Union Minister for Minority Affairs Najma Heptulla interacts with Aamir Khan at the 8th edition of Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards in New Delhi, Nov. 23. (Shahbaz Khan | PTI)
The recent barrage of flak for one of Bollywood’s foremost actors, Aamir Khan, started at the Ramnath Goenka Awards ceremony of the Indian Express Group when he indulged in a conversation with Anant Goenka on a range of subjects, writes Priyanka Bhardwaj. (Society, #Appwapsi, #AamirKhan, @Siliconeer, #Siliconeer, #Bollywood)
On the ‘growing disquiet over some incidents’ Khan said, “Kiran and I have lived all our lives in India. For the first time, she said, should we move out of India? That’s a disastrous and big statement for Kiran to make to me. She fears for her child. She fears about what the atmosphere around us will be. She feels scared to open the newspapers every day. That does indicate that there is a sense of growing disquiet.”
The actor is known for his perfectionism and unconventional take on cinema and social issues concerning the country.
The social media turned abuzz with reactions bordering from the vitriolic to lunatic, threatening, personal attacks to downright outlandish and even supportive.
Such has been the “alarm and despondency” that it has become a purported topic of debate in the soon to be held winter session of the Parliament.
To begin with the reactions elicited, Smriti Irani, the Education Minister remarked that the actor who is the brand ambassador of “Incredible India” campaign could air his opinions freely on an open platform, in front of Arun Jaitley (Finance Minister) is proof of prevalent freedom of speech.
Further, she said that the tolerance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is evident in his inducting her in his cabinet despite her attacking him at an earlier date.
Predictably leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, Shahnawaz Hussain and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi slammed Khan and even hinted at a political conspiracy or of Khan entertaining political ambitions.
Hussain alleged at Congress party’s conspiracy as its vice president Rahul Gandhi backed Khan.
“Indians have showered Aamir with love, affection, praise, and money. He may use his stardom to make headlines, but his statements are nothing but a blot on the country’s image. At a time when the entire world is recognizing India as a superpower and the country is walking the path of development, the Congress is hatching a conspiracy to defame the nation,” Hussain retorted.
The core liberal and tolerant ethos of India went for a toss when many like the far right wing Hindu Mahasabha and Shiv Sena that did not rankle after Shah Rukh Khan’s similar statement in the recent past harshly suggested that Khan should relocate to neighboring Pakistan if he found India unsafe.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) came out in full support of Khan, but the Jamia Masjid Imam in Delhi said that he found India a safe place for Muslims.
Over a contemporary actor’ controversial remark the Indian film industry fraternity had much to say.
Oscar-winning music director A.R. Rahman conceded he shared similar feelings with Khan, while veteran actor Om Puri demanded an apology from Khan and Anupam Kher questioned Khan on which other country he would find safer to settle than the one which has made him a superstar.
But co-actor of Khan in the evergreen movie “Andaz Apna Apna,” the ‘ravishing’ Raveena Tandon tweeted, “Guess all those who did not want PM Modi to become PM, want to bring this govt down…sadly because of politics, they are shaming country.”
Though eminent actor Shabana Azmi spoke of the worrying trend of growing intolerance in the country, her husband, Javed Akhtar, eminent lyricist and mainstream cinema writer, stated that he had never faced communal discrimination.
However, Rishi Kapoor, a hugely successful star of yesteryears and father of Ranbir Kapoor, a young achiever in the film industry, asked Khan to stay put and repair the country.
Nothing got weirder than the gift of a newly constructed farm house by Meera (#TheGreatMeera), a Pakistani actor who specializes in staying in news for no special reason, to Khan when he visits Lahore (in Pakistan)!
On the serious ripple effects of the controversial remark that raged online, numerous users deleted their Snapdeal smartphone app to show their protest against the e-commerce major and many more gave it a one-star rating (lowest).
Founder of another e-commerce firm called Flipkart, Sachin Bansal lent support to Snapdeal by tweeting, “This is a flawed logic. Brands don’t buy into brand ambassadors personal opinions. @snapdeal shouldn’t face this.”
Expressing concerns via his medium of films and television serials has been a routine matter for Khan and he enjoyed or suffered his fair share of being mocked at, ridiculed and censored.
His last movie release, “PK” which did exceptionally well at the box office by raking in Rs. 6.2 billion dealt wonderfully with the blind faiths, superstitions, and misconceptions held by the general public in everyday life, all of which were hilariously weaved into the story’s fabric.
But opponents would have much rather have a ban imposed on the flick as they felt hurt by the “traitor Khan who deliberately spoofed at the Hindu religion” and had “no guts to take on other religions.”
It is no more a matter of “what is right or wrong” but that it is “no more right to express an opinion.”
Each citizen or individual is a significant unit of the society and may have his emotional opinions that may diverge from the collective whole or the majority.
In his remark Khan has faced a similar situation when he is found to be on the side of divergence from a so call or believed majority view.
In his latest public statement, he has clarified that he and his wife are proud to be Indians and seek no endorsement from anyone for being so and would always stay in India.
But for some like a short-film maker who has filed a complaint against Khan at a Delhi police station Khan’s earlier remark continues to affect.