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He is not going to apologise

NO, AAMIR Khan did not talk of a religious conspiracy. Unlike Dan Brown, he did not rehash blasphemies. One afternoon, the actor sat by a Delhi wayside and spoke for the rehabilitation of the people displaced by the Narmada dam.
By HT Correspondent | None, Mumbai/new Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAY 26, 2006 01:07 PM IST

NO, AAMIR Khan did not talk of a religious conspiracy. Unlike Dan Brown, he did not rehash blasphemies. One afternoon, the actor sat by a Delhi wayside and spoke for the rehabilitation of the people displaced by the Narmada dam.

While Brown's bestseller-turned-blockbuster The Da Vinci Code will see the light of Friday, the Khan-starrer Fanaa faces a virtual ban in the BJP-ruled Gujarat and a blackout in some multiplexes across the country. The BJP has even asked Khan to apologise.

And he has refused. At a press conference in Mumbai on Thursday, the actor refused to budge from his stance. "I have only asked for what the Supreme Court has upheld - rehabilitation of poor farmers affected by the project," said Khan. "Here is a political party that doesn't believe in democracy. It doesn't want to help poor farmers. I'm speaking for poor farmers and they want an apology. I will continue to say what I believe in."

The dam is not just the issue though it is being propped as the main one. Khan had recently criticised the Narendra Modi government for its failure in cracking down communal violence in Vadodara.

The Gujarat Multiplex Owners Association has announced the boycott of the film, another YashRaj romance (of a blind girl and a guide) and a probable blockbuster. Amit Thacker, president of the BJP's youth wing in Gujarat, said a Khan film would be released in the state only if he apologised. Senior party leader V.K. Malhotra said: "We can end this row if he (Khan) apologises to the people of the state."

The confusion in the BJP — whether to revert to the hardliner image or to project a tolerant face — is evident. Party spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said, "Neither our central party nor the state unit has given any boycott call." Deploring the blackout of the film, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in Srinagar, "I strongly condemn the unconstitutional methods adopted by some people to suppress the freedom of expression."

Congress spokesman Rajeev Shukla said the movie should not be clubbed with the dam issue. The CPM politburo came out against the Gujarat government for the "virtual" ban on the movie. In a statement it said, "It is under the leadership of Modi that the front organisations of the Sangh combine are threatening theatre owners against showing the film."

In Vadodara, Khan's refusal to apologise was received by the burning of the film's posters. A member of Sardar Sena, which is organising demonstrations, said, "Aamir has made anti-dam statements without understanding the sentiments of the people of Gujarat." Some multiplexes in Maharashtra, meanwhile, have reached an agreement with director Kunal Kohli to screen the film. There is nothing like bad publicity — and good money.

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