For the past several weeks, followers of Bollywood diva Kareena Kapoor have been celebrating her 19 years in the Indian movie industry. Twitter is flooded with greetings and best wishes to her from all over the world.
Kareena Kapoor Khan made her entry into the film industry in June, 2000 with her acting debut in Refugee.
Though her parents and the Kapoor clan have long been associated with Bollywood, Kareena carved out an independent place for herself with her talent and beauty.
It goes without saying that her father, Randhir Kapoor, mother Babita, and sister Karisma dominated the movie industry for years, yet Kareena still remains one of the most sought-after movie stars.
Undoubtedly, Kareena is gorgeous and many people, including me, would like to date her. I never miss an opportunity to like her pictures on Twitter and Facebook and remain one of her followers on Instagram.
I felt on top of the world when I was photographed with her wax statue at Madam Tussaud’s museum in London, but there are some other elements of her powerful story that are much less discussed.
That she chose to marry Muslim actor Saif Ali Khan, who is 10 years older than her and was previously married, says lot about Kareena. It shows that she thinks independently and will make a choice that is close to her heart. She could have easily found someone younger and richer and also from her own Hindu community to marry, but she fell for Khan.
The story doesn’t stop there. She chose to adopt "Khan" as her last name, inviting the wrath of Hindu fundamentalists in India. They accused Saif Ali Khan of luring her and converting her to Islam, but Kareena never backed down.
Hindu fanatics were up in arms against her when she chose to name her son Taimur, after a Mughal emperor who is often accused of tyranny by Hindu historians. She and her husband were viciously attacked by an army of trolls on social media.
Today, she openly goes by the name Kareena Kapoor Khan, when most Bollywood stars prefer to align themselves with the Muslim haters in power, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who belongs to the right-wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).
Most Bollywood stars have remained silent to growing attacks on religious minorities under Modi. Credit goes to Kareena for standing up for eight-year-old Asifa Bano—a Muslim nomad girl who was raped and murdered by Hindu extremists in Jammu in January 2018.
They did that to terrorize Muslims and force them to migrate. Thus, Asifa’s body was used as a battlefield.
Kareena was one of the few actresses who posed on social media with a placard condemning this gruesome act that took place inside a temple.
Sometimes, actions speak louder than the words.
This spring, Kareena went to cast her ballot at a polling station in the recently concluded general election along with her son, whose name had generated an unwanted controversy.
That sent a message to Hindu fanatics that she hasn't forgotten what they did to her family. This election was a mandate on the performance of the BJP.
It is a separate matter that the BJP won again with a majority. While Kareena never revealed whom she voted for, I have reasons to believe that she wouldn't have cast a ballot for the BJP.
In fact, she once admitted in a TV interview that she wanted to date Rahul Gandhi, who recently stepped down as opposition Congress Party president after losing the election to BJP.
Rahul Gandhi is a vocal critic of the sectarian politics of the BJP. And Kareena’s liking for him sets her apart from other prominent stars who are enamoured by the popularity of Modi.
Notably, BJP supporters have frequently mocked Gandhi. This is not to suggest that he is a perfect politician or that his party is a great alternative to the BJP, but Kareena’s admiration for someone who is despised by the BJP says something about her.
We need more role models like Kareena in today’s world to challenge growing bigotry and Islamophobia. Love you Kareena, and I wish I get an opportunity to meet you one day to tell you how much hope you give all of us in these depressing times.