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Cricket choice sparks pic protest

'Khan' director tires of wrath

Last week, theater owners in Mumbai and distrib Fox Star disagreed whether “My Name Is Khan,” the target of protests from Hindu group Shiva’s Army, would bow Feb. 12 as planned. Whatever the outcome, Bollywood filmmaker Karan Johar might feel there’s something personal, since this is his third consecutive film targeted by the Mumbai activist group. Shiva’s Army’s beef is with the star of the pic, Shah Rukh Khan, for saying he would hire Pakistani players in his Indian Premier League cricket team, the Kolkota Knight Riders. The film, which is screening at the Berlin fest, was scheduled to bow Feb. 12 in India. Vijay Singh, CEO of Fox Star Distribution, said, “There’s a huge demand for the film. We are releasing it nationally.”

In November, the fundamentalist group had targeted Johar’s “Kurbaan” because the posters featured the bare back of actress Kareena Kapoor (they feared that children’s morals would be corrupted) and weren’t appeased until posters were torn down. And in October they attacked Johar’s “Wake up Sid” because the dialogue referred to Mumbai by its previous name, Bombay. (Never mind that most residents of that city call it Bombay.)

A cadre of the army set out across the city tearing up screens and vandalizing theaters last week even before the pic’s release. Mumbai police, slow to react, arrested several, but theater owners fear they’re pretty much on their own even as the 45,000-member Film Workers Assn. said it would all attend a screening.

Johar apologized personally to Shiva’s Army honcho, Bal Thackeray, the previous times. However Khan is refusing to budge, saying the question of who plays in his cricket team is up to him. On his Twitter account, Khan said: “My stardom is transient. (But) my integrity in non-negotiable … my being Indian unquestionable. … What happens with the release the film is the film’s fate.”

Johar meanwhile was busy dispelling rumors that the film’s release was being delayed and trying to get a truce with Shiva’s Army.

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