The rising intolerance of superstar Aamir Khan

Sandeep Balakrishna
Sandeep BalakrishnaNov 25, 2015 | 20:54

The rising intolerance of superstar Aamir Khan

If you're an actor who's facing a real-life situation in public, the public will never be able to tell whether your smiles or tears or fears in said real-life situation are phony or real. And it's worse if you're acclaimed as a method actor. More the method, more the phoniness.

If that sounds harsh, it's because there's really no other way to characterise Aamir Khan's recent hypocritical rant against the non-existent "rising intolerance" in India. Indeed, the greatest proof that his claim is a sham is the fact that he was able to voice it in the first place on stage at a high-profile public event.


That he used a platform named in the honour of the venerable and courageous Ramnath Goenka who actually fought against real intolerance at great personal and professional cost compounds the sham into an affront against Goenka's values.

It is also a massive wound inflicted against millions of taxpayers and even BPL people who've made him what he is today-lakhs of people from various unglamorous professions including autorickshaw drivers, coolies, and similar folks who have set aside to give their precious little earnings to Aamir Khan only because they love his performance onscreen. By Aamir Khan's own reasoning, all of these people have contributed to what he calls "rising intolerance". After all, a significant chunk of this population voted for the current government, which Aamir Khan accuses as ushering in said intolerance.  

In reality, Aamir Khan is merely symbolic of a deeper, all-round rot. In any healthy democracy with vibrant institutions of public discourse including the media, they would know the exact place to put film stars and similar celebrities in: out of harm's way.

However, in India particularly, the media especially, has colluded in the TOI-fication of film and fashion personalities, deifying them, and falsely elevating them as examples worth emulating.  The result is an Aamir Khan, a Shah Rukh Khan, a Saif Ali Khan and similar puffed up celebrities who have a view on everything.


This selfsame Saif Ali Khan wrote an ill-informed piece in the selfsame Indian Express last year about his being a "Hindu," "Muslim," and "Indian". Like in the present, it invited huge backlash against the actor. The same is applicable to something equally vapid that his mother, Sharmila Tagore wrote recently. Or Naseeruddin Shah who added fuel to the attempts to derail discourse when the fake bogey of award returns was whipped up not coincidentally in the run-up to the Bihar polls.

When this sort of thing happens repeatedly, it brings out the worst in people. The past six decades of Indian "secular" politics has demonstrated the truth of this conclusively. Indeed, this precise brand of politics has acted as the feeder together with a toxic mix of influential media persons, which enabled Aamir Khan to make this false claim with impunity. From this perspective, it's thus immaterial whether Aamir Khan did this to generate publicity for his upcoming movie or for whatever other reason.

Besides, what exactly is Aamir Khan's record of public or national service? Satyameva Jayate where Aamir Khan morphed into India's male equivalent of Oprah Winfrey? No one is sure what precise positive outcomes occurred in real life after the show ended. However, one is definitely sure that it raked in tons of money for the producers and Aamir Khan.


As far as public memory goes, one fails to recall any instance of Aamir Khan standing up for the right causes or displaying courage when it was required.

On the other hand, he lent his support to the Narmada Bachao Andolan whose only achievement was to drag economic development down by a few decades. This is an organization accused of lying in court under oath. This apart, he is the first signatory of a petition by the Shabnam Hashmi-run ANHAD to then PM Manmohan Singh demanding his apology for "defending" then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. Aamir Khan is also on record, in a TV interview where he branded Narendra Modi as being responsible for the Gujarat riots of 2002 and had called for strict punishment.

On the other side of this coin, Aamir Khan didn't utter a single word when the perpetrators of the 26/11 jihad against India went on a shooting spree and massacred a host of innocent Indians. Nor did he protest or express moral outrage when the draconian Section 66A was imposed by the previous "tolerant" UPA government. Nor when an ordinary Indian was arrested in Tamil Nadu for criticizing a former finance minister's son. One can of course cite numerous such examples of real intolerance and bullying that occurred under the previous regime. Yet Aamir Khan chose to remain mum in all those instances.

And further yet, it is this same Aamir Khan who personally met Narendra Modi after he became the prime minister, the man he wanted to undergo punishment. Consistency much? This semi-lengthy record of this "thinking actor" had to be recounted if only to emphasize the truth of what writer Shefali Vaidya mentioned in a hard hitting piece:

You became a star in a new India. An India, where only your first name mattered. We loved you because you were Aamir, a brilliant actor. Neither your last name mattered to us, nor your faith.

But yesterday, you proved to us that for you and your wife at least, it is your last name that matters more than anything else.

Your name is Khan and you Sir, are a hypocrite.

You did not scream intolerance when your city burned at the hands of some of your co-religionists. Your wife did not feel insecure when a mammoth crowd of some of your co-religionists attended the funeral of a hanged terrorist. You were silent even when a mob from Reza Academy kicked and destroyed a national memorial and manhandled female cops.

But now, suddenly, your wife feels insecure in India and wants you to move out.

If I WERE indeed intolerant, I would suggest you move to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the safest place on earth, where Begum Kiran Rao can feel absolutely secure inside her abaya and your little son can grow up watching public executions in a Riyadh square.

But I am not going to do that. As a tolerant Indian, the only thing I can and WILL do is to make sure that not even one rupee of my hard-earned money goes towards buying tickets for your movies.

Indeed, this innate hypocrisy which for all these years had just been beneath the surface has exploded out in the open now. Aamir Khan had always worn his Muslim identity on his sleeve albeit couching it in pious sophistry. In a 2010 interview to Shaheen Raaj, here's what he said:

I have always reposed my total faith in "Allah" the only supreme power guiding and ruling this universe…

When asked in the same interview whether he faced "any religious dilemma while you were married to a Hindu lady Reena Dutta and later on to Kiran Rao?", here's Aamir Khan's reply:

No, none whatsoever. We never practised each other's religion neither did we force each other to do so. But, of course, I had made it very clear that my kids will always follow only Islamic religion.

Now replace Aamir Khan with a Hindu actor's name. Replace "Allah" with a Hindu God and the rest as, "But, of course, I had made it very clear that my kids will always follow only Hindu religion." How would our studio talking heads, celebrity editors, anchors, intellectuals, and the rest react? Your guess is as good as mine. The renowned commentator Tufail Ahmad's tweet nails it:

Dear @aamir_khan, you lock up Lord Krishna in a toilet and threaten him, and this country's vast majority tolerates you. And Intolerance? Not merely tolerate. PK broke records in collecting massive revenues.

Aamir Khan's hypocrisy is a multi-headed hydra. In the aforementioned interview, he wants his kids to only follow the Islamic religion whereas his speech at the Ramnath Goenka function reported by the Indian Express reads thus:

Voicing his opinion as a Muslim, he said, makes him uncomfortable. "Firstly, why should I be representing anyone? Secondly, I have to represent anyone, why not everyone? Why Muslims? My birth may be in a Muslim household, but I speak for everyone," he said.

The last time we checked, we didn't appoint Aamir Khan as our collective spokesperson. Equally when he claims of "growing discomfort within the majority of moderate Muslims," one would point to the words of a practising Muslim:

[I] grew up to be a doctor studying in some of the best institutions. Most of my friends and teachers were and are non-Muslims. All my best friends are non-Muslims. I have never felt … any different from them…I have never come across any one of them or their families being intolerant towards me. In fact they take pride in having a friend from a Muslim family. In India I have received as much opportunities to study and make my career as all my Hindu friends have. I cannot think of any incident in my life where I have faced any intolerance personally.

I cannot think of any Islamic country where I would get to practice my faith the way I want to practice…And here I am in India practising my faith as I want without any fear…

Where is the intolerance? It is in the minds of the pseudo intellectuals like Amir Khan.

I, as a Muslim, would like to appeal to such idiots to stop this…Amir your comments will make the uneducated ignorant Muslims more insecure and vulnerable to radicalization.

Mr. Amir Khan if you feel so insecure in India please leave…and don't create problems for the rest of Muslims like me who feel completely secure, safe and comfortable in India.

Stinging criticism for Aamir Khan also came from an unexpected source. Known for his fanatical and radical speeches, AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi rebuked the actor thus:

I'd have never said what Aamir Khan said. We will continue to live here and try to improve it as it is our country.

Indeed, the torrent of outrage cutting across castes and religions that Khan's insensitive, hypocritical and ungrateful statement instantly unleashed is another indicator of the abject state "secular" discourse has been reduced to. Equally, it holds a clear mirror to the media heads who "admire Aamir Khan for speaking out on intolerance." In many ways, these media heads enable an Aamir Khan whereas they should've been chiding him as responsible shapers of public opinion.

Come to think of it, Aamir Khan had to take recourse to quoting his Hindu wife who "fears for her child…fears about what the atmosphere around us will be…feels scared to open the newspapers every day." And therefore India has a climate of intolerance. This is beneath contempt.

And yes, as thousands have said on Twitter and elsewhere, Aamir Khan and his family need to move out of India. I heartily recommend America where his colleague, Shah Rukh Khan was strip searched, guess why? And good luck at trying to be a Hollywood star. And please don't ever return.

And dear Aamir Khan, here is a goodbye line for you: one that you mouthed in one of your superhits, which ironically was a well-made movie with patriotic overtones: Jis thaali mein khaata hai ussi mein chhed karta hai.

Indeed, Aamir Khan was always this way. It's only yesterday that his make-up finally came off.

Last updated: September 22, 2017 | 21:37
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