New Delhi: “Shah Rukh Khan was the hero of my time and I was in love with him.” This public admission of admiration for the Indian heartthrob by Pakistani actor Mahira Khan resonates with moviegoers around the world. But unfortunately for the VJ-turned-actor, her remarks exposed her to the ire of many in Pakistan, including a leader of the ruling party who said she suffers from “mental health problems”.
To the surprise of many in India and Pakistan, Afnan Ullah Khan of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) claimed that Mahira “flatters Indian actors for money”. The Oxford-educated Pakistani senator made the distasteful remark on Twitter.
Mahira made the statement — on her political affiliations and her ‘love’ for Shah Rukh Khan — in a conversation with satirist Anwar Maqsood at an event organised in Karachi by the Arts Council of Pakistan.
Best known for her role as the dove-eyed damsel in Pakistani TV series Humsafar, Mahira was quoted as saying that Shah Rukh Khan “was the hero” of her time and that she was “in love with him and used to think about working with him”.
The 38-year-old actor also shared her experience working with Shah Rukh Khan in the 2017 blockbuster Raees. Describing him as someone who was “sweet to everyone around him, from the spot boy to other employees”, Mahira said it was Khan who “inspired” her to be humble and modest regardless of “how big a star” one becomes.
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Politics and cinema
Afnan, a senator from Pakistan’s Punjab, reacted to her statements in a tweet in Urdu the next day in which he made unfounded claims about Mahira and Maqsood, the moderator of the discussion.
“Mahira Khan has mental health problems and Anwar Maqsood is drunk in this part of life. Both these shameless characters are cursed by the public,” he wrote.
But Khan, who takes great pride in being the “youngest senator” in Pakistan, did not stop there. He went further to claim, “Books can be written on Mahira Khan’s character, she also flatters Indian actors for money. And Anwar Maqsood is a cursed character full of prejudice.”
Contrary to what he might have expected, many criticised him for his diatribe against the celebrated Pakistani actor.
Mehwish Qamas Khan, an anchor with AUR News, reacted to the senator’s tweet by writing: “Senator Afnan did not expect such a tone from you. But why should people curse Mahira Khan, you should curse yourself.”
Actor, singer Farhan Saeed linked the senator’s anger with Mahira’s statement on her political preferences. After being probed by Maqsood, Mahira said that she stands with Pathaan, an apparent reference to PTI chief and former Pakistan PM Imran Khan.
“This is the mentality that doesn’t let #Pakistan grow , this is what they do when someone just gives an opinion or has a political preference . They get personal so people stop giving their opinion. Senator ? Zuban jahilon wali (tongue of an illiterate person),”Saeed tweeted.
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Doing it for attention
But this is not the first time praise for Indian cinema landed a Pakistani celebrity in the firing line of trolls.
In January this year, Pakistani VJ Anoushey Ashraf was trolled for calling Shah Rukh a “universal superstar” and for saying that she would “forever” be his fan. Many reacted to her Instagram post by accusing Ashraf of making the statement only so she could “get noticed” by Shah Rukh.
(Edited by Theres Sudeep)