MUMBAI: With folded hands, Bollywood’s elder citizen Amitabh Bachchan excused himself from being drawn into the controversy rocking the film industry: whether Pakistani artistes should be allowed to work here in the context of the terror attack on the Uri Army base loast month.
Sunday was the actor’s 74th birthday, so when reporters asked him the question that has been put to just about every notable figure in the film frat, the star with the teflon image took the plea that it wasn’t the occasion for such questions. "With folded hands I request you that this is not the time and I don't think it is right to put forward these questions," he said.
However, he went on to place on record his support for the armed forces. “The nation is incensed. The people of this country are very angry at the incidents that are happening at our borders. I think it is time to show solidarity with our jawans for sacrificing their lives so that you and me can be safe here,” Bachchan said.
The same question has been put to a number of senior actors in Bollywood, and some like Om Puri who questioned the present martial mood in the country have been pilloried for breaking ranks with the armed forces. Faced with a similar boobytrapped question, Bachchan sidestepped it with practiced ease: "Who said what and why, where and how, this is not the time for it,” he said.
Steering clear of controversy is not new to the former Angry Young Man. Past furores like the beef ban, or the attacks on people from UP in Mumbai bounced off his Teflon coating. He dodged questions about the first by saying he didn’t know about the ban. In an interview with a TV channel last year, Bachchan spoke of not being too enthusiastic about giving his opinions on every passing issue: “I feel vulnerable. I am scared of consequences. I think about my own life and that of my own children,” he said.
The question of allowing Pakistani actors to work in India has divided Bollywood down the middle. Who stands where?
NO, BAN ‘EM
Ajay Devgn: Said he won’t “share screen space” with Pak artistes: “I don't care if my film doesn't release in Pakistan. They are earning here but are sticking by their nation.”
Akshay Kumar: He said, “Arey sharam karo! These debates can happen later. How are the families of our jawans worried whether should artiste is banned or not?”
Anupam Kher: As ever, he took the ‘my country right or wrong’ line: “When it comes to my country and my jawaans (soldiers), I cannot be diplomatic. I’m biased.”
Hema Malini: The MP from Mathura toed the party line: "I do not support Pakistani artistes working here. Jai Hind!"
FOR ART’S SAKE
Om Puri: Veteran parallel cinema star stepped on a landmine: “I have visited Pakistan six times. Pakistani artists are not terrorists.”
Mahesh Bhatt: Struck a give peace a chance poose: Tweeted a photograph of himself holding a handwritten appeal for peace between Indian and Pakistan.
Salman Khan: Took his shirt off for art: “They are artistes not terrorists. It’s the government who gives them permits and visas.
Nagesh Kukunoor: Came out in support of Pakistani actors: “Banning artistes will not change the situation.”