Aamir's flip-flop on intolerance: The 'Dangal' chickens have come home to roost

Sreemoy Talukdar

Jan 26, 2016 15:05:09 IST

Flip-flops are comfortable, open-toed sandals with no heel straps.
Casual and chic, they must be Aamir Khan's favourite footwear at home.
No, I don’t have any first-hand knowledge of the superstar's sartorial preferences. My educated guess is based on his latest flip-flop.
In a moment of profound epiphany, the Bollywood poster boy of Indian 'secularatti' has clarified that he never said India is intolerant. He also did what politicians in India love to do: Blame it all on the media — charting the path already trodden by Bollywood's other big Khan, Shah Rukh, who similarly claimed to have been victimised by the mischief-mongering media over intolerance.
Aamirs flip-flop on intolerance: The Dangal chickens have come home to roost

File image of Aamir Khan. IBNLive

"I never said India was intolerant or I wanted to leave the country. I also understand the emotions of those who were hurt. I would like to say that my statement was misunderstood and to some extent media is responsible for it. I was born here and I will die here," Aamir Khan said in Mumbai on Monday while celebrating the 10th anniversary of his 2006 superhit Rang De Basanti. Claiming that he was quoted out of context, Bollywood's Mr Perfectionist added: "I give this credit to you all (media) because you all have twisted my words. I request you all that please don’t do this."

 Wow! Wait, what?
So it's the media, stupid! Aamir was merely airing measured views about this country as a conscientious, responsible citizen when the media decided to have some fun and spun his words so out of context that an entire nation got outraged and a 'hurt' Aamir lost his good night's sleep.
Very well. If Mr Khan say so.
Never mind the recorded footage from 24 November last year, in which Aamir is seen telling the audience at the Ramnath Goenka Awards function: "A lot of people from the creative fraternity are protesting because of the growing discomfort they felt or the growing atmosphere of intolerance that they felt around them…"

If Aamir says he never talked about growing intolerance, we believe him. He's an honourable man.

But a small question remains. If the media "twisted" his words, as he claims it did, what took the superstar two full months to register his protest? Why didn't he immediately take the errant media to task when a tsunami of reaction was unleashed? Why so late? Why now?
There's something else that's curious.
Despite being mostly criticised for his comments during that event about a growing "sense of fear" and a discussion with his wife Kiran about "moving out of India" due to a growing "disquiet and sense of despondency", Aamir appeared to have stood by his statements, earning applause from some quarters for his integrity. “To all those people who are calling me anti-national, I would like to say that I am proud to be Indian, and I do not need anyone’s permission nor endorsement for that. To all the people shouting obscenities at me for speaking my heart out, it saddens me to say you are only proving my point," he had said in the immediate aftermath.

Many of those who stood by Aamir pointed out how his courage and conviction is a welcome change in Bollywood, where people change their stances more frequently than costumes.

 Take Shahrukh Khan for instance. After saying "There is intolerance, there is extreme intolerance… there is, I think… there is growing intolerance" in India, he later did a spectacular somersault and blamed journalists for misconstruing his comments, adding that Dilwale didn't do all that well because of it. Never mind the fact that the movie was panned by critics for its poor script.
Be that as it may, what is it that prompted Aamir to follow Shahrukh? Is it that famous Bollywood solidarity? Is it bro love? Why did India's ex-brand ambassador undergo a sudden realisation that: "Our country is diverse with so many languages, culture… No other country has so much diversity as India. Whenever I go abroad, I can't stay away from my country more than two weeks. I get homesick."
It is not the first time Aamir has shifted his position.
His initial stance on the Narmada Bachao Andolan and later recalibration is well documented. His signature for a US visa ban on then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and endorsing a petition that equated him with Adolf Hitler was followed later by a guarded U-turn when Modi became the prime minister.
It is not the first time that Aamir has been a picture of inconsistency. For the producer of Delhi Belly, a slapstick comedy full of adult, rude, toilet humour, it was a little rich when Aamir suddenly took umbrage at a comic sketch by the AIB Roast, calling it "too violent". Oafs on social media (since they have nothing better to do), however, are suggesting Aamir's delayed epiphany could be the consequence of his taking cognisance of Dilwale's box-office collection.
Some are pointing out that Akhsay Kumar — who seems to be getting better with age and has thrown a real challenge at Khans' Bollywood supremacy — has 'Airlifted' himself into such stratosphere that Aamir's next release seems destined to be stuck in the mud of Dangal.
If the #BoycottDangal trend since Tuesday morning on Twitter is anything to go by, signs are not looking too promising for Mr Perfectionist.
The Dangal chickens have come home to roost.

Updated Date: Jan 26, 2016 15:35:32 IST