Hindu supremacists call for a boycott of a Bollywood remake of "Forrest Gump"

In question, an interview with the main actor of the film, Aamir Khan, dating from 2015, in which he confides, among other things, his growing “feeling of fear” 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 is producing and starring in it.

Indian blockbuster 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 have suddenly resurfaced on social media, backed by a flood of calls for a boycott of his film from 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 the atmosphere will be around us. She is afraid to open the newspapers every day,” he said at the time.

Over 200,000 tweets, many from BJP supporters, tagged #BoycottLaalSinghChaddhahave been spilling onto the social network since last month.

“Aamir Khan married two Hindu women and yet named his children Junaid, Azad and Ira”, Muslim names, can we 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”, we also note in the same tweet and add: “this is reason enough to boycott Lal Singh Chaddha, production of the Bollywood’s Love Jihad club. #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. That is not the case,” he said, “please, don’t boycott my movie. 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 climate of intolerance, marginalization and defamation of Muslims which is evidently growing, worrying observers.

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

“The majority of Bollywood is apathetic”

The world’s biggest democracy has a long history of film censorship but rights campaigners say Bollywood is also coming 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, generally Hindus, who fight against enemies of India, at home or abroad.

This year the movie 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 demand for proof of their patriotism”, explains the 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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