Shah Rukh Khan Vs Shivsena
Both parties in the Shiv Sena-Shah Rukh Khan feud appeared to climb down a little on Saturday without backing off from their ideological positions amid talk that a Bollywood actor and a senior state politician had played mediator between the party and the actor.
The Sena, despite insisting that Khan was a “traitor’’ for taking up the cause of Pakistani players who were not picked by any team for IPL, said on Saturday that it was not interested in disrupting the screening of his next release, My Name Is Khan.
The first Sena official comment—on not wanting to disrupt the film—came, significantly, a day after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi declined the safety of a helicopter and travelled by Mumbai’s lifeline, the local train, through some traditional Sena bastions, sending out an unmistakably strong political rejoinder to the Sena and its agenda.
Khan’s comments, too, after he touched down in Mumbai on Saturday morning, were much more guarded than those he had made abroad. Not once did he say he had said anything wrong—when he commented on Pakistani players not being picked for IPL teams (his own team did not pick any)—but he made the right noises to indicate that he was not interested in taking the war of words forward in the run-up to the release of his film on February 12.
But the Sena’s climbdown, a day after the Gandhi scion took the wind out of its sails, was slightly more spectacular despite the potshots it took at the Congress and Khan.
In an editorial in Saamna, Sena chief Bal Thackeray said: “The Congress is free to rule the country in the manner it thinks is proper. Let Pakistan carry on its terrorist activity in Mumbai and let Shah Rukh Khan release his film with the blessings of the Gandhi Dynasty. The Sena will not do anything.’’
‘Why should Sena alone suffer?’
While the Shiv Sena said on Saturday that it would not hold up the screening of Shah Rukh Khan’s next film, My Name Is Khan, the actor indcated that he was not interested in taking the war of words forward.
Sena CEO Uddhav Thackeray told TOI on Saturday: “Why should the Sena alone stick its neck out on terrorism or regional pride? Pak-sponsored terrorism is a major threat to India and Mumbai’s security. However, the Congress leaders are not willing to take a firm stand on these issues as they believe in taking orders from 10 Janpath. Other political parties too keep mum on this sensitive issues. So why should Shiv Sainiks suffer police excesses and imprisonment. Matoshree, after all, is also on the hit-list of Pak terrorists.’’
On his part, Khan said it was sad that his remarks on Pakistani cricketers in the IPL had been misconstrued. Asked if he would go to Matoshree to explain his position, Khan said Bal Thackeray was a senior leader and he had gone to his residence whenever he was called. “I have been there so often. Yes, I would like to go and have a drink with him,’’ he said. But he also said he did not think the current issue merited any conversation. “If my stand needs to be explained to someone, I have already done it. I don’t think there is an issue on that front,’’ he said.
Khan, however, left a window open for conversation. “If there has been any misunderstanding, let’s be gracious and talk it out,’’ he added. “I think what I said was misconstrued. I am what I am because of Mumbai and I would like everyone in Mumbai to be happy. I think what is happening is very unfortunate. I think all the groups also want Mumbaikars to be happy. Then why create this kind of atmosphere?’’
In New Delhi, chief minister Ashok Chavan weighed in, saying it would act against anyone trying to “bully’’ others. “All movies, be it of Shah Rukh’s or anybody else’s, if they are approved by the censor board, will run and the government will protect them. We will make sure that not only the Shiv Sena, but any person or organisation trying to create disturbance is dealt with strictly as per the law of the land,’’ he said. “Even I will go and watch those movies.’’
Asked why his own team, the Kolkata Knight Riders, had not picked any Pakistani player, the actor said his team was keen on taking Abdul Razzaq. “But my coach informed me later that he had a finger injury. There was a slot available but one should also take into consideration the prevailing atmosphere,’’ he added.
He, however, refused to comment on the reasons for the Sena backing off. “I really don’t know that and cannot comment on a group’s thinking or working pattern. But I am thankful that now the film will be released without any stress. There are 250 people involved in the film. I am really happy to know that me and my film are being taken as two different entities,’’ he said.
He also said arts, sports and culture could help build ties with other countries and should be encouraged. Told that Thackeray had called him a traitor, the actor said, “It feels really awkward for me to explain that I am an Indian and not a bad one and love my country. I don’t need to prove it to anyone.’’
He added: “I really felt like crying when I was being questioned for being a regular Indian. It hurt me even more when my daughter called and asked me, ‘Papa, do we have to leave India?’ I had to send my wife, Gauri, back to be with the children.’’