Nagpur: Anupam Kher has not only been known as a versatile actor capable of playing a variety of powerful roles , but also his gentle and modest demeanor off screen. In his very first film he played the role of an aggrieved and angry old man, a former Headmaster, trying to get over the untimely death of his only child, his son. He by and by became more commercial often playing silly, comedy characters that didn’t go down well with his ardent fans who expected better from him. But no one was quite prepared for the real-life Angry Old Man he has turned since a year! From first taking an anti-students’ stance at the FTII imbroglio, where most of his colleagues sided with the students to later becoming an ardent spokesperson for BJP and Modi specifically, Anupam has come a long way. His voice is getting more and more strident, his body language aggressive and his speech intemperate. But his rude avataar at the Telegraph event in Calcutta recently left many of his (erst while) fans too stunned.
Many spoke up about it, some must have just shaken their heads in bewilderment, but there is one Nagpur lawyer who just could not digest it quietly.
Advocate Asif Quereshi wrote this open letter to him which he has shared as a post on his Facebook Timeline. But Nagpur Today, in a conversation with him, learnt that he may soon be filing contempt proceedings against him in Bombay High Court.
He was specially very upset about how he was inexcusably rude with a former Judge and one word he used against him which was very objectionable. Below is the letter he penned to express his feelings:
Dear Mr. Kher,
I heard you speaking at the Telegraph National Debate. I believe the topic of the debate was ‘whether tolerance is the new intolerance’. I guess it was not about how many days leave Mr. Modi has taken in last couple of years or where he spends his Diwali. I was, therefore, puzzled to see your entire speech being focused on defending Mr. Modi and publicizing his greatness! Your love and dedication towards the Prime Minister is really appreciable. But please don’t hate those who are critical of him. Mr. Modi has been elected for a five year term with a clear majority. There is absolutely no possibility of him losing his throne because of the criticisms. Therefore, I don’t see any reason for you to be so ‘intolerant’ towards his critics.
You often project yourself as a champion of tolerance but you were so intolerant and agitated about the views of other panelists that you almost got a heart-attack! You yelled and shouted at fellow panelists like a hooligan. Pardon my language but, with my limited repertoire of English vocabulary, I could not think of a better word than ‘hooligan’ to describe your theatrics. Some people may have appreciated you for your ‘heroic’ speech, but I found it utterly disgraceful and ridiculous. You yelled at Justice Ganguly for criticizing a Supreme Court judgement! But, from where did you get this idea that Supreme Court judgements cannot be criticized? Pardon me sir, but that just shows how little you know about the justice system and freedom of expression. The real problem today is that people like you with their half-baked knowledge and misconstrued ideas are trying to redefine nationalism and FOE.
You lamented about being branded a ‘Chamcha’ for supporting Mr. Modi. But, aren’t you also doing exactly the same thing or may be even worse? Whoever speaks against Mr. Modi is an anti national according to you! You said all those who are making inflammatory and hate speeches in the ruling party must be thrown out of party and put behind bars. But do you really believe that will ever happen? It is, therefore, very convenient and hypocritical on your part to show your made-up anger against them in public to score some brownie points, while you know very well in your heart that what you are saying is never going to happen. I believe you are very close to the Prime Minister and I have seen you meeting him on various occasions. Have you ever asked him why he is not taking the actions that you prescribed in your speech against the errant politicians? Who do you think is a greater danger to our society? Some people who are peacefully returning their awards or the politicians who are openly inciting violence and making hate speeches? While you took a very extreme position against the so called award-wapsi brigade, you are not willing to go beyond showing your made-up anger against the errant politicians! That makes me question your intentions and your loyalty. Is your loyalty really towards the nation or it is just towards a political party?
We have had many debates in the recent past about India being tolerant or intolerant. But I don’t think anyone has ever said that India as a country is intolerant or tolerant. That’s a false binary, created by people like you on either side to serve their own ulterior motives. When concerns are being raised about the growing intolerance it is about the growing intolerance towards each other by certain sections of people. As much as you try to ignore, that growing polarization and hatred towards each other is very palpable. We cannot save the day by simply denying its existence or by suppressing the voices that want to talk about it. We have to first acknowledge the problem in order to find a real solution. The fact that we can’t even have a civilized debate without shouting and yelling at each other is a clear indication of how ‘intolerant’ we have become towards each other! After every such debate we hear phrases like ‘traitors slapped’, ‘anti-nationals ripped apart’ and so on. Is this your idea of a united India? These debates are becoming counterproductive because instead of inspiring the audience to be accommodative towards each other’s views, speakers like you on either side are inciting them to take even more extreme positions.
There have always been a handful of people who hold extreme views and for them whoever doesn’t fall in line with their views is their enemy. They have always existed. But the problem is that these fringe elements are now openly spreading their hatred among the ordinary citizens. Often mixed with misleading half-truths. The hatred which was confined to a handful of people is now spreading like wildfire and affecting the common man who had nothing do with this madness earlier. I am not saying the Govt is intentionally enabling these hatemongers. But, it is certainly not doing enough to curb them either. And because the Govt is not taking any visible and stern action against these hatemongers it appears as if the Govt is supporting them.
Mr. Kher, I disagree with most of your views and I have serious doubts about the true intentions behind your crusade. But I don’t consider you my enemy. I don’t hate you.
We believe there are many who will agree with Asif Qureshi and also many who are lauding him for being very vocal against any one who speaks up against the establishment and against the Modi Government specifically.
What is appalling is that film stars, Creative people and Artists are also getting so aggressively vocal about anyone else who does not toe their line.
It is also curious, the kind of things they are saying! The way Rahul Gandhi is always targeted, ridiculed and lampooned ( with Kajol also expressing very unlady like glee at what was said against Rahul) one is lead into thinking the BJP is getting more and more threatened by his rising importance… Is he finally becoming a formidable adversary?
What ever may be the reason, this is not one ‘role’ that you are playing too well Anupam!
What ever happened to the affable, soft spoken, gentleman I met in a Baroda Hotel so many years ago? (Yes, I had run across him when he came to Baroda to shoot for a film at the Baroda Palace of the Gaikwads, and on his invitation attended the shoot for one whole day. Where in between shots he regaled me and my friend with many candid anecdotes about Bollywood stars and also, along with Satish Shah, some very hilarious Gujju jokes! Today’s Anupam, I fear will take out a gun at anyone who dares repeats those very jokes).
Leave politics to politicians and be a little kinder and more understanding with India’s new youth who know how to speak their mind.
If that bereaved Dad of Saransh, Headmaster B.V. Pradhan, won’t listen to them – who will?
—Sunita Mudaliar (Associate Editor)