Actor Naseeruddin Shah has spoken about the film industry’s silence on the international incident fuelled by BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s recent comments about Prophet Muhammad, with particular emphasis on the three Khans–Salman, Shah Rukh and Aamir. In an interview with NDTV, Shah speculated that the biggest stars in the country have too much to lose by speaking up. He also commented on the rise of what he described as ‘pseudo-patriotic’ cinema, such as The Kashmir Files.
Sharma was suspended by the BJP after several Middle East nations raised official concerns about remarks made by her about Prophet Muhammad in a recent TV news debate. Describing her as a ‘fringe element’, the BJP distanced itself from her comments and said that her words do not reflect the party’s views.
Shah said about the Khans, “I cannot speak for them. I am not in the position they are in. I feel they think they would be risking too much. But then, I don’t know how they explain to their own conscience about it. But I think they are in a position where they have too much to lose.”
He cited the ‘witch-hunt’ of Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan as an example. “What happened to Shah Rukh Khan and the dignity with which he faced it was admirable. It was nothing but a witch-hunt. He has kept his mouth shut. All he did was support Trinamool and applaud Mamata Banerjee. Sonu Sood gets raided. Anyone who makes any statement gets a response. Maybe I am next. I don’t know. (laughs) Though they won’t find anything.”
Aryan Khan was arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau in a drugs bust aboard a Goa-bound cruise ship last year, and was subsequently sent to jail for several weeks before being granted bail. Aryan and five others were given a clean chit by the NCB in its chargesheet recently, due to ‘lack of sufficient evidence’.
Shah also spoke about actors and filmmakers who are participating in projects perceived to be nationalistic. Asked about Akshay Kumar’s recent output and Vivek Agnihotri’s blockbuster film The Kashmir Files, Shah said, “They want to be on the winning side.” He called The Kashmir Files ‘an almost fictionalised version of the suffering of Kashmiri Hindus’ and said that the ‘government is promoting it’.
Shah worked with Agnihotri on the equally contentious but far less successful The Tashkent Files. He predicted a rise in the number of ‘pseudo-patriotic films’ in the future.