I was going to post on a ridiculous security issue in North India this weekend, but the outlook changed in a heartbeat when this happened. Still, I would like to give a try to the first topic since I believe it is equally absurd and I do hope the two aren't related.
So, Shahrukh Khan (the biggest superstar in Bollywood history) is releasing My Name is Khan this weekend, a highly anticipated movie about a Muslim-Indian immigrant to the USA, targeted by the TSA simply because he holds a Muslim name. The film takes on cultural and discrimination issues (much like last year's New York but) this time from an innocent's view point. This type of "substance" movies are quite rare in Bollywood and this one is even slated for a showing at the Berlin Film Festival (rumor has it that the EUR1000 tickets sold out in 5 seconds online). In the story, Rizvan Khan (suffering from Asperger's syndrome) has a quiet life in a Californian town with his Indian wife and stepson, but the 9/11 attacks prompt a surge of discrimination against the family, resulting in the son's death. Also, Khan himself is detained at LAX by TSA agents mistaking his illness for suspicious behavior (in a twist of fate, Shahrukh Kahn himself was detained in Newark last August for further questioning, prompting a full-on diplomatic war!). Anyway, the character embarks on a journey to find the President of the United States (yes, you read correctly) in order to tell him face-to-face: "My name is Khan, and I am not a terrorist". This is after all a Bollywood movie, so Rizvan actually gets to deliver his message personally to Barak Obama. Well, at least there are no spontaneous dancing scenes...
All well till this point... but Shahrukh Khan (like a few other Bollywood stars) owns a cricket team in the Indian Premier League, the Kolkata Knight Riders. He criticized the fact that Pakistani players are not allowed to be traded into the IPL this season. Now, since Pakistan is India's sworn enemy, this prompted a huge backlash against him, especially from Shiv Sena, a nationalist political party. When these guys get upset, bombs go off, people are killed, and buildings destroyed. Knowing what awaits them, many cinema owners decided not to play the movie despite the police forces deployed all across North India to make sure no incidents take place. We've stopped by one movie theater tonight and there was a whole bus load of officers just lounging around doing nothing. Ridiculous doesn't even begin to cover it! This movie is supposed to promote cultural awareness, promote understanding, and yet there are lunatics out there fussing over an unrelated comment. Of course, the Sena are known for triggering people for their evil purposes with entirely different motives, but in the end how do you convince someone to go out and vandalize a movie theater over such insignificant matters?
Right after we got to the movie theater, we got a call from a concerned friend inquiring whether or not we'd been affected by the bomb blast at the German Bakery. The bakery - a very popular health-food restaurant which we frequent - is 200 meters behind our building, and earlier this afternoon we went out for coffee across the street from it, then strolled pass, and decided to take advantage of the nice weather and walk all the way to the movie theater. About 20 minutes after we'd passed it, we heard a loud bang right behind us (we were on the same street) but no one paid attention to it, since this is India and things blow up all the time. What baffles me - and unfortunately we will surely find out in the next couple of days - is how targeting a bunch of peace-loving, ashram-going, organic-eating people serves the purpose of any so-called militant? I don't care about their motivation! Anyone could have been there - we could have been passing right in front of it had we taken longer with our coffee!
All this police force deployed for cinema security would obviously have not been able to prevent the bombing, but these two things happening at the same time in Pune (and it could've been anywhere else) just don't make any sense to me. On one hand, you are targeting a movie that speaks about acceptance of the Muslim (or any other minoritary religion in the Western World) and on the other hand you are using your cultural/racial/religious (as we don't know yet) motives against some innocent unrelated people having their coffee in a peaceful establishment.