December 3, 2021December 12, 2021 5min readBy Rucha Desai
Photo Source:Screenshot via YouTube.com/p
After 22 days waiting in Mumbai’s notorious Arthur Road Jail, Aryan Khan, son of Bollywood superstar and legend Shah Rukh Khan was finally free to return home on Oct. 30. While fans understandably celebrated his homecoming, his case (which is ongoing) represents a grave injustice and was unfairly shaped not by the law, but by politics, resentment of the wealthy, and growing Islamophobia in India.
Khan and seven others were arrested on Oct. 3, after NCB raided a cruise he was on with his friends; after searching the ship, NCB allegedly found cocaine and MDMA. Khan was charged, in relevant part, with possession and consumption of illegal substances. Khan had no drugs on him, and no medical examinations (i.e., blood or urine tests) had been undertaken that showed any drugs in his system. At most, he was in proximity to drugs. And for that crime, where no one was harmed, he was held without bail for almost one month.
It is a given that acts have corresponding consequences, and crimes have corresponding punishments. No one – not the wealthy and powerful – should be treated differently under the law. If Khan had actually committed a crime (and a trial will demonstrate his guilt or innocence), then perhaps he should be punished (although mere possession, which harms no person, should not lead to prison time, I digress); however, the issue here was the fact of bail pending trial. Khan was charged with a nonviolent crime on scanty (if not nonexistent) evidence; why would he (and his cruise ship comrades) be held without bail?
The answer is multifaceted, but not complicated. Khan was targeted because he is a Khan.
While granted bail weeks later, Khan ultimately spent almost three weeks in prison after his initial bail request was rejected by the Sessions Court. It wasn’t until his case moved to the Bombay High Court that he was granted bail. That too, not without condition, he was to appear at the NCB office every Friday to mark his attendance. Additionally, he was not allowed to meet any of the co-accused including a close friend.
“There is hardly any positive evidence on record to convince this court that all the accused persons with common intention agreed to commit unlawful acts,” the court said when allocating his bail, the Times of India reported.
Contrast Aryan Khan’s situation to Ashish Mishra’s situation. Mishra, the son of UP Minister Ajay Mishra. Mishra deliberately ran over four farmers and was not arrested until almost one week after his crime. If law enforcement’s goal was to maintain law and order, and prove that no one is above the law, then an alleged murderer, whose act was witnessed by many, would have been immediately arrested.
But the goal is only to prove that Shah Rukh Khan – and any Khan, albeit Aryan or any other in India – is not only not above the law, but is actually not even protected by the law.
Many have noted that this is an overreaction, for Shah Rukh Khan is beloved. And he is. He is a global icon, with loyal fans in Brooklyn (like me) and Bombay alike. However, his star status isn’t universally accepted; in fact, many in India, especially those whose feelings towards Muslims have been permitted and validated by the BJP, harbor deep resentment for Shah Rukh Khan. After Shah Rukh Khan’s valid commentary on the growing “climate of intolerance” in democratic India, BJP MP Yogi Adityanath suggested Shah Rukh Khan go to Pakistan. A man who was not only born and raised in India but who was able to tether to India the hearts of Indians abroad (again, like me), was dismissed as a foreigner because he deigned to comment on policy – and because his name is Khan. Freedom of speech is not for everyone in India.
The media has been both an unfiltered reflection of and unfortunate perpetuation of this resentment. Headlines focus not on substantive issues – like the societal benefit to locking up a 23-year-old with no drugs on his person, or the purpose and utility of having possession even be an offense with prison time or the habitability of prisons – but are rather steeped in delirious schadenfreude. “Aryan Khan & others to wake up by 6 AM” one gleefully reads, as if waking up at 6 a.m. is morally superior, or that Aryan Khan does not already wake up at 6 a.m. Another notes that “Aryan Khan … eats jail food;” it’s hardly news that someone in jail would eat jail food, so the purpose of this article is only to fuel the sick pleasure many received by witnessing the Khan family’s misfortunes.
WhatsApp threads had been particularly active on the issue. Old clips of Shah Rukh Khan sarcastically, wittily commenting that he would love for his son to do drugs have been circulated and mocked; heated discussions about how these rich kids doing drugs should be punished, and that Shah Rukh Khan’s son should not be given special treatment simply because he is the actor’s son. Of course, that is true, but should he be especially punished because he is the actor’s son, to prove a point?
Shah Rukh Khan has always maintained a progressive view on religion. He and his wife celebrate both Hindu and Muslim holidays in their home. His faith has never defined him. However, for many in the country resentful of a Muslim with power and prestige, it is only his faith that defines him. For these people, before all else, he is a Khan.
Khan was charged with the following sections of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act. These charges include:
This section prohibits the production, manufacturing, possession, selling, purchase, transport, warehouse, use, consumption, inter-state import and export, import to and from India, or transship of any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance, except for medical or scientific purposes.
Under this section, possession, cultivation, manufacture, sale, transport, and use of cannabis are punishable offences.
If the accused is in possession of a ‘small quantity,’ imprisonment involves a term that may extend to six months.
If the quantity is less than ‘commercial’ but greater than ‘small,’ the imprisonment may extend to 10 years.
If the quantity involved is ‘commercial,’ imprisonment shall not be less than ten years but may extend to twenty years.
Under Section 27, the consumption of any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance is a punishable offence.
This section presumes that the accused knew what they were doing. Hence, the accused will be treated guilty unless proven innocent.
March 20, 2023March 21, 2023 4min readBy Nida Hasan
If you are a South Asian, born in the ’80s or the early ’90s, chances are your ideas of love and romance are heavily influenced by Hindi films — that first gaze, the secret love notes, that accidental meeting somewhere in Europe, over-the-top gestures and dancing around trees. While reality may have been far from what was promised on reel, you still can’t stop pining over a hopeless romantic, with chocolate boy looks, chasing you across the earth and many universes; in the life here and the ones after. Somewhere deep down, you still dream of that possibility despite your husband sitting and sipping his morning coffee right next to you. And much of the credit for weaving this dreamland, that we can’t resist happily sliding into, goes to the legendary Yash Chopra. Award-winning filmmaker Smriti Mundhra’s docu-series, “The Romantics,” that released on Netflix on February 14, chronicles Chopra’s prolific career; offering an illuminating look into the highs and lows of his journey, his unblemished vision for Hindi cinema and sheer love for filmmaking.
I wanted to look at Indian cinema through the lens of it being a major contributor to the global cinema canon and Yash Chopra seemed like the perfect lens to explore that because of the longevity of his career and the fact that he had worked across so many different genres. His films, for so many of us, defined what Hindi cinema is.
— Smriti Mundhra
As “The Romantics” unveils, in a mere episode — a challenging feat in itself — Chopra did experiment with multiple genres as a budding filmmaker, initially under the shadows of his elder brother B.R. Chopra. From the religiously sensitive “Dharamputra” and the trendsetting “Waqt” to the action-packed and iconic “Deewaar.” It wasn’t until later on in his career that he set a precedent for a Hindi film having a wholly romantic narrative; though “Waqt” did offer the perfect glimpse into what would go on to become Chopra’s cinematic imprint. And then came “Chandni” which ushered in a new era for Hindi cinema; defying the formulaic approach to box office success and making love stories the golden goose.
In the words of more than 30 famous faces, a host of archival videos and interviews, and personal anecdotes, audiences get an extensive insight into the life and career of Yash Chopra and the evolution of his vision through the business acumen and genius of his polar opposite son and a famous recluse, Aditya Chopra. “The Romantics” is not a fancy portrait of a legendary filmmaker but an exploration of what goes into making a successful film family and a path-breaking production house. As viewers, we not only get a peek into the making of a fantasy creator but also learn of the many failures, hurdles and uncertainties that the business of filmmaking comes packaged in, the impact of socio-political shifts on the kind of content being produced and demanded, and just how much control we have as an audience over the fate of the film and the filmmaker.
For both the uninitiated and fanatics, there are some interesting revelations like Shah Rukh Khan’s lifelong desire to become an action hero as opposed to a romantic one and the creative conflict between Aditya Chopra and his father Yash Chopra on the sets of “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge” — a project that, surprisingly, did not seem too promising to the latter. Mundhra penetrates deep into the family’s history and industry relationships evoking some really candid conversations; almost as if these celebs were eagerly waiting for their moment to speak. With one appraising interview after the other, it’s a panegyric that does border on being a tad tedious but there is enough depth and fodder in there to keep one hooked. Kudos to Mundhra for managing to achieve cohesion despite there being more than enough material to chew on. In the process of bringing this project to life, Mundhra also ends up achieving a number of milestones: one that the series features the last of actor Rishi Kapoor’s interviews and two, it brings Aditya Chopra, who, it appears, can talk a blue streak contrary to popular belief, to the front of the camera after almost two decades. The moment when he puts the nepotism debate to rest by referring to his brother’s catastrophic attempt at acting is quite the show-stealer.
At some point during the four-episode series, you might question if it’s fair to credit the Yash Raj family for being the only real changemakers of the Hindi film industry and for picking up the baton to get Hindi cinema the global recognition that it has. But then there is no denying the Chopra clan’s body of work, their ability to understand what pleases the crowd and their commitment towards growth and progress amidst changing times and technology — Yash Raj Studios is in fact the only privately held and one of the biggest, state-of-the-art film studios in India. Chopra’s career and legacy are in no way under-lit that Mundhra can claim to throw new light on with “The Romantics.” But what she really has on offer here are sheer nostalgia, some fascinating discoveries and an ode to a cinephile and his art with a bit of fan service.
In an interview with Brown Girl Magazine, Mundhra discusses why it was so important for Chopra to be the subject of her docu-series, her own learnings during the series’ research and creative process and her accomplishment of getting Aditya Chopra to talk, and that too, at length.
It’s always a flamboyant affair of colour, emotions and grandeur when Karan Johar directs a film, and his latest blockbuster “Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani” is as K Jo as it gets. After recently being recognised at the British House of Parliament for 25 years as a filmmaker, Johar is back to doing what he does best — bringing together families and star-crossed lovers, but this time with a modern touch. He makes a decent attempt at showcasing progressive ideals and feminist issues while taking us on this family-friendly ride.
“Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani” is a larger-than-life film revolving around the love story of a boisterous Rocky (Ranveer Singh) from a wealthy Delhi family, and Rani (Alia Bhatt), a sharp journalist from a progressive Bengali household. And of course, despite belonging to completely different backgrounds and lives, our protagonists, in true Bollywood fashion, fall hopelessly in love through a string of slow-motion gazes, warm embraces and some truly breath-taking song sequences in Kashmir’s snowy mountains. They are then forced to face their opposing families which brings along the family drama in the second half of the film.
The plot is not the film’s strongest point — there’s no real surprise about what’s going to happen next, and yet the film doesn’t fail to keep audiences engaged and pack an emotional punch. This is down to its strong acting, witty dialogues and K Jo’s classic, beautiful cinematography.
Ranveer Singh sinks into the skin of his character with ease – not only does he make the hall burst into laughter with the help of perfectly-timed gags but he pulls off those dreamy gazes ,expected in K Jo’s heroes, to evoke that typical, fuzzy-feeling kind of Bollywood romance. Alia Bhatt’s intelligent and undefeated character is no less a pleasure to watch on screen — not only does she look breath-taking in every shot but her feminist dialogues earn claps and cheers from the audience as she brings a progressive touch to this family drama.
Albeit, while Bhatt’s dialogues do their best to steer this film to the reformist drama it hopes to be, some of Singh’s gags and monologues on cancel culture bring out bumps in the road. The film could have done better to reinforce its points on feminism and racism without using the groups it tries to support as the butt of jokes.
There is also a case to be made about how long these Punjabi and Bengali stereotypes can go on with often gawkish displays of Ranveer’s ‘dilwala-from-Delhi’ character among the overly-polished English from Rani’s Bengali family. But it is with the expertise of the supporting cast, that the film is able to get away with it. Jaya Bachchan in particular is as classy as ever on screen; the stern Dadi Ji holds her ground between the two lovers, while Dada Ji Dharmendra, and Thakuma Shabana Azmi, tug at our heartstrings showing that love truly is for all ages.
Saving the best to last, it is the film’s cinematography that makes the strongest case for audiences to flock to the cinema. The soul-stirring songs steal the show with their extravagant sets and powerful dance performances that treat the audiences to the much-awaited cinematic experience of a K Jo film. While audiences may already be familiar with the viral songs, “What Jhumka?” and “Tum Kya Mile“, it was the family-defying fight for love in “Dhindhora Baje Re” that really gave me goosebumps.
Overall, the film does exactly what it says on the tin and is a family entertainer with something for everyone. It will make you laugh, cry, and cringe at times, but nothing leaves you feeling as romantic as some old school Bollywood with a mix of new school humour, in true K Jo form.
“Ghoomer,” R. Balki’s latest directorial venture, had its world premiere at the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne 2023 (IFFM), earlier this month, and the moment was nothing short of memorable. Lead actors Abhishek Bachchan, Saiyami Kher, and Angad Bedi, were present to unveil their labor of love to the world, and all three were left speechless at the reaction of the global audience; the film received a standing ovation on opening night, leaving the team extremely emotional — a feeling that Bachchan tells Brown Girl is one he cannot put into words.
“Ghoomer,” tells the story of Anina (played by Kher), an exceptional cricket player who loses her right hand in an accident. Downtrodden and with no will to live, Anina finds a mentor and coach in Padam Singh Sodhi (played by Bachchan), an insensitive and brash failed cricketer who helps her turn her life and career around; Anina also has the unwavering support of her husband, Jeet (played by Bedi). Sodhi teaches Anina unorthodox techniques to make her mark on the cricket ground once again. Enter, ghoomer, a new style of bowling.
Balki checks all the boxes with this feature — his protagonist is a female athlete, the film is his way of giving back to cricket (a new form of delivery), and he highlights the idea that nothing is impossible for paraplegic athletes. The heart of Balki’s film is in the right place — Kher mentions that the film is meant to be more of an inspirational movie and less of a sports-based movie. One can only imagine the impact that a film like this would have on an audience that’s hungry for meaningful cinema.
And, to chat more about “Ghoomer,” Brown Girl Magazine sat down with the stars of the show. Bachchan, Bedi, and Kher came together to talk about their inspiring characters, the filming journey, and how their film aspires to change the landscape of cricket and paraplegic athletes in the country. It was all that, with a side of samosas.
Take a look!
The featured image is courtesy of Sterling Global.