Naseeruddin Shah on Why Salman Khan, Shah Rukh, Aamir Khan Keep Mum on Issues
Naseeruddin Shah believes that there is a rise in big budget propaganda films in Bollywood.
Veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah recently faced flak on social media after he posted a video criticising some sections of the Muslim community in India for ‘celebrating’ the return of Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan. In an interview with NDTV, Naseeruddin Shah clarified what he meant by ‘Hindustani (or Indian) Islam’, and talked about the rise of propaganda films in Bollywood.
When asked if he ever felt discriminated against in the industry due to his Muslim identity, Shah said, “I don't know if the Muslim community is facing any discrimination now in the film industry. I think our contribution is far too important. In this industry, there is only one god, and that is Mammon.”
He added, “The amount of revenue you can generate makes for the amount of respect that you receive in this industry. The three Khans (Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan) are still at the very top, they are unchallenged and are still delivering. I have never felt any discrimination.”
He revealed that he was advised to change his name early in his career because ‘it was too long’ but he didn’t but it didn’t make any difference. However, he addressed the backlash he gets for speaking up about issues and said that a guy once sent him a ‘fully refundable ticket’ to Pakistan.
Naseeruddin Shah Imagines ‘the Khans Have So Much to Lose’
When asked if bigger stars, like the Khans, don’t speak up about issues out of worry, Shah said, “Obviously they’re worried because of the extent of harassment they will be subjected to.”
“I cannot speak for them but I can imagine they have so much to lose. They would be subjected to all manner of harassment, not just financial. Also, the fact is its not only the Muslims who receive flak, a person like (filmmaker) Anand Patwardhan is getting threats and constantly receiving flak and abuse from the right-wingers for the opinions he holds.”Naseeruddin Shah, Actor
Speaking about the themes and scripts in the industry these days, Shah said, “They are being encouraged by the government to make pro-government films, to make films lauding the efforts of our beloved leader. They also being financed, also promised a clean chit if they make movies which are propaganda, to put it bluntly. You find the biggest guys giving in and beginning to genuflect when asked.”
"You will find the biggest guys giving in to this. In Nazi Germany also this was attempted. Filmmakers who were outstanding, world-class, were rounded up and asked to make films propagating the Nazi philosophy,” Shah added. He added that while he doesn’t have ‘definite proof’, the big films coming out can’t ‘disguise their jingoistic intentions’.
Naseeruddin Shah Clarifies What He Meant By ‘Hindustani Islam’
In the video he posted, Naseeruddin Shah had said, “As the Taliban's return to power in Afghanistan is a cause for concern for the whole world, equally dangerous are the celebrations for the barbarians by some sections of Indian Muslims.” He also made a distinction between ‘Hindustani Islam’ and what is practised in other parts of the world.
“I meant the tolerant Sufi-influenced practice of Islam practised in this country, which has given us the greatest literature, the greatest poetry, and so many other cultural treasures. I was referring to the Islam represented by people like Moinuddin Chishti and Nizamuddin Auliya…Indian Islam is a religion that does not believe in the fundamental execution of the word of the law.”Naseeruddin Shah, Actor
Referring to the fact that he said some people were ‘celebrating’ the Taliban takeover, he admitted that ‘celebrate’ might have been the wrong word to use since there was no celebration.
"What saddened me was the fact that there are sections of the Muslim community, not only in India I assume but in other places as well, perhaps, who are in agreement…maybe I shouldn’t have used the word celebration because there was no celebration. And my statement was completely misunderstood.” He added that people from the Muslim community did criticise him for the statement and clarified that he is not ‘foolish enough’ to refer to people ‘en masse’.
“I also received pats on the back from the Hindu right wing for having said these things because they assume, ‘Here’s a Muslim attacking his own religion, how wonderful’. I don’t need any such commendation…I don't need their congratulations.” Shah said, adding that he is sorry for those getting ‘rabidly angry’.
Statement Was Perfectly Reasonable: Naseeruddin Shah
Talking about the backlash he faced for the statement, Naseeruddin Shah said that people would’ve realised there was nothing to get offended about if they’d listened to his first statement.
"It's not an ordinary time. There is an atmosphere of bottled hate just waiting to be released. People are waiting to take offence to anything. If people had listened to my first statement carefully they would have realised there is nothing to get their knickers in a twist about. What I said was perfectly reasonable because the history of Taliban tells us to be wary, no matter how many promises they may now make for moderation, which I don’t think they will live up to."Naseeruddin Shah, Actor
He continued, “Women are being banned from sports, women will soon be banned from education, women will soon get banned from public life. I don’t think this is a desirable state of affairs anywhere.”
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