What was Shah Rukh Khan doing, writing those part-insidious and part-incorrect and wholly inane lines about being made a victim because of his religion? But now that he has opened the Pandora’s box, the actor should be ready to take the hit, and not cry again.
Shantanu Datta | January 29, 2013
“I sometimes become the inadvertent object of political leaders who choose to make me a symbol of all that they think is wrong and unpatriotic about Muslims in India…. There have been occasions when I have been accused of bearing allegiance to our neighboring nation rather than my own country... Rallies have been held where leaders have exhorted me to leave and return what they refer to my original homeland.”
That was Shah Rukh Khan writing a first-person piece for a magazine about being a Muslim in the post-9/11 India, and the world at large.
Khan, as is clear to anyone who has seen him and his career head north over the years — never mind his films, they are all the same; after the first few years, he has survived, indeed swelled, not for his histrionic abilities but for being an all-encompassing showman — is nothing if not an astute, incisive and glib conversationalist with a sharp wit and ready charm.
So if you think he gave the go-ahead for these words without thinking of the fallout, you are way off the mark. And if he actually did not imagine the political and socio-cultural ramifications, he is way, way off the mark. It’s perhaps time, then, for him to hang the boots, say goodbye to the arclights, pack his bags and focus on other things in life.
But then, this Khan is too smart an Alec to do, and say, things randomly.
So the weekend television primetime hogging done for the comments, the same set of political leaders who, Khan claims, make him a political yo-yo are out, doing what they do best. Playing yo-yo.
So while Pakistan interior minister Rehman Malik, not known to hide his views on anything related to India or Indians, said he would “request the government of India (to) please provide him security”, New Delhi rubbished the request, politely or otherwise asking Islamabad to mind its own business.
In Pakistan, Jamaat-ud Dawa’s terrorist-in-chief Hafiz Saeed even offered to help Khan with his stay in the neighbouring country, adding that Shahrukh will be respected in Pakistan, according to reports in Pakistani media, while news channels are already lining up Bollywood stalwarts (led by rent-a-quote motormouth Mahesh Bhatt) in Khan’s defence.
So what exactly did Khan predict would happen by enacting in real life what irritated the living daylight out of most people who saw him play the Muslim victim in ‘My Name is Khan’?
Did he imagine people have stopped reading magazines and would, thus, not react? Or did he think politicians and journalists would sleep for the next 10 days, perhaps looking and relooking at reruns of the Republic Day parade?
Which political leaders was he referring to, the ones who “accused (Khan) of bearing allegiance to our neighboring nation”? Bal Thackeray and Raj? Even their own supporters would admit the uncle and nephew was and is maverick, out to appeal to the lumpen part of our brain. At least he has half the nation eating out of his hand; what if the Biharis and Uttar Pradesh-ites, the bigger scum, to believe the Thackerays, start complaining? Who will give them editorial space?
Yes, Mr Khan, many rallies have been held in Mumbai where leaders exhorted them, and the archetypal South Indian ‘Madrasis’ before them, “to leave and return” what those leaders referred to as their “original homeland”. You don’t have to be a Muslim to be a victim in a polyglot, multicultural and multi-knotty India.
If Khan is a victim, then, heck, we all are. Pardon the communal twang, but filmmaker Shirish Kunder, whom Khan slapped in public, and the security guards at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium, where he got into a row and reportedly abused them during an IPL game, were Hindus, and Marathi manoos to boot. If he was a victim, he wouldn’t be out in the open after such incidences.
Khan, of course, has the option to eject and argue that the media has, like it is wont to, picked selectively from a whole essay he wrote to ‘sensationalise’, that favourite phrase for anyone swimming in a bowl of soup these days. And he most likely would use the option, too.
And that would be wrong. If you uttered a word or wrote a sentence saying you are being victimised because of your race/religion/language/colour/caste/looks/sex/take-your-pick, there is no way on earth to misunderstand or misinterpret that. People in public life — more so people whose every syllable is heard, every nuances checked, every angle of speech pored over to find the triangle or rectangle, and ones who top Forbes India celebrity-100 lists with annual estimated earnings of $37.7 million — should watch what they say, see where they step and think before they even move.
That’s called responsibility. Not victimhood.
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