Dear Mr. Anupam Kher,
I was impelled to write you a letter the day the Padma Bhushan award was announced for you. But I thought you must be too jubilant. Perhaps, you would be floating in the air. When people achieve something beyond their prowess or talent, they float in the air. No, do not write me off as a troll. For, I am not. And, I will be, anyway, explaining in great detail, why the Padma Bhushan award is an honour that exceeds your prowess or talent. And oh yes, I have a few questions, too. Questions pertaining to hypocrisy — your favourite topic for some time!
In a very short time, you have landed yourself in so many controversies that I am losing track how to organise my arguments in order. Every uttering of yours has been equally nauseating, and I am really at my wits end, what should be the order. Let it be random, hence.
Today you and I can boast of a tolerant India because this RSS was not allowed to dictate terms to the HRD Ministry and influence our education, and through it, our collective thought process. Something, which they are doing now with impunity. Last heard, they have advised the HRD ministry to not allow boys and girls to attend school together, and that school hours should be exceeded to 12 from six, so that everybody can learn Sanskrit. Phew! You, of course, would not talk about it, much less tweet about it. How can you? Who knows the just arrived Padma Bhushan may just be recalled? Just like your favourite party recalled all the honorable governors — to settle scores with the previous government — just after assuming power in 2014? By the way, that’s another policy misadventure you will religiously not talk about.
The point is, what right do you have then to point at other people’s hypocrisy? What right do you have to say that writers who returned awards over Dadri are hypocrites? What right do you have to question why they kept quiet during 1984 anti-Sikh riots, when you yourself are full of prejudices and do only selective criticism?
Anyway, let us now talk about the award that has just been ‘gifted’. Fine, you did some spectacular film called Saraansh some 30 years back. So? Why should you be conferred a Padma Bhushan? What is your contribution to cinema? How are you ahead of all other dozens of film artistes who have been conferred the Padma Sri, a smaller award?
Let me begin with a few examples. Among the artistes from the film fraternity, who got the Padma Sri — I repeat, a lesser award — are Madhuri Dixit, Aishwarya Rai, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Priyanka Chopra. Come’n Kher, tweet us five reasons why do you suppose you are a bigger star than Dixit or Rai or Chopra or have greater cinematic brilliance than that much younger director who has given us magnum opuses one after the other. Tweet, tweet. tweet us five reasons.
Do you think you are a bigger star than Madhuri Dixit? She ruled the industry, while you were a character artiste. Don’t tell me I am a chauvinist. I am not trivialising character artists. I’m making assessment. You have been awarded for the films you have done. In most of your films, you amazed us. True. But you barely had a 20-25 minutes role. People like Dixit not only amazed us, they also shouldered the Box Office fate of the films. Why should you be given a bigger award than her? And what about Rai or Chopra? They are not only more successful than you, they have also bought the Miss World crown home, and added to the success story of India. You are consummate, but your achievements pale in contrast. Tweet, tweet. Please tweet, how and why you deserve a greater reward than them?
Between, Sania Mirza and Sourav Ganguly too have got only the Pama Sri. And mind you, we are not talking about anybody. We’re talking about our very own Dada, the most successful ODI captain, arguably. He did India proud on countless occasions. Despite politics, he outshone. He fought. He inspired us how to be the survivor. Tweet, tweet, please tweet why his stature should be reduced to lower than yours?
The list doesn’t end here. There are a whole lot of artists, scientists, sportspersons, musicians, engineers, academicians, writers, poets, dancers, who have all been given the Padma Sri. You, despite being a small fish compared to them, have been given a bigger award. If you are so opposed to hypocrisy, tweet about the present government’s bias. Tweet, that you have been overestimated.
By the way, you did tweet something about the biases in award announcement. “AWARDS in our country have become a mockery of our system. There is NO authenticity left in any one of them. B it films, National or now PADMA”, this is what you had tweeted on 26 January 2010, when some other party was in power. What now Kher? Now that the BJP is in power — a party to which your wife is associated — you no longer are able to see the biases? Or is that the biases now suit you because you got an award yourself? Tweet Kher, tweet. Or else, apologise for your fake tolerance march through which you supposedly exposed the hypocrisy of the writers.
Between, there’s another thing for which you should apologise. Your rantings on Times Now, especially that six minute long teaser. Who are you fooling when you say, thousands of Kashmiri Pandits were killed? Don’t do such politics. How the hell can you claim thousands of Pandits were killed when even the government of India officially maintains that 219 Pandits were killed. My frequent visits to Migrant Camps throughout Jammu revealed to me how mothers who lost their sons or young wives are left in the lurch. Actors like you get awards in their name, but the ground reality is they are crying for the minimum financial assistance. They do not have the money to pay the tution-fees of their wards. They lack the basic amenities and have no source of income to sustain. Have you ever cared to solve their problems? If not, what right do you have to cry in the name of these people? I met a woman named Shikha Migrant from Pattan, whose husband was killed by unknown gun men. Shika is suffering from high sugar and back pain. Her only source of income is stitching cloths. She has to look after three daughters. She says neither you nor any mainstream politician ever paid her a visit. There are thousands of such women and children who have been left in the lurch although people like you vow of championing their cause.
We are not here to compete for tragedy. But your selective rendition of tragedy must be exposed. You talked about the gang rape of a KP woman in 1989. What stops you from talking about the mass rape of Muslim women in Kunan Poshpora? Don’t indulge in this sort of politics for personal gain. The way you are reigniting the sentiments of KPs smacks of revenge. Don’t forget if KPs had to leave behind their homes, over 70,000 Muslims too have been killed. What if all elders belonging to the Hindu and the Muslim communities take a leaf out of your book, and start inflaming the passion of the new generation? Are you keen for a civil war?
Sometimes, your actions borders on inhumanity, I am sorry to say. In a programme meant to talk about the tragedies of the flood victims on a private television channel, you started ranting about KPs. What’s wrong with you? And don’t tell me you are one KP champion. You are not. You are a successful film artist happy with is own life in Mumbai and enjoying all the luxuries money can afford. KPs are just the means for you to gain limelight and remain in news, and of-course, to appease the current government, which may just shower you with more reward.
Tweet, how many crumbling temples or houses in Kashmir have you repaired? Well, you can afford to restore at least one temple. Don’t you? I agree this is the work of the establishment. Still, given your deep passion for religion and pain over crumbling temples, you can at least shell out a few lakhs and restore one. Have you? Why then bring God and religion in your discourse? Oh I forgot, you are anyway acting to appease a party that have always politicised over God and religion.
Lastly, I will like to tell you about Mr Bindroo. Mr Bindroo is an old medical store owner in Kashmir. Half of the population trusts him and buys medicines from him. Mr Bindroo treats his customers – all Muslims – like his family. Like Mr Bindroo, there are many KPs who still have strong relations with Kashmiri Muslims. Just for the sake of fame and political convenience, don’t divide the Kashmiris. We are one, We both have suffered. We both have to fight.
Mr Bindroo is a kind and compassionate man who has the heart to move on, and bridge the gap between the two communities. Be like Mr. Bindroo.
You, on the other hand, are indulging in double speak to gain the attention of the powers that be, and win a bigger award than what has been conferred to your colleagues who are greater artists than you. Don’t be like yourself.
With the hope that you will tweet about your own hypocrisy,
Salman Nizami is a former journalist and associated with Congress party. Views expressed here are the author’s own.