Boycott This, Boycott That: Don’t Tell Me We Aren’t Intolerant

Indians keep boycotting films. Says a thing or two.

Published08 Jan 2020, 12:33 PM IST
Hot Take
4 min read

When it comes to content, we’re balloons of intolerance ready to be pricked. When it comes to comments about intolerance, we go a step further and prove the point we’re trying to stand against. India, there are many ways to frame this sentence, but I’ll say it: We are an intolerant, egotistical state that needs urgent help.

When Aamir Khan spoke about how his wife was worried about their children in an increasingly intolerant country, he was quickly asked to leave and people started boycotting his films. Aamir Khan also had to have his film Fanaa banned in Gujarat for criticizing the Gujarat government.

“When I chat with Kiran at home, she says ‘should we move out of India?’ That’s a disastrous and big statement for Kiran to make. She fears for her child. She fears what the atmosphere around us will be. She feels scared to open the newspapers every day.”
Aamir Khan

When in 2015 Shah Rukh Khan came out and spoke about how he thinks India is becoming intolerant, his fate wasn’t too different and he was quickly cornered. SRK was speaking on the ‘Award Wapsi’.

“There is intolerance, there is extreme intolerance, I think there is growing intolerance. It is stupid to be intolerant and this is our biggest issue, not just an issue. Religious intolerance and not being secular in this country is the worst kind of crime that you can do as a patriot.”
Shah Rukh Khan

Our ideas of freedom and speech are so extremely warped, they’re not just dangerous to the very fabric of our nation, but also hilariously delusional. Where art and expression should be encouraged and seen as tools of constructive criticism and insight into the opinions of intellectual minds, we instead chase down artists who dare to breathe a word against the governing bodies.

And while India has had a long standing history of banning films as a way to scare actors and directors into quiet submission, in recent years it has reached new (low) heights.

Recently, Deepika visited JNU to extend support to students after a mob entered the campus and attacked students with sticks and rods, while the police allegedly watched. And now (just like bacha-bacha guessed it) #BoycottChhappaak started trending on social media platforms. Deepika, of course, isn’t new to this backlash. Remember when the Karni Sena wanted her head for Padmaavat? All of that harassment must have made her walk into a whole fire.. Yeah, pun intended.

Farhan Akhtar’s upcoming film Toofan is also suffering the boycott buffoonery, everyone’s *whiny child voice* super effing mad that he stood up for the CAA protests. But of course, when it comes to religion and history, or basically anything, Indians are ready to drop their garbs of tolerance and run to their illiberal realities. When films like PK and OMG were made about Godmen and their tricks, religious groups instantly raised arms in rebellion, while an FIR was lodged against the filmmakers for a scene involving Lord Ram. What also offended audiences was Aamir Khan’s (then) beautifully sculpted naked body on the poster - which, I sort of get.

But the list of things that make us boycott films doesn’t quite end there. We were also offended that a bunch of young strong women from the film industry decided to speak against the brutal Kathua rape case.

Twitter harassed them for “selective outrage”. Because of course, how can one have a starting point? And how can the rape and murder of a young child not be about religion? Of course. But if you thought we stopped here, sir, I have news: We also decided to boycott Ae Dil Hai Mushkil for having a (very hothothot and super talented) Pakistani actor in the cast, and then moved on to boycotting Udta Punjab for its depiction of ‘drug abuse’, because EXCUSE YOU, how dare anyone speak the truth?

But personally that should have been a good heads up for us, no wonder Anubhav Sinha’s Article 15 based on caste atrocities offended the Brahmin community. Of course. Kedarnath too made many old men mad in their rooms, as they deemed the film “Anti-Hindu” and claimed that it promoted (wait for it)... Love Jihad. Yes, there’s also that blasphemy, never forget.

But here’s the thing. We all see it. The absurd hate and the attack on films, we see the trend. Intolerant groups have started to stick to a safe route of scaring voices of dissent into silence, and we understand it is hard to risk your career you’ve built after years and years of blood and toil. But here’s my question: Why else would we need celebs to stand up? If the strongest of our voices keep quiet in the face of goons, won’t the rest of us slowly give up too?

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

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