Lucknow, March 5: Irrfan Khan plays a don named Raja Bhaiyya in his new film but says he is “embarrassed” about the controversy around his screen namesake.
The actor, in Lucknow to promote Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster Returns, found himself caught in a swirl of controversy over the real Raja Bhaiyya after the leader’s alleged involvement and resignation as minister over the murder of a cop.
“I am playing the role of a Raja Bhaiyya in the film. But I am embarrassed that it (the film’s promotion) has coincided with the controversy,” Irrfan said today about the Tigmanshu Dhulia crime thriller releasing this Friday.
The emphasis on “sheer coincidence” did not go unnoticed. Nor did the fact that the real Raja Bhaiyya, or Raghuraj Pratap Singh, might have become as much of an “embarrassment” for chief minister Akhilesh Yadav as he seemed to have become for actor Irrfan.
“Akhilesh Yadav seems to have been caught in an image crisis,” said Nitin Bharadwaj, an Allahabad poet. If Akhilesh is the image, Parveen is the face. The widow of slain DSP Zia-ul Haque has been demanding justice since Saturday when her husband was killed, pointing out how Raja Bhaiyya was free despite the chief minister’s promises that the suspects would be arrested.
Raja Bhaiyya iterated he wasn’t involved. “If I am unhappy with an officer, I will get him transferred, not murder him.”
Raja Bhaiyya may or may not have been unhappy with the DSP. But many are — with Akhilesh, who swept to power a year ago promising a crime-free Uttar Pradesh.
A former Samajwadi leader pointed out that the cop murder backlash had come as Akhilesh tried to rebuild his reputation from riots in April last year — just a month after he took charge — that had handed the Mayawati-led Opposition ammunition.
Mayawati was unsparing today, too, raising the murder in Parliament and demanding President’s rule in the state.
The latest controversy also threatens to undermine Akhilesh’s efforts to build “Brand Uttar Pradesh”. “He was good at the Agra CII Partnership Summit (in January this year) where he sounded convincing to many investors who had been sceptical about law and order issues,” the ex-Samajwadi leader said.
The National Election Watch, an election-tracking body, said in a report that more than half — 26 out of 48 — of Akhilesh’s ministers face criminal cases.
Some said Akhilesh could do well to recall April 2006. His father Mulayam Singh Yadav was in power then and Meher Bhargava, the wife of businessman Luv Bhargava, was shot as she tried to protect her daughter-in-law from being molested outside the Lucknow police chief’s office.
“The protests were one of the reasons that led to Mulayam’s defeat in the 2007 election,” said retired professor Vishesh Srivastava.