From triple talaq to Islamophobia, from the “insecurity” that he sees in the “amplification of the azaan” to the now factious subject of nationalism and minorities, there was no subject that actor Saif Ali Khan shied away from during an interview, a day after he was the guest at Express Adda in Mumbai (full transcript to be published this week).
“Nationalism is amazing and important for development, but is that the same as Hinduism? I don’t think so. In a country that has been secular, there are minorities, it will make them uncomfortable. This doesn’t apply to me because my world is more privileged, insular,” he said, adding, “So I don’t mind living in a Hindu State either, just make the law same for everyone.”
With the spotlight now on the practice of triple talaq in the Muslim community, Khan spoke about how his personal experience had shaped his view on the matter. “I’ve had a nikaah before and a divorce. But I didn’t think that triple talaq was the way. I had financial responsibilities towards my ex-wife and children. So I don’t agree with triple talaq because I haven’t followed it. And the Indian Constitution addresses this with the Special Marriage Act. Kareena (Kapoor) and I got married under the Act,” he said.
Known to speak his mind, the 46-year-old pointed out that while he personally doesn’t feel “boxed in” by his religious identity, the rise in Islamophobia across the world does make him fearful. “It feels like you will be persecuted or discriminated against no matter how you are,” he said, while pointing out that “there is no such thing as ‘the Muslim’ or ‘the Jew’”.
“We create the construct of the Muslim and give it certain characteristics, that he does this or that, when we are all individuals and different. It’s scary when we are all called ‘the Muslim’ because it implies we have the same beliefs and characteristics that can be easily summed up,” he said.
Kashmir, he admitted, was a complicated issue. “Sitting in our living rooms”, he said, it was difficult to comment on the Army’s actions as “it’s a war zone out there, but we also cannot be jingoistic about it without understanding the complications of the subject”.
About the ban on Pakistani artistes by the film industry, Khan said he understands the sentiment but said the film industry shouldn’t be singled out for such a ban and that there needs to be a “common law for all trades with the neighbouring country”. On a lighter note, Khan said actors from Pakistan were seen as more “exotic”.
Speaking of insecurities in his own industry, he said, “We live in a fear-based industry. That is the motivator, the prime mover. People work out of fear. Somebody once asked me if I could wear a pale blue suit. I said, ‘No, I don’t like this colour.’ I saw Aamir (Khan) smiling. He said, ‘You shouldn’t say that. Just tell them that it’s unlucky for you. They’ll never bring it again.’”
On the row over singer Sonu Nigam’s statement against the use of loudspeakers by mosques for the azaan, Khan said he understands both positions. “At one level, I agree, the lesser sound the better, but I also understand the amplification of the sound during azaan comes from a certain insecurity, not just here, but also in Israel, apparently, where three different religions co-exist. As a minority, you would like to make your presence felt and hopefully, accepted. If someone says that it should be extinguished, that’s bound to make some people a little uncomfortable.”
The actor struck an emotional note when he spoke about his daughter Sara and her decision to choose a Bollywood career. “I tell her she should focus on the creativity and not get caught up in the politics around it. One worries as to what will happen.but you don’t own your children. You can only provide them with a good education and emotional support,” he said.
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