AN INTERESTING THEORY being floated around the social media comments exhorting the boycott of Aamir Khan’s movie Laal Singh Chaddha that releases on August 11, was by Kangana Ranaut. By her standards, it was mild but nevertheless imaginative. For Kangana believes that it is not the ecosystem of the Hindutva right that is targeting Aamir, but Aamir himself. In her Instagram post, she wrote: “I think all the negativity around the upcoming release of Laal Singh Chaddha is skillfully curated by mastermind Aamir Khan Ji himself. This year, no Hindi films have worked [barring one exception of a comedy sequel]. Only south films deeply rooted in Indian culture or with local flavour have worked, a Hollywood remake would have not worked anyway.”
If you have to pick a bone with this argument, it is that the evidence against this theory would be Kangana herself making a negative comment on the movie and its maker. Because then the inference would be that Aamir put her up to it. There have been other public personalities who have taken similar potshots, like the news anchor Amish Devgan who tweeted a still of an old Aamir movie called PK which has a picture of a Hindu goddess with a subtitle “Missing”: “This can happen only in India where you can make fun of our faith & test tolerance to this level. Finally they say ‘I don’t feel India is safe to live’. Actor is #AamirKhan, movie is PK and director is Raj Kr Hirani.” And then there are the lakhs of hordes below who with each retweet of a hashtag, is adding to the calls for a boycott.
There might be no conspiracy or a concerted campaign in this. People in general like to punch Bollywood, only the cause shifts shape according to the group doing the punching. And in one sense, Kangana might even be right. In an earlier avatar, Aamir had occasionally made political comments and these were often timed just before a movie released. But since 2014, superstars have read how the temperature of the wind coursing through the nation’s veins changed and have bent over backwards to be silent, unless to loudly profess their patriotism. The boycott calls against Aamir stemmed from a casual comment he made in 2015 that his then wife was afraid of India not being safe to live in following lynchings over beef.
Indeed, Aamir himself is now proclaiming that he loves India. In one PTI interview, he said: “I really love India…That’s how I am. I really love the country… That’s how I am. It is rather unfortunate if some people feel that way. I want to assure everyone that it’s not the case so please don’t boycott my films, please watch my films.” But it is really pointless because of what use is such a clarification to those who are targeting him. The online magazine Opindia, for example, wrote a piece whose strap below the headline was: “As boycott calls for Laal Singh Chaddha trend, Aamir Khan has decided to come and claim he loves India. What is Mr Perfectionist afraid of?” That is a question easily answered but never in public.