Bollywood and young India Tuesday passionately defended Aamir Khan-starrer PK even as Hindu rightwing groups continued their protests alleging that it defamed Hindu religion.
Producers, directors and actors as well as movie buffs IANS spoke to were unanimous that the Hindi film no way hurt Hindu interests and that the protests were unacceptable as it had cleared the censors.
But the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) reiterated its demand that the film, one of the biggest hits from Bollywood, be banned or at least what it said were the offending parts be deleted immediately.
PK, which released on December 19, shows Aamir as an alien who is fascinated by India. The film, which takes a swipe at godmen, also stars Anushka Sharma, Sanjay Dutt, Boman Irani and Sushant Singh Rajput.
On Tuesday, VHP and Bajrang Dal activists demonstrated at the Delite cinema in Old Delhi and at PVR Priya in south Delhi besides Kanpur, Bhopal and Bhubaneswar.
At all places, the protesters tore up the film's posters. The VHP said the screening was halted at the two theatres in the capital.
The industry admitted that the protests had slightly affected the box office collection of the film, which has grossed Rs.246 crore in less than two weeks in the country.
Director Rajkumar Hirani said: "I'm deeply saddened and concerned about the protests by some groups against our film. On behalf of the entire team of PK, I would like to clarify we respect all religions and faiths."
"It saddens me to think that a film ... is accused of being disrespectful of Hinduism. I would like to thank the millions of deeply religious people who have loved the film (which) condemns only the abuse of (religion)."He urged the Hindu groups "to see the film in totality".
Young India agreed.
"It is unfortunate that people are staging protests. The scenes and dialogues are not against god. As a Hindu myself, I didn't find anything insulting," film enthusiast Ayonav Bagchi, 33, said in an interview.
"My sentiments were not hurt. We have seen how godmen work in India. Most are corrupt. The movie is asking people to stay away from such people, and that's fine with me," he added.
Md. Anzaar Aslam, 28, too praised the film.
"What could have been a better way to portray the intoxication of Indian society doped in religious superstitions? The protest was expected from a society which remains confined in the interpretations made by Pandits and Maulvis and has lost scientific temper," he said.
Ragini Jha, 23, enjoyed PK so much that she has watched it twice. "It is not targeting anyone. It is not against any religion. I don't understand why people are taking offence."
Arya Samaj leader Swami Agnivesh in fact demanded that the movie be made tax free.
Agnivesh said: "I found this film brilliant. It raises a fundamental debate on the true nature of any religion and their concept of god, the creator... The questions are very profound. The whole controversy is ... by those who feel threatened."
Bollywood personalities came out openly in support of PK, wondering how a movie cleared by the censors could be so viciously attacked.
"What kind of a democracy are we living in?" asked director Karan Johar.
Actor Pooja Bedi tweeted: "God wants spiritual fruit, not religious nuts! Let's support PK."
But VHP spokesman Vinod Bansal told IANS that the movie attacked Hindu religion.
"The movie makes fun of Hinduism in every possible way... Scenes of attack on Christianity and Islam last for two minutes. For the rest of two-and-a- half hours or more, they keep making fun of Hinduism."
Demonstrations against the movie took place Monday in Agra, Bhopal and Ahmedabad. Among those who have flayed it are yoga guru Baba Ramdev, Swami Swaroopanand Shankracharya and Maulana Firangi Mahal.
Filmmaker Uday Chopra does not agree: "What a wonderful film! I am bowled over. It is the most important film that every Indian should see."
Added producer Ritesh Sidhwani: "PK is a must watch. I am a believer and nowhere does it hurt our sentiments or question religion."