this vaicharik kumbh in seven cities including Varanasi and Ayodhya. The Mumbai event will be the first in the series.
HuffPost India has reached out to Ameer Chand, the head of Sanskar Bharti, and will update this story if he responds.
It isn’t unusual for Bollywood to be seen at RSS-backed events.
In April 2017, Aamir Khan, who had earlier faced the wrath of right-wing organisations after he called out rising intolerance in India, had no qualms accepting an award from RSS patriarch Bhagwat.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui will soon be seen in a biopic of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray, who routinely laced his speeches with anti-Muslim rhetoric.
The film is produced by Sena leader Sanjay Raut, who also edits Saamana, the Sena’s mouthpiece.
In an interview with this correspondent in January, Siddiqui had said, “Which actor would say ‘no’ to play a character as fierce as Balasaheb Thackeray?” when asked if he had agreed to the role due to political pressure.
Bollywood is also no stranger to being pushed into a corner by right-wing organisations.
In August 2016, Karan Johar released a video where he apologised for casting Pakistani actor Fawad Khan in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil after right-wing organisations, including the Shiv Sena, threatened to vandalise theatres. He later said he felt “spineless” after making the video.
More recently, the release of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat was delayed by over a month after the Karni Sena, a Rajput organisation, orchestrated violent protests against it.