The difference between Hollywood and Bollywood has always been that stars there lend their names to causes and speak up about things in a constructive manner. And society allows them to. We complain that film stars here don’t stand for anything, and that they take no sides, we complain that Bollywood is a fencesitter. After this whole Aamir Khan thing I’ve understood why they don’t. Because we’ll burn them on a pyre if they do. For we as a country are incredibly intolerant. And This isn’t to say that other countries are not. The basis of all strife is intolerance. And it is worldwide; be it cops in Chicago, the Israel-Palestine conflict or the various religions in India. We are only tolerant because we have to be. Else we can’t work and make a living, which thankfully comes above everything else.

But we, as a country, also forget this intolerance in the face of quality, success and when things are well deserved by anyone. Hence everyone celebrates Abdul Kalam, everyone celebrates Sachin Tendulkar in the same breath. And the top three film stars are Muslims in a predominantly Hindu country.

Do we want our stars to end up becoming impotent at the hands of fundamentalism? I’m glad Aamir Khan said what he did because at least it immediately pulled out every snake from within its hole and forced it to start spewing its venom, dividing the country suddenly and so definitely into those who are tolerant, and those who clearly aren’t.

Our stars and films determine society. Deeply. Let’s not hit our axes on our own feet. And shape the future of cinema and pop culture with the fear of speaking up. Our films will then continue to be escapist and our stars fence-sitters. Each time someone takes a Rang De Basanti to them they’ll reject it, each time someone takes a film which talks about religion they’ll reject it, each time someone talks about farmer suicides in a script it’ll be rejected, or about the rise of a people’s party, or anything that isn’t a populist view. Let there be views from all quarters, let every voice be heard, on film and in life.

Because if the decision is between allowing one’s family and kids to be physically and mentally harmed and speaking one’s mind, the most brave person will keep his mouth shut.

How many times have you wondered about the world being a good place for your child?

How often have you wondered, going by the current trajectory of the world and what’s happening here, whether much beauty will still remain when your children grow up?

How often have we felt the same way about India? The fact that the Congress loses after decades in a landslide victory proves that we all think about this all the time, the fact that the BJP lost Bihar proves that we’re still thinking and wondering, all the time.

Imagining ourselves in better possibilities and hoping for them and wondering about how good the world will be tomorrow is our habit and our right. Both. And it is the right and beautiful ability of Cinema, to not just entertain us, but push us towards a better, truer existence. Let’s let Cinema have this deeper strength, rather than just being purely escapist fare. Let us be tolerant towards both stars and cinema who disturb us, who make us think, who sometimes shock us, who teach us, and also, along with each emotion, entertain us, more as a means of telling us something than the end in itself.

Let us be tolerant to intolerance. Specially when it moves us in the right direction. Both with stars and cinema.


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