Karan Johar criticised for not saying he's gay: Why we love bullying the rich and famous

Harish Iyer

Jan,12 2017 12:54:24 IST

Do you believe words have weight, the power to move people? The spoken word has the power to instigate, inspire or dissuade action. The unspoken word is even more powerful in its insinuation and interpretation. Words build us and break us. Words hurt us and make us. This week has brought us some powerful words. While Meryl Streep reminded us why it was important to stand up for what is right, Barack Obama spoke about the need to be inclusive. Karan Johar, meanwhile, said a lot by not saying what everyone has been waiting to hear.

Karan Johar faced an onslaught of bullying for not saying the "three little words" that everyone seems to want to hear. AFP/File photo

Karan Johar faced an onslaught of bullying for not saying the "three little words" that everyone seems to want to hear. AFP/File photo

I have ruminated over Obama’s farewell speech and while I can’t possibly match his eloquence, I feel inspired to follow his advice and retain grace and a modicum of decency and continue to fight the good fight even in the face of hopelessness. His words, “embrace all and not just some,” galvanised me and I’m not even American! I live half way across the world from him and I felt energised to be more positive after listening to him.

And that brings me to Meryl Streep’s words, “This instinct to humiliate...when it’s modeled by someone on the public platform, someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life because it kind of gives permission to other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence.” This is true. Words when misused can cause great harm to people, society and even our own humanity. You know who misuses words? A bully does. Do you know who is a bully? We all are.

Yes, we are. Have you noticed how our first instinct is always to criticise and be mean? Take a look at your Tweets and your Facebook timeline. I did. And I discovered that I have been a bully too. My first reaction was denial. How could I who has suffered so much be a bully? But I’m human and it is human to err. But it is also our responsibility as good people to not just acknowledge our faults, but to correct them. So here I am — admitting openly — that I have been a bully to Taher Shah and I’m sorry.

I’m sorry I made fun of him. I judged him for his choice of wardrobe, made fun of his hair and make-up and even ridiculed the lyrics of his song. No, he wasn’t taking about stalking or terrorising women. He wasn’t spreading hate or bigotry. Taher Shah was, in his own unique way, spreading the message of love for mankind. I made fun of him when his video “Angel came out. I also made fun of him when his latest video came out at the beginning of this year. And what exactly was so wrong with a long haired man in a golden robe gently stroking a cat and spouting shayree about love? Admit it. Even you made at least one social media post about Taher Shah’s latest video. And what exactly did we criticise? Not his poetry, but how he looked and spoke — many bordering towards homophobia and misogyny, some really homophobic and misogynistic. I am not saying we should stop friendly banter or become serious about everything. I love stand up acts, I laugh a lot. But sometimes we need to be careful that it doesn’t elevate to a point of bullying. And that point can only be defined by the person in question. Stop, when they ask you to stop. Bullying kills. Bullying is a major cause of suicide.

Also, we have many different facets to this culture of bullying. My community is not all saintly with our own. I mean, look at how my own LGBT community went after Karan Johar for refusing to come out of his glass closet. Sexuality is such a personal and sensitive subject. And even if he is ill informed about the law, what right do we have to drag him out of the closet or shame him for choosing to stay in it? We LGBT people have been the most vociferous against bullying but failed to show support for someone who we now know is one of our own. If someone like him would come to us LGBT people or organisation for help, wouldn’t we offer the person counsel and assistance? Why is it different for Karan Johar? Why do we need to assume that the rich and famous have it easy? If we stand against being judged and misjudged all the time, we should stop asking him to come out and spelling out his sexual orientation. I bet, if he does come out and say those three words “I am gay”, we will still be calling it a publicity stunt to promote his film. We are the conspiracy theorists and we are the bullies. I’m not saying Karan was right. He had a misconception about the law. But we should have just clarified that and left him alone instead of lecturing him about expected behaviour as a public personality. Don’t public personalities deserve compassion and forgiveness in case they inadvertently make a mistake?

I hope my words have weight today. I hope my words move you to look inside you, just the way I did. Introspection gives you clarity. Clarity gives you courage. Courage gives you the strength to make amends. That’ when the healing process starts. And what exactly needs to be healed? Psychiatrists say that bullies and judgmental people suffer from low self-esteem. When a person doesn’t understand, or appreciate their own self-worth, they feel a desire to pull other people down. We want to break people when we are broken inside. We want to hurt others, when we are hurting inside and that is not healthy.

I now believe that no one, not even Donald Trump is beyond salvaging. I believe that he does have some redeeming qualities that will become evident after he takes office. I hope he introspects and makes amends. I hope better sense prevails over him and he stops his childish Twitter wars because those silly comments just establish him as a schoolyard bully. I hope he stops being a bully, shows some grace and finally becomes the leader of the free world.

So thank you Obama. I hope you find a way to continue your good work. Thank you Meryl. I hope you continue making great movies. Thank you Karan. I’m here for you. Call me if you want to talk. And good luck Trump. I know you don’t like my kind, but call me if you want to talk.

Updated Date: Jan 12, 2017 12:54 PM