Bollywood Scores: Shahrukh Khan Wins

February 18, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: By not simply rallying unitedly in favor of Shahrukh Khan-starrer: My Name Is Khan, but doing so with an amazingly zeal, Bollywood-team set the stage for film-fans across the world to head for theatres screening the movie. So much so, one got the impression that with Shahrukh as their “captain,” the Bollywood-team  was on the “pitch” to give Shiv Sainiks a thorough drubbing. A similar message was conveyed by headlines stating: “Khan scores, Sena misses,” “MNIK wins, Sena loses,” “Khan hits, Sena in pits,”…. Of course, Bollywood team was compelled to display this posture against shrill calls raised by Shiv Sena activists. The latter protested against release of MNIK primarily because Shahrukh had earlier questioned absence of Pakistani cricketers in Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament. Questioning Shahrukh’s “support” for Pakistani players, Shiv Sena issued a diktat saying that theatres must not release the movie- MNIK.

Initially, there were speculations that multiplexes in Mumbai would follow Shiv Sena’s diktat. There were also apprehensions that screening of the movie in Mumbai and other parts of the country would incite violence and create tension. But Shiv Sena’s protest failed to win people’s support even in Mumbai. When 35 of 40 theatres in Mumbai decided to go ahead with the movie’s release (February 12), they received an enthusiastic response from moviegoers. The movie was screened in all theatres in Maharashtra the following day. Though some stones were thrown on Friday at Fun Republic, no damage was caused. Besides, security was tight at all theatres, particularly in Mumbai to check potential violence from Shiv Sena members. 

What stands out is the “secular unity” displayed by movie goers across the world, even in Gujarat. Despite saffron brigade having warned against its release in Gujarat, the movie ran to packed houses in most parts of the state.  The message simply conveyed was that people are in no mood to let saffron brigade and/or its associates decide their movies’ choice. Nor are they convinced by Shiv Sena questioning Shahrukh Khan’s “nationality.” Rather as displayed by their turning out in huge numbers to view the movie, they have asserted that they cannot be taken for a ride by such diktats. In fact in several parts of the country, Shahrukh’s fans displayed their anger against Shiv Sena’s protests by burning effigies of Shiv Sena leaders.

Clearly, MNIK has provided the movie-fans across the world an opportunity to convey their message. The Mumbai-people defied Shiv Sena’s call, asserting that this party has little significance for him. The noise made by certain Shiv Sena leaders in recent past about their Maratha-identity has also received a big blow by the support displayed by the public here for Shahrukh Khan-starrer. Not surprisingly, Shahrukh’s wife, Gauri who watched the movie at Fun Republic with her daughter, said: “Everyone should watch the movie. Shahrukh’s very happy that everyone has come out supporting him.” Admitting that her husband was “very sad” earlier, but was “happy” at the response received, she said: “I think the best way would be to say Jai Maharashtra. We love Mumbai and Shahrukh is really excited.” Guari is co-producer of the movie, directed by Karan Johar.

Interestingly, the Hindi movie with English title, strikes a note of appeal for Pakistani viewers too. It is the first movie, starring Shahrukh Khan, being screened in Pakistan, since the government allowed Indian movies here two years ago. The crowd’s interest here rests partly on the movie’s title and partly on it having aroused a protest from Shiv Sena over Shahrukh’s comments regarding Pakistani cricketers. Also, they support the movie’s message regarding Muslims being labeled as terrorists and being discriminated against in United States after September 11, 2001 attacks.  The movie does not divide the people. Aiming to bridge the post – 9/11-divide, the movie’s hero wants to meet the US President so that he can tell him: “My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist.”  This particular message, apparently, has people across the world put their regional as well as cultural differences in the background, as it appeals to them emotionally and they understand its underlying meaning. The movie in this context has taken a major step towards bridging the communication gap, which has kept practically the whole world fairly confused and almost at the loser’s end.  The secular, peace-loving and also religious people are against innocents being targeted as suspect terrorists for no fault of theirs. It is time, a Muslim’s religious identity ceased to be linked with terrorism simply because he/she happens to be a practicing Muslim.

With the title saying it loudly and assertively, My Name Is Khan, it is hoped the diplomatic message carried by it is understood by the powers it is addressed to. The raving reviews won by the movie, in addition to raking in millions on the very first day of its screening clearly states that the message has clicked with the people across the world. Bollywood has scored not just against Shiv Sainiks at home but also in taking a lead in successfully conveying the message till date being avoided by Hollywood!

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Indo-Pak Cricket Diplomacy Suffers

February 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Indo-Pak cricket diplomacy has been put to test again with the exclusion of Pakistani cricket players from the Indian Premier League (IPL)’s third season matches. Ironically, in the past, while Indo-Pak cricket has suffered because of bilateral tension, the game has also played a major role in adding a healing touch to the strained relations between the two countries. This time, even as some confusion still prevails as to who should be blamed for ignoring Pakistani players, the Indian government has spared little time in displaying its stand against this move. Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said: “I think it is disservice to cricket that some of these players (Pakistani) were not picked. I don’t know why the IPL teams acted in the manner they acted. But certainly to suggest that there was a hint or nudge from the Government is completely untrue” (January 26).

Chidambaram’s stand assumes importance as it suggests that the Indian government does not want to be blamed for exclusion of Pakistani players from IPL’s Twenty20. It may be recalled that last year Chidambaram had warned the IPL against holding of the cricket tournament in the electoral season. His concern was providing security. The IPL boss Lalit Modi had then decided to hold the event in South Africa. The Indian government is apparently annoyed at exclusion of Pakistani players as it amounts to IPL adding tension to the already fragile Indo-Pak ties. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is understood to be upset at exclusion of Pakistani players as, in his opinion, according to sources, this amounts to closing a “window of opportunity” to normalize the tense ties. Had Chidambaram refused to comment or had even restrained from criticizing the IPL, the Indian government’s stand would have carried little diplomatic or political significance. His statement that Indian government must not be blamed for IPL’s move, which he has also criticized, apparently is meant to calm the Pakistani government and appease the cricket fans waiting for the Pakistani players. Describing the latter as “among the best in Twenty20,” Chidambaram said: “These players were coming as individuals, it was not a Pakistani team.”

But the damage has been done. Reacting against IPL’s move, the Pakistani Cricket Board (PCB) withdrew the no objection certificates they had issued earlier to their players to participate in IPL. In the IPL auction held in Mumbai on January 19, 11 Pakistani players were included. None were bought by franchises leading to subsequent allegations, criticism and blame-game.  Launched by Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), on lines of United States National Basketball League (NBA), the IPL works on a franchise-system, which were put to auction for the first time on January 24, 2008.

An attempt has been made by some franchise owners to ease the tension by saying that “security” concerns prompted them to exclude Pakistani players. Angry and hurt, legendary Pakistani cricketer Imran Khan said in Karachi: “If the IPL franchises had any concerns about security and other issues about signing on our players they should have been clear about this and not invited them to the auction in the first place. But to include them in the auction and then to snub them was appalling and our cricket board and government should lodge a strong protest with the Indian government over this” (January 31). 

Bollywood superstar, Shahrukh Khan – who is co-owner of Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR)- team said that he would have selected a Pakistani player for IPL matches if his team had a slot. “Pakistani cricketers are champions and they should be selected for IPL. Their exclusion from IPL is an insult.” In the IPL’s first edition, KKR had five players from Pakistan. Referring to security concerns, he said: “If they were any issues, they should have been put on board earlier. Everything can happen respectfully.” Giving emphasis to the need for India and Pakistan to have normal relations, he said: “We are great neighbors, They are good neighbors. Let us love each other.” “Let me be honest. My family is from Pakistan, my father was born there and his family is from there,” he said.

Shahrukh’s comments have provoked protests from Shiv Sena activists. In his editorial in party’s mouthpiece, Saamna, Sena chief Bal Thackeray wrote that Shahrukh deserves Pakistan’s highest civilian award “Nishaan-e-Pakistan” for supporting Pakistani cricketers’ inclusion in IPL. Sena activists demonstrated outside Shahrukh’s bungalow “Mannat” at Bandra. Suggesting that Shahrukh should go to Pakistan, they displayed a travel ticket for him from Mumbai to Karachi. They also tore down posters of Shahrukh’s new film, “My Name is Khan” and wrote to theatre owners asking them not to screen this move. Security was increased outside Shahrukh’s Bandra residence and a number of protestors were arrested (January 31).

Meanwhile, the Indian government is trying its best to repeatedly assert that it is against IPL’s exclusion of Pakistani players. “No one in the government wanted such a situation,” a senior government official said. Another said: “We had fast-tracked the visa process and issued them multi-entry visas in December and January so that they could take part in the tournament.”

Sports Minister M.S. Gill expressed the “hope that there will soon be an opportunity for these boys to play exciting cricket in India.” Criticizing the present fiasco, he said: “I trust that the IPL corporate owners have also taken a small lesson from it. Everyone must realize that sport is the bedrock of people-to-people contact, which we need to promote with our neighbors.” Indian government remains hopeful that Indo-Pak cricket diplomacy will be back on track soon, with the two countries’ players on one pitch!

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