People are overreacting when they talk about intolerance, it’s always been there: Saif Ali Khan

Actor Saif Ali Khan on Tuesday said people are overreacting when they talk about intolerance and this kind of thing has been happening in India for a long time. In conversation with The Indian Express Deputy Editor Seema Chishti at the Express Adda in Mumbai, the actor said: “It’s nothing new. The voices that you hear, I think, because of social media have become easy to hear but they have always been there.”

Saif not only answered all questions lobbed at him, he did it with panache and empathy. Asked about India turning more right wing, he said: “Things are changing. Everything is becoming a little more right-wing. But that’s not happening only in India, it’s happening across the world.” He went on to narrate an incident in Paris restaurant where he was having dinner with an Italian filmmaker. “We started chatting. After a few minutes he said, ‘Oh! You are a Muslim?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ he replied, “Don’t tell anyone!” I kind of smiled and thought that this is the prevalent attitude now. I feel it less in my own country than in some places abroad,” the actor said.

Speaking about intolerance and people returning awards, Saif said nationalism in India today is natural. “People have been saying that I should give my award back but I don’t agree with that. If someone is unhappy with the institution and wants to return his or her award, it’s great. Maybe it was a publicity thing… I honestly don’t know.”

Saif said he felt we were in an exciting time when it comes to development and a form of nationalism is very natural at this stage. “Sometimes what goes alongside nationalism is to find something to fight against. That forms a nation together. We just have to be aware that these are the things happening. In fact, it’s been lot less violent and intolerant than many western countries in the same situations,” he said.

Saif, who recently had a song, Taimur Ali Khan, with wife Kareena Kapoor Khan, spoke on how the west went through its phase of uber-nationalism and developed into a more civil society. “We are still developing and finding our identity… Everything can’t be judged by the same standard. We have modernised due to television and fashion coming in but in our thinking we are still years behind the west. They also went through their times of insane nationalism. They finally came out of it and look more sorted today. So, maybe we also need to go through this. Maybe, we need to stir things up. People need to express their opinions and then get into trouble for that. And one day eventually, find a level. And we are doing that right now,” he said.

From nepotism to National Awards and intolerance, the actor took up all the questions trained at him. Speaking on the controversy over Akshay Kumar winning the Best Actor National Award for his film Airlift, Saif drew parallels with his own win in 2005. “There has been an uproar about Akshay’s win at the National Awards. Someone joked if I can get National Award for Hum Tum, it’s okay for Akshay Kumar to win. A lot of people actually think I won for Omkara, not Hum Tum. I take a little offence when people joke about my National Award win.”

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