Intolerance row: Bhakts attacking Aamir Khan merely proving his point

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Kiran Rao and Aamir Khan

Aamir Khan doesn’t have a new movie release coming up. That is what surprised people almost as much as his statement about intolerance in India. After all, it is a truth universally acknowledged that Mr Khan doesn’t say or do anything without the prospect of it affecting the release of a new movie looming on the horizon. And yet, according to news reports, he did speak out. Without it being part of a marketing campaign. The horror!

To be fair, all Khan expressed was a certain amount of concern over an increase in incidents of intolerance in recent months, which had supposedly prompted his wife to consider leaving the country. It’s a thought that has cropped up in a lot of sane minds over the past couple of months; and by sane, I mean minds that aren’t completely in thrall to Narendra Modi’s sustained PR campaigns.

Naturally, because Aamir Khan is more important that thousands of regular folk who often say pretty much the same thing about intolerance, a lot of people decided to get hot and bothered by his comments. One aggrieved gentleman from Delhi reportedly filed a police complaint against the actor, saying that he “as a citizen of this country feels that the celebrities should think before speaking.”

Unfortunately for the resident of Delhi — a state known for its residents who often pause to think before abusing someone — the kind of role models we place on pedestals here don’t exactly do a lot of thinking. Here’s a cursory look at the kind of people we look up to: movie stars who haven’t been to school, movie stars who have been to school, cricketers who may or may not have been to school, cricket commentators who may or may not have been to school, film journalists who write reviews so they can earn enough to enrol themselves into a decent school, politicians who certainly haven’t been to school and businessmen, because it’s all about ill-gotten money in this land of spiritualism, honey.

Given this sort of scenario, expecting celebrities to “think before speaking” doesn’t really make much of a difference. It would only if our celebrities were writers, philosophers, artists or teachers. And they’re not.

Aamir Khan’s comments also attracted hostility from members of his own industry. Like Anupam Kher, for instance, who asked Aamir why he didn’t tell his wife that this country “made Aamir Khan.” It was an inane response, of course, but then again, Kher has never found his name on any list of intelligent people. It’s also hard to take the man seriously when he spends half his life playing a misogynistic buffoon on the big screen.

Also attacking Aamir was Abhijeet Bhattacharya, a singer who has, in recent years, taken upon himself the need to protect India’s dignity, one grammatically incorrect tweet at a time. He is also the man who famously blamed the poor people sleeping on the street, after a sessions court in Bombay sentenced Salman Khan to five years in prison in connection with a 2002 hit-and-run case. And also the man who referred to Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali as a ‘dengue artist’ (whatever that means) from a ‘terrorist country’. And, yes, also the man recently accused of molesting a 34-year old woman at a Durga puja pandal.

When people like these start defining how patriotic we all ought to be, you know India has a problem.

Maybe Aamir Khan shouldn’t have said a word. Maybe he should have concentrated on marketing his movies quietly, like actors in this country are supposed to do. Maybe we need role models who do nothing but shimmy and shake on the big screen, so we can then encourage our 5-year olds to watch them and do the same in the hope that they can someday earn a lot of money doing it on a big screen. Maybe we don’t deserve people with opinions unless their opinions reflect our own.

I don’t agree or disagree with what Aamir Khan had to say. I simply believe he has a right to his opinion because, like most of us, he pays his taxes, isn’t a criminal and hasn’t made awful movies like Ram Gopal Varma does constantly. He should have the right to say what he feels, because we can all agree to disagree. The many rabid attacks on him simply reinforce what he had to say about intolerance. And that kind of irony has always been lost on supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Twitterati react
Raveena Tandon
debate hs bcm fully politicised,Njoy d madness ppl,while I go to wish a babyborn of Muslim father Hindu mother,lives in no fear #trueindia

Ram Gopal Varma
Isn’t Aamir,Sharuk,Salman,3 Muslims becoming biggest stars of a Hindu country proof enough that india is tolerant?

Anupam Kher
Dear @aamir_khan. #SatyamevaJayate u talked about evil practices but gave Hope. So even in ‘Intolerant’ times u need 2 spread Hope not Fear.
Dear @aamir_khan. When did ‘Incredible India’ become ‘Intolerant India’ for you? Only in the last 7-8 months? #AtithiDevoBhavah

After effect
As word spread about Aamir Khan speaking out on growing intolerance in the country at an event in Delhi, his filmmaker-wife Kiran Rao had to face backlash back home in Mumbai. Early morning, she found a group of people demonstrating outside her house. The 20-odd protestors, who claimed to belong to a right-wing outfit called Hindu Sena, were demanding an apology from Aamir for his statements, failing which they threatened to hold protests in other parts of the country.

The Khar police arrested all of them soon after. Two police vans were promptly stationed outside the star’s residence.

Sources close to the family said that Kiran is obviously disturbed by the goings on and apparently felt more threatened because Aamir was also not in town.
She decided to stay put in the house through the day, heeding to the advice of friends and family, says an insider.


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