Indian Prime Minister Modi Re-Elected: Bollywood Stars, Indie Filmmakers Speak Out

Narendra Modi - Getty - H 2019
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Bollywood stars like Salman Khan hailed his win as a "decisive victory," while critics, such as indie filmmaker Sanal Kumar Sasidharan, described it as "a massacre of democracy."

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi won his second term in office with a massive victory Thursday, as Bollywood stars and other industry figures took to social media to weigh in with starkly contrasting views on his re-election.

Modi's National Democratic Alliance coalition, which is fronted by the Bharatiya Janta Party, garnered 353 seats out of a total of 542 seats in India's lower house of parliament, beating its 2014 tally of 336 seats.

"Many congratulations Hon. Prime Minister @narendramodi on your decisive victory," tweeted Bollywood superstar Salman Khan, adding, "We stand by you in building a stronger India."

Anil Kapoor, whose Hollywood credits include Slumdog Millionaire and Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, also congratulated Modi for his "historic win." He tweeted: "We the citizens look forward to the new heights that your leadership promises to take us."

"This is not only the ‘mood of the nation’. It is actually MODI OF THE NATION," tweeted Anupam Kher whose Hollywood credits include Silver Linings Playbook and NBC series New Amsterdam.

After Modi first became Prime Minister in 2014, Barack Obama declared at an international summit that "this man has the biggest electoral victory of all of us." This again holds true, as Modi garnered a majority of the votes in the world's largest democratic elections given that India has about 900 million eligible voters.

But as reported earlier, not everybody in India's film business has been enthusiastic about Modi, with many in the country's indie film community fiercely opposing his leadership and considering the BJP a right-wing Hindu nationalist party responsible for fueling a polarized political atmosphere.

"There is no point in blaming political parties alone for this massacre of democracy," filmmaker Sanal Sasidharan said in a lengthy post on Facebook. He pointed out the divide between liberals and the general population, saying that "artists and intellectuals of India also [have] blood [on their] hands. There is a huge gap between common people and intellectuals now."

Sasidharan's filmography includes Sexy Durga, which ran into trouble with India's censors since its title referred to the name of an Indian goddess, and it was pulled at the last minute from the government-run International Film Festival of India in 2017. The South Indian Malayalam language film revolved around a runaway young couple who encounter gangsters and other characters over one tense, dramatic night.

"Shall we celebrate the victory of the ideology that killed Mahatma Gandhi?" documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan posted on Facebook, slamming Modi's victory.

He was alluding to the fact that one of the BJP's winning candidates, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, said at an election rally that Nathuram Godse, the man who assassinated Gandhi in 1948, was "a patriot and will remain a patriot." The comment sparked a massive outcry, which led the BJP to condemn her statement, and even Modi spoke out that he would "never be able to forgive" Thakur for what she said.

Patwardhan is known for his hard-hitting films attacking right-wing politics, starting with his acclaimed 1992 title In the Name of God, which chronicled how the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a right-wing Hindu organization, waged a campaign to destroy an ancient mosque in the city of Ayodhya in central India, which is considered the birthplace of the Hindu god Lord Rama. Patwardhan's latest release, Vivek (Reason), offered another update on the growth of the right wing, and bowed at Toronto while picking up the best film award at Amsterdam's IFDA honors.

One of the most high-profile critics of Modi is filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, whose credits include Netflix's first Indian series Sacred Games. Before the elections, Kashyap was among over a 100 signatories to a joint statement which appealed to Indians to "defeat the forces of darkness and barbarism" by not voting for the BJP and its allies.

Following his victory, Modi tweeted to his 47.5 million followers, saying: "Together we grow. Together we prosper. Together we will build a strong and inclusive India. India wins yet again!"

"Dear @narendramodi sir. Congratulations on your victory and thank you for the message of inclusiveness," Kashyap posted in a tweet, which also included a screenshot of a profanity-filled rape threat in Hindi posted on his daughter Aaliyah Kashyap's Instagram account. He explained, "Please also tell us how do we deal with these followers of yours who celebrate your victory by threatening my daughter with messages like this for me being your dissenter."

Meanwhile, Friday also saw the release of the biopic PM Narendra Modi, which was earlier disallowed for release by the country's election commission as it violated election rules, as did the series Modi: Journey of a Common Man, which has now gone live on digital platform ErosNow.