By: Keyur Seta
Veteran actor Anupam Kher was booed quite a few times yesterday from a large crowd during a debate at Tata Literature Live festival. The topic of the debate was – Freedom of Expression is under imminent threat.
Sudheendra Kulkarni and Shobha De were for the motion while Anupam Kher and BJP’s Nalin Kohli were against. Kulkarni and De put forth their points related to recent incidents and statements by politicians. Kulkarni specially stressed on the statement against the protesting authors by Arun Jaitley. “If the government thinks this is a manufactured protest, they are mistaken.”
Kulkarni also condemned the act of Shiv Sena members who had inked his face for launching a book by Pakistani author Kasuri. He also appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi of making sure the atmosphere of intolerance is nullified.
“The PM and his colleagues should ask themselves why the President of India Pranab Mukherjee had to appeal for peace and remind India of its 5000 year old history of tolerance?”
Kulkarni was most vocal against the fringe elements demanding a Hindu Rashtra. “The idea of Hindu Rashtra violates the idea of secularism, which is against the Constitution of India. India never was and will never be a Hindu Rashtra.”
Kohli gave a clichéd government whataboutery response by citing incidents of the past. But his response was quite peaceful. But the arguments put forth by Anupam Kher draw huge outrage from the audience. He was booed regularly and rightly so.
Here is the gist of Kher’s arguments:-
– Firstly, he said he wasn’t told the debate would be in English and he is weak in it. Everybody knows such literature festivals are always in English. Plus, we have seen him debate in English on news channels regularly.
– He started going off track right away by personally attacking De for editing a gossip magazine decades ago and mentioning who slept with whom.
– Then went on to call her pseudo-intellectual, just like those Bhakts.
– He expressed his disappointment towards Kulkarni for agreeing to launch a book of a Pakistani by citing how our neighboring country has been executing terrorist attacks here. Once again, completely off topic. Somebody should remind Kher that he acted in Veer-Zaara where he preached harmony between both nations.
– He said, “People returning the awards have an agenda. They can’t handle a chaiwala becoming a PM.”
– Here comes the KILLER. Towards the end when he realized most people from the audience are against his views, he accused organizer Anil Dharker, a respected figure, of having a PAID AUDIENCE!!!
What else do you expect other than boos? Never expected this great artist to debate or argue like those Twitter trolls.
Other highlights of the debate:-
– Reacting on the point raised by Kher and Kohli as to why people didn’t protest against the atrocities in the past, an elderly person from the audience said, “You mean to say, just because we were quite earlier, we should continue to remain quite? How long shall we remain silent?”
– Kiron Kher, BJP member and wife of Anupam Kher, took the mic to defend her husband. However, her arrogant ways also garnered boos from the audience.
– Before the debate, most people from the audience voted for the motion. After the end, close to 90% took that stand.