New Delhi, Nov 21: Imagine, someone cracking a joke on your behalf and you after faking a smile tell the whole world that you're "tolerant and understand that a joke should be taken as a joke".
Funny, isn't it?
In fact, Union minister Smriti Irani did the exact thing at the inaugural function of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa on Monday.
One of the co-hosts of the show, national award-winning actor Rajkumar Rao, decided to crack a mild joke at the expense of the information and broadcasting minister and renowned Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi, both of whom were in the audience.
Rao, who was co-hosting the event with actor Radhika Apte, said it was a coincidence that film director Majidi was an "Irani", just like the Union minister was.
Hearing the remarks, the actor-turned-politician smiled. But those who have seen the smile of the Union minister, known for her scathing attack against anyone who dares her, can tell that it was flashed after a lot of effort.
Didn't Rao know how averse the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is to anything that is mildly provocative? The actor's off-the-cuff statement was pretty mundane and juvenile, but Irani decided to take full advantage of it and made it a point to tell the whole world that "the BJP government at the Centre is tolerant and it understands that a joke should be taken as a joke".
Irani said: "Rajkumar Rao, this (incident) should be known to the rest of the country, that you poked fun only at a minister. And it showed as a government how tolerant we are."
The minister in a way reminded the actor and the nation as a whole that she is a VIP and she did a great favour by allowing Rao to make light-hearted comments involving a BJP minister.
Probably, next time an actor or for that matter anyone else would think twice before mouthing anything remotely humorous about Irani.
We are really thankful to the actor-turned-politician for laughing off the light-hearted banter. Imagine, if she would've got infuriated at the comments made by Rao like we have seen her on several occasions in the past, where the saree-clad minister in her angry avatar almost looked like goddess Durga ready to slay anyone and everyone on her way.
The 'biggest' joke cracked at the film festival, which has been hogging the limelight for all the wrong reasons after Irani and her team members decided to drop two critically-acclaimed films from screening in spite of being selected by a jury, is not the one by Rao, but by Irani herself when she claimed that the BJP government is tolerant.
Was Irani serious when she called the BJP government a tolerant one? Or, the former television actress was trying her hands in stand-up comedy?
If the Narendra Modi government is tolerant then why everyday artists, comedians filmmakers and even commoners writing critical comments about the BJP or its leaders on social media are facing the wrath of the saffron party?
The Union minister does not need to look far beyond. Since the time she took over the reins of the information and broadcasting ministry, the Indian cinema has been under attack.
The ugly protests hosted by the goons of right-wing groups and political leaders against the upcoming Bollywood film Padmavati is a perfect example how intolerant the country has become under the BJP regime which decided to look away at the open death threats issued against the film's actors and director.
Instead of punishing the goons for issuing threats to chop off actor Deepika Padukone's head and nose, the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh unilaterally decided to ban Padmavati as it allegedly hurt the sentiments of Rajputs and Hindus.
As the protests against the film are refusing to die down anytime soon, the makers of the film have decided to postpone the release of the film.
In a country where everyday freedom of speech and creative expression are muzzled by the political class, then that makes a joke out of our democracy.
Looking at the entire Padmavati row, it seems in the future filmmakers has to start taking permission from caste and religious groups before beginning their shooting schedule to avoid "hurting sentiments".
Then, that would be a joke. Or, probably, such a day is not far away when filmmakers, artists, and writers will stand in a queue in front of extra-constitutional bodies to take permission to start their work on any projects.
Irani, another joke at the festival was that two of the acclaimed films--S Durga (earlier titled as Sexy Durga) and Nude--have been dropped by your ministry from the festival because their titles might offend the sanskari sensibilities of right-wing groups.
In fact, we will call the whole film festival a farce at a time when the Indian cinema is under attack and the ruling dispensation at the Centre is trying to mint money out of it by hosting a star-studded function.
What about freedom of speech, Smritiji? Is that a joke for you?