India is a secular country and Shah Rukh Khan is an ‘epitome of secularism’! At a time when Hindu-Muslim hatred has taken over the country, Shah Rukh Khan, who is basking in the success of Jawan and Pathaan, has come as a symbol of all that is positive and possible about India and its pluralism. His humble middle-class background, his marriage to a Hindu woman (Gauri), his wholehearted embrace of diversity, and his witty sense of humour have all contributed to making him a symbol of all that India represents, particularly in its rich cultural diversity.
To support my above arguments, I would share an anecdote from SRK’s old interaction with media persons where he referred to himself as ‘Shekhar Radha Krishna’. When questioned about whether he believes he would have achieved a comparable level of fame and recognition if his name were ‘Shekhar Radha Krishna’ instead of ‘Shah Rukh Khan’, the actor humbly responded, “I don’t think there would be any difference… I think artists have this tendency to transcend divisions since you don’t consider who is from what community, from what sect, you just like it/them or you don’t. I would still smell as sweet whatever name you call me by.”
Shah Rukh Khan or ‘Shekhar Radha Krishna’ ?
‘Being a Khan’
SRK and his family often come under the radar as unlike many of the actors in the Hindi film industry, he made his stand clear. In 2015, he went as far as to express concerns about the rising intolerance in the country during an event, which apparantly led to criticism and allegations of him being disloyal to India and favouring Pakistan.
In the piece in Outlook Turning Point, SRK had written, “There have been occasions when I have been accused of bearing allegiance to our neighbouring nation rather than my own country – this even though I am an Indian, whose father fought for the freedom of India. Rallies have been held where leaders have exhorted me to leave and return what they refer to my original homeland.”
Reacting to this Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed had asked the superstar to shift to Pakistan. Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said yesterday, “He (Shah Rukh) is born Indian and he would like to remain Indian, but I will request the government of India (to) please provide him security.”
Giving a befitting reply, SRK then said, “I would like to tell all those who are offering me unsolicited advice that we in India are extremely safe and happy. We have an amazing democratic, free and secular way of life.”
SRK— A symbol of unity
In a nation with a diverse tapestry of religions, cultures, and languages, Shah Rukh Khan’s life and values resonate as a testament to the unity in diversity.
Earlier last year, ahead of the release of his upcoming film Pathaan, Shah Rukh Khan visited Vaishno Devi Temple Before that, Shah Rukh had also visited Mecca to perform Umrah. Various photos and videos from Saudi Arabia had emerged as Shah Rukh performed the religious ritual.
The superstar also offered prayers at the Sri Venkateswara Swamy temple in the hill town of Tirumala before the release of ‘Jawan’ and during Ganesh Chaturthi, he sought blessings at Mumbai’s Lalbaughcha Raja.
With all these, Shah Rukh Khan embodies the belief that India’s diversity is its true strength. He keeps inspiring generations with his inclusive values.
‘I am a Muslim, my wife is a Hindu and my kids are Hindustan’
Time and again he has emphasised that religion is not discussed at his house and his children, when required to specify their religion on forms, simply write ‘Indian.’ While taking part in a TV reality show, SRK in 2020 had said, “Humne koi Hindu-Musalman ki baat hi nahi ki. Meri biwi Hindu hai, mai Musalman hoon. Aur mere jo bacche hain, wo Hindustan hain. Jab wo school gae to school me wo bharna padta hai ki religion kya hai. To jab meri beti choti thi, usne aa ke pucha bhi mujhse ek baar, ‘papa hum kaun se religion ke hain?’ Maine usme ye likha ki hum Indian hi hain yaar, koi religion nahi hai. Aur hona bhi nahi chahiye. (We have never discussed Hindu-Muslim. My wife is Hindu, I am a Muslim and our kids are Hindustan. When they went to school, they had to write their religion. My daughter came to me once and asked ‘what is our religion?’ I simply wrote in her form that we are Indian, we do not have a religion. )
‘Last of the stars’
SRK is a hero – both on and off the screen. Many people often mention that he has raised the bar so high that women are eagerly anticipating finding their own ‘Raj’ or ‘Rahul’ (characters played by SRK) but, I’d say that the actor has set the standards so high that every country should have its own Shah Rukh— a man who deeply loves his country, family, children and probably stands as a beacon of hope and a symbol of unity in a diverse and complex nation.