It is precisely 1:02am on Sunday, 21 December, 2015. I have decided to write a letter and share it with the world, apologising for letting you down. You see, I am a proud Shah Rukh fan and an Indian and I have not stood by you in the last three days.
Sure, I watched Dilwale at PVR Imax (never once hesitated to pay 1500 bucks for two tickets, knowing how multiplexes raise prices on weekends!) but I still let you down. I watched as a section of my fellow countrymen protested against Dilwale for no valid reason. Their antics managed to get shows cancelled in four states and as I type this, shows in Mangalore are also getting cancelled.
You shouldn't even have to justify your statement any further... Voicing is just as important as voting.
The reason for the protests as reported is your statement against intolerance in the country. I believe in democracy and that people have a right to protest just as much as you have the right to make a statement. But there are some fundamental issues with the objections raised against you, which I'm going to explain below in bullet points for those who are reading this letter with an open mind:
• I googled your statements and discovered that at no point have you said anything negative about this great land or about any political party or individual. You have time and again stated that India is the best country to live and work in and you are proud to be an Indian.
• Your statement, which may have upset some people, is protected by your right to speech under the Constitution of India and you are as free to voice your opinion as I am or any other tax-paying citizen of India is. Furthermore, your statement was in reference to a question - in the context then, it was a completely valid statement. However, you still went one step further and apologised to anyone who may have misunderstood this.
• You shouldn't even have to justify your statement any further. There are a huge number of people in this country, including me, who feel there are issues that aren't right. And voicing our opinion is a way of showing how we truly care enough to want a change. So thank you for being a true citizen. Voicing is just as important as voting.
• It hurts me to have people question your motives, your faith and even suggest you should move to Pakistan. You Sir, are an Indian, and you have made this country proud nationally and internationally. You have been a brand ambassador for Bollywood and for India. While entertaining your audiences through your movies, you've also united a large number of Indians across the world. Like Swades, which inspired me to return to India and do something meaningful here.
• You deserve to live in this country just as much as anyone else. I am sorry to have to state this obvious fact. None of us have the right to question your right to domicile in India.
• You have entertained us for 25 years and we have let you down over misconstrued statements.
Protesting and cancelling your movies will affect the daily wage earner associated with the movie business, leading to loss of revenue...
• You have been generous, kind, and worked tirelessly in successfully creating an eco-system where other people depend upon your work for their livelihood. Protesting and cancelling your movies will affect the daily wage earner associated with the movie business, leading to loss of revenue and further damaging the economic levels in our country.
• You made it a point to have the names of your leading ladies appear before your name and while the cynics may disagree, it does send out a strong message to the younger generation about gender equality.
• You ensure that women who work late with you or on your movies are ensured of transportation to reach home safely.
• You have spent a lot of your free time interacting with fans like me and are always gracious with a smile, hug or selfie. Sometimes, you even performed at the cost of your health, just to entertain us.
• You've made it a point to never boast of your generosity. Which is probably why, most of us don't even realise that your donating Rs 1 crore to Chennai is just the tip of the iceberg.
• I believe entertainment is above any sort of politics and no movie deserves to get its shows cancelled.
I know the last three days have hurt you. I can't imagine what it must feel like, to be questioned and have your image tarnished after 25 years of entertaining millions of Indians. And to have your "Indianness" questioned at the drop of a hat is simply unimaginable. I don't think it is fair and I would rather say it out loud than become a silent spectator.
Finally, to the people who have read this ...Protest against anyone who takes away your rights which are guaranteed under the Constitution of India.
Finally, to the people who have read this and understood thus far, there are problems in our country and if you want to protest, then do it for the following reasons and not movies:
• Protest against the atrocities committed against women and children in our country.
• Protest against corruption and wastage of our resources.
• Protest against inequality in wealth distribution and lack of healthcare and education amongst the poorest.
• Protest against anyone who takes away your rights which are guaranteed under the Constitution of India.
• And, finally protest against people who divide us over trivial differences like religion or caste.
I am sorry SRK. I just wish we understood you better and stood by you through these dark days. I hope this letter reaches out to many and they understand that nothing affects an actor more negatively than not being able to showcase one's work. You live for applauses and I will always applaud every movie you make, good or bad.
With love and regards,
Gautam B Thakker
PS: Although, I am a part of this industry, I have no material relationship with SRK or with Red Chillies and am not planning to pursue one in the near future. I have not been paid to write this. My only intention of putting this out there is to highlight that cancelling shows hurts everyone, especially audiences. The movie's content does not offend anyone except perhaps a few critics. The intentions of the cast and crew are not to hurt anyone and they are as Indian as you and me. The choice to watch the movie, not watch it, applaud or critique it, lies with us, the audiences. So let's not take away their right, by cancelling shows and not screening the movie.
Also see on HuffPost: