Salman Khan and a clash in a Patna theatre

Jul 20, 2005 Subhash K. Jha, Jul 20


Mumbai, July 20 (IANS) A fracas at a Patna theatre screening Salman Khan's latest "Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya" between two groups, one storming the movie hall and the other valiantly defending 'Salman bhai', has left the owner stunned.

Suman Sinha, owner of the Regent theatre in Patna, is still reeling from shock after representatives of a saffron-coloured party stormed the hall screening the film, released a day after a newspaper published alleged conversations between Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai. It got worse when youths from a nearby Muslim locality suddenly showed up shouting "Salman bhai Zindabad".

Describing it as a bizarre experience, Sinha said: "I don't know where the boys showed up from. Within minutes they cordoned off the lobby of the theatre, shouting pro-Salman slogans. One of them came forward and challenged the agitators, 'Salmanbhai ke picture ko koi choo ke to dekhe. Khoon ki nadiyan behengi agar kissi ne haath lagaaya. (Let anyone try and touch Salmanbhai's picture. Rivers of blood will flow if someone touches the film).'

"It was a strange and bizarre phenomenon. In my 25 years of experience in this business I have never seen this happening before."

Hindi cinema has always prided itself for spreading secular values.

It mattered little if Naushad composed and Mohammed Rafi sang the religious hymn "Man tarpat hari darshan" in "Baiju Bawra", or that Shah Rukh Khan played Asoka. Inversely it makes no difference if Hrithik Roshan is all set to play Prince Akbar, just like Prithviraj Kapoor had done in "Mughal-e-Azam".

If we had to look for secular values we had to look no further than the film industry.

Has the scandal over Salman Khan's alleged abusive phone conversations with Aishwarya Rai that also revealed underworld links, polarised the movie-going audience? Alarmingly enough, this could be the case.

In the meanwhile, "Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya" has become a raging hit in several parts of the country. Distributors in Punjab, Bihar, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh confirm the film's certifiable success.

Says the jubilant director, David Dhawan: "Family audiences did get scared of the initial protests against Salman. But once the Maharashtra government made it clear to the public that protests against Salman shouldn't be used as a pretext to hamper the screening of the film, everything went back to normal. Distributors from all over the country are calling to give me news of mind blowing collections."

Patna exhibitor Suman Sinha confirms: "To the audience it made no difference if Salman had said nasty things to Aishwarya four years ago. In fact, I feel the controversy and scandal finally added to the film's box office collections."

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