Tuesday, November 3, 2015

YES, HE CAN FLY - The day SRK’s voice lifted the tolerance debate

One of the most familiar, distinct and popular voices in India was added to the tolerance debate on Monday when actor Shah Rukh Khan fielded “sensitive” questions with a frankness — and bluntness — rarely seen or heard in showtown.
Hitting 50, the superstar appeared on different television channels to beam a message that could not have been made any more simple and direct: “It is stupid to be intolerant.”
“Stupid.” Period. 
Taking questions on a Twitter Town Hall show with journalists Rajdeep Sardesai on India Today Television and
Barkha Dutt on NDTV, Shah Rukh Khan told it as it was.
In the process, Shah Rukh smashed through comforting clichés  — “the fact that we need to keep on talking about the three Khans to prove how secular India is means that India is not”, he told Dutt — and declared: “Nobody has more right to live in this country than me, and I am not going to leave. So shut up.”
Gradually, through the conversation, the picture of an outspoken Indian, a passionate patriot, a wounded citizen, a beloved son, a liberal husband, a no-nonsense father and pragmatic actor emerged.  So did a flashback — some television viewers said Shah Rukh’s words reminded them of some of his roles on the big screen. 
The following are some of the comments by Shah Rukh Khan and the roles some viewers spoke of:


SRK on India Today: There is intolerance, there is extreme intolerance... there is I think... There is growing intolerance....
It is stupid… It is stupid to be intolerant and this is our biggest issue, not just an issue.... 
People just put words in the air even before thinking and here is a secular country, here is a country perhaps for the last ten years at the cusps of going beyond what we think. And we keep talking about modern India, we keep talking about progressive India, we keep talking about the new India, we just keep talking.
I respect those who returned government awards… Yes, as a symbolic gesture, I would give it up (He is a Padma Shri)… but I don’t have to….
SRK on NDTV: I think it is very brave of those returning their awards. I am on their side. If they tell me to join them on a march or a press conference, I would. Personally, it is too much of symbolism to return my awards. Just returning something. I am not a believer in that.


SRK on India Today: I… think if this country is not going to be secular, happy in its approach, the youngsters are not going to stand for it.… The only advice I can give at 50 to anyone is that intolerance religiously, not being secular in this country, is the worst kind of crime you can do as a patriot. 
No one can question my patriotism. How dare anyone?
In my own country, fortunate or unfortunate, when I have to stand in a function and apologise, a little apology about ki mera matlab ye nahi tha, mere sentence ka matlab ye tha aur iska matlab ye tha…. The power of stars comes with its own negatives too that you have to explain yourself. And it’s not for me or for someone who is not a movie star or a famous personality, I think the biggest tragedy is that you have to explain yourself. It’s not about whether I get a better podium to explain or the other person doesn’t get a podium, just to explain your Indianness is very sad.
SRK on NDTV: I am an Indian-born movie star. I am an Indian-born Indian. I am an Indian — how does that get questioned?
Nobody has more right to live in this country than me, and I am not going to leave. So shut up.


SRK on India Today: When I was just 7, he (Shah Rukh’s father) said ‘bahot mehnat se is desh ko azad karwaya hai, iski izzat bahot rakhna (This country was freed with great effort. Keep its pride intact)’. So, when my father has been part of making this country, even if the smallest part of making this country free, there is nobody who could question my patriotism, my religion, my Indianness.
And this is the most open thing I will say and I will say even if it takes me down that you don’t question my being an Indian or my children being Indians or my wife being an Indian or my father being an Indian.


SRK on India Today: (Asked why Bollywood actors do not usually take a stand) Why should they? I will be very honest, I don’t think there is any reason. Real life for an actor is very different and I am not saying we are extra vulnerable. But we are artistes, this is what we are supposed to do, we are just supposed to do our art, that’s all.
I will be very honest — they (Hollywood) have (taken a stand).… But, here you have a country where there are lots of things you can’t talk, I can’t talk. Lots of things aren’t said, then they are said and you are broken down.  
Hollywood has a little more leeway about speaking your voice. We may talk about freedom of voice and speech but people come outside my house and throw stones, if I take a stand about X thing or Y thing, like I have taken before.
But if I do take a stand, I will stand by it, I will not succumb.
I think in the larger interest of being able to do the job that I do, I need to and it is sad and it is unfortunate, that it’s better to keep quiet and just do your job. Because if you stop my films on Friday and nobody is there to tell them ‘don’t stop his films on Friday’, it’s extremely sad. It’s not just business or the money, it’s just sad, I spoke, you can’t stop my films and I don’t think in America, for speaking your mind, your films are stopped on Friday.
(SRK’s My Name is Khan had faced threats from the Shiv Sena but he had held his ground. The actor spoke out on Monday in spite of the Sena’s potential to create mischief. His upcoming movie Raees stars a Pakistani actress — something that is opposed by the Sena.)
SRK on NDTV: I am not scared, just selfish sometimes. I don’t want nuisance, I am scared of nuisance. I work 18 hours a day and I need to be left alone to do my job.


SRK on India Today: (Asked how he and Gauri successfully joined two religions respectfully in marriage) By respecting each other’s religion, which we all should do. I have never told her to follow my religion, neither has
she told me. There has never been a discussion on religion between me and Gauri ever. Neither have I ever told Gauri to join me in namaaz, but she joins. Never has she told me ‘Gayatri Mantra se Diwali me pooja karte hain’, but I join. 
We never had to talk about it. We burst crackers on Id and we have sevaiyan on Diwali.


SRK on India Today: The biggest pressure a movie star has is to not allow the shadow of their stardom envelop their children. I want them to be educated, I want them to study, I want them to at least finish their graduation, masters and then decide and see the world, figure it out and develop a sense of what is right and wrong and understand the problems.
Cheer up. Neither age nor gravitas has withered the SRK India loves. “At 50, I can still do the dance and the hands and the cartwheel and I can still dignify a lady so much that she will fall in love with me,” he told NDTV.
Shah Rukh Khan — Indian, patriot, son, husband, father and pragmatist — is also working on his autobiography.
“‘Yes, I can fly’ will be the last line of my autobiography’,” he told India Today TV.

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