The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Spare us, cries Sush set

Mumbai, July 16: Sushmita Sen strode to her buddy’s and Bollywood’s defence today.

Salman Khan’s Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya co-star visited the BJP headquarters at the head of a large team and pleaded with Gopinath Munde that the film’s and her fraternity’s fortunes should not be hit because of the “Sal-Ashious tapes”.

Since a purported taped phone conversation between Salman and Aishwarya Rai four years ago broke in the media this week, the BJP and its offshoots have been disrupting the screening of the Salman starrer.

Sushmita’s plea was, however, not at the cost of close friend Salman. “We are Indians first and then film personalities, and any Indian would not indulge in activities that are against the country,” she said, in a possible reference to Salman’s alleged links with the underworld.

But she was quick to do a balancing act: “The film industry is going through a bad phase. We have not come here for a particular person. If he is guilty, let him be punished.”

Maine director David Dhawan, who was in Sushmita’s team of over 30, expressed fears that the film could be hit by the alleged expose.

“Those who have seen the film have liked it. But the protests have affected nearly 150 prints,” he said, adding the “film will be finished” by the time the state makes a statement.

Pahlaj Nihalani, president of the Association of Motion Pictures and Television Programme Producers, told Munde Salman alone was not associated with the film. There were others involved, hence it should be spared, he said.

The entire film industry was suffering and being victimised because of one person, he added.

Munde assured the team he would ensure the protests are tempered. “I have not given directions for violent protests. I will ask the demonstrators not to enter cinema halls, but peaceful protests will continue.

“We are not against the film but the actor who allegedly has links with the underworld,” he said.

This time, Bollywood is three days too late with its crusade. Usually, at the slightest hint of trouble, film stars knock on politicians’ doors.

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