So far, you have known him for his films. Now, Imran Khan the activist is in the spotlight thanks to his public interest litigation against the Maharashtra government’s decision to ban drinking under age 25 being admitted in court. A t2 chat…
Why the decision to file a PIL against the permissible age for drinking?
When the government introduced it, everyone took up arms against it, whether it was the media or the youth on Facebook and Twitter. Everyone was unanimous in saying how stupid it was, but no one took the next step to actually do something about it. But I decided that I wanted to do more than just talk about it and I also knew that not only was popular opinion in favour of this, but even legally, I was on strong ground. I asked my lawyer whether I had a case and he went through a lot of judicial precedents and told me that we did have a strong case. Case studies done throughout the world have shown that nothing good comes out of prohibition; in fact, prohibition only leads to increased crime rate and a higher corruption rate. Nearly 60 per cent of India’s population is under-25. How can we encourage censorship like this?
I have seen in my family how court cases pertaining to property disputes have gone on for 15 to 20 years. But I guess there is so much public support in this case and there are so many people asking the same questions that I am, that they couldn’t really ignore it. The high court has asked the Maharashtra government to respond by March 12 and I have to wait for that. Then I will see what my next step should be.
Given his interest in social issues, how much of an influence has your uncle Aamir Khan been in this regard?
When I decided to file the PIL, I spoke to Aamir mamu about it since he has been through a lot of these things. He told me that I should be prepared for the fact that this would be a long and dirty fight where people would question my intentions and motivations. ‘But if you believe in it, go for it’ is what he told me.
Do we see you taking up many more social issues now?
I really don’t know. I am not an activist. I am just a guy who felt very strongly about the issue and wanted to do something about it. I am not supporting drinking; I am just fighting for an individual’s freedom of choice. In my mind, it is the same as trying to protect a woman from being molested by telling her how to dress. Our country is extremely polluted, but the government can’t solve it by telling its citizens to stop taking out their cars.
Has the film industry come out in support?
No one has spoken to me about it. There has been no support so far.
You have also spoken out about the censorship against smoking in our films…
I am nobody to speak about what is put before and after a film. But when they put up signs and blur out cigarettes in a scene, that is direct infringement on the creative process. That is censorship of an art form and that, I believe, is wrong. This has happened because the film industry has always been a soft target. When it’s a hit-and-run case, it’s said that the influence of Hindi films is the culprit; when a girl is molested, Hindi films are blamed. Whatever crime happens in this country, Hindi films are held responsible. We are a target for anyone who is looking out for publicity on that particular day. In the week of release, someone will take offence to the lyrics of a song or some dialogue and the industry has to pay for it in the form of a ban or a stay order. Also, I think that the industry is always very fragmented and no one wants to take a stand collectively.
There is also a new diktat that films can’t show physical violence against women…
I think it’s ridiculous. All this has gathered momentum after the Delhi rape case, but again, as I said, the government is not addressing the real issue. Films are being blamed for rapes and for physical violence against women. They believe that putting the blame on someone else is the solution and that their job is done. The government thinks very short… very myopically. For them, it’s always about a quick-fix solution.