A few days back, Saif Ali Khan discussed his upcoming film Adipurush, which is all set to begin shooting early next year, in an interview with a leading newspaper. Saif plays the character of Lankesh in the film. In the interview, he mentioned that the director had tried to make Ravan humane in the film and justify Ravan’s abduction of Sita and the war against Ram.
“It’s interesting to play a demon king, less strictures in that. But we will make him humane, up the entertainment quotient, justify his abduction of Sita and the war with Ram as revenge for what was done to his sister Surpanakha by Lakshman, who cut off her nose.“
This statement did not go down well with netizens, with them soon trending #ArrestSaifAliKhan.
What hurt more – Blasphemy or Abduction?
A quick glance on the outrage on social media makes one realize that majority of the people were upset about Saif Ali Khan trying to give a positive angle to Ravan, who went against Ram and Sita, whom they worshipped. We have seen in recent times that our country has become sensitive in matters related to religion. And the fact that Saif is of a minority religion gives it a different angle altogether.
We have been taught the scriptures in a particular way from our childhood, the clear demarcation between the good and the bad. Were people more hurt because someone was trying to change their outlook about what they have been believing so far? Did Saif’s statement seem blasphemous (you cannot get away by speaking about our Gods)? Did the justification of abduction cross their minds?
You cannot justify abduction
The outrage over the blasphemy overshadowed the point that abduction or forceful holding of woman of any religion, of any stature, of anyone is not acceptable. Saif would not have meant any harm, but making loose comments such as this, does make crimes like these looks less hideous.
In 2018, the whole nation went in shock over the Kathua abduction case. A couple of years back a top Malayalam actress was abducted and molested and the way the abduction happened sent shock waves in the country. These are just isolated incidents that caught national attention. According to the latest NCRB data, in 2019, crimes against women registered a 7.3 percent increase from 2018, with kidnapping & abduction of women at a shocking percentage of 17.9 percent.
The trauma that a kidnapping survivor goes through is unimaginable. In fact, even the scriptures show the pain and hurt that Sita had to go through for years after her release. We can just to start to imagine how it will be for a common woman in today’s times.
Where to draw the line on creativity?
The ability to look into an incident from all angles and unbiasedly is a trait that only a few of us are blessed with. We have had many writers and film makers who try to show a story from the antagonist’s point of view. In fact, such stories broaden our mindset, helps us approach life and incidents with a different perspective, helps us being more empathetic. But there is surely a difference between expressing what incidents led a person into doing something wrong and to defend wrongful acts. What is wrong is wrong and cannot be justified. Saif may have gone in choice of words this time around.
Empathy – thats all that is needed
Saif Ali Khan has now issued a formal apology for hurting the sentiments of the people.
“I’ve been made aware that one of my statements during an interview, has caused a controversy and hurt people’s sentiments. This was never my intention or meant that way. I would like to sincerely apologise to everybody and withdraw my statement. Lord Ram has always been the symbol of Righteousness & Heroism for me. Adipurush is about celebrating the victory of good over evil and the entire team is working together to present the epic without any distortions.”
Hope this puts an end to the furore created – many people’s livelihood depends on a movie. And for sure there should be no restriction on anyone’s creativity, for anyone’s story to be expressed. But here is also hoping that women should not be considered easy targets to prove someone’s superiority in power, money or physical strength. Hoping we become more sensitive and proactive towards crime against women, women’s kidnapping, post-trauma rehabilitation and stronger laws for women protection.