On his fiftieth birthday, Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan has expressed his opinion on rising intolerance in the country.
“I do think there is intolerance. There is extreme intolerance. People put words in the air even before thinking. Intolerance religiously…not being secular in this country is the worst crime you can do as a patriot”, Bollywood star said while responding to a question during a Twitter townhall with Rajdeep Sardesai, the consulting editor of India Today TV.
“THERE’S EXTREME INTOLERANCE IN INDIA”
When asked if he was ready to give up his awards much like those over the past month, Shah Rukh Khan said he would, in a symbolic gesture if asked to. “Yes, as a symbolic gesture I would give it up… I do think there is intolerance. There is extreme intolerance,” Shah Rukh Khan said. He further said, “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 cusp of going beyond of 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.”
“NOT BEING SECULAR IN THIS COUNTRY IS THE WORST KIND OF CRIME YOU CAN DO AS A PATRIOT”
Khan further batted for the secular thread of the country. Comparing religious intolerance as the “worst kind of crime”, he says youngsters are not going to accept such an atmosphere. “I don’t 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 fifty to anyone is that intolerance religiously, not being secular in this country, is the worst kind of crime you can do as a patriot,” Khan said.
“NO ONE CAN QUESTION MY PATRIOTISM”
Khan also said the biggest mistake a patriot can make was to go against secularism in India. He also talked about his past experience as a Muslim in India, citing several examples where his religious identity and status needed explanation after his remarks sparked controversy. “No one can question my patriotism. How dare anyone?” the actor said.
Asked if his father being a freedom fighter shaped Khan’s world view, he said, “When I was just seven he (my father) said bahot mehnat se is desh ko azad karwaya hai, iski ijjat bahot rakhna. 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.”
“ARTISTS ARE SUPPOSED TO DO ART, NOT TAKE STAND ON ISSUES”
On a question on why aren’t Bollywood actors and film fraternity taking stand on important issues, the actor replied, “Why should they?” When said that their counterparts in Hollywood do take stand, Khan said, “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 artists, this is what we are supposed to do, we are just supposed to do our art, that’s all, said Khan.
“HOLLYWOOD HAS A LITTLE MORE LEEWAY ABOUT SPEAKING YOUR VOICE”
Explaining his position further on Hollywood stars taking stand vis-a-vis Bollywood, the superstar said that, “I will be very honest – they (Hollywood) have… But, here you have a country where there are lots of things you can’t talk, I can’t talk. Lots of thing aren’t said, then they are said and you are broken down. The actor feels, “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.” The actor further clarified that, “But if I do take a stand, I will stand by it, I will not succumb.”
The actor further gave the FTII example to prove his point. “What has happened to FTII? Now if I talk something about FTII, I will have seventeen people gunning for me,” Shah Rukh Khan said.
FTII: “I THINK WHAT’S HAPPENING IS COMPLETELY WRONG AND IT IS EXTREMELY DISTURBING”
Asked if he is happy to stay out of these controversies, Khan said, “I would stay out of these issues because I think first the issues are really blown out of proportion for some reason. I would love to help FTII. I think what’s happening is completely wrong and it is extremely disturbing.” Khan further questioned, “They (FTII students) have been on a fast and what happened? It’s over and if I take a stand, yes, it would add some value to it, people will says Shah Rukh Khan has spoken of it, on Twitter there will be more followers and people will say very good or very bad.”
“I DON’T THINK IN AMERICA, FOR SPEAKING YOUR MIND, YOUR FILMS ARE STOPPED ON FRIDAY”
Expressing his fear of being targeted if he chooses to speak on controversial issues, the 50-years-old actor said, “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.”
“THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A DISCUSSION ON RELIGION BETWEEN ME AND GAURI EVER”
Replying to a question on how he and Gauri successfully joined two religions respectfully in marriage, the star said, “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 Namaaj, 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 Eid and we have Savaiyan in Diwali,” Khan said.
“JUST TO EXPLAIN YOUR INDIANNESS IS VERY SAD”
When asked about his thoughts about being a Muslim and proving his Indianness time and again, Shahrukh said, “And 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.
“UNAVOIDABLE” TO RETAIN PRIVACY FOR STAR KIDS
On a question of if his kids face the pressure of being super-star’s children and does he consciously attempt to keep them away from that stress, the star said, “The biggest pressure a movie star has is to not allow the shadow of their stardom envelope their children.”It’s a very difficult place, said Khan, “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.” Khan further said it is “unavoidable” to retain privacy for star kids. His children “don’t deserve to be photographed, or be in newspaper or on television channel, or on Twitter by virtue of being my children. They should do all this by their own achievements,” he said.
“I MAKE SURE TO SAY THE RIGHT THINGS ON TWITTER”
Khan who on several occasion has been trolled on micro-blogging site Twitter said, “I make sure to say the right things on Twitter. I don’t want to say the wrong things.” Explaining his strategy of replying to trolls the superstar said, “I have a simple thing, whenever I feel like responding I leave Twitter for five minutes, go away, read a good book, find a quote from it and quickly put it on Twitter.” Never tweet when you are angry or drunk, said Khan.
When asked if he feels that may be some people on Twitter try to get him down, Khan said, “I feel what they call the ‘haters’, we should not let them overpower us because there are enough people who are loving you. It’s your choice to be there. Let nobody else decide or make the choice for you.”
WORKING ON AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Khan also disclosed that he is working on autobiography and has already completed writing the beginning and end of the book. “‘Yes, I can fly’ will be the last line of my autobiography,” he said. Asked if his autobiography will be honest enough, Shah Rukh said, “Some parts will be very honest, but I think all autobiographies are selective memories but it’s not aggrandisement, it’s not about myself, it’s funny, it’s poignant, its sweet and very, very real.”
“IF I WAS ASKED TO DO THIS LIFE ALL OVER AGAIN, I WOULD HOPE IT TO BE EXACTLY THE SAME”
The superstar said, he has no regrets in his life. “If I was asked to do this life all over again, I would hope it to be exactly the same. If I have done it, not regrettable,” said Khan. “With all goodness I will say we all make mistakes, we all do some wrongs, I must have done so. When you are as lucky to have what I have right now I think any regret would be ungratefulness to God.” He further said , “I am proud of being a good father, I think I have been a decent and good father. I think I have taken care of my family as well as I could, given the circumstances I have been in.”
“I AM AN APOLITICAL PERSON”
When asked if someone asks Khan to enter politics, or offer FTII chairmanship, Khan said, “I am apolitical. It’s like telling me to become an astronaut. But hypothetically speaking, in my line of work, if another 5, 10, 15 years down the line, if I can help in that line of work which is film making, which is any aspect of progressive films, making them in India and even, I would participate in that.”
“WANT TO MAKE FIFTEEN REALLY WONDERFUL FILMS”
When asked why he did just one film in 2015, Khan attributed him making less films to series of injuries. “I broke my left shoulder, then right shoulder, so recovery was 8-9 months.” However the superstar said that he had made another promise to self apart from giving up smoking “I will do three films a year for the next five years. I want to make fifteen really wonderful films that make me feel nice as an actor. These five years are for acting.”
“I AM JUST THRILLED THAT THINGS WENT RIGHT”
Replying to a question on if during his struggle phase Khan ever imagined that he’ll be India’s most loved superstar, he said, “Not at all, this is completely unimaginable. And I don’t think I am being humble or modest, I don’t think I deserve this. I have no idea how it happened. I am just thrilled that things went right.”
“A FAN BELIEVES THAT STAR HE LOVES ALSO BELIEVES THEIR BELIEFS”
On asked about his character he’s playing in his upcoming film “Fan” the actor says, “I am going to play 25-years-old fan of a film star who is not Shah Rukh…a fan believes or likes to believe that star he loves also believes their beliefs and it turns into a solid understanding. I remember the first few times I have seen some of the actors I love, I thought they know me, just because I know them.”
“DON’T HAVE THE CONFIDENCE YET TO DIRECT A FILM”
Explaining his position on if he will direct a film in future, the star said, “Two issues I have had not directing a film, one I don’t have the confidence yet. Second it’s a very lonely job in filmmaking and I think I am lonely enough I don’t want to be lonelier.”
Replying to a question on films, what it feels to be an outsider in a film industry ruled by family clans, Shah Rukh said, “I am an outsider and I am not extra proud of it nor I am apologetic about it. But having said that, I did not have to save the name of my father, I don’t have to make my son a hero. So, it doesn’t matters to me in both the situations.”