Jaipur: Filmmaker Karan Johar’s controversial remarks on intolerance on Friday kicked up a storm with the Congress hitting out against the Modi government accusing it of stifling freedom of expression and BJP dismissing the criticism saying India is the most tolerant country.
Wading into the intolerance debate, Johar said, “The talk about freedom of expression is the biggest joke I believe in the world. Democracy is the second biggest joke I think.”
“I really wonder how are we really democratic? How is there freedom of expression? As a filmmaker, I feel bound at every level be it what I put out on celluloid or what I say in print,” he said at the ongoing Jaipur Literature Festival.
Attacking the NDA government, Congress leader Manish Tewari said, “This goverment of Modi is against intellectuals. They are against liberal voices. The tension is increasing from everywhere. Other than Anupam Kher, who is a pawn for the government, all other artists, painters, filmmakers are saying that this government is against intellectuals.”
Union minister Mahesh Sharma retaliated saying, “The whole world is seeing that India is the most tolerant country.”
Also hitting back at Congress, his ministerial colleague Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, “Those who are raising questions on India’s tolerance have no knowledge about the country’s culture and traditions. They are illiterate. It is true that issues of intolerance crop up the moment elections are announced.”
In his conversation with Poonam Saxena who has penned his biography ‘An Unsuitable Boy’ and author-columnist Shobaa De, Johar said he felt he was living in a “tough country” where speaking about one’s personal life can land people behind the bars.
Recently Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan found themselves in a controversy for speaking up against the “growing intolerance” in the country.
Johar who has made films on contentious issues such as homosexuality (“Dostana”) and relationships outside wedlock (“Kabhi Alvida Na Kehana”), said, “I feel like there is always some kind of a legal notice awaiting me everywhere I go.”
“I’ve become some kind of an FIR king,” Johar said referring to the controversy over the AIB roast, staged in Mumbai last year which involved the western concept of insult comedy.
The Bombay high court recently asked Mumbai police not to file charge sheet against the filmmaker and others facing a criminal case for allegedly using obscene language on the show.
Johar said he did not want to fight the “governance” by speaking out on “intolerance” like his colleagues in Bollywood industry did last year.