New Delhi: Barely a week after spearheading a 'March for India' against writers returning awards, actor Anupam Kher launched an attack on writer Arundhati Roy, saying that she should give up her Booker Prize rather than returning the National Award she received.
"Why doesn't Arundhati Roy give up her Man Booker Prize instead of the award for her best screenplay? Booker Prize is an international prize and as an ambassador of world peace, she should have given up that award citing Syrian crisis," Kher told IANS.
Anupam Kher and Arundhati Roy
Kher is in Delhi with his play "Mera Woh Matlab Nahi Tha" which will be staged on Saturday.
Kher, who was at the forefront of protest against 'Award Wapsi' by writers and filmmakers, also charged them with sullying the image of the country.
"The intolerance campaign has tarnished the image of the country. Writers like Arundhati Roy are unfathomable to layman/woman and we shouldn't forget that she made statements like Kashmir should go with Pakistan," Kher said.
Referring to his recent BBC interview in Singapore, Kher said that even foreign media is biased in reporting about India and they posed queries only on intolerance.
"The BBC interview was a selective one about intolerance. Foreign media chooses what suits them. I raised my concern in the interview and I think it's not aired," Kher said, adding that the New York Times and The Economist have highlighted intolerance instead of the development aspects of India.
"International media has headlines like 'India no more a tolerant country'. The intolerance level in those countries may be higher than India," he added.
On the raging controversy over Tipu Sultan in Karnataka, Kher said actor Girish Karnad shouldn't have made comments about renaming Bangalore airport, replacing name of 16th century city founder Kempe Gowda with Tipu.
"Karnad is a senior actor and I feel that he shouldn't have made comments (for) which he had to apologise later," the actor said.
Kher's 'March for India' also kicked up a controversy after journalist Barkha Dutt was allegedly heckled by the protestors. Though Kher extended an apology, he said there was no documentary evidence of such an incident.
"There is no footage showing abuse or name calling of the journalist. I think that it could be a planted one," he said.
Calling those returning their awards as pseudo-intellectuals, Kher also alleged that they have never asked an audience with the prime minister on the issue.
"I met the prime minister after the march. The writers, who returned the awards, never asked for an audience with the PM. Poet Munnawar Rana who returned the award said on TV that he wanted to meet the PM. The PMO got in touch with him, but he never responded," said Kher.
Hitting out at film director Dibakar Banerjee, who returned his National Aaward, Kher said that Banerjee has misled people.
"Though Dibakar got National Award for two films, he returned the award for 'Khosla Ka Ghosla' which belonged to the producer. He never returned the one for 'Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye', because the producer was Walt Disney. And he said that 'Maine apne hisse ka award wapas kiya hai'."
Kher also felt that it's a campaign against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "All these people never wanted Modi as prime minister. Suddenly, India has become intolerant for them. Emergency was the worst India ever witnessed, so was the Sikh massacre. Why didn't they respond when the Kashmiri Pandits were driven out of the state?"
Refuting charges that his moves are politically motivated, Kher said he has never minced words on issues. "I haven't gained anything politically. I marched for my country. I have spoken against Gajendra Chauhan's appointment in FTII and also against attacks on Shah Rukh Khan," said Kher.
The actor is unfazed about any backlash on his acting projects.
"I have millions to support me. The tickets for my play are sold out a month before. The common man doesn't listen to the intellectual nonsense by a section of people," he said.