Declare a war on drugs but why are places known for ‘drug culture’ left out?
Rahul Dholakia, National Award winning director who made films like Parzania and Raees, wonders why there is no crackdown on drugs in places known for their ‘drug culture’
Let me be clear that I am not a spokesperson for either Shah Rukh Khan or any of his family members. I am commenting in my capacity as a filmmaker, an Indian and a well-wisher.
For the record, let it also be known that I am not against people doing their job. I am just wondering at the timing and motivation of this arrest of Aryan Khan, and my assumption, from the facts presented to me, that he is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Whatever is happening in the Aryan Khan case is upsetting—the way he was picked up, detained, sent to a jail. And I say this only because they have neither found any drugs on him, nor did they have solid evidence to arrest him in the first place. They have been fishing to find a correlation for weeks by misinterpreting his WhatsApp chats/jokes/forwards, painting him as being some kind of an Escobar figure.
Which makes me think and question—was his arrest meant to genuinely eradicate drugs from the country or is it aimed just at Bollywood? Shouldn’t we be raiding Malana, Goa, Punjab, Delhi, the Northeast or any other region where the use of narcotics is much more rampant?
Like every other citizen, even I want to free India of drugs, and so I think, shouldn’t we be arresting the people who are bringing drugs into this country or selling them for years? Why do a “nakabandi” at a cruise terminal and not at the Rajasthan border?
Does this arrest have anything to do with the 3000-kilo haul at the Mundra Port? Is this to distract us and divert the attention from that? Won’t it be a better idea to find out who this consignment was for? Under whose instruction did they enter and how many other such consignments have come into our country and where did they go? Shouldn’t we be celebrating the heroes that caught 21,000 crores of drugs rather than the one that caught 6 grams?
That brings up one more question. Was this case to get back at SRK in any way? And why? Could that have anything to do with SRK being apolitical? Or is this a case of extortion and harassment, as has been surfacing in the news?
With my limited knowledge I can only assume, but, in any event, an innocent citizen is languishing in jail and his life and the lives of his family members are not going to be the same ever again. And not just Aryan, there are thousands of Indians in jails all over India, waiting for justice. I also take this opportunity to speak for them and their families.
It reminds me of my friend Dara Mody, whose family was destroyed when his colony (Gulbarg Society) was attacked by a violent mob in Gujarat, 2002. The society were targeted because its residents were predominantly Muslims, people of another community. This was apparently an outrage, reaction to an incident that happened miles away, and in no way connected to these people. Azhar (Dara’s son) went missing that day and has still not been found. Dara is not the same man anymore.
I went on to make Parzania, based on this unfortunate reality.
Some 20 years later, I ask myself, how different was that, than what is happening today. People are still being targeted, punished. Is it because they are of a different community, religion? Or is it because they don’t toe the line?
There are many things I admire about SRK. The one quality that stands out most is his kindness. He is very genuine, polite, well-mannered and extremely respectful towards others and maybe that’s the reason why he is who he is and where he is. Not just grounded but loved worldwide, an ambassador of culture, an icon and inspiration to many.
That is why it makes me wonder why only a handful of people from our industry are speaking out in his support. Maybe they believe in what they are seeing, or maybe it is their fear. Fear of crossing paths with the people in power. Fear, because they are vulnerable. Fear of being socially attacked.
That brings me to Raees, the one film in which I worked with SRK. The hate attacks on SRK started around 2013-2014. That’s also the time I met him for Raees. By the time we released the film, it was 2017. A lot had changed by then. The mood of the country was very different. An unfortunate dastardly attack on our brave-hearts happened in J&K, followed by our counter across the border. The sentiments were soaring high and elections were around the corner
Raees and SRK became the subject of hate memes, tweets and WhatsApp forwards accusing us of glorifying Muslim gangsters and many other derogatory and fallacious messages kept pouring in. We suffered both emotional and financial losses. I was the most upset as this spread of hate was having a direct impact on my cinema.
We couldn’t shoot key scenes with Mahira Khan because of the fatwa against Pakistani talent in Bollywood. We had to modify the screenplay, and not just the box office sales, even creativity was compromised. Unfortunately, in India, many people can’t separate real from reel, and they believe the person to be the same as the character played by him. That’s why a bad guy is a bad guy till someone good talks good about him.
Most people think actors are only about money. They fail to realize the pain and emotional trauma they go through when allegations, accusations like these happen. Year after year, for no fault of theirs. Some of us filmmakers do make sacrifices. So, it’s heartbreaking when we have to change our scripts or edit out the key scenes because they may offend someone. All this at the cost of compromising the main purpose or intent of making a film.
The reason why I am speaking up in these times is because our film fraternity is being targeted, even though they are not always at fault; for agendas of various groups and politics, unknown to me. Unfortunately, people whose voice matters, are not vocal enough.
The only way to fight fear is by confronting it. We need be more tolerant with each other and, like SRK, be more respectful towards each other. We need to openly discuss issues with compassion and reason, not with hate. Regardless of everything, we need to speak up because like Martin Luther King Jr said: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”.
(Rahul Dholakia is an Indian film director, producer and screenwriter known for films like Parzania and Raees. Views are personal)
Published: 26 Oct 2021, 4:26 PM