Aryan Khan in NCB custody. Only a hallucinating India will punish Aryan and tag Shah Rukh Khan as treacherous—and yet assure the father of a son who mowed down farmers that he would remain a Union minister. Pic/Bipin Kokate
This film and the Outlook essay show Shah Rukh is acutely conscious that he must bear the crescent, so to speak, as he is arguably the most popular Indian Muslim. Yet he is neither conflicted by his religious identity nor does he downplay it. He, in fact, makes a demand on the Indian state as a citizen equal to all those who belong to faiths other than Islam, love India and oppose violence that is justified in the name of religion.
Shah Rukh should have been applauded by all in multicultural India. But this India has been savaged by the Bharatiya Janata Party, which has misused power to inject into Hindus the psychotropic ideology of Hindutva, altering the perception of many. They cannot distinguish between reality and hallucination. In their paranoia, typical also of drug addicts, they see every Muslim as anti-national.
Let not treacly articles on the woes of parents bringing up their children in this era of countless temptations deceive you: Shah Rukh's pain is not because of his son Aryan. No drug was found on Aryan, yet he has been jailed and his bail contested on the incredible charge that he could be part of the narcotics trade. Only a hallucinating India will punish Aryan and tag Shah Rukh as treacherous - and yet assure the father of a son who mowed down farmers that he would remain a Union minister.
Let us face it: Shah Rukh has been targeted because the pushers need to periodically create psychedelic moments to advertise the potency of their psychotropic ideology. Besides, Shah Rukh needed to be taught a lesson for not wishing BJP leaders on their birthdays or taking selfies with them. Only on one occasion did he join other actors to discuss with Prime Minister Narendra Modi what Bollywood could do to celebrate Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary.
Big egos demand constant massaging, more so in the global context of populist leaders, including Modi, blaming the elites for the nation's problems. Aryan's plight will be exploited in the forthcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh, where Shah Rukh will symbolise the debauched elite as well as the treacherous Muslim, precisely the hashtag Hindutva trolls trended on social media.
But there was a ferocious pushback from all those who believe India must be inclusive. Unfortunately, though, far more Bollywood professionals kept silent than those who publicly supported Shah Rukh or empathised with him. The silence that jars most is that of Amitabh Bachchan, whose depiction of the young angry man embodied the frustration of a generation.
Really, who would dare touch Bachchan? He should recall how Sunil Gavaskar defied Bal Thackeray to attend in Pakistan the ceremony organised to felicitate its team for winning the 1992 World Cup. Or is it that journalists Hartosh Singh Bal and Jatin Gandhi were right when they wrote, 11 years ago, that Bachchan is a "man without convictions"?
Silence and political partisanship proved disastrous for Hollywood. In 1947, 10 Hollywood directors and film writers were blacklisted for either being members of the Communist Party USA or having communist sympathies. On their refusal to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, the 10 were jailed for a year. The blacklist grew and grew in the 1950s. Those blacklisted were denied work by the studios.
Hollywood professionals ratted on their colleagues or falsely implicated them for being communists before the Committee. Among them was actor Sterling Hayden, who later said he held himself in contempt for naming colleagues to the Committee, and drunk himself into a near-suicidal depression. Therein is a lesson for Bollywood's silent brigade.
In his Outlook essay, Shah Rukh wrote, "I gave my son and daughter names that could pass for generic (pan-India and pan-religious) ones: Aryan and Suhana... I imagine this will prevent my offspring from receiving unwarranted eviction orders and random fatwas in the future." Shah Rukh could not have imagined Aryan would be arrested in Aryavarta, or the abode of the Aryans.
Indian Muslims now have an official blacklist from which they can choose names to give their children; names that have become synonymous with struggle and sacrifice: Umar Khalid, Sharjeel Imam, Abdul Khalid Saifi, Ishrat Jahan, Meeran Haider, Gulfisha, Shifa Ur Rehman, etc. - all booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and languishing in jail for opposing the Citizenship Amendment Act. To capture the zeitgeist of the hallucinating India of 2021, Shah Rukh should make a film with the title: "I'm Khan, I will be framed".
The writer is a senior journalist. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper.