The Hindi film industry was never the one to roll up its sleeves and tackle issues head-on, says veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah, asking whether anyone will make a movie on the protesting wrestlers in the national capital.
The 72-year-old actor, a vocal critic of the BJP-led central government and someone who has in the past faced backlash for his comments, said there is nothing new about the Hindi film industry’s stance on staying “mum on important issues”.
Shah, considered one of the most respected performers in Indian cinema, is returning as emperor Akbar in ZEE5’s period drama Taj: Reign of Revenge. “The atmosphere of hate makes it worse, makes it stronger, and that’s why this is happening. So, everyone is scared. Not that the Hindi film industry was particularly politically or socially aware at any stage. You had filmmakers like K A Abbas, V Shantaram, very progressive movies… But when has the Hindi film industry ever rolled up its sleeves and tackled a subject which is crying out to be tackled? Will anyone make a film on these girl wrestlers, who brought us medals…? Will anyone dare make a film? Because they are scared of the repercussions. It is nothing new that the Hindi film industry is keeping mum on important issues, they always have,” the actor told PTI in an interview.
Shah was referring to the continuing protests by wrestlers who have accused Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh of sexual harassment.
Stating that films are the strongest medium as they get across to most people, Shah said, “Right now, it is Muslim hate, which is very, very popular.” Elaborating on his claims that the film industry stays “mum” on important issues, the actor said, “…I think they all are scared of the amount they have to lose and the personal harassment. I think the imprisonment of young Aryan Khan was a message that if we can do this (to) Shah Rukh (Khan) we can do it to anybody, so watch out. That was the message.” Shah was referring to Aryan Khan’s arrest in the drugs on cruise case by the Narcotics Control Bureau in 2021. He was later granted bail.
The multiple award-winning actor said he is not scared of speaking his mind but fears “for the future of the country”. “…because we seem to be heading backward and that is very scary,” he said, adding that an interview he gave a couple of years ago invited a lot of hate and even “a fully refundable ticket to Pakistan”.
“It (the interview) got me a lot of hate, letters full of abuse, one of the guys sent me a ticket to Pakistan fully refundable, Bombay to Colombo to Karachi, I think I have still got that with me,” he said.