Yesterday, Anupam Kher spoke at JNU. The full speech is here for those who want to listen.
It is not the contents of the speech that struck me — there is nothing there that Kher has not said before, in other forums. What is noticeable is this:
Director Vivek Agnihotri wanted to publicise his film, and for some reason figured that organising a showing in JNU would fit into those plans.
He said the university had denied permission for the screening. It turned out that he had never formally applied for permission.
Anupam Kher latched onto that and repeated the falsehood, with a few side comments on how the leftists in JNU had stifled all other voices.
Saurabh Sharma, leader of the ABVP on the JNU campus, formally applied for permission. It was granted. The film was screened. Kher spoke.
But neither he, nor Mr Kher, can change their spots. Kher in his speech says the celebration of bail granted to two of their colleagues is out of place — these are not returning heroes, he says. (His speech, noticeably, is not about the movie he and Agnihotri wanted screened at the venue)
Agnihotri says only 200 people celebrated the granting of bail to Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, but 2000 landed up for the screening of his film. Classy — you want the university to host you, you get what you want, and you taunt your hosts, taunt the students who turned up in large numbers to watch your film.
Agnihotri says his film is political, and students are the best audience. Irony wept copiously. For the better part of a month now, the government, the media and sundry opinion-makers have been banging on about how students are supposed to study and to stay well away from politics.
Bottomline? Mr Kher and Mr Agnihotri get their platform, their publicity, and use that platform to taunt the very students they used to publicise their film. Neither feels the need for one word of apology to the students and to the university for having lied about denial of permission.
Against that JNU, which has been under fire — including from Mr Kher and Mr Agnihotri – as a nest of anti-national radicals, turns up in large numbers to watch and applaud the screening of a movie made by some of their fierce critics. Here is an image from Mr Agnihotri’s Twitter timeline:
They interrupt Mr Kher’s speech only with good humoured applause and laughter — even when he is insulting their own.
It’s called grace.