The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Town that ‘courts’ celebs
- From Ravi to Rai, Indore’s petition brigade spares none

Indore, Dec. 28: If you are a celebrity, chances are you will meet your day of judgment in Indore.

Madhya Pradesh’s commercial capital is fast earning a reputation of being the nation’s conscience-keeper. Ask Ravi Shastri, Aishwarya Rai, Dharmendra, M.F. Husain and Mamta Kulkarni, and they’ll tell you why. All of them have cases pending against them in one, or more, of the town’s musty courts.

Last week, Shastri literally got a taste of the town. Why' Because Manoj Malpani heard him confess on TV that he relishes biltong, a dish made from dried beef.

In no time, Malpani’s lawyer, Rajendra Sharma, was before judicial magistrate R.K. Batham, seeking action under Sections 295A and 298A of the IPC against the cricketer-turned-TV commentator — incidentally, also a Brahmin — for hurting religious sentiments. The court will hear the case again on January 5.

Early this month, Shailendra Dwivedi, an Indore lawyer, moved a “public interest” litigation against Aishwarya and Hrithik Roshan for locking lips in Dhoom-2. This case was also filed in Batham’s court under Sections 292 (vulgarity) and 509 (derogatory to women) of the IPC.

“Ash and Hrithik are portraying vulgarity in our culture. I went to see the film with my child and it was quite embarrassing. The least they could have done was certify this as an adult film. This is not right according to our culture.”

An unfazed Hrithik asserts there’s nothing wrong. Asked about Dwivedi, he said in an interview: “He’s a lawyer sitting in his office and enjoying every bit of the limelight. I believe he’s excited about a TV camera in his office. It’s like a burst of glory in his life..”

Some in Indore also consider Dwivedi a publicity monger. Ram Naresh Aggarwal, a trader at Sarafa Bazaar, recalls that the lawyer had filed a case against director J.P. Dutta after the Tricolour was shown wrongly draped on the coffins of soldiers in LoC Kargil. Dwivedi is also among the petitioners who sued M.F. Husain for drawing Hindu goddesses in the nude.

In 2004, Dharmendra had a brush with Indore’s itch for a courtroom bout — as a BJP candidate in the Lok Sabha elections from Bikaner. Indore’s legal eagles clawed him with allegations that he’d concealed information about a “change of name and religion” in his marriage to Hema Malini. The case, filed by local Congress leaders, was dismissed, but not before it had given the actor sleepless nights.

Another Congress leader, Akhtar Baig, had allegedly offered lakhs to anyone who could chop off Husain’s hands. Baig was also instrumental in getting an arrest warrant against him for allegedly painting a nude Bharat Mata. Husain went to school in Indore.

Actress Mamta Kulkarni also grabbed the attention — and long-drawn cases — lavished by Indore’s lawyers for “exposing” too much skin on the cover of a film magazine.

So, what’s the secret behind Indore’s love affair with courts' Virendra Pal Singh, a psychiatrist with a local hospital, says beyond the temptation to derive personal mileage, one must look at Indore’s profile. “The city is in a transitory phase, from a traditional to a metropolitan culture. Some ‘enlightened’ citizens can’t stomach cultural changes taking place in films and sports.”

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