No Dangal in Pakistan: How Aamir Khan won the hearts of bhakts

In a country where hypernationalism is the latest art form, not many would want to see the move from an artistic point of view.

 |  5-minute read |   07-04-2017
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Aamir Khan has refused to release Dangal in Pakistan and bhakts can't love him enough.

Khan, who is the co-producer of Dangal, Bollywood's biggest blockbuster ever, decided against releasing the film in Pakistan after the Central Board of Film Censors in the neighbouring country demanded that two scenes involving the Indian flag and the national anthem be cut.

"Pakistan had been very keen on releasing the film and several distributors had been talking us to, but after their censor came back with a demand for two cuts, Aamir Khan decided to stall the release," Khan's spokesperson was quoted as saying by The Times of India.

According to a Hindustan Times report, the decision could cost the film a loss of Rs 10 crore to 12 crore.

The same report quoted an unnamed source saying that Khan felt the “demand for the two cuts was surprising, because the film isn’t jingoistic in nature”.

“It’s a sports-based biopic with no direct or indirect reference to Pakistan. The film only highlights India’s nationalistic sentiment, so what is the reason to chop off those scenes?”

With this, Khan seems to have finally found redemption, especially after the repercussions following his statement on "intolerance" in 2015.

Khan became a target of trolls on social media after he said his wife Kiran Rao had considered leaving India because of rising "intolerance" in the country.

More furore followed as Snapdeal distanced itself from the actor and ended a year-long endorsement with him. Snapdeal's announcement came almost a month after the Incredible India dropped him as its brand ambassador from the signature advertising drive for the tourism ministry.

It was later reported that the BJP IT cell chief allegedly directed volunteers to put pressure on Snapdeal to drop the actor. The BJP allegedly also carried out a planned campaign against Khan on social media after his remarks at an award function on rising "intolerance". The party had, however, denied the charges.

Khan though managed to win back some of his miffed fans with the release of Dangal last December, where he played the role of wrestler Mahavir Phogat, the strict and passionate father-mentor of Commonwealth Games gold medalists Geeta and Babita Phogat in a sports biopic with a patriotic background.

Dangal could not be released in Pakistan earlier because of the temporary ban on Indian films imposed by Pakistani authorities — a move in retaliation to a ban on import of Pakistani artistes and technicians in India following the Uri attack in September 2016.

Pakistan, however, lifted the ban in February this year with the release of Hrithik Roshan-starrer Kaabil.

But as soon as the news (about Khan's refusal to release the movie in Pakistan) hit social media, some more angry bhakts absolved him of his past "sins" and declared him a true rashtravadi.

But what might puncture this jingoistic euphoria is the fact that Khan's decision may have come more out of artistic compulsion then plain nationalistic reasons. The two scenes that Pakistan film board wanted to be cut appear at the very end of the film, when the story hits the climax and celebrates a winning moment.

If you look at it from an artistic point of view (without getting overwhelmed by hypernationalistic spirit), the deletion of the national anthem will also kill the entire climax, where an anxious Mahavir Phogat gets trapped in a storeroom by Geeta's conniving coach (irrespective of the fact that nothing of that sort happened in reality and the filmmakers allowed themselves a few cinematic liberties) while she takes on her Australian opponent in the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

The father, who is locked up in the storeroom, is seen with clenched fists of desperation and all hopes lost when he suddenly hears the national anthem playing and realises his dream has come true.

Now, if you cut out the national anthem from the scene how do you show the expression of surprise and relief on Mahavir's face. How would he know his daughter has won?

But of course in a country where hypernationalism is the latest form of art, not many would want to look at Khan's decision from a purely artistic point of view.

Nevertheless, Khan has managed to satiate the hunger for nationalistic pride with his latest decision. In fact, he has been at it for some time now (ever since the 2015 blunder).

Sample this: Appearing in Rajat Sharma's Aap ki Adalat in 2016, Aamir shocked his fans when he addressed the controversy sparked by his "rising intolerance" statement with a much-rehearsed corrigendum-cum-denial. What surprised everyone was the transformation of the thinking man's actor, who boldly voiced his concern over social and national issues (Narmada Bachao Andolan, FTII, CBFC,  female foeticide etc), suddenly blamed the people for spreading misinformation and quoting him out of context. Watch the video below:

Khan did it again recently when he came out in support of PM Narendra Modi’s demonetisation policy and dubbed it a great move to curb black money. Even though he surprised a lot of his genuine fans (who were forced to suffer the consequences of an ill-planned and unnecessary drive) with an off-the-cuff "I-haven’t-faced-any- problems", right-wing trolls on social media were happy that the actor was finally coming around.

Hopefully, Khan's latest act will only cement that trust between him and his new-found bhakts. And even though he missed out on the "coveted" National Awards this time (the results for which were announced today-April 7), who knows there could well be a "nationalistic" award waiting for him. Jai Hind!

Also read: Dangal shows Aamir Khan is Bollywood's biggest superstar, not SRK, Salman Khan


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