Dear fellow Indians,
I still vividly remember how young girls all over the country swooned over Aamir Khan when his first movie Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak released in 1988. He was the hottest bachelor in the country. I remember how Filmfare and Stardust carried stories about countless girls writing love letters to him, some even in blood. But after a few years, it came up that Aamir had long been married but he had hidden his marriage from the public all along just to become a heartthrob. As a 10 year old, I was upset about this lie, but the tolerant people of India looked past this hypocrisy, pardoned him and continued to idolise him. Aamir's popularity only kept climbing up and over the years he became an indomitable force in the Indian film industry.
Though he looked down on Indian film awards, the tolerant media houses continued to bestow awards on him.
Over the years, there have been several controversies involving the Khan. When he publicly criticised Indian film awards and stopped attending awards functions saying that he didn't believe in them, I admired his guts. But a few years later, I was shocked when he camped in the US promoting and lobbying for the Oscars for his movie Lagaan. His bitter critic Mahesh Bhatt famously put it as "grovelling before the White man." The tolerant Indians ignored that too and lapped up his next movie. Though he looked down on Indian film awards, the tolerant media houses continued to bestow awards on him.
A few years ago, I was surprised to see a black comedy, Delhi Belly, come out of his stable. I admired him once again for his courage to make such a movie in India. It quickly evaporated when he criticised the All India Bakchod for being "abusive". The hypocrite in him once again resurfaced, I thought. I have often wondered about the real Aamir. Is he really as self-righteous and sanctimonious as he sounds sometimes? Or is he just a simple, "innocent" guy (as his friend Rajkumar Hirani puts it) who at times ends up with his foot in his mouth, perhaps trying to sound more intelligent than he really is? His tiffs, be they with Ram Gopal Verma, Mahesh Bhatt or Amol Gupte only added to his image of being a stiff, non-compromising know-it-all.
As a psychiatrist, I often take it with a pinch of salt when someone comes with the tag of "a perfectionist". I wonder if there is a closet narcissist masquerading as a perfectionist. Whatever he is, I do not think that his latest rant about rising intolerance in India is anything more than a foot-in-the-mouth moment. I do not truly believe that he meant what he said. The same way when he posted something about his dog named Shah Rukh Khan, he thought he was funny. Or smart. Or both. Unfortunately he was neither.
As a psychiatrist, I often take it with a pinch of salt when someone comes with the tag of "a perfectionist". I wonder if there is a closet narcissist...
But interestingly, in all the social gatherings I've attended recently, I have been seeing more and more people putting him down as a hypocrite. If my physician friends are rejecting him because of his half-baked comments on doctors in general, I can understand. Last year, when there was a heated discussion in my cousins' WhatsApp group about Aamir selectively criticising Hinduism in PK and not daring to say anything about Islam, I just laughed it off as I don't really care about any organised religion. But I did observe that his treatment of the subject in PK bothered many people. So , finally, when his remarks about rising intolerance in India came out, the pent up anger surfaced in people, who criticised him with all guns blazing.
Why so? Why did Aamir Khan face such harsh criticism? Even Kamal Haasan made a statement two years ago that he wanted to leave the country, when his movie Viswaroopam was facing hurdles due to some political vendetta in Tamil Nadu. I saw all sections of people supporting him and rallying behind him. Finally the Government had to cave and let Viswaroopam release because of the growing public support for him.
If two actors made similar statements, why was one supported and why was the other lynched? Is it because Aamir is a KHAN? A Muslim? Or was it just a case of Aamir's hypocrisy finally catching up with him? I see the likes of Subramanian Swamy airing strong comments on Aamir on social media and beyond. But aren't the people like him, Baba Ramdev and Dr Zakir Naik bigger threats to the social fabric of secular India? Are Aamir's comments any more inflammatory than the daily nonsense we hear from the VHP and the Majlis parties?
Irrespective of whatever he had done in PK or said about rising intolerance in India, I still admire Aamir Khan. Just because he is good at what he does -- acting. He has given more meaningful cinema in the last 20 years than most of his contemporaries. He dared to act, produce and direct movies of different genres. The tag Aamir Khan itself is enough to guarantee a good movie. He broke the mould and paved a new path for the new generation of actors to tread on. I do not take his comments seriously, because he is not an authority on the subject. Neither is he a representative of Indian Muslims for me to worry about their insecure feelings in today's Indian society. I think Aamir was just trying to make a smart alecky statement, which we should just ignore and not take even with an iota of seriousness.
I heard concern in Aamir Khan's voice when he made those comments. I am hearing hatred in people's voices when they are talking about Aamir. That by definition is intolerance...
I am not upset to hear these statements from Aamir. What is more upsetting to me is that scores of Indians have proven him right by being so violently intolerant to his intolerance rant. It is concerning to me how the nation reacted to his comments. Sadly, he was proven right that India has become more intolerant.
The way most of my friends and cousins reacted to his comments made me cringe. "How dare he say he wanted to leave the country?" fumed a friend of mine here in the US, who had long ago left India and settled in America. This is the friend who lectures me very often on why we NRIs cannot move back to India because of the corruption, pollution, yada yada yada. A friend of mine who took the citizenship of a European county two years ago sent me a petition to sign to remove Aamir as the brand ambassador of Incredible India. He wants his cousins in India to uninstall the Snapdeal app and boycott Aamir's next movie. He thinks Aamir should move to Pakistan. Surprisingly, none of these vocal critics said anything when the so-called intelligentsia returned awards in protest. We thought it was funny and named it award wapsi. Nobody cared to say anything when some bigots asked Shah Rukh and Aamir to go to Pakistan. I believe that Shah Rukh and Aamir have contributed so much more to the country than these people can ever do in their lives.
Everybody has freedom of speech. Aamir exercised his. So did the angry people of India. Aamir's was a faux pas. But the people who reacted to him spit venom on him. I heard concern in Aamir Khan's voice when he made those comments. I am hearing hatred in people's voices when they are talking about Aamir. That by definition is intolerance, my friends. I bet the majority of the people who are calling to boycott Aamir have not even cared to watch the video of the purported comments. They are just reacting based on some media reports. Emotional knee jerk reactions without reasoning are not uncommon in the present Indian society. I am sure most of them don't even know who Ramnath Goenka was and what Aamir was doing at that award function. Nobody has the patience to look deeper into a controversy.
All my fellow NRIs, before you condemn Aamir, ask yourself why you left India in search of greener pastures...
My country stands for tolerance. My country has been known for it. I like Aamir, the actor. I don't care much for him as anything other than that. I will or will not watch his next movie, based on its merits and demerits, not based on what he said in an interview. Meanwhile, my dear sharply reacting fellow Indians, ask yourself what you have done for the country that gives you a right to criticise Aamir so much. All my fellow NRIs, before you condemn Aamir, ask yourself why you left India in search of greener pastures and why you make fun of India every weekend after a few drinks. Aamir talked about the Bhagavad Gita which he said he had read, he talked about Anekantavada from Jainism, and he named his son Azad after his great-uncle, the freedom fighter Abul Kalam Azad. That tells me that he is at least well read. What have you done, my friends, other than just forwarding meaningless posts of hatred on WhatsApp and Facebook?
A disgruntled proud Indian
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