Naseeruddin Shah, Kiran Rao call out films for being regressive, jingoistic; makers, stars urge, ‘Watch our films first’

Actor Naseeruddin Shah sparked a debate of sorts when he slammed films such as The Kerala Story, The Kashmir Files and Gadar 2, calling them a “dangerous trend and jingoistic”. Soon after, filmmaker Kiran Rao, made another statement that films with regressive messaging earning crores at the box office, hurts. We talk to makers and actors of the said films, besides others members of the fraternity, who are pretty taken aback by such comments, and defend the cinema they are a part of.

Naseeruddin Shah, Kiran Rao attack The Kerala Story, The Kashmir Files, and Gadar 2; makers, actors defend

Naseerudin Shah said, “Now the more jingoist you are, the more popular you become, because this is what has been ruling this country. It’s not enough to love your country; but beat drums about it, and you have to create imaginary enemies. What these people don’t realise is that what they are doing is very harmful. In fact, films like Kerala Story and Gadar 2, I haven’t seen them, but I know what they are about. It’s disturbing that films like Kashmir Files are so massively popular whereas films made by Sudhir Mishra, Anubhav Sinha, and Hansal Mehta, who are trying to portray the truth of their times, don’t get seen. It’s frightening where filmmakers are being co-opted into making films which praise all the wrong things and run down other communities for no reason at all. It’s a dangerous trend.”

Meanwhile, responding to a question at Toronto Film Festival, filmmaker Kiran Rao, not naming any film, told Film Companion that it hurts with films with regressive messaging earns crores.

“When it is a really regressive sort of messaging, and it makes hundreds of crores, it hurts. Because you had the opportunity and you could have pushed the needle in some direction and you didn’t. So those are the things that sometimes bother me. Having said that, every filmmaker has their goals and they are going to do what they do. But it would be really nice if the big films, the kind that audiences love and earn lots at the box office, were also doing some of that important work for us. Building our society in a more positive way, not stereotyping people, in fact breaking some of those regressive ideas down or in some way opening up those conversations,” Rao said.

Now, the directors and actors from respective films have reacted to Naseeruddin Shah’s comments, and expressed disappointment that someone had made such strong remarks without even watching the said films.

Here’s what they said:

Anil Sharma, Director, Gadar 2

If the public likes a film, we are no one to comment on that. Naseer bhai mere priya hain. I have done Tahalka (1992) with him, and it was a commercial entertainer. He knows very well that I make this kind of cinema, so I really don’t know what promoted him to make such a statement. Gadar 2 is a patriotic film, and I request that he should watch the film first, and I’m sure he’ll change his opinion. I want to tell everyone that when Anil Sharma makes a film, he makes it paisa vasool. Main shiksha ke liye films nahi banaata. I just want to entertain people, and yahi mera andaaz hai. I am not against any religion or country.

Sudipto Sen, Director, The Kerala Story

Ek aadmi bina film dekhe comment kare, toh woh paagalpan hai. Hum unko respect karte hain, but thoda responsible kaam toh karte. I worked on this film for 10 years, and it was approved by the CBFC after two months of scrutinising. If he hasn’t even seen the film and still commented, then that is a dangerous trend for the country. He has the right to comment, but it is just childish, what more can I say. So many technicians worked on it, it should be respected. Yeh shobha nahi deta hai unhe. He is a school of acting by himself, and he has put a big question mark on his reputation. I respect Naseer ji, but calling my film jingoistic is such an irresponsible comment from someone who hasn’t even watched it yet.

Vivek Agnihotri, Director, The Kashmir Files

It’s an absolutely crazy statement to make on Naseeruddin’s part, and that too after he has worked with me on The Tashkent Files. Like I said earlier, I have zero tolerance for terrorism, and he wishes to support them, I don’t know what to say, and I don’t care about what he has said. And yes, Bollywood dumbs down the audience, and sells regressive films. Nobody talks about it because they come with big stars, and everyone is scared of them. It is a regressive process. For example, Playboy sells more than Geeta, and playboy is the hero. Cocaine is celebrated more than apple, so cocaine is respected more. Regression is being mainstreamed, dumbing down is being glorified.

Adah Sharma, Actor, The Kerala Story

My elders have always taught me to respect all kinds of opinions and not necessarily those that align with mine. Moreover, after such massive love from the audience and it being the highest female grossing film of all time, I cannot be anything but grateful. It would be so nice if members of the society would watch a movie before commenting on it. However, if they want to comment without watching, I guess that’s also fine. I respect my seniors in the industry so we welcome Mr. Shah’s input. I feel fortunate to be born in a country where freedom of speech is allowed. Ours is a flourishing democracy and everyone has a right to an opinion.

Manish Wadhwa, Actor, Gadar 2

Naseerudin has his own way of thinking and has an individual point of view, and I cannot really change anyone’s opinion about something. However, if I talk particularly about our film, Gadar 2, it had everything that a film should have. Comedy, emotions, action, entertainment, everything. It is about patriotism and if you see, film mein sabko jodne ki baat ki thi. Jahan filmein todne ki baat karein, toh woh galat hai. But, I don’t see anything wrong with our film.

Puneet Issar, Actor, The Kashmir Files

Naseeruddin Shah is the idiot of the highest order, and just a lose cannon. He is such a great actor and I respect him, but this is just not done. His statements are very uncalled for. He has got verbal diarrhea. Rajesh Khanna ka bhi mazaak udaata hai. Someone should have told him ki Rajesh Khanna ki flop picture ne jitna paisa kamaaya hoga, utna he hasn’t even earned in his lifetime. Aadhi se zyada junta ne The Kashmir Files ko like kiya hai, woh film apne dam par chali hai. You have to accept the audience’ verdict. Aap khud superstar nahi ban paaye commercial films mein, toh yeh toh angoor khatte hain waali baat ho gayi. And if he shuns commercial cinema so much, then why did he do Jalwa and other such films? Voice of people is the voice of God.

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