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 â€œcaptain,â€ the Bollywood-team was on the â€œpitchâ€ to give Shiv Sainiks a thorough drubbing. A similar message was conveyed by headlines stating: â€œKhan scores, Sena misses,â€ â€œMNIK wins, Sena loses,â€ â€œKhan hits, Sena in pits,â€â€¦. 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 Shahrukhâ€™s â€œsupportâ€ 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 Senaâ€™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 Senaâ€™s protest failed to win peopleâ€™s support even in Mumbai. When 35 of 40 theatres in Mumbai decided to go ahead with the movieâ€™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 â€œsecular unityâ€ 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 moviesâ€™ choice. Nor are they convinced by Shiv Sena questioning Shahrukh Khanâ€™s â€œnationality.â€ 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, Shahrukhâ€™s fans displayed their anger against Shiv Senaâ€™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 Senaâ€™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, Shahrukhâ€™s wife, Gauri who watched the movie at Fun Republic with her daughter, said: â€œEveryone should watch the movie. Shahrukhâ€™s very happy that everyone has come out supporting him.â€ Admitting that her husband was â€œvery sadâ€ earlier, but was â€œhappyâ€ at the response received, she said: â€œI think the best way would be to say Jai Maharashtra. We love Mumbai and Shahrukh is really excited.â€ 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 crowdâ€™s interest here rests partly on the movieâ€™s title and partly on it having aroused a protest from Shiv Sena over Shahrukhâ€™s comments regarding Pakistani cricketers. Also, they support the movieâ€™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 â€“ 9/11-divide, the movieâ€™s hero wants to meet the US President so that he can tell him: â€œMy name is Khan and I am not a terrorist.â€ 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 loserâ€™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 Muslimâ€™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!