"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!