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Aamir goes from Hero No. 1 to Villain No. 1

Shoba De

Trust the French to come up with a saucy saying like “Cherchez La Femme”. Since it defies a literal translation – “Search the woman” – let’s just say it states little but covers everything!

When Aamir Khan put both sneakers into his mouth at the Ramnath Goenka Awards’ night, he established a few things about himself and his marriage: now it’s official – Kiran’s the boss! Unfortunately, with this particular incident, she has also become the fall guy or fall gal. Imagine! Kiran was converted into an instant vamp in a poorly-scripted (so, not her husband’s, and not her own) Bollywood film. All because of a private miya-bibi conversation that was made public by the hubby. Perhaps it was a slip of the tongue. An inadvertent remark. Which in itself is pretty unusual for Aamir. Here’s one “thinking actor” who rarely utters a word that has not been pre-decided. He possesses one of the most intelligent minds in Bollywood – about that there is no dispute. Compared to the other two far more volatile Khans (Shah Rukh and Salman), Aamir is the cool customer. On an average, he makes one film a year but hey! with that single mega box office hit under his belt, he leaves the movie industry gasping, “How does Aamir do it, yaar?”

The answer is simple: Aamir is bloody smart. He takes risks. He calls the shots. He changes the game. He raises the bar. His positioning in the CSR space has been consistently positive. Critics call him calculating, I think he is brilliant. Public’s perception says Aamir stands for something! This is what his ardent admirers always remind doubters. What that “something” is, doesn’t matter, doesn’t demand definition. He’s the actor with a hyper-active conscience. He cares for the poor. He reaches out to the masses. He is selective about the products he endorses. He cries with and for India’s downtrodden masses during his hugely-profitable reality shows. True. True. True.

Then comes this bombshell.

Aamir gets massacred for making a provocative comment. But wait a minute. Was it his comment? Nope. It was his wife’s. Did he say he agreed with her? Not that we know. Did he endorse his wife’s emotional outburst? Privately, maybe. See? Aamir’s smart. He merely quoted his wife… he said Kiran was scared for the safety of “her son”. Kiran. We don’t know whether Aamir was equally scared. Aamir revealed it was Kiran who thought of moving to another country. Kiran. Not him. Kiran was frightened each time she read the headlines in the morning. Kiran was “alarmed”. Not him. Aamir is a good husband. Kiran and he share an equal and mutually respectful relationship. That much is pretty obvious. But hello! it was Kiran who made the faux-pas. Not him. But now Aamir is stuck!

I think, for the first time in his life, he tripped up in a public space, which he normally owns. It was a monumental slip up. That’s it. A snatch of bedroom conversation which got out inadvertently, that too, in a packed ball room – and then all hell broke loose.

The thing is, we don’t make allowances for our celebrities. We are unforgiving and judgmental. One wrong move, one wrong statement and bas! Khel khatam.

The question to ask is whether Kiran really meant what she was quoted as having said. Does she still feel the same? Will both of them feel pushed into a corner, forced to retract, pressurised to apologize? I hope not. This is really so unfortunate. Aamir must be kicking himself. But to taunt him about his “Hindu wife” and keep repeating that nauseating argument about a Muslim superstar in a Hindu country reduces our secular democratic credentials to a particularly indigestible joke. I have been reading the trolls and cringing at the pathetically low level of criticism. Venomous remarks say more about the persons spewing venom than about their target.

Is it okay to tell ordinary citizens who are critical of certain government policies to “Go to Pakistan” and leave the country… but not okay for a star to say his wife was deeply concerned about the future of their son… and therefore thought of leaving India?

All it needs is one – just one – unguarded remark in public for a high-profile person’s image to come crashing down. People are baying for Aamir’s blood right now. On one level, he’s lucky! Had a new movie release of his been round the corner, chances are protestors would have pelted theatres and asked viewers to boycott the film. These sort of “protests” are not hard to orchestrate. It’s even more shameful when senior film industry colleagues, emboldened by their personal political connections, nastily slam one of their own…that too, as publicly.

Every citizen has the right to express “alarm”. Or feel “despondent”. Just wondering whether the reactions to Aamir Khan’s candid confessions would have been less vicious had his name been Arun Khanna.

From Hero No.1 to Villain No.1. Overnight.

But trust our Prime Minister Narendra Modi to grab even this opportunity and turn it around. I like it! Aamir Khan and Narendra Modi as roadies. Superhit!! What an idea, Sir-ji!

(Shobhaa De is an established writer, columnist, opinion shaper and social commentator, who is considered an authority on popular culture.)


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