For actors Ratna Pathak Shah and Naseeruddin Shah, India is their Valentine. The Shahs, always vocal about their opinions, say they are firm in their belief that the educated young give them hope in troubling times. The couple was speaking at an event titled India My Valentine here on Sunday. According to Ratna Pathak, the “khalbali” (churning) she saw in the 60s and 70s is back but the young and educated give her hope.
“During that time everyone was thinking about the progress of India. How to make the nation ours, what kind of nation it should be. Because my family has always been associated with performing arts, we used to have discussions on these topics,” she said at the event featuring musical performances, stand-up comedy acts and speeches to celebrate love and unity in the country.
Over a dozen artistes, including Naseeruddin Shah, Vishal Bhardwaj, Rekha Bhardwaj and Swanand Kirkire, came together on one stage at the event. Ratna Pathak, the daughter of the late actor Dina Pathak, said questions related to nation building were on everyone’s mind in the past decades. Now, there is “a possibility of the nation breaking, changing”, she said.
“The ‘khalbali’, the brainstorming of that time, can be seen reflected today. Of course, things have changed, the situation is extremely serious. What I saw and heard today, what I see around me, it definitely increases hope. Never before has India had so many young, educated people alive at one time. It’s making a difference and we are seeing it all over the country,” she said.
The churn is not limited to Shaheen Bagh or Mumbai Bagh but spread across, she said, referring to the anti-CAA protests in several places in the country. “Again, art is showing the way. This kind of ‘khalbali’ is producing such wonderful writing, music, performances,” she said.
Naseeruddin Shah said he can’t help but wonder about the current situation when he looks around at the state of the nation. “At a time when a lot of us are grappling to understand what’s going on around us, I think I’m not alone in agonising over a question: whether all this was always latent and has finally burst forth, not being able to contained any longer.
“Or has there been in the last decade a complete change in our country… I’m not a social scientist, so I don’t know the answer.” The actor then read selections from Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s The Discovery of India and said the book can shed some light.
“May be it’ll show you the direction… I’ve also in these times felt the need to re-examine, rediscover what it is that is unique about this country, what it is that has always been our pride and has won the admiration of the entire world,” he added.