A storybook romance told against the shadow of a great American city, until a series of life-changing events threatened more than just their own happiness. Imagine what happens when a single act from a determined man seeking forgiveness and love lost can do to inspire the hearts and minds of a wounded nation.
In MY NAME IS KHAN, Bollywood superstars Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol inhabit the most challenging roles of their careers. Rizvan Khan is an honorable Muslim man from India, living with Asperger’s Syndrome, a, who falls unconditionally for the beautiful Mandira, a Hindu single mother living out her version of the global dream of success. Yet, when an unspeakable act of cowardice tears their family apart, Khan selflessly embarks on a powerful journey through a contemporary America that is as complex as the terrain of the human heart. He innocently becomes that most unlikely act of defiance, one of peace and compassion. He provides a sobering reality that touches the lives of every person he crosses. In the name of the woman he loves, a curious stranger will introduce himself to the world simply by saying, “My name is Khan, and I am not a terrorist.”
Fox Star Studios and Fox Searchlight Pictures present MY NAME IS KHAN, directed and produced by acclaimed Indian filmmaker Karan Johar. For Johar, the inspiration behind MY NAME IS KHAN was a chance to bring a new perspective to a world that remains in the throes of cultural intolerance and misunderstandings.
Johar was keen in realizing this vision, a hybrid of the personal and epic, by framing it with the story of a cross-cultural Indian couple living in the States after the events of 9/11. They would deal with the social unrest faced by many Southeast Asians who were thoughtlessly generalized into being terrorists purely on the basis of their physical characteristics and cultural iconography. Even more, Johar himself wanted to understand the effects of how such a dynamic would cause Sikhs to deny their own religious identity for fear of persecution. However, in order to humanize such potent political themes, Johar sought to create a narrative thread that would result in drawing an audience into an entertainment of universal appeal and emotion.
“I wondered what that kind of stress and fear would do to a Hindu-Muslim couple,” says Johar. “Would the unrest outside creep into their homes and question the foundation of their marriage? Would the Hindu wife blame her Muslim husband for the questioning and sneering they would face because of a last name? The story of this couple and the ways in which their lives would have changed made me want to explore the social landscape of America through the eyes of an innocent couple caught up in the extremities of politics and propaganda.”
As Johar ventured through the United States, the Mumbai-native met with local Muslim organizations that were willing to recount tales of harassment they faced not only in major cities, but also in the smallest of small towns.
“When I met with these people,” recalls Johar, “who could tell me first-hand what it felt like to have stones and bottles thrown at their mosques, their businesses vandalized, and their kids bullied at school, a voice inside of me was screaming, ‘But don’t these people, highly educated Americans, understand that you can’t categorize an entire continent based on the horrendous actions of a handful of people?’ Eventually you realize that they can’t understand it because no one will show it to them. It was then that I realized that the story of this couple can have the deepest impact if someone sacrificed something to get across the message of tolerance to a confused and wounded nation.”
Shah Rukh Khan, who plays the protagonist, Rizvan Khan, was pleased with the opportunity to take part in a film of this caliber. “The journey through the eyes of this character that I so closely lived, made me realize that you can be very special by being ordinary”, he said.
“As an actor I am not very well honed in the art of subtlety and restraint but my friend and director Karan Johar has shown an immense amount of maturity not only in handling me, but this tricky subject as a whole. He is truly the hero of this film because he has been able to keep this complexity of Asperger’s syndrome; the western world and Islamic strife.”