Aamir Khan’s Laal Singh Chaddha has recently been released in cinema halls. The movie received mixed reviews that were more or less agenda-driven. One thing that kept popping up right from the film’s early stages to its walk inside the theaters was the call to boycott it.
Also Read: Laal Singh Chaddha Movie Review
Some religious leaders and social media sectarians ran a trend to boycott Laal Singh Chaddha across WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. While boycotts generally don’t affect the cinema-going audience, they were different this time around.
Before jotting down what had changed, let me give you reasons why people sought the neck of Aamir Khan.
Yes, trolls fill all the posts on the internet with hate. However, Aamir Khan is different. Why? Out of the many, I have picked the three biggest reasons why social media fanatics are always behind him.
Biggest Reasons Why Social Media Fanatics are Behind Aamir Khan. And the Buildup to #BoycottLaalSinghChaddha
Directed by Rajkumar Hirani, PK was a roller coaster ride, and it went on to become a blockbuster. There were similar calls to boycott the movie, but it sailed through them. Why? Because the messenger, i.e., social media platforms like Twitter and WhatsApp, were not as prevalent among the masses back then.
Also, eight years ago, people used to think and decide instead of believing everything coming their way. Moreover, the Indian Right Wing was in its early stages of glory, with the NDA government coming into force in the same year.
They were yet to peep into every part of digital media. In essence, the right wing’s IT Cell was not yet fully developed. Therefore, they couldn’t beat the might of PK even after all the attempts.
How did PK affect Laal Singh Chaddha then?
I will explain this with an example. Have you heard of the bullet-point concept? It means instead of using one big paragraph to explain and lead the reader, you put up bullet points to break the content into many small sections. Though the boycott gang failed to make PK a flop, it started using it as a bullet point.
Added to the fury were the brainwashers who were offended by some of the scenes in the movie. They had vowed to make Aamir pay for it. In short, their egos were hurt. So, what did they do? After making PK a bullet point, they waited for the stars to align.
For a while, it seemed their plan was failing since Aamir takes time to make a film, and by then, the matter fades. But it was Aamir himself who gave them a reason to celebrate through his comments in 2015.
In 2015, Aamir Khan made a remark during an award function. He said, “As an individual, as part of this country as a citizen, we read in the papers what is happening, we see it on the news and certainly, I have been alarmed. I can’t deny. I have been alarmed by a number of incidents.”
Aamir continued, “When I chat with Kiran at home, she says, ‘Should we move out of India?’ That’s a disastrous and big statement for Kiran to make. She fears for her child. She fears about what the atmosphere around us will be. She feels scared to open the newspapers every day.
“That does indicate that there is this sense of growing disquiet, there is growing despondency apart from alarm. You feel why this is happening, you feel low. That sense does exist in me.”
Though Khan said several other things that day in good faith, the boycott brigade and sectarians took the ‘intolerance’ para and circulated it like wildfire. They made it look like a crime, and by the very next morning, Aamir had been declared Anti-National.
There were bounties on his head, and some even ferociously asked him to leave the country. By doing all this, they proved Aamir Khan right about growing disquiet in India. Even today, you ask a commoner in the country, and they will agree how intolerant India has become.
Well, coming back to the main topic, the intolerance remark gave hope to those who had missed out on wholly boycotting PK. So, they took out the previous bullet point of PK and merged it with ‘intolerance.’
The fanatics had two significant things to attack Aamir Khan. Still, they didn’t have the budget and accessibility to communicate it to the masses. At the most, what came to their rescue was Facebook (because Twitter was still far-fetched and WhatsApp was yet to release the story feature for everyone). And they badly wanted to ensure Aamir’s next outing failed at the box office.
A year later, on Christmas 2016, the hate brigade was ready with fireworks and gunpowder as Aamir’s Dangal approached the theaters. Again, the boycott trends were there, but the movie turned out to be the highest grosser. Why?
As I said, the masses were not yet giving much attention to ‘hate.’ People continued keeping art above religious discrimination and bigotry. The boycott brigade had failed miserably once again.
But the thing about religious extremism mixed with hypernationalism is that they push you to do extreme things.
Photos With Turkey’s First Lady
In 2020, Aamir was shooting for Laal Singh Chaddha. And, as it happened, he traveled to Turkey to search for appropriate locations. While on his visit to the nation, Khan’s pictures with the first lady of Turkey emerged on social media, and this time, things were different. What was distinct?
Reliance Jio introduced cheap internet, which forever changed India’s digital footprint. It gave almost every youngster access to the internet. They could search and write what they wanted for literally no cost when compared to what the rates were before Jio.
Secondly, Covid-19 struck the world at the beginning of 2020. Several complete lockdowns were imposed in India. Offices were shut, and work from home felt like a holiday initially. What would you do when you can’t step out of the house and have a lot of free time?
Add cheap internet to the list, and you suddenly have the answer. The era of digital misinformation on a mass scale began post-covid. People were at home with free internet and a lot of time to pass. This was when the hate brigade made inroads into the personal life of the commoner.
Furthermore, India repealed a part of Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019. The move saw several national and international reactions. One of these reactions came from Turkey, which did not seem happy with the Indian government’s decision.
On the one-year anniversary of the 370 abrogation, the foreign ministry of Turkey said that the move to repeal the article didn’t bring peace to Kashmir. Obviously, the statement was not taken well by the Indian government. But this didn’t make Turkey an official enemy of India.
In this context, when Aamir visited Turkey and met their first lady on 15th August 2020, a volcano was waiting to erupt. The hate brigade was at it again. They had another bullet point to use. Twitter was flooded with posts strengthening the anti-national stance against Aamir.
The biggest dent this time was WhatsApp’s story feature. Now, your contacts could see what you were promoting. From being a messenger, WhatsApp became a micro-social media platform. Cheap internet made things worse, and, for the first time, the masses could see the THREE BULLET POINTS together, targeting Aamir Khan.
Text messages were circulating in WhatsApp groups, making Khan a villain in everyone’s eyes. YouTube and Facebook did the rest in painting the actor as an outsider who shook hands with India’s enemy, Turkey. Moreover, the second term of the NDA government had begun, and the right-wing was riding high on confidence.
Electronic media, for example TV News Channels, went berserk against Khan. People like Suresh Chavhanke, Amish Devgan, and Sudhir Chaudhary continuously spread hate for their vested interests.
After that, in 2021, Aamir quit social media altogether. And when Laal Singh Chaddha was released, Aamir would have thought that boycotts cannot keep art-loving audiences away from theaters. However, he might not be aware of the hate being infused in their inbox regularly for the past three years.
How Was the Call to Boycott Laal Singh Chaddha Different from Other Aamir Khan Films?
What I have seen, experienced, and read across my life is anything that’s consistent has the highest chance of succeeding. The keyword here is ‘chance.’ Consistency doesn’t guarantee success, but it does give you an upper hand.
So, when calls to boycott Aamir Khan’s Laal Singh Chaddha began, the film was yet to go on floors. It was yet to become the talk of the town. Meanwhile, every little thing Aamir did on social media met a poor fate. He was always at the receiving end of trolls.
Hatred continues to pour on Laal Singh Chaddha even today. Consistency had a role to play this time.
Indians are sentimental, is a well-known fact. You can get almost anything out of us with an appropriate touch of emotions. Moreover, content-based movies work on word-of-mouth. Critical cine-goers don’t travel to the theatre unless the word is positive.
Now, in the case of Laal Singh Chaddha, Aamir Khan had several positives up his side. One of them was that his film was releasing after a gap of four long years. Another one was his previous outing in Thugs of Hindostan had tanked at the Box Office.
Movie lovers were expecting Aamir to come all guns blazing with a beautiful film like Lagaan, 3 Idiots, and PK. His look from Laal Singh Chaddha had evoked curiosity, and the Kahani song was making waves across the country.
But… but… but. The digital map of India had changed, and even a Kindergarten kid had a phone to watch YouTube.
By now, it was a fact that boycotts cannot stop a good film. Still, the hate brigade was up for it. They had learned from their past mistakes. Now, they had three bullet points, the backing of religious organizations (because of a strong NDA), and a well-built IT Cell. All they needed was a plan.
Over the past few years, communal tensions have consistently risen in India. It is partly due to political backing and religious sensibilities. The IT Cell decided to utilize the latter. But how did they think of succeeding?
Another phenomenon on the rise since the pandemic is “Social Media Influencer.” Most of them are morally corrupt, but since they ably market themselves on social media platforms, their number of followers is high. This helps them get a verified blue tick across Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Blue Ticks are considered pious by unconsciously-driven youngsters. If something is being propagated by a verified handle, they follow it without questions.
The hate brigade has a lot of verified Twitter handles, and they planned a conspiracy against Laal Singh Chaddha. First, a tweet would be made by a verified account which would then be shared by thousands of others.
And here is the touch of emotions I have been talking about. The IT Cell had three bullet points, mixing them with religious sentiments to ensure a fruitful result. Ordinary Indians were fed with WhatsApp messages stamping them as Anti-national if they watched the Aamir Khan film.
People were given vows of their religion to force them away from Laal Singh Chaddha. The internet was flooded with tweets saying, ‘if you are a Hindu, boycott Laal Singh Chaddha.’
Since 2014, India’s political stage has been filled with bigotry. The nationalistic card is played regularly to gain the confidence of the public. Poverty, economic growth, and unemployment come second to Nationalism. The masses are ready to face unprecedented levels of inflation, but they cannot question a populist government.
The extreme right wing of India presents itself as protectors of religion and professors of Nationalism. Therefore, the general public largely accepts what they are saying to be true. Perceptions don’t question their integrity because of their herd mentality.
Though everybody knows a lie told by hundred people doesn’t become truth. But imagine when lies are told by thousands. When you are consistently fed fake news and retarded posts, what would you think?
Eventually, you would start taking it as the truth. The same happened with Laal Singh Chaddha. The audiences loved PK. Still, when they were presented with three bullet points in the background of a religiously volatile government, they started believing that Aamir Khan was Anti-Hindu.
Their tolerance levels were shrunk because of the hyper-nationalistic base created by the hate brigade. Aamir’s reputation was brought to tatters in the typical Indian living rooms.
Religious trolls cannot succeed unless they are backed by those in power.
The Legend of Aamir Khan
Aamir Khan has largely remained blunt when it comes to public interactions. Also, he has been successful for too long. I recently read a wonderful parallel in Will Smith’s autobiography, where he says, “If you are down too long, you become an underdog and people feel impelled to root for you. But if you are ever fortunate enough to be up too long, you better get a helmet.”
The second part is for Aamir Khan. Love and hatred are primarily psychological. Laal Singh Chaddha ended up being on the southern side.
The Perils of Fake News
As I have mentioned above, free internet has caused more harm than good. Initially thought to transform human life, these days internet is used to peddle fake news. Everybody has an opinion, which is not wrong. What’s wrong is when they opine to overpower others.
If you don’t like Apple, don’t eat it. Propagating a ban on the sale of Apples is not right. Similarly, if you are offended by scenes in a particular film, you can avoid watching it, why do you have to run a boycotting campaign?
Our beloved Narendra Modi had promised several accomplishments to be achieved by the 75th Independence Day. Where are we on those fronts? Introspect, question, and hold those in power accountable. Don’t follow anyone religiously.
Personally, I don’t think there’s a place for ‘forceful’ boycott calls in a democracy. We all are adults enough to choose for ourselves. It is wrong to judge a filmmaker for their political affinity. If you don’t want to watch something, you can simply avoid it.
However, forcing others to boycott a movie by keeping their religion and patriotism on the line is a crime.