Naina

An event for the launch of “From Nazneen to Naina”, based on the work of the Bollywood diva, held in Surrey on Sunday, November 28 was an eye opener for many who are unaware of the spill over effect of right wing politics of New Delhi on the Indian cinema.

Authored by Canada-based author Gurpreet Singh, the book tries to situate the story of Indian actress Kareena Kapoor Khan in the broader context of growing attacks on minorities, especially Muslims, in the world’s so called largest democracy since 2014, when the Hindu Right government under controversial Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power with a brute majority.

Khan has faced a constant backlash for marrying a Muslim man, adopting Khan as her last name, and naming her two sons Taimur and Jeh. These actions are being interpreted as an assault on the Hindu faith by the religious chauvinists, who have become emboldened under Modi.

Most speakers at the Sunday event, who have already read the book, agreed that it helps in comprehending the current political environment in India and its effect on Bollywood. They were unanimous in their views that the Indian cinema, a cultural space that was once respected for its secularism, has become vitiated because of the trickledown effect of the policies and ideology of the present government.

At least two prominent scholars, Puran Singh Gill and Raghbir Singh Sirjana, emphasized that the Punjabi Hindu family Kareena was born into has strong secular and progressive values, which have come under attack from the supporters of Modi, and that being a woman she remains highly vulnerable.

Others who spoke on the occasion included the publisher Satish Gulati and Surrey-Greentimbers MLA Rachna Singh. The latter is the wife of the author. Gulati revealed that another publisher had refused to publish the book because of political references, which explains the atmosphere of fear in India; Singh acknowledged that the author has tried to highlight the ugly reality of Indian politics under Modi. Incidentally, her maternal grandfather, Tera Singh Chann, and the great grandfather of Kareena, Prithviraj Kapoor, were cofounders of the Indian People’s Theatre Association, which was established in British occupied India to educate working people of their rights.

Renowned story writer Harpreet Sekha said that it takes some courage to write about such issues especially under a fascist regime.
The editor of the book, Kimball Cariou, who is also associated with the Communist movement, said that it was an important read to understand the real challenges before the flag bearers of pluralism in today’s India.

Two other prominent speakers included progressive Punjabi poet Amrit Diwana, and actress and poet Sherry Duggal. Diwana expressed his apprehensions over growing violence against minorities in India, while Duggal extended her solidarity with the author.

Earlier, the book was unveiled by famous radio star Gaurav Shah, who has been following the Indian cinema very closely. He admitted that the book is written from a very different angle, and is not about movie gossip, and should be read by everyone.

Well known media personality Gurvinder Singh Dhaliwal, who was the Master of Ceremonies, called the book a political statement that can’t be ignored in these challenging times.

Later, Gurpreet Singh said that he wanted to draw the attention of the world to the problems faced by minorities and celebrities like Kareena, who try to stand up for them against majoritarian extremists in India. He added that his book is a small attempt to enlighten people in the diaspora about that.

Held at the Punjabi book exhibition being run by Gulati at # 111-8312, 128 Surrey, BC (open from 10 am to 7 pm seven days a week until January 2022), the event started with a moment of silence for more than 700 famers who laid down their lives during a year-long agitation in India since November 26, 2020.


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