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    #BoycottLaalSinghChaddha and the perils of cancel culture

    #BoycottLaalSinghChaddha and the perils of cancel culture

    #BoycottLaalSinghChaddha and the perils of cancel culture
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    By Sneha Bengani   IST (Updated)

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    Everyone who has been overeager to punish Aamir Khan on Twitter for saying what he did seven years ago about the growing religious intolerance in the country and for making fun of religion, especially Hinduism, in his 2014 film PK, has conveniently forgotten that he is the same actor who has also made movies with profound patriotic strains, such as Sarfarosh, Lagaan, Mangal Pandey: The Rising, Rang De Basanti, and Dangal.

    As much as Kareena Kapoor Khan may not want to take the #BoycottLaalSinghChaddha campaign seriously, it has the potential to affect the film’s box office performance. The threat of cancel culture is real. Twitter propagandists have realised it, the sooner the Hindi film industry wakes up to it too, the better positioned it will be to save its films.
    The most recent film to be cancelled was Karan Malhotra’s Shamshera. It bombed at the box office so bad, that it has become a cautionary tale. It had a lot going for it; backed by Yash Raj Films, it marked Ranbir Kapoor’s return to the big screen after four years. A period drama set in 18th-century colonial India, it promised a spectacle saga. Sure, the reviews were bad but we’ve seen worse films that were panned a lot more brutally do wonders at the ticket window. What, then, got to Shamshera? One among several factors was the potent allegation that through its uncouth, nefarious villain, it portrayed Hinduism in a bad light. Unsurprisingly, this was bait enough for the people of a deeply devout, god-fearing nation. They kept a safe distance from the film, like they could never do during the three COVID-19 waves.
    Fortunately, Aamir Khan, who plays the eponymous Laal Singh Chaddha in the upcoming Advait Chandan directorial, knows better. He wasted no time to react to the Twitter trend that urged people to boycott his film, the official Hindi remake of the 1994 Hollywood classic Forrest Gump, that starred Tom Hanks in the titular role. At a recent press event, Aamir had to reaffirm his patriotism and request people to not give in to hate-mongering. “I feel sad that some of the people who are saying this, in their heart, they believe that I am someone who doesn’t like India. But it is untrue. It is rather unfortunate that some people feel that way. That’s not the case. Please don’t boycott my film. Please watch my film,” he said.
    It’s such a pity that an actor of Aamir’s stature, who has consistently proved his caliber and craft in the last 34 years, was forced to reiterate his love for his country to ensure that he doesn’t become the latest victim of the vicious cancel culture. But the thing is, everyone who has been overeager to punish Aamir on Twitter for saying what he did seven years ago about the growing religious intolerance in the country and for making fun of religion, especially Hinduism, in his 2014 film PK, has conveniently forgotten that he is the same actor who has also made movies with profound patriotic strains, such as Sarfarosh (1999), Lagaan (2001), Mangal Pandey: The Rising (2005), Rang De Basanti (2006), and Dangal (2016).
    Source: YouTube grab
    As much as it is cinema’s responsibility to entertain, it is also to inform and question, hold a mirror to the society that we live in. It is to initiate a conversation, especially around uncomfortable issues. Nothing is beyond critique, not films, not even religion. It is only when we examine, that there can be any reform. The want to clamp down on dissent stems from a deep-seated insecurity that sees it as a threat to the established order of things, beliefs. Sure, we are all entitled to differing opinions, but none of us has the right to cancel the other, especially on the basis of a lopsided, agenda-driven Twitter trend.
    I do not know how true Kangana Ranaut’s hypothesis, that this entire hullaballoo around Laal Singh Chaddha is a publicity gimmick orchestrated by Aamir himself, is. But I agree with her that the chances of a Hindi remake of a 28-year-old Hollywood film taking the box office by storm are extremely grim.
    I too cringed inwardly after I first watched Laal Singh Chaddha’s trailer. Turning “My mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get” to “Meri mummy kehti thi ki jindagi gol gappe jaisi hondi hai. Pet bhale hi bhar jave, mann nahi bharta” is not just sad, it’s stupid. Add to it that insipid expression plastered on Aamir’s face which he discovered during 3 Idiots (2009), repeated in PK (2014), and is going for again in Laal Singh Chaddha. It doesn’t make him look innocent or simple-minded anymore; he’s so overused it that it’s now plain annoying.
    Source: YouTube grab
    Even if the controversy has stirred up a storm, Aamir is wiser than Kangana gives him credit for. He’d never initiate a boycott campaign for his own film. For he is keenly aware that we have long outgrown the times of ‘any publicity is good publicity.’ Even the actors who rose to prominence by advertising skin whitening creams are now actively advocating mindful living. Aamir, who has been an industry leader known for pushing the envelope, sure knows better than court such negativity.
    Reacting to #BoycottLaalSinghChaddha, Kareena, who stars opposite Aamir in the film, said, “If it’s a good film, I believe it will surpass anything.” I agree. Now, how good or bad it actually is or whether the call for a boycott will help or harm the film, we’ll find out before this week ends.
     
    Read other pieces by Sneha Bengani here
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