"Duniya kuch bhi kar le, main aur aap log aur jitney bhi positive log hain sab ke sab, zinda hain".Shah Rukh Khan at Kolkata International Film Festival 2022
Dear Shah Rukh Khan,
For over a decade, I have lost count of how many imaginary letters I have written to you. In my dreams, I carefully pick the handmade paper, mull and stress over the opening line and have several fights with myself because there is so much to talk about but words fall short. Being an SRK fan, you see, isn't easy at all. Slowly but surely, you have carved a place.
But today, I am finally sitting down and pouring my heart out because I am hurt. It hurts to see a society so blinded by fanaticism that it doesn't think twice before constantly attacking you and your religion. It hurts to see you being questioned whenever it comes to matters of religion. It hurts to see your family being subjected to the vile-est of abuses and constant harassment. It hurts.
Becoming a Fan
My first memory of watching you on the big screen was when I was eight. Twenty of my family members (yes, watching movies in theatres were equivalent to picnics then) marched towards a very popular single screen in Kolkata to watch Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. The film might not have aged well at all, but I remember the frenzied energy in the theatre then. Everyone was hooting, clapping for you, and a few years later I found someone to cheer for.
I have wept, laughed and danced with you for years, and you have also disappointed me numerous times with the movies you have chosen. But it wasn't just the actor I fell in love with. I discovered a whole new side to you as I began devouring interview after interview, talk show after talk show. I found a person who is acutely self-aware, well-read, never lets go of a chance to crack a joke on himself, a person you can listen to for hours because you know he comes from knowledge and experience.
A Hero... On & Off Screen
There might be so many heroes on screen, but it takes a lot to be off as well. Of late, we have seen so many Indian celebrities offering their "hot takes" on issues across the world, but when it comes to standing with their own countrymen they conveniently disappear. I do understand that given the current climate it's very difficult to speak up and at times unrealistic expectations are heaped on public figures, especially celebrities. But you have been different. You stick your neck out for what you believe in, and that's so, so inspiring for fans like us. I look up to you because you care. You don't take your fame for granted. You have acknowledged your flaws and in so many interviews you have said that you strive to be a better human being. True, there are times when I felt you should have spoken up, when I felt let down, but then there comes another speech, another talk show, another interview which makes me hope for a better tomorrow. And I would like to cling to that.
You Have Never Shied Away From Taking a Stand
"I think politicians do use religion as an agenda, and I think it is the lowest, cheapest, dirtiest trick in the world". There was a time, Shah Rukh, when you took every possible platform to speak about harmony and peace. You expressed how every festival has brought you joy, how you partook in all the festivities and how you want your children to grow up in a world devoid of hatred and religious divide.
"We do belong to one country. One creed, one caste, one love. And one relationship in this country"Shah Rukh Khan
Be it for the upliftment of women or focusing on education, you have never shied away from taking a stand. You had once said, "The agendas of leadership need to change to more development, studies, education, women upliftment. I think we just keep talking about it, but we keep these as social issues. I think they should become major political issues".
At a time when communal hatred has plagued the country, I can't help but think about the time when you had pointed out how, among the countless celebrities in the country, you were handpicked to comment on terrorism.
"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. I have grown up reading the Quran, and I try to follow its teachings. I am very proud to call myself a good Muslim".
In that very speech you spoke about how every religion has taught you something and made you a better person. All your films have seen housefull theatres, and time and again you have emphasised how much the love of people mean to you and the joy it gives you seeing cinema become the symbol of unity and brotherhood.
2022 and What Have We Done to You?
Cut to 2022, and you know what the biggest irony is? Your religion is being used as a weapon to attack you. When you spoke about religious intolerance in the country, you were asked to go to Pakistan. When Aryan was being hounded after his arrest, venom was spewed against you and you and your religion was put to trial.
If that's not enough, trolls are robbing you of the excitement that you must be feeling ahead of your upcoming film Pathaan. Barely had a song released than a barrage of trolling has been unleashed on you. Even if you make so much as a public appearance calls for "boycotting" and "banning" you spread through the internet.
In one of your columns published in Outlook in 2013 you had written, "We create little image boxes of our own. One such box has begun to draw its lid tighter and tighter at present. It is the box that contains an image of my religion in millions of minds". Did you ever think that nine years later we would be regressing so rapidly?
Your Dignified Silence Even in the Face of Worst Adversities
And, through all this, your dignity has shone through. You made everyone realise the power of silence. Cameras were shoved on your face when you went to visit your son in jail, your name was flashed across the media, you were subjected to countless media trials. It's unimaginable what you went through, but nothing could shake the belief that millions (including me) had on you.
Seeking SRK's Words of Wisdom... Forever
It filled my heart with joy when you spoke about civil liberties and social media curbs at the Kolkata International Film Festival on 15 December. You called out the divisiveness and the destructive nature of these platforms - "Social media is often driven by a certain narrowness of view that limits human nature to its baser self. I read somewhere that negativity increases social media consumption, and thereby increases its commercial value as well. Such pursuits enclose the collective narrative, making it divisive and destructive."
No matter how dark the days get, there will always be a sea of people standing outside your house, Mannat, waiting to greet you on your birthday. And that's your legacy.
A Fan (always and forever)