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'Chak De! India' to 'Pathaan': Shah Rukh Khan's Patriotic Stand Through Films

The success of Pathaan largely conveys what Shah Rukh Khan believes in.

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In a 1997 interview with actor Farida Jalal, Shah Rukh Khan elaborated on his definition of what "being an Indian" meant. “When we were kids, we were asked to write an essay on ‘My country India’. I think that should be changed, it should be the country is India, and we are the citizens of this country. We don’t own India. Ownership doesn’t mean this is our India. It means what we have to do for our country..."

Over the years and several films down the line, Shah Rukh's beliefs and politics became very clear. He proved that he had nothing to do with the chest-thumping jingoism. Patriotism, for him, has never been about making grand gestures or contorting the face to scream his loyalty for the country. Rather, it has been about spreading love and doing his work with utmost sincerity.

The success of Pathaan largely conveys what the superstar believes in. Let's take a look at some other films where brotherhood and inclusivity overshadowed everything else.

Pathaan

The success of Pathaan largely conveys what Shah Rukh Khan believes in.

After four years, Shah Rukh received a hero's welcome with the Siddharth Anand directorial, Pathaan. 32 years later, SRK lived his dream of becoming an out-and-out action hero, taking down an army of bad guys alone. Much has already been said and written about Pathaan's (both good and bad) politics, but where Shah Rukh Khan stands out is that he calls for love and healing in a country afflicted with hate.

Pathaan's origin story couldn't have been a better way to embrace what SRK has always stood for. In one scene, he tells Rubina (Deepika Padukone) that his parents abandoned him in a theatre, a place that's never been about religion, where people are supposed to shed all biases to sing, dance, enjoy themselves and form a community.

"Just when you thought a chapter was over, I've written a whole new book" - Shah Rukh says in the movie. At a time when one of the most secular institutions (the Hindi film industry) is being ripped apart by polarization, Shah Rukh and his countless fans script a new chapter where nothing but love triumphs.

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Raees

The success of Pathaan largely conveys what Shah Rukh Khan believes in.

Rahul Dholakia sets Raees within the religious context. Shah Rukh Khan and Dholakia refuse to play safe in the movie. The setting is Gujarat. SRK makes a grand entry during a Muharram procession. His character Raees is loosely based on the life of criminal Abdul Latif. From early on, we realise that it's a complex portrayal of a man who is anti-establishment, a vigilante who becomes the voice of the voiceless and marginalised. Raees puts business (bootlegging) above religion. His intention has never been to harm others; severe betrayals force him to move to the darker side.

On one hand, Raees encourages violence. On the other hand, he is that 'messiah' who looks after the needy.

“Neither Hindu, nor Muslim should die of hunger,” says Raees in one of the scenes. For his community, he may be a parallel government, but he is not absolved of his wrongdoings. The system may use Raees to his own benefit, but Raees also doesn't hesitate to use the system.

The moral compass remains intact and his crimes aren't justified. There is no escaping the guilt either. “Mohalla bachate bachate shehar jala diya (In trying to save the neighbourhood I set the town ablaze),” he says. Another dialogue in Raees points out that every crime has to be followed by punishment. “Begunahon ko maar kar jannat naseeb nahin hogi (Killing innocent lives will not get you a place in heaven).

Chak De! India

The success of Pathaan largely conveys what Shah Rukh Khan believes in.

Chak De! India really redefined the definition of patriotism being dished out by Hindi films over the years. Love for one's land doesn't need to be said aloud in every second sentence, it can come across in subtle ways as well.

The Shimit Amin directorial follows an underdog women's hockey team, led by a resilient coach Kabir Khan (Shah Rukh Khan) winning a world championship by fighting against all odds. By coming together, the women and Kabir shed their prejudices as well. Through different brilliant scenes, the makers hold a mirror as to how people from the North-East are considered outsiders by their own country, how natives from Jharkhand are mocked as being from the "circus" and how a Telugu girl is nonchalantly asked what makes her different from a Tamil person.

It's not just the outside world that is racist and biased, the women in the national hockey team are equally blind as well. We see the girls fight and bicker amongst themselves, and it takes Kabir to teach them otherwise. In the initial scenes, Kabir guides the team on how to play a game the right way. When he asks the players to introduce themselves, they do so by mentioning the names of their respective states and regions. To which the coach responds, "Mujhe states ke naam na sunai dete hai na dikhai dete hai, sirf ek mulk ka naam sunai deta hai... INDIA", reminding them to let go of their individualistic pride and ego when they have signed up to play for a national team.

At the core of the film is the story of the victory of a man who had been labelled a traitor and ostracised years back, just because of his religion. Towards the beginning of the movie, we see Kabir and his mother leaving their ancestral home, humiliated. Seven years later when Kabir brings the trophy home after shutting down naysayers, it's disappointing to see him go through the defeat in the first place. It's not enough for a Kabir Khan to form a great team for the World Cup, he is expected to win too. It's ironic that the same expectations aren't placed on coaches who are the "majority".

There have been times when Shah Rukh had expressed how he was singled out just because he followed a specific religion. "Often I am being asked to give my opinion on terrorism. I find this question really weird since I believe there can't be conflicting views on terrorism. Maybe I am being pointedly asked this question because I am a Muslim", he had said in an interview. Kabir's portrayal couldn't have been more prophetic.

My Name is Khan

The success of Pathaan largely conveys what Shah Rukh Khan believes in.

Directed by Karan Johar, My Name is Khan tries to pack in multiple storylines, but ends up achieving very little. It sidelines a few subplots, but offers the stage to a very important issue - the plight of Muslims after the 9/11 attacks. The horrific tragedy cast suspicion even on innocent practitioners of the religion. By stating, "My name is Khan, and I am not a terrorist", the hero Rizwan (Shah Rukh) states the universal truth - that no religion, including Islam, preaches violence against the innocent.

A devoted believer, Rizwan quotes from the Quran, "Humanity dies with the loss of one innocent life". He sees bloody consequences of the attacks. Growing up with Asperger's syndrome, Rizwan moves to the US to stay with his brother Zakir after their mom's death. There he meets a Hindu widow Mandira (played by Kajol) and they fall in love. Mandira's son becomes Rizwan's best buddy, till 9/11 tears the family apart, as it did for many others.

It wasn't any surprise that ahead of the film's release, bigots attempted to take on the superstar. They made My Name is Khan even more important for its subject's worth.

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Speaking about the historic success of Pathaan Shah Rukh said in a press conference on 30 January, "This is Deepika Padukone, she is Amar, I, Shah Rukh Khan, am Akbar and that is John (Abraham), who is Anthony. This is what makes cinema. There are no differences that any of us have, for anybody, any culture, any aspect of life. We love you, that's why we make films..."

That, in short, is everything SRK has stood for. This is his brand of patriotism.

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