Last Saturday, there were reports that producer-director Prakash Jha’s office had been stoned by Republican Party Of India activists and posters of his forthcoming film, Aarakshan, were burnt. They also stated that actor Saif Ali Khan’s house had been attacked by party workers, who believe his movie is “anti-reservation”.
The first turned out to be true but the second was just a rumour. However, Saif admits that there’s a police jeep parked outside his home these days. “There have been no threats in Mumbai, Delhi or Pataudi but they wouldn’t send a police jeep for no reason, would they?” he reasons.
He believes that vested interests are behind the agitations but says that Jha is a deeply concerned filmmaker, who brings an intelligent edge to commercial cinema. “Prakashji wouldn’t sensationalise an issue and the fact that the Censor Board passed the
without cuts endorses that. Yet it’s embroiled in controversy. My Love Aaj Kal (2009) too had issues with the Sikh community, who feared the reputation of sardars would be tarnished. But that was till they saw the film. Anurag Kashyap (Black Friday, 2004) and Rahul Dholakia (Parzania, 2005) also ran into problems with their films. If this continues, we’ll only be churning out soppy romantic comedies,” he sighs, hoping the government will ensure a smooth release for Aarakshan this Friday.
A section also believed that the ‘chhote nawab’ was unsuited to play a Dalit professor. He’s outraged by the “ridiculous” perception: “There’s corruption at every level in our country, only the film industry is free of such corruption and discrimination. Here you get a role on the basis of your acting talent and not your background. I’m just as comfortable sharing a meal with a farmer in a field in Bhopal as I am riding a carriage in London.”
, he admits, was an eye-opener. He’s learnt that the backward classes often have no option but to clean toilets. Reservation is a must if they are to get a chance in life. But because of reservation, some children with 98 per cent marks aren’t getting seats in colleges either.
“I’m going to work really hard to send my children (Sara and Ibrahim) abroad. And if necessary, ensure that they don’t need to work. I know it’s an escapist attitude but how do you change the system and bring equality in a huge country like ours?” Saif asks, pointing out that even his father, Mansoor Ali Khan Patuadi, had sent him abroad for studies. “My job (as an actor) brought me back home and it’s the best job in the world.”