Big B, Bollywood and the big Other!
Amitabh Bachchan, the Hindi film superstar, reacting to the put-you-in-your-place comments by Raj and Bal Thackeray (read Anon (2008) ‘After Jaya, SRK faces the Thackeray tirade’ Economic Times, 10 Sep, Online. Read here) wrote on his blog:
The casual off the cuff remarks made by her at the music launch function were without malice or deliberate intent, but if it has caused hurt to the sentiments of Maharashtra, Maharashtrians and indeed the city and citizens of Mumbai, then she must seek regret and offer apology. Everything that we possess today is what came to us from this great state and city. We never have and never can look at Maharashtra with disrespect. If inadvertently this is what has been construed, then we apologize and are sorry and seek forgiveness for any sentiments that have been hurt.
I have remained awake the whole night.
Driving to the airport in London early morning, I rummage through the detailed bunch of faxed cuttings of the press in Mumbai of date and am pleased and satisfied to read in the Mumbai Mirror that Jaya has on her own spoken to the media on very same lines, regretted the hurt caused and apologized.
I feel grateful and happy. (read here)
So, when the big Other speaks, the Big B shuts up. What or who is the big Other? As Lacan and Zizek explain, ‘The big Other’ is the virtual regulator of etiquette and social conversation. That is to say, ‘the big Other’ is the ambience of the situation that comes through human ways of following situational “rules.” AB’s putting down of himself and his wife, despite a brief transgression, is an overt submission to the symbolic order. So it is not his apology that is the issue. It is the tacit acknowledgement of linguistic nationalism.
So this requires Big B (I won’t even get into the quicksand of why we use the term Big to address AB) to reflect on his own position in the symbolic order and submits himself to the big Other. Does he speak for himself, the film industry, or the entire Indian educated chattering class, the latter making lots of noises about the “thuggery” of the Thackerays.
The question is, does the middle class acknowledge his and their own subject position in the symbolic order?
Meanwhile, Mahesh Vijapurkar contends that the controversy was created and stoked by the media (Vijapurkar (2008) ‘How the media created the Raj Thackeray bogey’ Rediff.com, Sep 09, Online. Read here)
I have written about the relationship between the film industry and the dominant political discourse in ‘Genre development in the age of markets and nationalism: The war film’ in Kumar, Nirmal & Bharat, M, eds., (2007) Filming the line of control New Delhi : Routledge (here or here)