Friday, November 20, 2009

Un-Indian' Bollywood promo sparks protests

Promotional posters for a new Bollywood thriller, showing leading actress Kareena Kapoor from behind and apparently naked from the waist up, have got some people's backs up in India.

"Kurbaan" (Sacrifice) hits screens in India and more than 25 countries around the world on Friday.

And has attracted intense interest because Kapoor and leading man Saif Ali Khan are a couple in real life.
But the Shiv Sena, a hardline Hindu nationalist group, have called the poster and the love scene from which it was taken an affront to Indian values.

Activists ripped down posters near the actress's home in north Mumbai and even painted a sari onto her image on one roadside ad, local newspaper reports said. Last month, Shiv Sena offshoot the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) complained about references to Bombay in the comedy "Wake Up Sid", which was also produced by filmmaker Karan Johar.

The Shiv Sena, which like the MNS claims to champion the rights of local people and the Marathi language, changed the name of the city to Mumbai when they held power in the Maharashtra state government in the mid-1990s.

"Kurbaan", which Indian censors have given an adults only or "A" rating because of its partial nudity, is a romantic thriller set against the backdrop of global terror. Kapoor plays a university teacher who moves to New York and meets a professor, played by Khan, 39, whose father, Mansoor Ali Khan, the Nawab (Muslim prince) of Pataudi captained India's cricketers in the 1960s.

In the wake of the protests, the original newspaper advertisements and billboards have been largely replaced with a less provocative image for conservative India. A more demure Kapoor -- who has also raised eyebrows for living with Khan without being married -- is now seen wearing a headscarf. Khan remains bare-chested but in soft focus, with a bloody flesh wound on his torso.

Director Rensil D'Silva said: "The film talks about politics and the impact of Islam on Western countries. At the same time I would say it has romance and thrill elements too." He also said he had no hesitation about picking Kapoor and Khan, who are considered among Bollywood's hottest couples and who have been dubbed "Saifeena" by India's entertainment press.

"I took them because they fitted the roles. You will see the film and believe it because they have incredible on screen chemistry," D'Silva added. Kapoor, 29, told English-language daily The Hindustan Times last week that it was inevitable that the love scene would set tongues wagging.

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