The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Manisha ‘nationality’ card to woo Sena

Mumbai, Sept. 9: Shashilal Nair has found a new mantra in his battle against Manisha Koirala. Nationality.

Hoping to do one better than his friend-turned-foe, the embattled director of Ek Chhotisi Love Story now says that the Shiv Sena should help him out, and possibly take his side in the bitter war of attrition, by virtue of sharing the same nationality, if nothing else.

Nair, who was earlier refused an audience with Balasaheb Thackeray despite his threat of fasting to death, says he has got an appointment with the Sena chief tomorrow.

“I will ask Balasaheb to first see the movie in order to appreciate the artistic efforts that have gone behind it,” Nair says, adding: “Then, there is also the issue of Manisha Koirala being a foreign national. It is sad that the Sena has extended support to Manisha, who is basically a Nepalese national, instead of supporting a son of the soil like me.”

Sena sources, however, said that Thackeray, who recently gave a patient hearing to Manisha, was not too keen to meet Nair. More importantly, with senior Sena leaders like MP Sanjay Nirupam impressing upon the party cadre that the Manisha-Nair issue is about women’s dignity and honour, Thackeray would keep away from expressing any kind of solidarity with the director.

Desperate to get an edge over Manisha, who seems to be winning the sympathy of both public and politicians, Nair also met deputy chief minister Chaggan Bhujbal and sought the latter’s help in his fight against the actress. He apprised Bhujbal of the high court order and how Manisha was trying to subvert it.

Bhujbal, however, refused to either give any assurances to Nair or take sides in the bitter battle. “The matter is in the court and it is for them to decide what has to be done eventually,” Bhujbal said, adding, “What we can do is provide security to theatres willing to screen the movie. We will not allow people to take law into their hands.”

Bandra police tonight questioned Manisha about the violent protest by Shiv Sainiks who on September 6 vandalised some cinema halls and forced theatre owners across the city to immediately stop screening the controversial film.

The actress turned up at the police station in response to summons and was questioned because the incidents occurred soon after she met Thackeray. Later, Manisha refused to give any details about the interrogation. Till now, 23 Sainiks have been arrested on charges of vandalism, trespassing and threatening theatre owners.

Manisha has also come down on Nair’s nationality bogey with surcharged venom. “It (her fight with Nair) is not about who is from where,” she said, adding: “It is about a woman’s struggle for dignity. I have been living in this country for years now and cannot become an outsider just because one man says so.”

“Even if you are an Indian, do you have the right to portray a woman in bad light and play with her honour'’’ Manisha asked.

“What about an actress’s rights' Does she have none just because she is acting for a director who is an Indian'”

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