A recent episode of the American series Quantico in which Priyanka Chopra has a principal part shows Hindu radicals attacking New York and blaming it on Pakistan.
Understandably, there is widespread outrage at the outlandish liberty taken with political reality for the sake of entertainment.
Priyanka Chopra cannot get away with the excuse that she's just an actor on board. Actors all across the world are owning up to the content that they accept to be part of.
Farhan Akhtar in another context, after a child had been brutally murdered in a Delhi school, said, "We're living in dangerous times. People with a voice need to use it carefully. Considering the times we're going through, I don't think I'd like to play a serial killer or a rapist or any such character."
Actors like Rajkummar Rao (Omerta), Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Raman Raghav)and Ranbir Kapoor (Sanju) have no qualms about playing terrorists, serial killers and TADA accused. However, a majority of Indian actors are now shying away from playing roles or doing films that set the wrong example.
Recently when Amitabh Bachchan was offered a chance to play a very prominent globally-wanted financial fugitive he declined without a second thought, though the money and set-up were humongous.
"It isn't about money and set-up. It is about doing the right thing. Setting the right example is important for celebrities," says producer Prernaa Arora. "I am not saying, 'Sirf goodygoody dharmik sanskari type ki filmein banao.' Films can be mischievous, fun and not offensive to any section of the people like Veere di Wedding and Ocean's 8, which are huge fun to watch," adds Arora, who is planning a biopic on Bachchan.
"With his consent and contribution," she clarifies. "I'd rather wait to make film on Bachchan saab or Sunil Dutt saab than a film on Asaram Bapu or Vijay Mallya," says Prernaa.
Glorifying the wrong side is not quite the kick that Bollywood or its audience is looking for any more. Given the climate of conservatism that pervades the popular arts - so much so that filmmaker Brian de Palma's proposed bio-pic on Harvey Weinstein would have serious casting issues - Priyanka and all other major Indian actors must be careful of the material they endorse.
Typically, no one from Priyanka's fraternity wanted to speak up on the Quantico fiasco. One of her favourite directors said, "Why blame her ? She was just doing her job."
Why indeed. The only Bollywood figure who spoke out about the atrocious assumptions of Quantico that Priyanka Chopra unwittingly(?) endorsed, is filmmaker-spokesperson Ashoke Pandit.
Says Pandit, "Priyanka Chopra should condemn this openly. While she is so concerned about Rohingyas she never spoke about the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits. Such issues are very serious in nature and should not be dealt with frivolously. It involves a lots of study and knowledge. All actors must look before they leap."
(Subhash K Jha is a film critic and movie expert)
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)