Art & Culture

Ramya, Irrfan, Salman: Is India's intolerance on sale for publicity?

Kalyani Prasher
Kalyani PrasherAug 25, 2016 | 14:07

Ramya, Irrfan, Salman: Is India's intolerance on sale for publicity?

When I heard that an actor called Ramya has been accused of sedition for saying something that roughly amounts to thinking that Pakistan is just another country with problems, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Another time I would have dismissed it, thinking our country will never take such a charge seriously, but these days one never knows.

The state of freedom of expression in this country is spiralling down with a brick attached to its neck, but this was ridiculous even by Turkey standards.


In fact, it is a bit too ridiculous that anyone can get so offended at "I respectfully disagree, Pakistan is not hell, people there are just like us" – so offended that they will bother to file a sedition charge against anyone over this.

I mean, even on the Republic of Permanently Offended People, Twitter, we just let such things go with #GoToPakistan or an abuse or two.

This reminded me of Salman Khan’s ridiculous remark about feeling wiped out like a raped woman, which is a terrible analogy to give at any day and time, but, in today’s atmosphere, for a man of (supposedly) average intelligence to say such a thing was truly unbelievable.

Why would Salman, generally thought to be a thug who got away with running over human beings, now take on the burden of participating in rape culture?

Why would Salman Khan, generally thought to be a thug who got away with running over human beings, now take on the burden of participating in rape culture?

That happened two weeks before the release of his movie, Sultan.

It is unthinkable that anyone would want to be seen as a total jerk just for a hit movie, but then you have to remember that large sections of the audience who bother about such comments have already written off Salman Khan. What does he stand to lose?


Come to think of it: what happened to the case after Sultan released? News about that case faded as soon as the movie released and a quick online search reveals the last news on the case is two days after the release of the movie. My cynical mind is now on high alert.

I didn’t know who Ramya was but now I see that she is quite a popular actor, and one would think she doesn’t need controversies to make people notice her films. Nevertheless, Google tells me her next film releases in two weeks.

If we were to believe that Salman Khan can rake up noise the seedy way for his much-awaited movies, then why not Ramya via a perfectly valid cause like free speech?

Two weeks before Madaari released, Irrfan Khan made some really thoughtful comments about fasting and qurbani. I liked his views but I instantly knew that the unwashed masses will be outraged and enraged. Bring anything resembling a question to religious practices in India and you are asking for trouble – and Irrfan Khan and his Madaari team must have been aware of this. I love Irrfan Khan but is he above this game?

Two weeks before the realse of Madaari, Irrfan Khan made some really thoughtful comments about fasting and qurbani.

These are highly cynical and slightly unsavoury thoughts and I don’t want to think them, but can any sensible person confidently write off all of these cases as coincidence?

When television screens and social media were burning with the controversy over Udta Punjab, I, like many others, wrote about Pahlaj Nihalani’s unnecessary censorship and interference with our cinema.

At that point, a friend suggested that it was all staged but I didn’t believe him. To believe that one would have to believe that a man like Nihalani would readily agree to be abused and mocked by thousands of liberals… and loved by millions of bhakts who thought Udta Punjab was part of Kejriwal’s campaign… oh wait.

I am not a fan of conspiracy theories but neither do I believe in filmy coincidences.

The latest one in this endless chain is the rumour about India’s unfunniest person Kapil Sharma actually marrying (and not just on the show) Jacqueline Fernandez – this made the rounds last week, just before his movie’s release in a few weeks but it didn’t take off. No surprises there, because, frankly, some things are too hard to believe even for the most gullible Indian.

Using affairs between actors as a tool to promote their upcoming film is an old plot but this new trend of cashing in on intolerance is really disturbing.

When Ramya turns into a symbol of free speech, it is all very nice, but how many people are on her side?

This kind of controversy gives the intolerant brigade another platform to air their nasty thoughts – there were hundreds of discussions where our morons said things like "but if Pakistan is not hell then what is?" – not realising that someone might be using them for publicity.

Outrage is an industry now; a marketing tool.

In the last couple of days, Sapna Bhavnani has given more than one interview about how she has not written about Salman Khan in her upcoming book. Most of these interviews are almost entirely about "not writing" and "not caring" about Salman, and she calls his movies "stupid", "f**k-all" and says that he "dances like a monkey". Very eloquent, Sapna, that should show him.

Sapna Bhavnani has NOT written about Salman Khan in her new book.

Everyone knows that if you abuse Salman Khan, his bromancing brothers will talk about you endlessly – at just the right time for the release of her book. I didn’t know the name of her book till yesterday, but now I do, and you probably do too.

Publicity and promotion is important for making your work a commercial success, and no one is taking away any points from you for trying that, but at what cost?

Fuelling outrage and intolerance in India at this point – where people are dragging people "who don’t look like Indians" off roads for carrying bags made of "what looks like cow leather" and not beating them up only because "they might be Brahmins" – at this point, fuelling this culture of intolerance is inexcusable.

I’m sorry but no commercial success, yours, mine or Salman’s, is worth making our country a little less liveable each day.

Last updated: August 25, 2016 | 19:01
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