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Iconic Displeasure

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Every time a Bollywood wallah says something controversial, one needs first to look whether there is a movie (or a book) about to be released and some cheap publicity required. If the content of the controversy is political and targeted in some way against the present dispensation, it provides the added ‘righteousness’ to the cause, which might result in a Rajya Sabha nomination, later, if one is lucky. The victimhood becomes even more enhanced when some silly, self-appointed representatives of Hinduism take it upon themselves to register their protest in an uncivilised way.
How much of this applies to Naseeruddin Shah’s recent utterances cannot be said, because the worries expressed by him might just be the result of his advancing years. When one gets older, one begins to worry about one’s offspring in the most far-fetched of ways, particularly if one does not have much else to do. More appropriate concern for Bollywood offspring, however, would be that they do not drive under the influence over pavement dwellers, or OD on something new in the market. As for Shah’s question on a mob surrounding his children and asking them about their religion, an appropriate answer would be to drop their father’s name. They would likely end up signing autographs. Parents with children in Gurugram list religion very low down among their concerns and just hope that there is no incident of road rage in India’s ‘wild north’. Everybody knows just how that ends up!
Shah and others before him have failed to realise the impact of such statements on the general populace, coming as they do from persons considered national icons. People feel disappointed when people they look up to identify themselves with communities or castes. In an age when the politically correct bend over backwards to assert that the ‘acts of a few’ do not indicate the views of the many when ‘Islamic terrorism’ takes place, are happy to hold an entire community responsible for cow-related incidents in a few places.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was quick to pick up and expand on this theme, stating what Shah had said today was exactly the reason why Mohammed Ali Jinnah had proposed Partition. Basically, Hindus and Muslims cannot live with each other. Does Shah agree with that? Along with Asaduddin Owaisi, he has condemned Imran’s comment, but the damage has been done. This is why icons need to be careful about what they say – it is used far beyond its context and for purposes quite opposite to the original intent by those seeking to damage India.