I want to be known as an Indian, not a Muslim: Samar Khan

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Mumbai, April 6 (IANS) It comes as a shock to know that "Shaurya" director Samar Khan's hard-hitting look at the discrimination faced by Muslims in India comes from personal anguish.

"We don't confront anything that's uncomfortable. But the fact of the matter is that the Indian Muslim is living in a very real crisis. What you see in 'Shaurya' is born of a very private anguish," Samar told IANS.

Samar says he has felt the discrimination in Mumbai first-hand.

"It may not be on an obvious level. But it's there. If I praise the performance of the Pakistani cricket team, a look would pass around the room. But if anyone else said it, it wouldn't be noticed. I don't want to be known as a Muslim. I want to be known as an Indian. Unfortunately in these troubled times that we live in, it's become embarrassing to be Samar Khan," he said.

"Why is it that a Khan is asked to prove his patriotism in this country while a Jha is not? Why do I've to wear my patriotism on the sleeve? Isn't it enough that I am an Indian? These are questions that have always troubled me," the journalist turned director said.

The character Javed Khan, of a persecuted Muslim, in "Shaurya" is inspired by what Samar has gone through.

"Javed's character represents the predicament of the Indian Muslim today. Javed is willing to give up his life for the honour of the army uniform and is still looked upon with suspicion. The discrimination against Muslims does exist. And it hurts. I pay my taxes like any other Indian, and I'm willing to give up my life for the country. Then why?"

Samar then tells a story. "Recently when I was trying to buy a house, five housing societies turned me down. If this can happen in Mumbai, I shudder to think what it must be like in Surat and Bhopal."

"I situated 'Shaurya' in the army because I feel the army is the nation's moral guardian. I was in the National Defence Academy for three years. In my film, Javed and before him his father have served the country in the army. And yet when Javed is accused of murdering a colleague he's held guilty even before the trial," the second-time director said.

And to put all speculation to rest, is "Shaurya" inspired by the Tom Cruise-Jack Nicholson starrer "A Few Good Men"?

"Yes, the skeleton of the film is 'A Few Good Men'. But I've changed everything around. Where in 'A Few Good Men' did they talk about Kashmir and the Muslim identity? It's like comparing 'Independence Day' and 'The Day After Tomorrow'. They're both about the end of the world. But so different."

Samar had earlier made the innocuous candyfloss confection called "Kuch Meetha Ho Jaye".

"I wanted my peer's respect. My first film didn't get me that."

About the incredibly sensitive cast Samar sighs, "It's K.K. Menon's presence that lends the film a colour of reality. He makes you shudder in your seat. And Rahul Bose has brought so many subtleties into the plot."

However Samar concedes that Shah Rukh Khan who recites poetry in "Shaurya" would've made all the difference to the project.

"But I didn't have the nerve to ask Shah Rukh. Nor did I want to exploit my friendship with him. I was more confident about approaching Rahul, though he obviously didn't share my confidence. But when he heard the script he was immediately with me. In any case today it's the subject and the film that pull in the crowds. I'm hoping 'Shaurya' will create a buzz. In Mumbai, its audience has been growing."

He then adds, "I didn't want to sound jingoistic and judgemental, even when K. K. Menon gives his 'Hitlerian' speech. I honestly feel if we keep closing our eyes to what happened to Gujarat then the Muslims in India will end up getting a dose of Nazism. Yes, 'Shaurya' has made me a more politically aware creature."

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