"I've felt the isolation of a Muslim first hand"
By Subhash K. Jha, April 5, 2008 - 15:50 IST
It comes as a shock to know that second-time director Samar Khan's hard-hitting look at the isolation of the Indian Muslim in Shaurya comes from the director's personal anguish. "We don't confront anything that's uncomfortable. But the fact of the matter is that the Indian Muslim is living a very real crisis. What you see in Shaurya is born of a very private anguish. 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. There came a time when I said, 'F..k it. I won't be answerable to anyone except my own conscience'.
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."
The character Javed Khan of the 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 on 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 hair-raising 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."
Once and for all, 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 approaching Rahul Bose, 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 to create a buzz. In Mumbai its audience has been growing."
He then adds, "I didn't want to sound jingoistic and judgmental, 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."