Dear Shah Rukh,
I hope you do not mind me calling you Shah Rukh. Like most Indians I feel I know you. But then again, perhaps I don’t. First it was Karan Johar prostrating himself before the self-appointed extra constitutional arbiters of Indian patriotism, the MNS– an edifice of fanaticism and hate. I never thought you, the King, could succumb to such illegal and unseemly conduct of any goons, let alone the right wing religious fanatic variety. I had once defended in writing your freedom to speak when you had thought out loud about an increasing sense of insecurity being felt by many people in India. Until yesterday you were King Khan, the king of most Indian hearts. Now, one is left to wonder what you really are.
I don’t know Mahira Khan. I am told she has an impressive screen presence. And you chose her to be your leading lady. You must have seen something in her to ask her to venture across the barb-wired border and appear in Raees despite the thorny Indo-Pak relations.
You know that the word “raees” means “chief”, with a significant whiff of strength and power emanating from it. You were the King and had power that held sway over countless Indian hearts. Raj Thackeray and his hate spewing followers had no legal power to enforce their diktats. That is why they threatened to disrupt the peace and prevent “Raees” from being shown in the theatres unless you paid obeisance to Thackeray and agreed to not have Mahira attend the release of “Raees”.
It must have been in a moment of fear or cowardice- you may call it desire to save your Raees from ruin and I would reluctantly understand– you decided to transform from the King in you into a beggar, clutching the beggar’s bowl in your frightfully folded hands and walk over to seek MNS’ mercy. In that moment you, just as Karan Johar had done before you– granted them the right to be the self appointed ‘guardians’ of peace and order in Mumbai and the surrounding areas. At that moment you mortgaged forever your freedom, particularly your freedom of expression, to MNS and any other group of goons who may choose to mimic them now or later.
You might argue that you couldn’t count on Chief Minister Fadnavis having any or sufficient backbone to come to your aid and put Thackeray and his followers in their place. You knew he had once already surrendered to Raj Thackeray the chief ministerial power and responsibility to maintain law and order by sacrificing Johar at the MNS’ altar. But then again, life is all about choosing to fight rather than foregoing one’s dignity. You chose to be stripped of your dignity.
You are one of the world’s wealthiest actors. You did not need to make more films just for money. I also know times do change and the hate of the MNS variety isn’t the kind of force that lasts forever. If people of goodwill band together they can always defeat the forces of darkness and evil. And then there is Mahatma Gandhi’s love is truth, truth is love–a power mightier than a million Hitlers. All the world needs, is a powerful voice of resistance against evil. Yours could have been that voice. Unfortunately you failed to become that voice.
What kind of India is being ushered in where the tallest pillars of the film world like Karan and you keep falling one by one to pure hate and evil? Vast majority of Indians are decent, honest, peace loving and hardworking. They are also freedom loving. If you had resisted the suppression of your freedom of expression, they would have stood with you. Had you told the pseudo patriots to mind their own damn business, many Indians would have been ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with you in the ensuing fight.
But unfortunately you chose surrender to evil, SRK. You bowed to hate. Hate won. And the love–far deeper and more important than the one for which you routinely sing and dance in the movies–the love of fundamental liberty and freedom of expression lost too. ‘King’ Khan, since you are no longer worthy of being called the “King”, please tell us what to call you after your extremely deplorable deal with the merchants of hate of the MNS?