Hindi Features

Anupam Kher & Award-Winning Politics

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The timing of Anupam Kher’s Padma Vibhushan (the third highest civilian honour) is so preposterous, that the new way to insult someone who is being overly pro-BJP (and all it currently stands for), is to tell them ‘bhai, you deserve the Padma Vibhushan’. At the 2016 Jaipur Literature Festival, Kher was at his gregarious best. When he said the word ‘intolerance’, it was as if an unwanted, bad smell was in the air. The festival wouldn’t be happening if we didn’t have freedom of speech, he argued. But one must have a ‘sense of responsibility’. Out came the example: ‘You wouldn’t say behenchod at home, would you?’ But you would at a public event with young men, women, and children?

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Anupam Kher’s idea of responsible speech is this.

Aamir Khan says, “When I chat with Kiran at home, she says ‘Should we move out of India?’ That’s a disastrous and big statement for Kiran to make.”

Anupam Kher responds:

In fact, as censor board official Ashoke Pandit phrased it, “Whr is d intolerance?” Same person, incidentally, who publicly tweeted obscenities at Karan Johar and his mother, because he was so offended by obscenity in Karan Johar’s adult-comedy show. A show restricted to adults. Where, indeed, is the intolerance.

Aamir Khan, in contrast, aspires for a little more grace. When he was told about Anupam Kher’s award at a recent media event, he said, “Warm congratulations to Anupam Kher.”

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Film critic Sayan Bhattacharya points out, “Mr Kher keeps coming on news channels to ridicule intellectuals speaking about intolerance. He has an opinion on everybody, from Shahrukh to Aamir Khan. He keeps tweeting through the day professing his love for India, as if criticising the government is akin to criticising India, as if criticising Modi is an act of betraying the nation. Isn’t that a throwback to the Emergency-era coinage, “Indira is India and India is Indira”?”

Celebrities and intellectuals who returned their National Awards were criticised for ‘politicising’ the awards by Anupam Kher. Political scientist Zoya Hasan tried to explain. Of course returning the awards was a political act. It was meant to be political. To try and curb what they perceived were the excesses of the government. In our country, taking a stand on an issue of national importance/relevance is often dismissed as ‘politicising’. It’s as if ‘political’ is something outside us, despised by us.

When intellectuals, artists, and writers protest against the government and its inaction in situations of communal conflict, they are making a political statement. But in doing so they are not acting as proxies for parties — they are speaking for constitutional rights that guarantee the freedom to live, express and think differently.” Zoya Hasan

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Anupam Kher, meanwhile, exhorts the Jaipur crowd to chant ‘Modi, Modi, Modi’. Apparently he is not political. When one Government is in power, he says:

Today, he couldn’t be prouder:

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Image Courtesy: The Anupam Kher Show

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