Anupam Kher Gets Severely Booed For His ‘Free Speech’ Comments 

Actor Anupam Kher’s comments in a ‘freedom of speech’ debate went horribly wrong for him.

4 min read

Theatre actor Anupam Kher disappointed an auditorium full of people at a ‘freedom of expression debate’ held at Mumbai’s sixth international literature festival. Not only was he severely booed, but was also told straight up by several young and old audience members, that his comments made no sense and that he probably didn’t even understand the meaning of the topic.

Well, let’s back the truck up a bit.

The last session of day 1 at the Tata Literature Live Festival was the stuff that TRPs are made of. Even BBC’s top notch anchor and journalist Nik Gowing lost control of the debate that turned into a pointless argument in no time. It all started with the extremely relevant statement: Freedom Of Expression Is In Imminent Danger. For the motion were well known author and columnist Shobha De with former BJP member Sudheendra Kulkarni as her partner in crime. While Against the motion were Anupam Kher and BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli.

Actor Anupam Kher’s comments in a ‘freedom of speech’ debate went horribly wrong for him.
The crowd boos Anupam Kher at Mumbai’s literature festival (Photo: Twitter/@shayamalv)

Getting Personal With Shobha

Actor Anupam Kher’s comments in a ‘freedom of speech’ debate went horribly wrong for him.
Shobha De made the right points and got a thundering applause from the audience (Photo: Twitter/@gsurya)

In her opening remarks, Shobha De made several points about why she is worried for her freedom of expression. All valid and strong points which got a ton of applause and cheer from the audience. She had clearly voiced the opinion of many in the audience. But as soon as Anupam Kher got the chance, he said “Shobha, of all people, you should be the last one to worry about your freedom of expression. Didn’t you start a gossip magazine that only had stories of who slept with whom?”. This got him the first set of loud BOOs.

Modi Bhakt

Actor Anupam Kher’s comments in a ‘freedom of speech’ debate went horribly wrong for him.
I’m an actor, I’m used to being booed on stage: Anupam Kher (Photo: Mohit Khushalani)

As much as we hoped that this heated debate wouldn’t turn political, guess what, it did. And then Mr Kher went on to say that we’re witnessing the golden era of politics. Given the general unpleasantness caused by the recent culture of banning, intolerance towards Pakistani artists and intellectuals returning their awards, people in the audience didn’t shy away from booing Kher once again.

People here have an agenda and just cannot handle a chaiwala becoming the PM.

Anupam Kher, Actor

But the most baffling comment the actor made was about the audience. This had everybody up in arms, some even walked out.

I had asked Anil Dharker, the festival director, if this audience would be a paid one. It seems so.

Anupam Kher

Now that’s just a sign of being a sore loser. Just because a majority disagrees with you, calling the whole thing a sham is hardly self defence. At this point Mr Kher lost the plot and started reading out personal messages exchanged between Dharker, Gowing and himself, which honestly proved nothing at all. The debate had turned bizarre. Kher laughed it off saying that he’s a theatre actor is used to all the booing.

Selective Noise

Actor Anupam Kher’s comments in a ‘freedom of speech’ debate went horribly wrong for him.
Even Nik Gowing had a tough time controlling this debate (Photo: Twitter/@gsurya)

It’s not that Kher didn’t make any valid points. He brought up the emergency, the Sikh riots and the turbulent issue of Kashmiri pandits being chased out of their land, to raise an objection on why Indian intellectuals are taking a pseudo stand now by returning their awards. Why didn’t they do the same back then? He accused filmmakers, authors and scientists who have returned national honours bestowed upon them, of being pseudo for having become nothing but a sad attempt at seeking attention.

As for Pakistani artists being invited to perform in the country, this is what he had to say-

If your neighbour abuses you, would you invite him over for tea? I’m sorry, but when it comes to Pakistan killing our soldiers at our borders, nationalism should come first.

Anupam Kher

I guess the audience was expecting the veteran actor to speak more in tune with their thoughts. His wife, actress Kirron Kher, a BJP MP also jumped in to defend his stance, for which she got flying kisses from her husband. But she was booed just as fiercely as Kher was. At the end of a highly stretched yet lively debate, Nik Gowing asked for an audience vote and the result was hardly surprising. Anupam Kher and Navin Kohli were the losing party as the majority vote clearly said, ‘Yes, freedom of expression is in imminent danger.’

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