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Hindu supremacists call for a boycott of a Bollywood remake of ‘Forrest Gump’

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In question, an interview with the main actor of the film, Aamir Khan, dating from 2015, in which he confides, among other things, his “feeling of fear” growing in the face of the coming to power of Narendra Modi.

The August 11 release of the Indian adaptation of the famous American film Forrest Gump by Robert Zemeckis (1994), Laal Singh Chaddha – directed in Hindi by Advait Chandan – is one of India’s most anticipated cinematic events of 2022, thanks to Muslim Aamir Khan, who produces and stars in it.

successful Indian actor 3 idiots (2009) and Dangal (2016) is, at 57, one of the most bankable in Bollywood.

But excerpts from an interview he gave in 2015 suddenly resurfaced on social media, backed by a flood of calls for a boycott of his film by Hindu nationalists.

#BoycottLaalSinghChaddha

In this interview, Aamir Khan had expressed his discomfort and a growing “feeling of fear”, aroused by the coming to power of Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist party, the BJP, to the point that with his wife at the time, they had considered leaving India.

“She is afraid for her child. She is afraid of what will be the atmosphere around us. She is afraid to open the newspapers every day,” he said at the time.

Over 200,000 tweets, many of them BJP supporters, tagged #BoycottLaalSinghChaddhahave been overflowing on the social network since last month.

“Aamir Khan married two Hindu women and yet named his children Junaid, Azad and Ira”, Muslim names, one can read in a tweet.

The actress who plays alongside him in Laal Singh ChaddhaKareena Kapoor, “married a Muslim and quickly named her children Taimur and Jehangir”, also notes in the same tweet and adds: “this is reason enough to boycott Lal Singh Chaddha, production of the Love Jihad club of Bollywood. #BoycottLaalSinghChaddha”.

“Love Jihad” is a pejorative phrase created by Hindu nationalists that stigmatizes Muslims by accusing them of marrying Hindus in order to convert them to Islam.

“Hate of Muslims”

The BJP has its origins in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a militarist small group advocating “Hindutva”, a project of Hindu hegemony.

The fury aroused by the release of Laal Singh Chaddha is such that Aamir Khan had to express his patriotism in the press this week, a key concept in the government’s ideology.

“I am saddened that some (…) think that I am someone who does not like India. It’s not,” he said, “please don’t boycott my film. Please go see my movie.

Bollywood cinema and other regional industries often spark controversy and even violence in film-loving India. But what Aamir Khan, one of the industry’s many Muslim superstars, is going through reflects the evidently growing climate of intolerance, marginalization and defamation of Muslims, which worries observers.

“There is no doubt that Aamir is the target of those who sow hatred of Muslims,” ​​an observer, who requested anonymity for fear of becoming a target himself, told AFP.

“The majority of Bollywood is apathetic”

The world’s largest democracy has a long history of film censorship, but rights campaigners say Bollywood is also under increased pressure to accommodate the BJP’s Hindu nationalist propaganda.

More and more films released recently tell patriotic stories whose heroes are soldiers and policemen, usually Hindus, who fight against the enemies of India, at home or abroad.

This year the film The Kashmir Fileson the historic flight of Hindus from Kashmir 30 years ago, has provided the Hindu nationalists who acclaim it, with a pretext to attack the Muslim minority.

The methods used to “subordinate the Muslims and Christians of India to the majority community (…) go through the demonization of these minorities and the requirement of proof of their patriotism”, explains film critic and writer, Anna MM Vetticad.

And, according to her, “the tragedy of India is that the majority of Bollywood (…) is either apathetic, or opportunistic, or is afraid”.

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