My name is Khan...delwal

"Baby, this Shiv Sena and movie stuff is crazy!", Sid exclaimed. "Do you think they would have objected if SRK was Hindu and the movie title wasn't so religion-specific"? I thought about it. "Hmm, maybe it would have softened the blow or it might have made things worse, depending on what the movie title is instead", I said out loud.
"Do you think anyone would come to watch the movie if it was called My name is Khan..delwal"? asked Sid brightly. "Starring you, I presume"?, I asked, my tone anything but bright. "No, no it can be based on my life story. I don't mind if anyone plays my part. I'm really not into the fame and the glory", said a humble Sid, continuing with "They could even get a Hollywood actor to play my part. It's quite the trend in Indian movies nowadays. Oooh, maybe they'll give me the tiny nondescript role I've always wanted. You know the dancer at the corner of the screen gyrating violently or one of the hero's ten friends who nods vigorously in agreement of everything. That's my real dream! Are you even listening to me bubz, you always underestimate me"!, whined Sid.
Pushing his chatter into the background I began to think about all the commotion around My Name is Khan and SRK's comments regarding Pakistani players in the IPL. I haven't seen the movie yet because we have spent the day driving to the Ramgarh Fresco (for those who don't know where that is, google it) , but I have read Nikhat Kazmi's review in the Times of India today, which is the first "5 star" rating I've seen her give to a movie so far. For now I will assume that her glowing report will also be a bit biased because of all the support the movie has gained over the last few weeks. A part of her review talks about the protagonist's main concern for tolerance, love and peace. Which made me think of how ironic it is (or maybe not) that the forces of intolerance and discord are clamming down on the movie, or rather SRK's views. To many of us his views, though controversial, definitely mirror what Kazmi's review had to say. Whether you agree or disagree with SRK advocating Pakistani players' participation in the IPL or with Shiv Sena's disagreement with these views, I think the latter's extension of their viewpoint into teaching the former a lesson and threatening people's security by now allowing the film to be screened is absolute rubbish. Voicing and debating a viewpoint is human nature and is a good thing. Debate and discussion, however radical views may be, is healthy. But acting upon it by threatening people and coercing them to accept a viewpoint is sheer intolerance and blatant terrorism. Violence, threats and blackmail are weapons used by all terrorist groups so it's ironic that the Shiv Sena is using all of these to show their stance against terrorism. SRK's views are personal and should be taken that way.

Coming back to My name is Khandelwal, it may actually turn out to be a movie with a similar theme if it is Siddharth's life story. To Siddharth and me, the Shiv Sena's intolerance is something neither of us can identify with or relate to. We are both extremely privileged to have lived the lives of Air Force kids in different parts of India and abroad. Our neighbours and friends were people from all over, we celebrated all festivals with great gusto, the food in our house was an assortment of cuisines muddled together by recipes given by our parents' friends and neighbours and so on. That doesn't make us the epitome of tolerance or the best Indian citizens for that matter, but it definitely enriched our lives. Our personalities have been shaped little by where we are originally from, but from the places we have lived in, the people we have met, our families of course and so much more. When asked where we are from the answer will usually be long winded, after the initial monosyllabic "Delhi" or "Bangalore " or "all over". By origin, Siddharth is Rajasthani and I am part Punjabi and part Kannadiga-Tamilian. Our birth places are Delhi and Bangalore respectively. These are the cities we say we are from usually. A lot of Siddharth's family live in Lucknow and Kanpur, where most of his childhood memories are from. By lifestyle, we are distinctly urban and the religion field on our forms is populated with "Hindu" and "Christian" respectively ("But you're Punjabi", people ask me in surprise. Which makes me launch into a further explanation that geography has nothing to do with religion). I have lived four years in Pakistan and Sid for a couple of years in Australia, both eye opening and enriching experiences (And yes I did meet lovely people in Pakistan and had great friends). Our views are no better or worse than anyone else's.
My thoughts are interrupted by Sid's voice, "Bubz, even though I hate SRK's acting we shall go to the cinema hall to see this one, just because I'm fed up of this Shiv Sena". I nodded in agreement. "This is a big deal for me you realize, I haven't gone to see one of his films in a hall after Veer Zaara. Terrible actor he is"! "You went to see Om Shanti Om with me" I said. "Really, what a horrid movie to waste money on. Well ok, just that one"! he conceded. "And Chak De", I continued. "That is a sports related movie and his being in it had nothing to do with it", came the hot reply. "Billu Barber", I said quietly. "My god, is there any movies of his that I haven't seen in a movie hall. I'm trying to make a point here by going for this damn movie. Uff, after reminding me of all his horror movies, I think I'll become a Shiv Sena supporter"! I convinced him not to, as we tried our luck at the local Ramgarh 20-seater hall (not really PVR's Gold Class) only to be told that the latest movie playing there is Paap ki Aandhi, to which Sid has promptly bought tickets for!


Debojit Borah said…
I do agree with Sid that this entire hullabaloo is because of "Khan" as surname. I too want to watch the movie not because I am a die-hard fan of Shahrukh (the only movie of him I admire is "Chak De") or the glitzy five-star rating of Nikhat Kazmi (I don't understand why should an individual be entrusted to rate an work of art and that too in a popular medium that has and can influence millions of people?). Time has come for all of us to be sensible and think beyond parochial divisions such as religion, caste, etc.
khandelwal said…
Very well said. Lucky us Airforce people and our place of origin Khan..dela.

By the way this movie "Paap Ki Aandhi" - is the story based on Shivsena's antics?
Kartik said…
Well said Reem! :-)
Vijay said…
Very enjoyable reading your blog, Reem.

Fortunately Shiv Sena’s antics of terrorising Mumbai public by not allowing screening of My Name is Khan in the name of democracy have backfired as Mumbaikars have given them back a taste of real democracy by voting with their feet. We are so glad that MNIK has become a box office hit! Of course now Shiv Sena has to divert its attention to another project- preventing Australians from playing cricket in Mumbai. But remember what happens once you sow the seeds of a culture of terrorism. It can grow to bite you, and real hard, as Pakistan has learnt from its experience of its Inter Service Intelligence, and the US from Taliban.

In our review of the movie itself we’ll give a rating of 3-stars (out of 5). Karan Johar has tried to cram too much in it, including two major themes- disability and terrorism. This is perhaps to please all kinds of audiences but in the process has made it hard work for us. But overall it is a great movie, possibly a defining one, with even greater performance by SRK. The later probably more superior to Dustin Hoffman’s in Rain Man.

Incidentally, Khan in Khandelwal is not the same as in Rizwan Khan (SRK’s character) which he so persistently tries to explain in the movie by demonstrating how to correctly pronounce it. But then not everyone can do it properly anyhow. One of our friends pronounces Khan as in Cannes!

Vijay and Sudha
Susan Dhavle said…
Found your blog on Networked blogs. Good, talented writing and important topics written with self-deprecating wit. Your parents ( and this Auntie) must be so proud of you.

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