Dear Naseeruddin Shah,
I don’t watch many movies but I have watched a couple of yours and from what I can tell, you are indeed a good actor. And as an actor, I imagine you are well aware of the importance of a script in a movie. Although Bollywood movies tend to succeed at the Box Office on the basis of star power alone, the script is nonetheless very important.
In recent times, movies such as Thugs of Hindostan and Zero have bombed spectacularly at the Box Office despite boasting of stars such as Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan. Because the script was awful. Similarly, your latest performance as an actor in a video by Amnesty International is unlikely to be received well by the public because the script was absolutely horrendous.
Consider the circumstances in which your video was made. An international organization which is currently under investigation for violation of FCRA laws ropes in an actor who has just made extremely controversial statements regarding the current state of affairs. The organization, Amnesty International, has a dubious record as it is. It hoped that it could rescue itself using your star power. But as Thugs and Zero proved, mere star power is just not enough.
Let’s analyse the script of your video for Amnesty. In pristine Urdu, you are indulging in blatant fear-mongering. The dialogues reek of melodrama. The tone and tenor of the video indicate that you wanted to come across as honest and authentic. But your mannerisms only communicated to your audience that all your words were little more than sophisticated propaganda.
The picture of India you paint in the video is extremely apocalyptic and simply does not exist. I mean after watching your video, for a moment I thought we had concentration camps in the country like China where minorities are being held captive. Two minutes later, of course, I felt stupid.
You say, “In the name of religion, walls of hate are being erected. Innocents are being killed. The country is awash with a horrific hatred and cruelty.” I can agree with these sentiments as Islamic fundamentalism and violence are on the rise in the country but something tells me that is not what you’re referring to in the video. It does appear dishonest on your part.
You then say that the people who are fighting against such injustice are being silenced by the government. Are you serious, Mr Shah? You do know that an activist associated with the same organization in whose video you are featuring in called for violence against Brahmins? This is how they are fighting injustice? By calling for violence against Brahmins?
You say in the video, “Had we dreamt of a country where there is no space for dissent? Where only the rich and powerful people are heard and where the poorest and most vulnerable are forever oppressed? Where there once was law, there is now only darkness.” Seriously, Mr Shah, your video had more melodrama than 10 years of Kyuki Saans Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. And about the darkness apart, the Narendra Modi government will soon complete the electrification of 100% households in the country. So, darkness in the country has definitely reduced.
But seriously, people like you are rich and powerful and when you speak, you have the entire mainstream media discussing your opinions for hours. And when ordinary people criticize your opinions, you call them trolls and demonize them. Some of you even try to get them fired from their jobs. So, please, get off your high-horse. You are part of the rich and powerful elite who try to silence people into submission.
And please, do not for a second believe that the poor and marginalized are looking up to Bollywood actors to speak up on their behalf. You are suffering from a delusion of grandeur. We are living in a democracy, the people make their voices heard through the ballot. When they wish their political concerns to be addressed, they approach local politicians. That is how democracy works.
I have been observing civil societies for quite a while. And one thing I have learnt is, you people do not represent anyone apart from yourself. You don’t speak for anyone else. You have your own agenda and you disguise your real agenda by hiding it beneath a cloak of virtuous slogans. An elected representative in a Gram Panchayat speaks for more oppressed and marginalized people than you lot.
The Amnesty, naturally, has a grudge against the Narendra Modi government. And you have made it abundantly clear that you are not fond of him either. They had an agenda and you had very strong political opinions that aligned with theirs. Thus, the organization hired a Bollywood star to further their propaganda in what appears to be a symbiotic relationship. It’s not the first time movie stars have been hired by political players to further their agenda. But the thing is, Mr Shah, people have are smart and see through it.
In all probability, you do not actually endorse the message of the video. You are an actor, you are paid to act. Perhaps Amnesty International offered you enough compensation to make the deal worth it. Bollywood stars are known to even serve food at the marriages of billionaires. Their connections with the underworld are quite well known as well. So you could well have featured in the video only because you were hired and not due to your personal conviction, that is entirely possible.
But given your earlier statements and your conduct, I am pretty convinced that you appeared in the video due to your own personal conviction. Because I, along with the rest of India, have been witness to the insanity people are capable of in their hatred of Narendra Modi. We have seen politicians support Pakistan’s narrative due to it, I have seen politicians try to sow seeds of communal divisions in their bid to oppose Narendra Modi, we have even seen people whitewash the crimes of terrorists and cast aspersions on the integrity of our security agencies merely due to political affiliations. You are just an actor.
Let me tell you the message that you have endorsed through the video. You have supported individuals who belong to organizations who have intimate links with ‘Urban Naxals’. You have whitewashed the crimes they are accused of as mere ‘dissent’. Mr Shah, inciting violence, fueling caste war and plotting to assassinate the Prime Minister of the country is not mere ‘dissent’. Any person with the IQ of a two-year-old baboon understands this. But you are an actor, so I guess you could be forgiven for not understanding it.
What you cannot be forgiven for is associating yourself with an organization that does not have India’s best interests at heart. What you cannot be forgiven for is joining forces with an organization that is alleged to have broken the laws of the country. What you cannot be forgiven for is assisting them in their attempts to cover up their alleged crimes. You are propagating the worst kind of fear-mongering to help alleged criminals escape the consequences of their actions. That is something that you cannot be forgiven for.
Your conduct in the past leaves little doubt about your political inclinations. You were one of the ’eminent’ people who signed Yakub Memon’s mercy petition, the same person who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people. Relax, I am not calling you an ‘anti-national’, I am merely informing people of your history in the public sphere.
I know how people from your camp will react to the words I have penned in my letter to you. I will be called a bigot, a troll, a hatemonger. You see, Mr Shah merely because of my political opinions, people from your camp will not hesitate to demonize me even though I am just an ordinary citizen who tries to lead an honest life.
I will be accused of being a ‘Bhakt’ and people like you will blame me and others like me for ‘rising intolerance’. But guess what? I am not the one helping alleged criminals whitewash their crimes. I am not the one whitewashing the alleged crimes of ‘Urban Naxals’ as mere dissent. I did not even sign the mercy petition of a dreaded terrorist. If all of this makes me a ‘Bhakt’, then yes, I am one. Not of Narendra Modi although I do support him but of my nation and the Gods of my ancestors.