This article was updated on July 19, 2003.
Salman Khan, a Muslim with a bad-boy image in Bollywood, has abandoned plans to play the Hindu god Lord Ram in a 1 billion rupees ($21 million) epic.
Khan claimed hard-line group Bajrang Dal issued threats against himself and the producer Bunty Walia.
“We had started pre-production on the film, but there are people who think that I should not play Ram because I am a Muslim,” the media quoted Khan as saying.
However Muslims have played the role of Ram in the past. Prem Adib, a Muslim, played Ram in “Bharat Milap” (Bharat Meeting, 1942), “Ram Rajya (Ram’s Reign, 1943) and “Lav Kush” (1951).
And the Bajrang Dal denied making threats.
“Why should we raise a stink on such a minor issue?” asked Shankar Gaikar, a local Bajrang Dal official in published reports. “Salman is an actor and can play any character he chooses to. His religion has nothing to do with the kind of roles he enacts in his films.”
Khan’s movie was to be shot in Ram’s birthplace of Ayodhya in northern India and also in New Zealand by Khan and Walia’s production company, GS Entertainment.
Khan is out on bail, awaiting trial for culpable homicide after an incident in September when a homeless man was run over and killed while sleeping on a Mumbai sidewalk. Four other homeless people were hurt.