In a petition to the Supreme Court, politician Kishore Tiwari pointed out that the drug officer who led the arrest and probe into Aryan Khan was on a vendetta to challenge Bollywood power. The officer was recently probed over allegations of accepting millions of dollars’ worth of bribes to push for this case. “The kind of messaging that goes when the child of the country’s biggest Muslim superstar is being held for flimsy reasons is clear: if he doesn’t stand a chance, how can anyone?” Ankur Pathak, a film critic and journalist said. Film critic Sucharita Tyagi said that the whole Aryan Khan fiasco reads like a bad episode of a televised crime series. “Over the years, Shah Rukh Khan has become silent. But the message seems to be: fall in line or we will get you,” Tyagi told VICE World News. “Bollywood is not the same as it was ten years ago when stars would express their discontent openly. Even the average Instagram influencer is now scared to express their opinions about the government. In Shah Rukh’s case, it just happens to be that he is the biggest superstar of the country, but also its biggest Muslim superstar,” Tyagi said.
“The kind of messaging that goes when the child of the country’s biggest Muslim superstar is being held for flimsy reasons is clear: if he doesn’t stand a chance, how can anyone?”
Bollywood and its Muslim stars used to have herculean influence and power in a country that produces the highest number of films globally every year. But things are changing, and Aryan Khan’s arrest is just one example. Other Muslim megastars have also faced undue pressure from Modi’s government. His politicians have increasingly challenged influential Muslim actors, often for not toeing the line of Hindutva ideology. Aamir Khan – part of the so-called Khan trinity of (unrelated) superstars with Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan – recently drew flak over an ad encouraging people to stop bursting firecrackers in the upcoming Diwali festivities. A legislator from the ruling party accused him of “creating unrest” among Hindus.
Politicians have increasingly challenged influential Muslim actors, often for not toeing the line of Hindutva ideology.
Only a few years back, in the entourage of Bollywood celebrities that flew to the capital New Delhi in a private jet to meet Modi, both Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan were seen taking enthusiastic selfies with the prime minister. The interaction, organised by film producer Mahaveer Jain, marked a turning point in the way content was created in Bollywood. Jain subsequently went on to bankroll a slew of films with nationalistic fervour. Even filmmaker and producer Karan Johar, also part of the said entourage, moved away from making films on queer love like Bombay Talkies, and on Islamophobia like My Name is Khan, which starred Shah Rukh Khan, to now producing “patriotic” films such as Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl and most recently Shershaah. “And then there is the fact that Modi’s ideologue, the Sangh Parivar [umbrella group of Hindu nationalist organisations], also detests inter-faith marriages,” Singh adds. “Shah Rukh is married to a Hindu woman, and the ex-wives of Aamir Khan were also Hindus, so is Salman Khan’s mother.”
“Bollywood has always been the kind of space where the traditional hierarchies of religion collapse.”
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