Book on Kareena Kapoor Khan is a political statement, a tale of two sex workers and a social movement dedicated to fighting racism, says a Punjab-origin Canadian author.
The recently released book puts the story of the Bollywood diva in the broader context of the political environment and its spillover effect on the film industry.
“From Nazneen to Naina — 20 years of Kareena Kapoor Khan in Bollywood and what that means for India and the rest of the world” was launched on her birthday in Chandigarh last month.
Author Gurpreet Singh told IANS over the phone that it is focussed on continued trolling of Khan on social media by the followers of a right wing ideology.
He says Khan is being subjected to unnecessary criticism for marrying a Muslim man, adopting Khan as her last name and naming her two sons as Taimur and Jeh, which are being purposely misinterpreted as the names of the Muslim conquerors.
The journalist-cum-author believes it is all because of the political environment that has polarised Bollywood much as the rest of society. “This has emboldened the trolls that won’t leave any opportunity to brand her and her husband Pakistanis,” he says.
Singh pointed out that she was attacked on microblogging site Twitter when she stood up for an eight-year-old Muslim girl who was raped and murdered in Kathua and remained steadfast not to change the name of her eldest son Taimur in spite of backlash.
Singh, who is a journalist by profession and has been closely following developments in India, insists that these controversies cannot be delinked from the overall situation.
At least one publisher wanted Singh to remove all political references which he refused to do. The book was eventually published by Chetna Parkashan in Ludhiana.
Being humane, the book talks about the tale of two sex workers, where the writer through the characters of Chameli and Rosie played by Khan in her films “Chameli” and “Talaash”, takes up the plight of sex workers, particularly since the lockdown.
“Covid-19 has forced more poor women into prostitution, and their lives have become more difficult in the absence of social safety nets and stringent regulations to ensure physical distancing. India, which is at present the second most affected country in the world after the US, is unable to deal with the financial crisis and health risks faced by its sex workers. ‘Chameli’ and ‘Rosie’ not only speak for themselves, but others in their profession,” Singh writes.
The book, named for characters Khan has played in films, speaks about how amid the pandemic lockdown, the actress used Instagram to support the Black Lives Matter campaign and condemn the brutal murder of George Floyd, whose dying gasps under Derek Chauvin’s knee led to the biggest outcry against racial injustice in the US.
Singh, who openly admits his fascination for Khan, has also criticized her in the book for remaining indifferent to many pressing issues, like the ongoing farmers’ movement in India.
“Although she claims to be passionate about the environment and organic farming, she never spoke out for farmers.” Singh says that he believes in giving credit where it belongs, but will never shy criticising her for what is missing.
Although he acknowledges her outspokenness on issues, such as racism and repression, he still believes that she needs to do more and to be more consistent in her positions on human rights and social justice.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at email@example.com)