One of the biggest Bollywood superstars, Aamir Khan’s comment on his concern over ‘rising intolerance’ has started a debate on free expression in a country that swears by their leading (Bollywood) men. With the torrent of negative reactions on social media, the furious backlash has resulted in many a protest: a sedition case filed against the actor, his effigies burnt and smeared in black ink, protests outside his Mumbai residence all in 24 hours.
Right from Anupam Kher to Ram Gopal Varma, to Paresh Rawal, to Raveena Tandon, the comments have lead the film fraternity to react sharply, albeit negatively. While Aamir discussed how Kiran Rao, his wife was afraid for their child and the atmosphere this country presents due to intolerant attitude of its citizens, and subsequently contemplated to leave the country, the comment has come under much criticism by politicians, film fraternity and general public at large.
While some people believe the actor should have the right to express his thoughts and opinions, others took them as most recent indictment of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership, seen as a continuation of returning honours and awards in protest at the government’s policies. “Let’s cut the BS-why can’t these people openly say that they weren’t happy since d day Modi became PM..instead of shaming the whole country,” tweeted Raveena Tandon against Khan’s statement.
The consequences of Khan’s comment are not limited to facing rising intolerance by political groups and other opportunists: it has had an extreme affect on the eCommerce marketplace, Snapdeal, of which he is the brand ambassador. So much so that the eCommerce players’ app received 90,000 one-star ratings on Google Play Store in less than 24 hours, and received numerous angry comments on Twitter under the hashtags #AppWapsi and #BootOutSnapdeal. According to a report, many have uninstalled the Snapdeal app and the comment wrecked havoc on the eCommerce major.
“Should a brand face the wrath of its ambassador’s actions?” - a survey (500 citizens) by Airloyal’s GetInsights.co had some interesting numbers to share on the controversial subject. Key highlights of the survey were:
· 37 per cent of the respondents felt that it is unfair to make comments in public about free India. As an actor of this high stature, Aamir Khan is looked upon by many people and this sends across a deceiving image about our nation;
· 60 per cent of the respondents have said that they will continue to shop on Snapdeal as the comment was made by an actor who is entitled to have his own opinion and has no personal association with the brand. However, about 26 per cent of the respondents have vehemently opposed to shopping on Snapdeal;
· 41 per cent of the respondents do not agree to Amir Khan’s statement on intolerance in India. However, what’s shocking is that, out of the 500 respondents, 195 do agree with Aamir Khan and his comment;
· When asked on what their opinion on the freedom of speech and expression is, 66 per cent have said that it is a fundamental right.
Snapdeal also released a statement with the hashtag #SnapdealForIndia, separating itself from the actor’s comments. “Snapdeal is neither connected nor plays a role in comments made by Aamir Khan in his personal capacity. Snapdeal is a proud Indian company built by passionate young Indians focused on building an inclusive digital India. Everyday we are positively impacting thousands of small businesses and millions of consumers in India. We will continue towards our mission of creating one million successful online entrepreneurs in India,” the company said in a statement and tweeted it.
In fact Flipkart’s CEO, Sachin Bansal came out in support of Snapdeal by tweeting, “This is a flawed logic. Brands don't buy into brand ambassador’s personal opinions. @snapdeal shouldn't face this.”