'Fanaa', destroyed in Gujarat's politics of intolerance

May 24, 2006 Saeed Khan

Ahmedabad, May 24 (IANS) While extending support to the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), Bollywood star Aamir Khan may not have imagined that his new film "Fanaa" - meaning destroyed in love - would have to pay a price for it in Gujarat.

The associations of cinema and multiplexes in Gujarat have decided not to screen the film, disappointing many of Aamir's fans. None of the 22 multiplexes or 425 cinema halls in the state will screen the film.

A month after Aamir advocated proper rehabilitation of Narmada dam oustees, the anger of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that strongly supports the project is still evident.

"We have made it clear from the very first day that Aamir Khan must apologise to Gujaratis for his anti-Narmada comments. If he does so, we will allow the screening of his films," said Amit Thaker, president of the youth wing of the BJP, Ahmedabad.

"Multiplex and cinema hall owners are part of Gujarat. Their stand expresses solidarity," Thaker told IANS.

Gujarat Cinema Association president Harish Patel agreed.

"Aamir Khan, with all his ignorance on the Narmada issue, plunged into the controversy and the words he used cannot be tolerated," he said.

"How can we exhibit Aamir Khan's film when he spoke against the state without knowing anything? His statement was a hindrance in the progress of our state. It was like denying the benefit of the Narmada waters to the state," argued Manubhai Patel, president of the Multiplexes' Association in Gujarat.

But most are silent over the fact that the film star only spoke about rehabilitating people displaced by the project and did not comment on the height of the dam - an issue that lies at the heart of the controversy.

When asked about that, Patel evaded a direct answer, saying: "He should not have said anything, particularly when he didn't know anything."

Congress spokesperson Hasmukh Patel distanced the party from the issue: "This is nothing but the BJP's communal colour because the film star is a Muslim. The issue is a commercial one and not political. We have nothing to do with it."

Incidentally, youth Congress activists were part of the mob that had stalled the screening of "Rang De Basanti" a month ago.

Not all in the state feel that the film star committed a blunder.

"He had clarified his stand that he was not against the people of Gujarat. He didn't say anything about the dam height, which was the real problem then. So there is no point in asking for his apology," said a TV serial director Manish Dave.

"There is a section of people that is spreading wrong information that Aamir spoke against 50 million Gujaratis and his films should not be screened."

Fact remains that Aamir, by speaking for dam oustees and by criticising the Gujarat government for the Vadodara violence earlier this month, has definitely offended the ruling party, if not the people of Gujarat.

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