Aamir refuses to apologise over Narmada remarks

May 25, 2006 IANS

Mumbai, May 25 (IANS) Bollywood actor Aamir Khan Thursday rejected the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) demand that he apologise for his remarks over the Narmada dam project, leading to a virtual ban in Gujarat on his latest film "Fanaa", though it was set for release at major multiplexes elsewhere in the country Friday.

"I am doing my job. The BJP is doing its job. I spoke for the rehabilitation of poor farmers who lost their lands - if the BJP wants me to apologise for speaking out for them, then I won't because I don't think I have said anything wrong," the actor told reporters here.

"Fanaa" will not be screened in Gujarat as the state's multiplex and cinema owners decided against releasing the film after a boycott call given by the youth wing of the BJP and supported by the opposition Congress.

Amit Thacker, the BJP youth wing president in Gujarat, said any film starring Khan would be allowed to be screened in the state only after he apologised for his remarks.

Senior BJP leader Vijay Kumar Malhotra told reporters in New Delhi: "We can end this row if he (Khan) apologises to the people of Gujarat."

Film actor and BJP leader Shatrughna Singha said: "Aamir has hurt the sentiments of the people of Gujarat, and he should tender his apology."

However, the actor was not budging from his stand.

"I want that Gujarat and its neighbouring states receive more water. But at the same time, I also want that all those farmers who have lost their land (due to the dam project) should be rehabilitated first."

Khan had last month expressed solidarity with the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) that has been opposing the Sardar Sarovar dam project on the Narmada river in the state. He demanded proper rehabilitation of those displaced by the dam, even as the project is seen as the "lifeline" for the state's drought-prone parts.

He later criticised the Narendra Modi government in Gujarat for a communal skirmish in Vadodara this month that claimed six lives.

"If the political party thinks that banning my film is the right decision, they can go ahead with it. I love the people of Gujarat and I will feel bad for them because they will not get to see my film."

He appealed to the people of the state to come forward and join hands with him.

"I want all of them to come forward and speak for these (project-affected) people."

In Ahmedabad and other cities of the state, however, BJP workers burned posters of the film following Khan's televised press briefing.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) came out in support of the actor and condemned BJP for not allowing the screening of "Fanna".

"The virtual ban on the showing of the film 'Fanaa' in Gujarat is an indication of the extreme intolerance displayed by the ruling party and its organisations in Gujarat to any dissenting opinion," a statement issued by the CPI-M politburo said.

Meanwhile, the much-awaited film was set to be released at multiplexes elsewhere in the country.

There had been a question mark over its release at multiplexes following a demand by Yash Raj Films, the distributors, for a seven percent hike in the share of profits the film may earn in the first week of its release.

The standoff between the film's distributors and exhibitors seemed to have been sorted out Thursday, with some major multiplexes willing to screen the film from Friday after a meeting with the distributor.

"We will be releasing 'Fanaa' in Adlabs Cinemas multiplexes in Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Nasik, Pune, Meerut and Mangalore. So will Cinemax," Yash Raj Films public relation officer Shilpa Handa told IANS Thursday.

"Talks, however, are on with other multiplex like Inox," Handa said.

"Yash Raj Films is also trying to find a lasting solution to the deadlock with the All-India Multiplex Association for the release in the rest of the multiplexes," she said.

Confusion prevailed at multiplexes in New Delhi and they refused to book tickets for Friday - not only for "Fanaa", but the delayed "The Da Vinci Code" and "X-Men: The Last Stand".

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