I have known Naseeruddin Shah off and on (more off) since the Manthan days when he was part of the Shyam Benegal bandwagon. More a theatre person, he did bring to cinema a certain intellectual elan that was reserved for the likes of Victor Bannerjee and his ilk.
Not being much of a movie maniac, I do recall his movie on Wednesday in which he fights for the little people and models himself on the common man made famous by cartoonist RK Laxman. When Naseer made that movie, he didn’t choose a specific colour or caste or religion for the common Joe. Nor did he live on a hot, tin roof. It was a powerful and across-the-board identification with an individual who just kept receiving the thin edge of the wedge and Naseer rose to reflect the man’s plight.
Naseer has often been quoted as saying that this being his favourite movie. Which makes it all the more strange that he would elect to get into an argument with Anupam Kher, a fellow actor, over the condition of Kashmiri Pandits.
It is a tenuous indictment when you predicate it to not having lived in Kashmir to defend their cause as one.
I believe in the Palestine cause and I am not even Palestinian, let alone having been there. You might believe in ending the wars in Yemen and Syria and righting injustices without being Yemeni or Syrian. Many Europeans opened their doors to Syrian refugees without even knowing where the country was on the map.
Individuals and organisations have walked that extra mile; the Peace Corps, Mother Teresa’s army, even the cinematic likes of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie leaving a positive mark. Salman Khan does not stop running Being Human for kids because he has grown out of it and become an adult. Priyanka Chopra, UN Ambassador for the right of Indian children to go to school, did not say, no, no, no, only Hindu Punjabi children. Shilpa Shetty donated her earnings from Big Brother to AIDS Research not because she has it but because she wants to help. Shabana Azmi adopted a village called Mizwan and opened up a school for village children and she isn’t from there nor does she intend to move there any time soon.
The old adage holds true: you don’t have to be an egg to make an omelette. And it is truly unedifying for two actors of worth to engage in a sniping contest.
I recall speaking to Susan Sarandon who starred in Lorenzo’s Oil over her efforts to cure ALD. She went from her role in the movie to spending years generating support to find that elusive cure.
It would have been so much more salutary if these hurtful tweets had been replaced by Kher and Shah starring together in a sensitive, humane and relevant film on Kashmir.
Why make digs that have no logical basis and why get involved in unnecessary controversy that will take you nowhere?
We all identify with causes and have beliefs and often give of ourselves and our time and our support and even our wealth without having any direct co-relation or being integral to the situation.
You didn’t have to live in South Africa to be against apartheid.
You don’t have to be a whale to fight whaling.
You don’t have to be a tree to combat the decimation of forests.
Sarcasm is not always the best weapon just because it is sharp. I can only hope that these two gentlemen, endowed with intelligence, blessed with success and each of them having a strong following, will not take this absurd slurring further.
Come on, Naseer, you are a better man than this. Stop already.
And there is no cause for Kher to up the ante.
Neither of you will win the jackpot. People will only feel sorry (and a little bit angry) that despite having so much going for you, you would mock the fates.