Veteran Bollywood actor Anupam Kher was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India’s third-highest civilian honour, 12 years after he was given the Padma Shri in 2004.
As soon as the names of the awardees were announced on Monday Kher took to Twitter to celebrate but was soon trolled for forgetting a 2010 post on the same social media platform in which he had dismissed the Padma honours as inauthentic.
“AWARDS in our country have become a mockery of our system. There is NO authenticity left in any one of them. B it films, National or now PADMA (sic),” Kher had tweeted in 2010.
After the announcement, he seemed to have a complete change of heart and mind and tweeted, “Happy, Humbled & Honoured to share that i have been awarded The PADMA BHUSHAN by the Govt. of India. Greatest news of my life:) #JaiHind (sic)”.
In an exclusive interview, Kher talked about the controversy surrounding his Padma award and his alleged closeness to the NDA government.
How do you respond to the criticism on social media on your nomination for the Padma Bhushan?
I will ask you a question - do you think the work that I have done, my long career, does not deserve recognition? If I had been chosen for painting or dance, I would have had to save my face and say no. But this criticism is something we have to learn to live with. There are a lot of people who like to say things to draw attention to themselves, I pity them.
It is a pity we have become a nation of criticisers rather than doers. People should join me in the celebration of my life. I want to thank my father who applauded me when I won and did not win awards. Right now, the time is to thank the millions of people who have watched my movies, and appreciated me, rather than answer the questions of trolls.
Your ‘March for India’ was seen as a march against the critics of the government.
If I feel it is about my country’s honour I will speak up. These people who are saying whatever they want to say, their right to criticise me has also been given to them by this country. So my allegiance to this country is phenomenal and I want to speak about it.
When you were appointed as head of the censor board (from October 2003 to October 2004) it was alleged you were a political appointee.
I feel, when I was given the position, it was because of my work and not because I represent any government.
I was young when I left home. My father was a clerk in a government department and I went to drama school on a scholarship, struggled for years, slept on platforms. But I need to respect myself because I have been a doer. I have written a book, which is now into its 18th edition on life coaching (The best thing about you is you!), I have no time for such questions.
I don’t have time for what people have to say. Just this morning, I was thinking that people who don’t like you, whatever you do they will not like you, but people who like you even if you don’t do the right thing will still like you.
You have said in the past that you have no intention of joining politics. Are you having a rethink about it?
If after five years I feel it is important to do that (join politics) I will do that. I don’t know what my life will be after five years. But if you think I have an agenda, I don’t have one. If tomorrow I feel I can serve the country better by being in politics, why not, why should I be held guilty or be defensive, it may happen.
You have been very vocal about the plight of Kashmiri Pandits. But there are some who have accused you of using the exodus as a political issue, how do you react to these allegations?
They can say anything, I don’t mind. Yesterday, I received a message from a Kashmiri Pandit boy, whose 22-year-old Kashmiri Muslim friend has seen the video. He says ‘I don’t know why, but after reading and lately watching that video of Anupam Kher, I feel I want to say to you, I’m sorry. Yes, I had nothing to do with the disgusting series of barbaric events, but I want to say sorry and I stand with you and all others who were pained and driven from their homes.’
This is it, this is what the change is all about.
These questions you ask me are those of professional trollers, do you want me to answer questions of those whose job is to question everyone’s credibility?
How sad is this that instead of celebrating someone’s journey of 31 years, of hardship, of amazing brilliance shown in Indian and world cinema and who is a teacher for the past 12 years, I have to answer the question of those few.
Do you have a suggestion for the government on how to resolve the Kashmir issue?
I don’t know, I’m not an authority on such situations. I can only convey my pain. It is it the job of the government to do what they need to do. I personally feel that Article 370 should be abolished and the whole country should be allowed to buy a place there and start businesses there, that is the only solution.
I am an aggrieved party. I can only make suggestions, people who need to take decisions are the government.
As an actor, and a citizen, what are your expectations from the current government?
I don’t want to become a crusader, I am a doer. I don’t want to put forth demands. I think we should give this government five years and let them do their job. If they don’t do their job, I’m sure the country will change the regime.
We gave other people 60 years, I think we should give them five. I see them doing some good things, we have not heard about any thousands of crores worth scams happening in the last two years, we should highlight that.
They (those opposing the government) cannot talk about corruption, they cannot talk about the kind of work Narendra Modi has been doing and how he has changed our perception world wide. I don’t want to join that bandwagon. I think I have the right to applaud the PM, just like I applauded Lal Bahadur Shastri, Pandit Nehru, Sardar Patel and Abdul Kalam.
What is your take about Aamir Khan’s remarks about intolerance in the country.
What has happened has happened. He issued a statement saying he has not said anything so I would like to leave it at that.