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The tiger (doesn’t) roar

Bal Thackeray, his son and nephew are some of the most powerful and influential people in the country. Right? At a word from them, cities can shut down, public transport paralysed, ‘lessons’ taught. Their favourite subjects are the welfare of the much beleaguered Marathi Manoos, preserving the sanctity of Maharashtra and Mumbai from ‘outsiders’ and along with the BJP/VHP/RSS protecting the Hindu rashtra.

So, it surprised me when I read this news report from the Hindu archives.

Penning for a cause

IF YOU thought that Shabana Azmi has devoted a good part of her time to social causes, her hubby Javed Akhtar is also in the same frame of mind, as of now. The writer-lyricist has been asked to wield his powerful pen to instil a sense of cleanliness in Mumbaiwallahs, exhorting them to keeping the city clean.

The request, from Uddhav Thackeray, Bal Thackeray’s son, has nothing political about it, says Akhtar. In fact, these powerful words are to be set to lilting music by Anu Malik and then aired on satellite channels, interspersed with appropriate visuals, to make an impact on the cosmo-crowd of the ever-alive metro. Javed saab should be thrilled to be associated with the assignment that’s going to work for a genuine cause, just as he was while lending his lyrics and dialogues to Honey Irani’s (ex-wife) directorial debut “Armaan.” The lyricist got so drowned into the nitty-gritty of the film that he went overboard, giving his inputs to the screenplay too, and managed to get his name included in the credit titles of the film as a joint-screenplay writer! Akhtar saab is in for so many surprises these days.

(Compiled by Ranjani Govind)

Of course, this was way back in 2003 when life was much simpler and the Thackerays didn’t have the familial issues that they have today. And did this project ever see the light of day? I don’t know.

That’s besides the point, though. This report reiterates something I’ve always wondered (and Mr.R keeps asking aloud, too) : The Thackerays, being so powerful, have the influence to change the face of Mumbai overnight. One word from Senior Mr.T and the city can be sparkling, no garbage, debris or filth everywhere. One diktat and the city can clean up its act and make that first step toward that infamous Shanghai model the BMC keeps touting.

One word from Bal Thackeray about saving the tiger, their own symbol and we might well see a reversal of the animal’s (mis)fortunes. I’ve written about this before – does the reverence for the tiger end with the SS flag? How about doing something about their rapid decline? Or is it indicative of the SS’s own status?

Here’s a good natured challenged (I mean well, really). I challenge the Thackerays to use their power, influence and capitalise on the mass adulation they enjoy to make Mumbai a better place. Put aside the usual shenanigans of breaking shop windows, burning effigies, scheming to run the cash rich BMC or foul-mouthing opponents. Shake up the city and help build it into a place worth living.

The T’s can single-handedly change the city. Nobody else can. The question is, do they want to?


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