Bollywood actor Naseeruddin Shah has recently been highly vocal against the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. While talking to Indian media he goes on to say that fellow Muslim actors, Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan, and Amir Khan are huge names and could lose a lot for speaking out on socio-political issues.
Naseeruddin Shah Blames Right-Wing Mentality
Naseeruddin Shah thought that these 3 big Khans chose to stay silent because the industry harassed artists who spoke their minds. While admitting that he wasn’t speaking for them, he mentioned that he could imagine what kind of harassment they would face (considering their religion) if they associate themselves with any one of the existing causes.
One of the problems he mentioned was the pressure on Bollywood to produce pro-establishment movies and in return granting the “clean chit” to the filmmakers and stars involved.
Shah mentioned that these actors may not only lose their financial engagements or endorsement but their entire lives might be affected by harassment. He said it was due to the increasing right-wing mentality spreading across India.
Do Celebrities Face Problem Because of Their Religion?
Naseeruddin Shah himself got into a controversy after his remarks on the Taliban and their version of Islamic law. Lyricist Javed Akhtar was another Muslim artist that expressed similar views as Shah and he also came under fire. Reportedly, they were being intimidated after they compared the Taliban to Indian right-wing organizations like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) led by Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).
The comparison mostly stood on the basis of how both establishments used oppression to enforce their own interests on the masses. According to reports, more than 150 distinguished citizens defended Akhtar and Shah and warned RSS and BJP to stop harassing them. Apparently, this group of citizens also included those who voted to expel Prime Minister Modi in 2019.
The views of both Muslim artists were secular but their Muslim identity became the prime reason for criticism and controversy.
What Exactly Do Bollywood Khans Have to Lose?
Khans also faced a fair share of targeting by religious extremists whenever they tried highlighting something. Shahrukh Khan once criticized BCCI’s (Board of Control for Cricket in India) decision to exclude the Pakistan Cricket Team in the 2010 Indian Premier League (IPL). After that, an Indian right-wing extremist party Shiv Sena held violent protests to condemn SRK and block his film ‘My Name is Khan’ from reaching cinemas. When the cinemas opened for advance booking, the extremist group started to attack cinemas and booking centers.
Salman Khan found himself as the target of Muslim extremists after he supported Narendra Modi in 2014 when Modi was running for the position of Prime Minister. On the evening of Salman’s film Jai Ho’s release, the actor called Modi to have dinner with him. Reportedly, both of them also flew kites. The leader of the religious political party All India Majlis‑e‑Ittehadul Muslimeen, Asaduddin Owasi urged all Muslims to boycott Salman’s film Jai Ho for his support of Narendra Modi.
The perfectionist Amir Khan was also not safe from the extremist Indian groups. The actor was seen in a meeting with Turkish First Lady Emine Erdogan in Aug 2020 after which Indian extremists kept trolling him. They hurled curses against Amir Khan and even said that he was “anti-national” for meeting with the “enemy”.
The right-wing extremism combined with religious fanaticism has been seen many times in Bollywood news. It seems that Khans or any other Muslim actor may have to give up their Muslim identity to successfully portray themselves as secular in India. If not then as Naseeruddin Shah said, they would have to face targeting on the ground of their religion if they ever spoke on any important topic.