As Fanaa opened in theatres nationwide yesterday, except in Narendra Modi’s Gujarat, it became clear that the standoff between the liberal and fascist faces of India would run much longer than any film could ever hope to.
On one side are arsonists and hooligans who want to muffle freedom of expression. On the other, is a man who has declared war on them using exactly that freedom.
In an interview to MiD DAY's Avirook Sen, Aamir says the BJP is anti-people and anti-democratic and that he will seek legal help to combat their persecution. He also says he will make his views on issues like affirmative action known, whether they like it or not.
As he sat by the window in his Bandra flat last evening, his body language (and everything he said) suggested only one thing: the
BJP should forget about an apology — and get ready for a fight.
What kind of mood are you in today? Well, a bit mixed. I have worked very hard in Fanaa, as I work in all my films. On one hand there is the excitement of a film release, on the other, there is the disappointment of the controversy being created around me and my work. I feel targeted.
Have you been threatened in any way? No, that hasn’t happened.
If you were to meet Mr Narendra Modi, what would you tell him? It’s a hypothetical question, but I don’t think I have anything to say to him. I think each person should do what is right and true. I am a strong believer in karma. I believe that I should follow my karma and that other people should do what they believe is right.
So, you don’t have a problem with Mr Modi? (Long pause) Of course I do. (laughs) I disagree with whatever stance the BJP is taking. I don’t know whether Mr Modi has personally taken this stand because I don’t think he has given a statement of this nature. My understanding is that the BJP is targeting me and my film because I have come out in support of people who have lost their land and homes.
My understanding is that they want me to tender an apology for supporting villagers who have lost their land. I’m not going to do that. I certainly won’t apologise for supporting people who have lost their land.
I have seen on TV that they have made an attempt — through Sushma Swaraj and Shatrughan Sinha — to mislead the public that I am against the people of Gujarat. I deny that. They say that the people of Gujarat are angry with me.
I do not believe that. I believe that the BJP is upset with me, probably across the country. They have made attempts in the media to mislead the people of Gujarat that I am against progress or against the dam or that I want the dam broken. That’s untrue, I deny it.
I have said that I would be happy if the people of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan get more water. Along with people getting water, there are people who are homeless. It is the duty of those four governments to look after and rehabilitate them.
I strongly believe that the people of Gujarat know what I am saying and they know that I support them. I’m speaking against anyone who doesn’t want rehabilitation. What I want to ask the BJP at this point of time is: are you against me? What do you want me to apologise for? Are you against rehabilitation?
Are they saying they want to snatch land from poor and defenceless people and not rehabilitate them? That is my question to the BJP because that is what it appears to me. By asking me to apologise, they are supporting me. If I am asking for rehabilitation they should be saying yes, let us rehabilitate these people, we would also want to rehabilitate them, and it’s our duty to rehabilitate them.
What does that tell you about the BJP? By opposing me, the BJP is indicating two things. On one hand they are making it clear (without saying it) that they are against rehabilitation, against the people, against anyone who has lost his home. Today, it’s these farmers, tomorrow it will be someone else. They are against the poor and defenceless farmers, they are against people with problems.
On the other hand, what becomes clear to me is they believe in brute force and not democracy. I may have said something, which somebody disagrees with. But in a democracy, I can voice my opinion and a debate can take place.
How do you want to help, besides lending your voice? I have said that I would like to help in the process of rehabilitation. Everyone should help the four governments. And when the work is complete, I will be the first to appreciate the government, no matter which government it is.
I was asked what I would like to do and I said I would like to donate money. And today I have signed four cheques for Rs 5 lakh each for the chief minister’s relief funds of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan respectively. They will go out tomorrow. My only concern is to help those in need. Nothing else.
How do you think the controversy will pan out? What the majority wants is what ultimately happens in a democracy. That’s how it should be. But if a political party or a group decides to physically attack somebody, attack his work, and tries to bully a person, which is what is happening right now, that party is then saying it is against the people and that it does not believe in democracy.
So here is a national party using public platforms across the media saying that they are not interested in doing two very basic things that a political party ought to be doing.
Is there any pressure on you to soften your stance? There is absolutely no pressure on me from the production or the distribution sectors. Both have indicated their support. I feel no pressure within me either, because I am extremely clear that what I am doing is right and what I stand for is true. And I don’t intend to back off, no matter what the financial or physical loss. I am very clear about that.
People have been inspired by your work. The anti-reservation protests, for instance, had a Rang de Basanti resonance. Do you have a view on the quota issue? Well, I am happy that people are inspired by me or by my work and I hope that this progress is positive. Yes, I feel responsible to a certain extent because part of me is an entertainer and part is a celebrity. But I am also an individual who lives in society.
And as a member, it is my duty at a certain level to express and take a stand on what I feel about issues, which are socially relevant to all of us.
But people expect a view. What is it? Irrespective of whether it is expected from me or not, I think it is everyone’s responsibility to be a part of what is happening in society. So in that sense, yes. You ask me about reservations — I don’t want to comment on it right now, but I will definitely do so because I want people to focus on the issue.
The issue that concerns me right now is democracy. Do we as a people believe in democracy? Are we going to reject a political party, which does not believe in democracy? I want the focus to remain on that. And I WILL speak on reservations in a couple of weeks, definitely!
The BJP’s Shatrughan Sinha reportedly said you had ‘‘better not” air your views on reservation. (Laughs) See, Shatruji is my senior and I have a lot of regard for him. But I’m sure that in a democracy, as I said earlier, anyone has a right to speak his or her mind. Shatruji, if he has said that I better not speak on reservations or any issue, has once again indicated as a member of the BJP, that he does not believe in democracy. I have not heard him making the statement. If you say that he’s made the statement, then I think that it’s an irresponsible one.
The BJP does not seem to be in the mood to stop, so what’s the solution? There should be a national debate. And a solution has to be found. I also think that people of this country are seeing things for themselves. And I hope that this and many such incidents will help people decide who should rule us. And that in turn, will go a long way in deciding how our society will progress.
Are you saying ‘don’t elect the BJP’? I have not been connected to any political party, nor do I have any intention of doing so. This is not a political statement; it’s a social statement.
Are you worried that the Congress in Gujarat is also in agreement with the BJP over banning Fanaa? Are they?
Well, a section of the Congress is, and BJP members speaking on the issue are pointing to this. So, the BJP was speaking on behalf of the Congress! Let the people decide. If people want to see Fanaa, they will find a way of seeing Fanaa.
Fanaa has you playing a guide/terrorist. If you met your character, what would say to him? It doesn’t matter what character I play, but it is extremely sad if people resort to violence. I strongly condemn any organisation, individual, political party or group of people, who resort to violence to kill innocents, no matter which religion they belong to. My heart goes out to people who are affected by violence. Be it Islamic terrorists, be it Hindu terrorists, be it George Bush.
Are you apprehens
ive that this will keep happening to you, whatever project you take up? My next film is some time away. But yes, I am apprehensive about the fact that the BJP can again behave in an unreasonable manner and I intend to take legal advice on how I should to tackle it.
Not immediately? Well, the moment I get some time, I intend to take legal advice on how I am supposed to tackle this kind of hooliganism.