Khan faces blowback over cricket remarks

Political party vows to disrupt "My Name is Khan"

NEW DELHI -- Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan is facing opposition from the Shiv Sena political party over his recent comments about Pakistani cricket players not being included in this year's upcoming Indian Premier League. 

Khan co-owns one of the IPL cricket teams and during the recent auction for this season's players from various countries, unlike the previous two seasons, this time team owners seemed to avoid bidding for Pakistani players, given the ongoing tensions between both countries, which escalated after the November 26 Mumbai attacks in 2008.

Khan said of the auctions, “I think it’s actually humiliating to me as a [Kolkata Knight Riders] owner that this has happened. We are known to invite everyone, and we should have. If there were issues, they should have been put out earlier so that things could happen respectfully.”

The Shiv Sena party -- which is primarily active in the western state of Maharashtra of which Mumbai is the capital -- protested against Khan's statement and some of its members burned posters of the actor's upcoming film, "My Name is Khan." They also surrounded Khan's mansion Sunday in Mumbai, while the offices of distribution company Shringar Films (which is distributing “Khan” in Mumbai) were attacked on Monday evening.

The Shiv Sena is a far-right political party that has a broadly Hindu national agenda. The party has reguarly targeted Muslims, Pakistanis and immigrants in its homestate of Maharashtra. The party feels that Khan's statement is pro-Pakistan, and therefore against its party's agenda.

The party has demanded Khan apologize but the actor has refused to do so. ‘‘The question of apologizing does not arise at all. I have had to apologize just before the release of “Billu” (my previous film) as well and people try to gain political mileage out of us...I have done nothing wrong in saying what I said about Pakistani players and I said that as an Indian,’’ Khan was quoted as saying.

“Shah Rukh Khan must withdraw his comments if he wants his new film to be released in Mumbai,” Shiv Sena's senior party leader Manohar Joshi, told reporters in Mumbai Wednesday.

In what is seen as a precautionary measure, Mumbai cinema halls have already removed posters of “Khan” to avoid any further disturbances.

Earlier, Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan said ‘‘stern action’’ would be taken against those who sought to disrupt the screening of “Khan."

FSSI has not yet commented on the issue.

FSSI acquired worldwide distribution rights for “Khan” for an unconfirmed figure of 1 billion rupees ($21 million) last August. The film is co-produced by its director Karan Johar's banner Dharma Productions and Khan's Red Chillies Entertainment.

The film revolves around the impact of the 9/11 terror attacks on a San Francisco-based Indian Muslim (Khan) suffering from a kind of autism, who embarks on a cross-country journey in the U.S. “Khan” is FSSI's first mainstream Bollywood release after the success of “Slumdog Millionaire."

Meanwhile, FSSI has launched its extensive marketing plan for the film, including Khan and the film's actress Kajol ringing the opening bell at the NASDAQ stock market in New York Monday. “Khan," which is being released outside India by Fox International and by Fox Searchlight in the U.S., will also be screened out of competition at the upcoming Berlin Film Festival.

"Khan" is due for release in India on February 12.