It’s a fight to the Friday | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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It’s a fight to the Friday

Bookings closed: Banners come down across city. State hits back with mass arrests. Exhibitors wait and watch, reports Sayli Udas Mankikar.

mumbai Updated: Feb 11, 2010 01:20 IST
Sayli Udas Mankikar

He had taken a stand and stood by it. That could have been forgiven.

He had spoken up in favour of Pakistanis and ‘outsiders’. Even that could have been forgiven.

Saturday’s edition of Saamna indicated as much, saying it would not oppose the February 12 release of Khan’s film — My Name Is Khan — “as it had no interest in being the only party in Mumbai to fight this patriotic battle”.

Two days later, over 1,600 Shiv Sainiks have been arrested, many of them held for ripping up posters and attacking theatres selling advance tickets for Khan’s film.

So what changed?

After all, if Khan had spoken his mind, so had the Sena.

Days after Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan said Pakistani players should have been included in the Indian Premier League teams — and that Mumbai belonged to all Indians and not just the Marathi manoos — the Sena had lashed out, via party mouthpiece Saamna.

Khan should remember that his home is in Mumbai, the editorial threatened. The next day, the party called him a traitor and ordered him to pack his bags and move to Pakistan.

By the time the actor returned on Saturday from his promotional tour in London, the score was even and the Sena was in a forgiving mood.

All Shah Rukh Khan needed to do was follow the Bollywood tradition and set course for Matoshree.

Instead, he refused to bow, instead giving a series of interviews on national television — repeating the very statements that had caused all the upset and repeating his stand that he believed he had nothing to apologise for.

“I very very clearly want to say that there is no reason to apologise and it’s just a big fuss,” Khan said in an interview with CNN-IBN Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai.

This was too much for the one-time First Family of Mumbai.

“Its simple. Shah Rukh has annoyed them [the Thackerays] by going about on different television channels,” Sena leader Ravindra Waikar said on Wednesday. “We wanted Shah Rukh to meet Balasaheb and explain his stand personally.”

The Sena had already lost face on Friday, when Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi — who had also said, during a rally in Bihar, that Mumbai belonged to all Indians — ignored veiled threats from the Sena and discarded his helicopter and his itinerary to storm Sena bastion Dadar on a local train.

As whispers grew of the growing powerlessness of the original Mee Marathi party, Union Agriculture Minister and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar gave the party a much needed morale boost by visiting Matoshree — the Thackeray residence in Bandra — and asking permission for Australian cricketers to play in the city.

The Sena had called for a ban on Aussie players following the attacks on Indians Down Under.

Meanwhile, My Name Is Khan director-producer Karan Johar marched off to the chief minister, Home minister and police commissioner on Tuesday to confirm that they would control the Sena.

This was an even worse blow to the party because, just last October, Johar had scurried off to Sena rebel and archrival Raj Thackeray to apologise for referring to Mumbai as Bombay in a song featured in his film Wake Up Sid.

Following Pawar’s encouraging visit — significant because his NCP holds the Home portfolio (in charge of law and order) in the Congress-NCP state government — the Sena has now taken to the streets.

Despite the arrests, and police teams posted outside 63 theatres across the city, Sena leaders like Manohar Joshi have now said they will not let the movie run till Khan apologises.

“We are Shiv Sainiks,” Waikar declared. “We are ready to go to jail for our beliefs.”