Never one to mince words, Naseeruddin Shah has called out “propaganda films” being made in Bollywood these days, while lauding the film industry for disallowing religious discrimination all these years.
The actor spoke to NDTV on a range of subjects in an interview on Monday, talking at length about the hateful atmosphere in the country, Islamophobia, his comments on the Taliban that were misconstrued, and the pressures that filmmakers are working under these days.
Putting it bluntly, he said: “They (filmmakers) are being encouraged by the government to make films lauding the efforts of the government. They also being financed, also promised a clean chit if they make movies which are propaganda,” adding that the same was attempted in Nazi Germany. “Filmmakers who were outstanding, world class, were rounded up and asked to make films propagating the Nazi philosophy.”
In Bollywood, this attempt was clear in “the kind of big budget films that are coming. The big ones cannot disguise the jingoistic agenda”.
Shah admitted that he had never felt discriminated against in the film industry, even though he chose not to change his name – as advised early in his career. For Bollywood, he said, money was god.
“I don’t know if the Muslim community is facing any discrimination now in the film industry. I think our contribution is far too important. In this industry there is only one god, and that is Mammon. The amount of revenue you can generate makes for the amount of respect that you receive in this industry. The three Khans are still at the very top, they are unchallenged and still delivering,” Shah pointed out.
But, he also said that discrimination does exist outside – “The establishment wants us to feel afraid. They want us to give into the feeling of fear. I have never been threatened with physical violence. My sympathies lie with those exposed to lynchings, cow slaughter accusations, often without proof. It is even more worrisome that those who inflict the harm are often congratulated.”
The veteran actor further lamented that open statements about perpetrating violence on the Muslim community were not being criticised or commented upon in the public and political space.
He also revealed that he had been offered a fully refundable ticket to Pakistan – “Bombay to Colombo, Colombo to Karachi”.
On his comment, which made news some time ago, on a “section of Indian Muslims”, Shah said it was misunderstood. “Even as the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan is a cause for concern for the whole world, celebrations of the barbarians by some sections of Indian Muslims is no less dangerous,” the actor had said.
He clarified to NDTV that “celebration” was a poor choice of word. “I was referring to those who openly made a statement in favour of the Taliban. The past history of Taliban should make us pretty anxious,” he pointed out, revealing that he also received pats on the back for his remarks from the right-wing, and doesn’t care for such congratulations.
He further insisted that his remarks on Indian Muslims were “perfectly reasonable” and that we are not living in “an ordinary time”. “There is an atmosphere of bottled hate just waiting to be released. People are waiting to take offence at anything. If they had heard my statement, they would have realised there is nothing to get their knickers in a twist about,” Shah said, highlighting that “by Indian Islam, I meant tolerant Sufi-influenced practice of Islam in India.”