MUMBAI (Reuters) - Bollywood is jittery over the fate of “My Name Is Khan”, one of its biggest films of the year, with lead actor Shah Rukh Khan facing the ire of the Shiv Sena.
The hardline Hindu group has threatened to disrupt Mumbai screenings of the film, which releases Feb. 12, if Khan does not apologise for backing the participation of Pakistani cricketers in the Indian Premier League.
Khan, who is on a promotional tour in New York and London, has said he stood by his statement even though Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray has warned that “My Name Is Khan” would not be allowed to run in Mumbai.
“It is very important that this film releases, not only for Bollywood, because it is looking for a good start to the year, but also because this is being distributed by a Hollywood studio Fox Star,” says trade analyst Vajir Singh.
“Everyone wants this to work.”
Fox Star Studios bought the distribution rights for “My Name Is Khan”, in what is said to be the biggest distribution deal in Bollywood, but neither filmmaker Karan Johar nor the studio have revealed any figures.
“This is a very important film for us, because it is our first big Bollywood release, and comes on the heels of the success of ‘Avatar’,” Fox Star Studios CEO Vijay Singh told Reuters earlier this week.
Trade analysts say there is at least 1.2 billion rupees riding on the film and if the Mumbai-Maharashtra circuit is affected, it would affect almost 25 percent of the film’s cinema revenues.
“‘My Name is Khan’ is an A-list film and its success will mean a lot for the industry,” Vajir Singh said.
“The stakes are high and that is why everyone is hopeful that the crisis will be resolved.”
But no one’s taking chances. Cinema owners are cagey about whether they will screen the film.
“We will not screen the film unless all issues connected with it are resolved,” said Shunali Shroff of Fame Cinemas, which owns several properties in Mumbai.
In the film, Shah Rukh Khan plays a man with Asperger’s Syndrome who is a victim of racial bias in the U.S. in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.