My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist
Rizvan Khan is an honourable Muslim man from India, living with Asperger’s Syndrome, 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.”
The film, by Fox Searchlight Pictures, is directed and produced by acclaimed filmmaker Karan Johar, the screenplay is written by Johar and Shibani Bathija.
“It might seem odd to say that we created a superhero film. A hero who has Asperger’s syndrome is a simpleton and all he has for a superpower is his humanity. That’s what I truly believe my experience was in doing this film,” said Shah Rukh Khan.
“That to be a hero all you need is the basic goodness of human beings, something so rare; we might believe that the protagonist of this film is from another world. 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 added.
“I pray to God that what we say through this narrative makes emotional sense to all. And, in our own way, makes us feel we helped in the steps towards sanity, normalcy, and simplicity that this world needs so much today,” Khan concluded.
For Indian director Karan 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.
“MY NAME IS KHAN at its core is an epic love story between two people who have a unique way of seeing the world,” says Johar about the film.
“What sets it apart is the landscape on which the story unfolds. I keep setting out to do something different with my films, but the one constant that remains is my desire to continue to explore the many ways in which two people can fall in love and stay in love regardless of any or every challenge against them.”
During his travels in the States, Johar was often seated at dinner parties, engaged in discussion topics that were paramount amongst intellectual Indians living in New York. They passionately and painfully shared the plight experienced by their fellow countrymen in America. These were people who were not intellectuals, nor could they defend themselves against a rising tide of animosity and confusion.
“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 firsthand 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.”
The film’s worldwide distributors are Fox Star Studios, Twentieth Century Fox in association with Imagenation Abu Dhabi.