It doesn’t need a genius to know who won the Dangal between Aamir Khan and the trolls who wanted his film boycotted. Numbers speak for themselves: In only the first three days, the film has grossed Rs 100 crore and become the year’s biggest hit after Sultan.

The impact of the film could be compared to Geeta Phogat’s dhobi paat — when the rival is lifted, swung in the air and then slammed like wet cloth on the mat — on those who wanted to teach the actor a lesson by boycotting the film. Hopefully, they will have realised that India doesn’t tolerate such intolerance.

Nobody would have missed the irony of Dangal. In a theatre where we watched the film first-day-first-show — the standard response to any call for a ban or boycott — the loudest cheers and slogans (some actually chanted Bharat Mata ki Jai) are triggered by the camera panning to Aamir’s face as the National Anthem is played in the climactic moments of the film.

Jana Gana Mana, courtesy the Supreme Court’s decision — is played twice in the film. Before the film’s beginning, when the National Anthem is played, it is seen merely as a duty imposed on an audience that needs to learn the virtues of nationalism and patriotism. But, when it coincides with Aamir’s triumph and elation, the audience reacts spontaneously, stands up in rapt attention, exults with both pride and joy felt by Aamir. In those few seconds alone, the pseudo-nationalists would have died a million deaths watching an actor they had branded anti-national lead the collective rush of love and respect for the country.

Aamir Khan during the shooting of Dangal.

Aamir Khan during the shooting of Dangal.

But then, this essentially is the real India — liberal, tolerant and patron of cinema that is loyal to just one ideology — entertainment. It is an antithesis to the bias, bigotry and hate peddled on social media by a few in the name of bogus nationalism.

This is not the first Dangal Aamir, and by extension the India he represents, has won. Social media campaigns based on chest-thumping jingoism and barely-concealed religious biases have always been given the dhobi-paat by real India (as against the handful carrying carry out their jihad through keypads).

Aamir’s PK was the biggest hit of 2014 even as the Hindutva brigade railed against it for “targetting and mocking” their religion. Snapdeal, whose boycott was sought by twitter jihadis because of its association with Aamir, grew in the aftermath of the onslaught. On Diwali, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil made pots of money in spite of calls for a ban and boycott. Chinese products continue to fly off the shelves even when keyboard-nationalists fly into a rage.

Why does the boycott brigade often lose the Dangal? The simplest explanation is that they are just an irrelevant fringe that sometimes entertains and sometimes irritates. But nothing more than that. To quote poet Rahat Indori:

Khilaaf hain, to hone do, jaan thori hai,

Ye sab dhuaan hai, koi aasman thori hai

(If they are opposed to you, let them be, they are just smoke, not the sky.)

There are other reasons too. It is difficult to sustain hate for too long. Indians don’t like to be told what to do in the name of various isms. Love for cinema and its stars transcends politics. And, obviously, social media jihadis get exposed and then buried under their own contradictions, like supporting construction of a mammoth statue that costs crore and simultaneously asking others to not spend Rs 200 on Dangal because that money can feed some poor.

Sometimes it is difficult to not pity those seeking a ban or pleading for a boycott. They do it in the name of self-respect, in the name of Hindutva, in the name of patriotism, for the sake of Malda, Bengal, soldiers, to teach Pakistan a lesson…almost anything. Bas, boycott kar de, Baba!

The success of Dangal shows India is indeed large-hearted and charitable. But, it gives its love, respect and, even hard-earned money, only to those who deserve it, not those who demand it as a token of acceptance of their misguided agendas.

Boycott calls, in the end, turn out to be haanikarak for those pleading for it.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 14:59 IST

Excerpt from – 

Aamir Khan wins Dangal: Jingoism loses to Indians who don’t tolerate intolerance