In India, Principle Triumphs Communal Emotions
Remember the great actor Kabir Bedi who used to act in The Bold and The Beautiful? He was the only one who said, "I defend to death Shah Rukh Khan's right to express himself because that is his constitutional right and nobody can stop him from using it."
Indeed it was a bold proclamation when no one else had the guts to stand by Khan in his battle against the Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray.
No one dares to cross Bal Thackeray. The top gun of the Hindu right-wing party, who is the undeclared king of Mumbai. Shah Rukh, the owner of IPL cricket team Kolkata Knight Riders, made a passing comment that Pakistani cricketers should also be given a chance in the IPL. It was seemingly a harmless opinion until Thackeray took an exception to it. He questioned Khan's patriotism and sought a public apology from him. He also threatened to disrupt all showings of Khan's upcoming movie My Name Is Khan in Mumbai.
Many Bollywood celebrities chose to remain silent when they were approached by reporters to comment on the issue. Even Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan followed other's suit.
Then support came from an unexpected quarter. Raj Shrikant Thackeray, the founder president of hardline Marathi political party, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) defied his own uncle Bal Thackeray and defended Khan.
Slowly, mass support started building up in support of Khan. The Sweet Lady of Bollywood, Preity Zinta said, "Shah Rukh is the most secular and the most fair guy I know! It's unfair to judge his movie based on his opinions!” Another Bollywood star, Anupam Kher, added, "Mr P Chidambaram was displeased too for not including Pak players in IPL. No outcry about it. May be (because) he is the Home Minister. You need guts to go for him."
Then there was avalanche of outpouring in support of SRK, coming from every nook and corner of India. Even the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the paternal organization to which Shiv Sena belongs, came out in support of the star. It was no longer an issue of the Hindus or the Muslims. The Indians proved once again the secular spirit in them is more than skin deep, and when the sun sets the principle plays stronger function than base communal feelings.
The film opened in Mumbai to mixed success barring a few minor disruptions. And it is gaining strength in other parts of India and rest of the world.