In the end, the Big Bang might be a Big Bust. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's picture has already disappeared from the promotional posters. And Shahid Kapoor's representative has denied any knowledge of the event. But the Republican Hindu Coalition's plans for a Bollywood, Hollywood, Tollywood, Kollywood and Punjabi (Pollywood?) charity event for the "benefit of victims of terror particularly Kashmiri Pundits and Hindu refugees from Bangladesh" is already causing a social media stir.
That's not because of the star line-up of Shahid Kapoor, Prabhu Deva, Yami Gautam, Amisha Patel, Kanika Kapoor, Shriya Saran and co. It's because of the other special guest - Donald Trump.The event is being pegged as part of Donald Trump's big push to reach out to "minority" voters and for some reason Republican Hindu Coalition head Shalabh Kumar thinks it needs a Bollywood soundtrack. Kumar has said Trump agreed immediately to be part of the event and plans to be there for four hours and told him "India was a great country, he liked Indian people" and he found Hindus to be "peace-loving people".
The logic might be to tempt the audience with (X)ollywood stars and feed them some Donald Trump. "The goal is to unite Hindu-American community with conservative values together and expand the RHC and at the time same time help the victims of terror throughout the world," Shalabh, also known as 'Shalli', told Diya TV.
But really, what were they thinking? Something that calls itself a benefit for victims of terror and in the same breath promises "Great Family Fun All Day" sounds schizophrenic from the get go.
The stars have every right to go and twinkle wherever they want and even support one candidate or the other even in an election they don't vote in. By that same token they have to expect some fallout thanks to the company they choose to keep.
They should also understand this is a particularly noxious brew of Islamophobia and xenophobia that the RHC is cooking up and these glitterati are choosing to bless it with their presence.
We might be fooled into thinking that because Trump trains his guns on "Islamic terrorist" and "Mexican rapists" desis are the good brown immigrants. And Shalabh Kumar and his wife's donation of $1.1 million to the Trump campaign might make him an even better immigrant.
But others less prominent might meet the fate of Jake Anantha, the 18-year-old Trump supporter who was escorted out of a Trump rally because he was mistaken for a protester. It's as if the rally organizers and authorities themselves admitted that a young brown person at a Trump rally was inherently suspicious. Anantha was wearing a pro-Trump shirt with another pro-Trump shirt underneath. "I'm a huge Trump supporter," Anantha told CNN. "I would never protest against Trump."
Later he tweeted he would vote for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. Anantha later wrote in the Washington Post "I still don't know why I was asked to leave. But I think it has something to do with my race." Even Anantha who identifies as a huge Trump supporter can see that he looks different from most Trump supporters. That itself is not a problem but to be ejected from a rally because of that is definitely a problem for a candidate who claims he is a uniter while Obama was a divider.
The Republican Hindu Coalition's support for Trump is really based on one plank and one plank only. They believe he is against "Islamic terrorism" and the planned event is built around that idea. While the word "Islamic" is nowhere on the poster and it dubs itself grandiosely Humanity United Against Terror, by carefully calling the event a "benefit for the victims of terror especially Kashmiri Pundits and Hindu refugees from Bangladesh" it makes its sympathies clear and its priorities obvious in their caste system of terror victims. No Syrians need apply. Kumar anyway makes no bones about the need to profile Muslims.
Trump's love for India and Hindus has not prevented him from railing against outsourcing. Even while Kumar drums up desi support for Trump, pro-Trump PACs are releasing videos about Hillary Clinton as a champion of outsourcing which ends with the claim "She's earned India's trust". Despite that Dave Makkar, secretary of Indian-Americans for Trump, writes "Trump is anti-Pakistan and pro-India" and Hindus for Trump say on their Facebook page "It's simple. Hilary is anti-Indian and pro-Pakistan, Trump is pro-India and anti-Pakistan."
Trump is really just pro-Trump and will happily mock a call-centre accent when the audience is right for it and run ads showing Clinton in India talking about the H1-B policy when he thinks that works with his base.
Our stars can pretend they have nothing to do with Trump. This is not a Trump fundraiser unless he's a Kashmiri Pandit. He's just a special guest at the event. But it's not so easy to escape Trump. The event is being packaged and sold by the HRC, not as a Shahid Kapoor extravaganza but as a "Meet and Greet with Stars and Donald Trump." This is HRC putting on a debut ball for Trump within the desi community riding on the backs of film stars.
And are the stars aligned with that? Would our stars who usually steer so clear of political controversy at home really want to be seen even tacitly endorsing Trump's vitriol and xenophobia abroad? In the eyes of those who flock to Trump's rallies, one brown person is not that different from another brown person. So Shahid Kapoor and Prabhu Deva would do well to steer clear of any Trump rally.