Bollywood star in trouble with Hindu nationalists | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 11.02.2010
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Bollywood star in trouble with Hindu nationalists

Thousands of activists from the Hindu nationalist Shiv Sena have been rounded up in Mumbai ahead of the release of actor Shah Rukh Khan’s star-studded movie “My Name is Khan” on Friday.

Shah Rukh Khan and his co-star Kajol with the director of My Name is Khan Karan Johar

Shah Rukh Khan and his co-star Kajol with the director of "My Name is Khan" Karan Johar

The right-wing party has been holding protests against Khan ever since he made remarks favoring the inclusion of Pakistani players in the prestigious Indian Premier League cricket tournament.Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan is no stranger to controversy. Last October, the Muslim actor was detained at Newark airport in the US because his surname had been found on a list of terrorists.

Ironically, his detention that lasted only a few hours came just he shot his film “My Name is Khan” that has its world-wide release on Friday.

The latest hullabaloo has him facing the anger of the right-wing Hindu party, the Shiv Sena, since he stated that he would like Pakistani cricketers to participate in the third season of the Indian Premiere League (IPL).

IPL controversy

Shah Rukh Khan owns the IPL Kolkata Knight Riders team.

After all the team owners refrained from buying Pakistani players at the January auction, he revealed that the Indian government had made it clear to them in advance that it would not be able to provide security for Pakistani players.

“I think that because Shah Rukh Khan owns an IPL team, he was responding to something, which was not his creation. It had echoes across the borders of the country. There were strong responses from Pakistan and the Pakistani media,” said film maker Ajay Bhardwaj who thinks that Khan was right to speak out.

“Part of Shiv Sena DNA”

The Shiv Sena immediately called for the star to apologize publicly and threatened to ban his film in Mumbai. The party’s followers damaged box offices and staged noisy protests outside movie theaters.

“Such protests are part of the DNA of outfits like the Shiv Sena,” explained film critic Chitra Padmanabhan.

“It’s not the first time they have done something like this. These acts are totally unjustified because they go against the spirit of pluralism, democracy and our constitutional principles. What use is freedom of speech, if there is no freedom after the speech?”

“Accepted in this country as a son”

For his part, Shah Rukh Khan, who has been giving wide-ranging interviews, refuses to backtrack. “I speak very strongly as a person who is Muslim and who has been accepted in this country as a son of this country.

“In a certain way, I make some Indians proud – all around the world too. Having said all that, nobody has ever asked me what religion I am from, my wife has never asked me, I have never asked her, my children have never asked me, nobody has ever questioned it – Muslims or Hindus. Yes, I know what I am saying may get me into trouble again but I think it is so old-fashioned to talk about this in modern India.”

“My Name Is Khan” is set to be released in theaters across India on Friday and in over 40 other countries, including the US, the UK, Canada and New Zealand. It will also have its German premiere at the Berlin film festival.

In Mumbai, theater owners have been asked to install night vision cameras that will enable police to identify troublemakers in case of any incidents.

Whether the movie will be a blockbuster remains to be seen, but the publicity before the grand release has surely not been too damaging.

Author: Murali Krishnan (New Delhi)
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein