Aamir Khan’s visit to Turkey and a meeting with Turkey’s First Lady Erdogan on August 15, which happens to be India’s Independence Day, has triggered off a massive backlash against Khan.
Aamir was in Turkey finalizing locations for his underproduction project.The film is titled Laal Singh Chaddha. It is an official remake of the Tom Hanks classic Forrest Gump. 40 percent of the film was shot in Punjab India. But because of the escalated Corona numbers in Punjab the crew decided to move the rest of the film to Turkey.
India shares an uneasy relationship with Turkey which was precipitated by Lady Erdogan’s recent Tweet in which her comments on Kashmir were not commensurate with the Indian government’s policies.
Two days after Aamir’s Turkish visit, India’s radical Hindu organization the Hindu Vishwa Parishad condemned Aamir’s Turkish diplomacy saying, “The love of some forces including actors for anti-India elements is increasing”
Panchjanya, a weekly Hindi magazine backed by the Hindu organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS) wrote a scathing article openly condemning what they saw as Aamir’s betrayal . Calling him a puppet of an enemy nation the article asks Aamir why he is shooting in Turkey when Istanbul supports Pakistan on Jammu and Kashmir.
One of Indian cinema’s most accomplished actor,Aamir has been under fire for alleged anti-nationalism for some years now. The actor par excellence who shot to fame in 1988 with the epochal love story Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak is known for his game-changing pathbearer’s performances in Bollywood blockbusters like Sarfarosh, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, Rangeela, Akele Hum Akele Tum, Raja Hindustani , Lagaan, Dil Chahta Hai , Earth and Dangal .
Truly one of the most beloved actors in India, Aamir has repeatedly found himself grappling with charges of anti-nationalism ever since in November 2015 he gave an interview where he admitted that his Hindu wife Kiron Rao was worried about the safety of their son in their home country because of the atmosphere of growing intolerance.
The trip to Turkey is now being seen by radical elements as another example of Aamir’s displaced loyalties.
Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri(The Tashkent Files) known for his open support of India’s Bharatiya Janta Party’s government policies feels Aamir should apologize for his cultural diplomacy.
Calling President Erdogan a dictator and a racist who has brutally thwarted the Turkish press Agnihotri says, “President Erdogan has ordered the arrest and prosecution of thousands of dissenters …40 percent of non-Muslims in Turkey have to face daily Islamophobic attacks..that’s the truth about Turkey and this is the President Erdogan whose wife Aamir went to have tea with?! Turkey sponsors Islamic terrorism in India.Turkey is an enemy nation to India. Even an ordinary man in India knows this. How can an enlightened artiste like Aamir Khan who addresses so many socio-political issues in India be ignorant?”
Agnihotri adds, “Turkey is among the most intolerant nations in the world. How can Aamir who speaks so strongly against intolerance go to the home of the President of this intolerant nation and have coffee with his wife? This is the reason India is outraged.”
Actor-politician Shatrughan Sinha(formerly affiliated to the BJP now a part of Congress I) disagrees with Vivek Agnihotri. Lavishing the highest praise on Aamir Sinha says, “Aamir is one of the most intelligent actors of India. He wouldn’t do anything to damage his image as a leading cultural ambassador of the country. So what if he had coffee with the First Lady in Turkey? Aamir had not gone to Turkey as apolitical representative of India. He was there to shoot a film. What’s wrong in paying a courtesy visit to the country’s president’s wife?”
Sinha, who maintained personal and cultural relations with Pakistan at the height of the Indo-Pak hostility feels the personal and the political must always be kept apart. “Let’s not bring politics into cinema. If Aamir made a personal social visit let’s not make it into a political issue. Yes, I’ve never shied away from visiting Pakistan in the past when relations between the two countries were not so hostile. I have a foster-sister in Pakistan. Former President Zia-ul-Haq’s daughter Zian is a my mooh-boli bahen(adopted sister). Because of the deescalating relations between the two countries I haven’t been able to meet her for a few years now.”
Singer-actor-politician Baabul Supriyo who is a cabinet minister in India’s central BJP government points out that the Indian government has not commented on Aamir’s Turkish visit. “I don’t wish to comment on the right or wrong of it.But I feel Aamir Khan has at least proved one thing .That, contrary to what the pseudo-intellectuals of India with vested interests have tried to portray , India isn’t an intolerant nation. Having said this, I must sound out a word of caution to Indian celebrities. In today’s world of social media, everything that a celebrity from any field does is subject to immense scrutiny.One needs to be very cautious in one’s public conduct.”
Filmmaker Ananth Mahadevan feels the times are such that it’s hard to read into the motives of the socio-political influencers. “Frankly the Indian film industry’s goings-on are getting so murky and debilitating that a fair analysis seems futile. Now it has become more of a who-detects-what motive everywhere. Of course there’s no smoke without fire.”
Mahadevan feels individuals in positions of power need to be more cautious in their public conduct. “It is about time actors and film makers started behaving more responsibly rather than throwing caution to the winds to attract attention. Our actors and their films are pretentious exercises . They are far from sincere in their attempt to uphold social causes. Fame,glory, power. These are the three factors that gain precedence over the rules of art among our actors.”
Well-known film critics Raja Sen and Karan Anshuman feel this Turkish roadhump won’t affect Aamir Khan’s reputation and popularity.
Says Sen, “This will have no effect on Aamir career. Just like the nepotism controversy will never affect Salman Khan’s career. Our audiences only care about causes from time to time, but their allegiance to their favourite stars is forever.”
Adds Anshuman, “Last I heard India is still a free country , and people shouldn’t project their politics and beliefs onto others. Aamir Khan can do whatever he wants as long as he’s wearing a mask when in public.”