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Asha in Pak turnaround

Mumbai, Jan. 21: Pakistan has done what Raj Thackeray couldn’t.

Asha Bhosle, who last year appeared on a reality show with Pakistani singers in a public snub to the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief, has said artistes from India’s western neighbour are “not welcome” after “what happened” at the Line of Control.

The singer’s comments yesterday came less than a fortnight after the mutilation of an Indian soldier, said to have been beheaded by Pakistani troops who breached the LoC. Pakistan has denied the charge.

Asha, who made a rare public appearance since her daughter’s suicide a few months ago, said many Pakistani artistes had visited India in the past and made their careers. “But what happened at the LoC was wrong. On this background, people should not welcome Pakistani artistes,” she said.

“Any art should not be restrained by caste and religion. I have always welcomed Pakistani artistes warmly. So many Pakistani artistes have visited India in the past, but if they don’t respect our feelings, why should we welcome them?” she was quoted as saying by local newspapers.

Asha was speaking at a media conference in Pune to promote the forthcoming Hindi film Mai, where she plays the central role of a mother. The film, which co-stars Anupam Kher and Padmini Kolhapure, is scheduled for release on February 1.

In August last year, Asha had come under attack from MNS chief Raj for supporting the entry of Pakistani artistes for performances in Mumbai.

Asha, who appeared at a media conference to promote the reality show Sur Kshetra along with Pakistani Sufi singer Abida Parveen and Bangladeshi singer Runa Laila, had said she went by the Sanskrit phrase “Atithi devo bhava” (a guest is a god), which symbolised the Indian ethos.

It drew a sharp retort from Raj, who said: “Why did she not say the same thing to welcome (the now executed 26/11 gunman Ajmal) Kasab when he was arrested?”

Addressing an MNS convention, he said: “Ashatai should tell us why she agreed to participate in the (reality) programme. She should clarify whether it is Atithi devo bhava or paisa devo bhava (money is god).”

On Mai, Asha, who appeared as a 10-year-old in a Marathi film in 1942, said the film conveys how children should respect their parents.

“The central character of the mother is referred to as Mai in the film and we all Mangeshkar siblings used to refer to our own mother as Mai. This was yet another reason to accept the role,” she said.

The singer, whose daughter Varsha committed suicide in October last year, said she plays a mother who passes through different phases as she grows old. “It reminded me of my own life struggle.”

On Saturday night, Asha performed at Yashwantrao Chavan auditorium in Pune to raise funds for a hospital named after her mother.

She donated Rs 1.36 crore to set up a wing for children to be named after her daughter.