The three Khans: An unholy trinity of an unholier Bollywood

The Khan trinity should take pride that they are born, raised, and elevated to the popularity paddle in Hindu majority, tolerant, and secular India

The Khan trinity should take pride that they are born, raised, and elevated to the popularity paddle in Hindu majority, tolerant, and secular India
The Khan trinity should take pride that they are born, raised, and elevated to the popularity paddle in Hindu majority, tolerant, and secular India

The trinity Khans of Bollywood

The Economist magazine (October 30) wrote that Bollywood is India’s secular religion, the three Khans its holy trinity and Khans are as recognizable as the prime minister and the cricket team captain[1]. We addressed the mischaracterization of Bollywood earlier. Now, we turn to the assertion about the holy trinity and the recognition of the Khans.

To the best of my understanding, the holy trinity is borrowed from Christianity which means the union of three divine persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in one God. Was the staff writer implying the Khans as “divine?” Do the Khans have familial relations and if yes, who is who? The ‘holy trinity’ also has many slangs associated with it which I will not dare use here[2]. In contrast to The Economist, we call the three Khans an unholy trinity of an unholier Bollywood, at best.

First, bound by Khan surname and putting them in alphabetical order (Aamir, Salman, and Shahrukh; ASS in short), the ASS trinity has many similarities. They are Muslims and familiar names in Bollywood culture, have acquired a certain level of notoriety as good actors on the screen, have millions of fans, have accumulated wealth (some without paying legitimate taxes), and thus undue influence in society including corrupt politicians. Like Khans, there are many wealthy individuals in Bollywood and beyond with black money enabling them to buy influence and engage in unlawful activities. Unfortunately, India still has corruption at many levels and Modi’s efforts to fight it are slow to yield results because money is breeding corruption.

In fairness to Khans, they have done good things like running and supporting charities for good causes. Some of their movies or at least the segments of the film have had a good social message. However, on balance, the big box movies by the ASS trinity have portrayed Hinduism very negatively. Intended or not, they glorified Islam and mocked Hinduism because the real secular Hindus let it happen for too long. I have watched Khan’s movies and often wondered if Khans and Bollywood at giant dare mock the other “peaceful and tolerant” religion called Islam? Therefore, I characterize the ASS trinity as being Acrimonious, Sensational, and Scornful in portraying Hindus, Hinduism, and/ or India in poor light to suit their popularity and pocket, not necessarily what society expects of them, on or off-screen.

We don’t have time and space to analyze every film in which the ASS trinity has acted/ produced in the unholy land of Bollywood but let us take a couple of examples. A very popular show Satyamev Jayate by Amir Khan highlighted 23 major evils of our society but according to one analysis, he didn’t touch a single episode on evils in Muslim (and Christian) society[3]. According to the analyst, the female feticide, dowry system, love marriage/ honor killing, and casteism/ untouchability were portrayed as major evils/ malpractices in Hindu society as if none existed in Muslim society.

One of the evils of Muslim society those days was Triple Talaq (TT) sanctioned by the Islamic religion. Although outlawed since 2019, but I am afraid it is not rooted out of the common belief in the minds of many. Clearly, any attempt on TT by Aamir Khan would have led to outrage by ‘peaceful’ Islamists and possibly a Fatwah. Later, an activist, Nida Khan, no relation to the three Khans, was exiled from her religion for supporting the ban on TT and bringing changes in the life of Muslim women.

To the best of my knowledge, the ASS trinity did not publicly appreciate outlawed TT. The all-male trinity could not feel the pain, suffering, and injustice to Muslim women, unlike a Hindu nationalist Modi who took the bold step knowing that scores of Muslims would not like it. That’s the difference about Modi, the visionary leader, who cared more about social injustice to women and less about appeasing the Muslim vote bank. On the contrary, the Khans only cared about their personal gain by not speaking for the new law fearing the loss of revenue at the box office.

Does everyone remember that two of three Khans (Amir and Shahrukh) talked about the rising culture of intolerance in India in 2015? The former said, “When I chat with Kiran at home, she says ‘should we move out of India?’ That’s a disastrous and big statement for Kiran to make. She fears for her child…She feels scared to open the newspapers every day.” The latter told a TV channel: “There is intolerance, there is extreme intolerance… there is, I think… there is growing intolerance.”

If both Khans enjoyed the best of their Bollywood career and extraordinary riches in India how and why did India suddenly become intolerant and unsafe? I wish they had left to taste the tolerance of another Islamic country of their choice but happily, they are still in India, the most tolerant and secular country founded on Sarve Bhavantu Sukhino. The wiser of the three, Salman Khan, said at the time that he doesn’t believe in judging people based on where they come from or their religion. However, he made another controversial and insensitive remark in the context of his movie Sultan, “When I used to walk out of that ring, it used to be actually like a raped woman walking out.” What an awful statement about women?

In present-day, one of the issues is Love Jihad– typically a matrimonial alliance between a Muslim man and Hindu woman under deception like the former pretending as Hindu and once married forcing Hindu wife to convert to Islam under duress. I raise the issue because two of three Khans married Hindu wives and the third (Salman)’s Hindu mother. They should understand marriage being a sacred relation with no place for deception. Yet, to the best of my knowledge, they have not made a public statement against Love Jihad practices. With their larger-than-life Bollywood image, they can play a significant positive role but their silence indicates support for jihad in the sacred marital relationship. No public support for outlawing TT and no outcry for Love Jihad by the Khans make them unholy trinity.

Are Khans as recognizable as prime minister Modi and Cricket team captain? It depends on how one defines recognition. Yes, Khans are popular with a huge following on social media as good entertainers and showmen. They and other Bollywood actors often portray what is not real thus people make-believe with false hopes. Thus, the unintended consequences in society include greater use of drugs and alcohol, and unwarranted sex scandals, rapes, and crimes, etc. For completeness, such issues are not caused only by Khans but the role of other unholy Hindu actors has been equally disappointing.

The Cricket captain is revered for leading the team to a hopeful victory in the national sport and passing time for millions. The recognition of Prime Minister Modi, as leader, statesman, and commitment to the country to the core, is unparalleled in India’s history and on the global stage. Neither the Khans nor the Cricket team captain comes close to that level of recognition. The Khan trinity should take pride that they are born, raised, and elevated to the popularity paddle in Hindu majority, tolerant, and secular India. It is about time that they are more ACCEPTING than being acrimonious, SENSITIVE not sensational, and SECULAR not scornful.

In closing, if the Big screen players like the Khans retire and the Bollywood activities shift to the holier Nollywood of Noida[1], the new and emerging screen idols may restore the lost character of India’s edutainment industry for the greater good of society.

Note:
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.

References:

[1] What does India’s government have against Bollywood?Oct 30, 2021, The Economist

[2] Slang for holy trinity – Urban Thesaurus

[3] Why does Bollywood glorify Islam and makes fun of Hindu culture?Jul 17, 2018, Quora

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Vijendra Agarwal, born in village Kota (Saharanpur, U.P), left India in 1973 after Ph.D. (Physics) from IIT Roorkee. He is currently a member of project GNARUS, a syndicated service and writers collective. He and his wife co-founded a US-based NGO, Vidya Gyan, to serve rural India toward better education and health of children, especially empowerment of girls. Vidya Gyan is a calling to give back to rural communities and keeping connected to his roots which gave him so much more. His passion for writing includes the interface of policy, politics, and people, and social/cultural activities promoting community engagement.

Formerly, a researcher in Italy, Japan, and France, he has widely travelled and came to the US in 1978. He was a faculty and academic administrator in several different universities in PA, TX, NJ, MN, WI, and NY, and an Executive Fellow in the White House S&T Policy during the Clinton administration.
Vijendra Agarwal

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