The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Governor opens door to Gracy

Mumbai, Aug. 7: Mohammad Fazal or Mohammed bin Tughlaq' Visionary or eyeing publicity' Eccentric or offensive'

The answers may be difficult, but going by the grey eminence of his peers at least, Maharashtra governor Fazal is an unusually colourful man. Last night, he had actor Gracy Singh perform a dance number in Raj Bhavan dressed in bright yellow.

He created history simultaneously, because this was the first time a Raj Bhavan had opened its doors to a Bollywood film mahurat.

To three, in fact. South-based producer Bala Giri launched three of his ventures — Tere Bin, White Land and Kisse Pyar Karoon — from the hallowed Jal Sabhaghar on the Raj Bhavan premises.

Gracy, who features in White Land, danced a garba while music composer Daboo Malik, to the accompaniment of artificial smoke and background girls, belted out his new numbers for the films.

Fazal, 82, did not bat an eyelid, but clapped approvingly. Congress MP Gurudas Kamat, NCP leader Sachin Ahir and actors Arshad Warsi and Shakti Kapoor were also present.

Fazal was to be present at the launch of the films, but there was a problem due to rain, said the producer. So when he suggested that the Raj Bhavan be the venue, Fazal readily agreed.

If the giant chandeliers trembled, it was because they, like entire Maharashtra, were reeling under the effect. Says activist-editor Nikhil Wagle: “I can only say that in these commercial times, our governor has also become part of the commercial world.”

But then Fazal has always been measured on the Richter scale. Since he took over in October 2002 from P.C. Alexander, he has started debates or organised events that have remained points of discussion.

Just two months ago, he erupted into the headlines for pushing a cause that no governor and very few Indians have taken up. On May 7, he wrote to the state government suggesting prostitution be legalised. Though a few NGOs support the idea, it has left all the political parties united in their horror at the idea.

The suggestion created an uproar in the ruling coalition with home minister R.R. Patil stating that legalising prostitution would allow a brothel in every street corner. He was joined by the Shiv Sena, who said it was a “foolish decision”.

But Fazal has some people on his side. People’s Health Organisation, an NGO that works on HIV awareness, said it “whole-heartedly supports the governor’s initiative to legalise prostitution”. The organisation met chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde last week to demand the legalisation of “prostitution by a licensing system to help contain child prostitution, forced prostitution and Devadasi system”.

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