Bollywood actor Priyanka Chopra, 28, got into an ugly tiff with a fellow passenger on board a Dubai-bound Emirates flight, three weeks ago. The passenger has now accused her of risking lives by talking into her cell phone even while the plane was taking off. The actor, however, says she did not break any rules, and got agitated only when pushed to the wall by this passenger’s unacceptable conduct.
Dr Fayaz Shawl, 60, a Kashmir-born interventional cardiologist in the US, with high-profile patients such as UK’s Queen Elizabeth and Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, was travelling first class in the Emirates flight from Mumbai to Dubai on February 20.
He and Priyanka got into a shouting match with abuses and threats being hurled, to get each other arrested. We bring to you an account from both sides.
‘I would have slapped him’
It is disgusting that celebrities like us get a raw deal at the hands of attention seekers, so easily. These allegations are a bunch of lies. That man is a lunatic. If it hadn’t been for his old age, I would have slapped him for how he behaved with me on the flight. He tried to film me on his phone despite my requests to not do it. I was calling him ‘sir’, as I’ve been brought up to respect elders.
He was clearly drunk and tried to make an issue out of me talking on the phone. I’ve travelled a million times, and I didn’t break any rules. The aircraft was on the tarmac when I finished an important call. By then this man was screaming. He dropped names and said he knows the Sheikh in Dubai and would get me deported. I took out my credit card and challenged him to make a call to the Sheikh right there from the aircraft’s paid phone. He behaved in a cheap manner and said "I know you Bollywood starlet types". That made me lose it because I value my dignity.
He showed me a video of himself with Dilip sir (actor Dilip Kumar). I complained to the staff and they conveyed it to the captain. When the flight landed, he came and apologised to me thrice. But I didn’t accept his apology.
If he’s talking to media now, it’s just to get attention. You can check with anyone on that flight, including Leander Paes. I would never insult a legend like Dilip Kumar. I’ve spoken to Saira maa’m (Saira Banu). She totally stands by me on this.
‘I would have got her arrested’
I usually take a chartered plane to fly to Dubai. But, on the request of ailing actor Dilip Kumar’s family to check on his heart condition, I had to go to their residence in Pali Hill and missed my flight. So, I boarded this Emirates flight on which Priyanka Chopra was a co-passenger in first class. She occupied the window seat and was on the phone even when the flight started to take off. The staff was not objecting as they were in awe of the star, so, I passed a note to her to stop. I know of two air crashes that took place due to the phone signals interfering with the air control.
At this, Priyanka turned to me and said, "Who the hell are you to stop me?" I said, "Lady, had you been in the US, you would have been handcuffed for this." To this, she replied, "F*** US." I told her that I am a doctor and saw veteran actor Dilip Kumar in Mumbai. She said, "Who the hell cares about that old man?" So, I said, "You have no right to endanger my life and that of 250 other people." She then said: "Let’s go to the pilot." I told her that when we get off at Dubai, I could get her arrested for this."
I have video clips of the incident as I recorded it on my phone. I also filmed co-passengers who said on-camera that they were scared when she was talking on the phone in-flight.
What the law says
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) directs that fliers are required to switch off their mobile phones or keep them on ‘No flight mode’, i.e with network connectivity switched off at all times when an aircraft is in flight. In October 2010, an amendment of the Rule 29B of Aircraft Rules permitted the use of cell phones by passengers in the aircraft after it has landed and cleared the active runway.
Leander Paes, Tennis player
“I happened to be sitting one seat in front of Priyanka. I was snoozing and didn’t know there was a situation till I heard shouting.
It appears that the guy had an issue with her being on the phone. That’s totally absurd. Had she been violating rules, the stewards would’ve taken action. In fact, they later apologised to Priyanka for the behaviour of this guy, who appeared to have had one drink too many. I think he was just looking to seek attention.”
Inputs by Neha Sharma