How Narendra Modi tapped into Bollywood's star power for his re-election campaign

How Narendra Modi tapped into Bollywood's star power for his re-election campaign

No politician in Indian history has been able to create a celebrity outreach program like Modi, say academics
Updated 11 Apr, 2019

Early this year, a dozen of Bollywood’s biggest names took a private jet from India’s film capital of Mumbai to New Delhi for a private audience with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Subsequently, actor Ranveer Singh, who has nearly 22 million followers on Instagram, posted a smiling picture of himself hugging Modi, with a caption expressing his “joy” at the encounter, drawing more than 3 million likes.

Bollywood is playing a lead role in Modi’s campaign for a second term, endorsing him on-screen and off, in both subtle and obvious ways, in a marked shift from the more transactional relationship Indian film stars previously had with politicians.

Also read: Narendra Modi wants everyone to know he went to Priyanka Chopra's wedding

Modi asked filmmakers and stars to “talk about patriotism, and Indian culture and values,” in their films, said film producer Mahaveer Jain, who organised the Jan. 10 meeting.

“He recognizes the soft power of Bollywood, and the impact it can have.”

As people younger than 35 form nearly two-thirds of India’s population of about 1.3 billion, with more than 15 million voting for the first time in general elections that begin on Thursday, approval from the leading stars could be key.

Modi swept to victory in 2014, but this time, rural distress and concern about a lack of jobs threaten to make it tougher for his party to triumph in elections spread over a month, with counting set for May 23.

Related: Over 600 Indian theatre artists including Naseeruddin Shah ask citizens to vote against BJP, its allies

In recent months, Modi has met privately at least four times with several of Bollywood’s biggest personalities, most of whom have posted selfies with him on social media, accompanied by glowing captions.

“Together we would love to inspire and ignite positive changes toward a transformative India,” read a caption on director Karan Johar’s Instagram post of a star-studded group selfie with Modi that won more than 1 million likes. He thanked the government for cutting taxes on movie tickets.

“There is perhaps no politician in the history of Indian politics who has been able to create a celebrity outreach program like Narendra Modi,” said Joyojeet Pal, a University of Michigan professor who has analyzed Modi’s social media feed since 2009.

A BJP spokesman did not respond to Reuters’ repeated requests for comment.

Bollywood’s move to largely embrace Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party contrasts with the United States, where Hollywood has typically taken up liberal-left causes and backed the Democrats, more lately lampooning President Donald Trump and the right-wing Republican Party.


Karan Apr 11, 2019 10:34am
Its promotion of uri film not any campaign
DK PAMNANI Apr 11, 2019 10:55am
Modi ji is liked by 85% of the Bollywood stars.
jacky Apr 11, 2019 11:09am
Gone are the days of Dawood’s control on Bollywood.
Asad Apr 11, 2019 11:37am
Money talks. Give them tax-cuts, give them other lollipops, over 90% celebrities will be your side.
SivaD Apr 11, 2019 12:53pm
Political compulsions! Bollywood mainstream has also in many ways been inclusive and liberal in its practices and values that we are proud of and are clearly at odds with Mr. Modi’s politics. Overall, a mixed bag rather than a right wing tilt.
kaly Apr 11, 2019 06:29pm
Modi and Patriotism are synonyms...
utter patriot Apr 11, 2019 06:40pm
How Narendra Modi tapped into Bollywood's star power for his re-election in Pakistan.
A Apr 11, 2019 09:02pm
And we watch their movies and listen to their songs. Amazing.
waleed Karachi Apr 11, 2019 10:08pm
All are Hindus
Mahesh Mantri Apr 11, 2019 11:06pm
@waleed Karachi The best comment.
Ababias Apr 11, 2019 11:53pm
Both IK & NaMo are two sides of the same coin...Their policies, way of working is same but in different locations...
Mirza Apr 12, 2019 12:28am
Dont see any Khan there. that alone tells the story
fairplay Apr 12, 2019 04:52am
Boycott movies from all the actors in the photo. They chose to market Modi, we can choose not to watch their films.
Badshah Khan Apr 12, 2019 07:03am
@waleed Karachi just for your information Salim Khan the father of Salman Khan and writing partner of Javed Akhtar maintains the Urdu publications ,translations and media communication for narendra mode and BJP . Irfan khan is also a supporter or BJP as well as Sanjay khan (brother of deceased Feroz Khan) . Sharhrukh khan has close ties to Shiv Sena in Mumbai and is known to be a large donor . Please don't conclude without information
R. Kannan Apr 12, 2019 08:56am
There are both critics and supporters of Modi in Bollywood. Recently hundreds of artists, writers, singers etc had launched a campaign to vote out Modi and hundreds of similar persons launched a support Modi initiative. That is how a democracy works
khaleed Apr 12, 2019 09:16am
@waleed Karachi I sometimes find Pakistani mindset most enchanting
Gururaj Apr 12, 2019 09:16am
Ronald Raegan, when being US president fully capitalised his past association with Hollywood. Filmdom can be a powerful media for reaching people, for delivering strong messages. One has to merely recall how popular is Raj Kapoor's Awara Hoon..., nearly seven decades later.
Look Apr 12, 2019 02:35pm
@waleed Karachi So what ,only you have the right on religion.
sutapa Apr 12, 2019 05:36pm
An ACTOR among Bollywood cine personalities.
Munir Apr 13, 2019 12:51am
@DK PAMNANI That confirms Bollywoods' right wing mentality versus Hollywood.