New Delhi: A day after BJP leader Vijayvargiya dubbed Shah Rukh Khan as 'anti-nationalist' over…
New Delhi: Listening to the recent interview given by the Hindi film actor Shah Rukh Khan to the lead anchor of a leading English-language television news channel, it becomes evident that Khan has not gone out of the way to state his views on intolerance. In fact, the anchor asked him a loaded question, seeking Khan’s opinion on whether there was greater intolerance prevailing in the country today than in the past. In a nuanced response, the actor said that it could be the proliferation of media platforms facilitating everyone to express her opinion in public that has conveyed such a sense of heightened intolerance. Khan maintained that the “phenomenon” of intolerance which had been there in the past, is neither a “modern” nor a “recent” phenomenon. Then he went on to say that intolerance of any kind, of which religious intolerance is the worst, is not a good thing. Khan’s responses — platitudinal at best — do not qualify, even if one were to read between the lines, as provocative. The former BJP member and right-wing ideologue Arun Shourie was recently far more provocative in lambasting the Modi government and squarely blaming the Prime Minister for spurring the culture of intolerance.
But the BJP hotheads — and now increasingly the public suspicion is that their ubiquity is making the BJP out to be a party exclusively of hotheads — responded viciously to Khan’s anodyne views. Kailash Vijayvargiya, a party hardliner from Madhya Pradesh, tweeted, describing Khan as “anti-national” while Sadhvi Prachi, a VHP leader, labelled him a “Pakistani agent”. In an official response, the Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, M Venkaiah Naidu, distanced the government from Vijayvargiya’s statement and praised Khan as a great actor.
However, beyond the nitpickings around Khan’s remarks, the row throws up interesting questions about the continued indifference of mainstream Hindi cinema actors to political developments in the country.
Even though Shah Rukh Khan may appear to be the brave loner, striking a political stance, that is not the case. As a matter of fact, Khan’s statement has to be juxtaposed with that of another Khan, Salim Khan, a prominent screenplay and dialogue writer, who along with Javed Akhtar, have created the enduring angry young man image of Amitabh Bachchan in the 1970s — around the time Emergency was imposed. The other Khan has pooh-poohed the idea that there is — at present — greater intolerance in the country. Shah Rukh Khan spoke like a concerned liberal and Salim Khan’s is the voice of an experienced man who has seen much and who does not confuse flares with fires. Whatever the media highlighting of the views of the two Khans may be, they do not represent Hindi cinema.