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I react to these infringements by religious groups not as an artiste but as a layman and citizen of India. I think our governance, the system should be for the people but we are giving way too long a rope to these religious organisations to dictate terms. A line has to be drawn and such religious groups should not be allowed liberty beyond a point. The government needs to get strict, otherwise these artistic intrusions will keep happening and will increase day by day. After a point, all we would be worried about is whether it is safe to say or portray this or that, or will some religious group find it offensive? Free thoughts and artistic expression cannot thrive in this sort of environment. Hurting sentiments is a different issue but when the groups become a nuisance to the society, they should be curbed and not be tolerated at all, both by the citizens and the state.
It’s really sad to see that after so many years of civilisation, of evolution, religion is not helping us coexist. The basic philosophy of every religion is pure but it’s getting abducted and misused by those who control the masses. My point is, why give so much importance to an individual’s religion at all? I think religion is a very private, personal matter between you and God and it should remain so. No third person has any space here.
And why talk only of religious groups? Caste-based groups, professional protest groups—everybody is so prickly, everyone has begun to come together for an agenda. They keep raising their heads and protesting. In my film Billu, we were asked by a particular community not to use the caste name as suffix. Somebody saying ‘saali zindagi’ (this damn life) becomes objectionable for another group. I remember a line in one of my films—“Note ka rang laal hota hai”—was found disrespectful to the currency by some. Even currency was turned into God by them and we were told to show due respect! There is no credibility in these protests, they are undertaken for the heck of it. It doesn’t demotivate me as an artiste, but it’s certainly troubling that it has become part of the environment we are all living in today.
As told to Namrata Joshi
Irrfan Khan is a prominent Bollywood actor