Saturday, June 5, 2010

Salman Stands by Decision to be in Colombo

Bollywood stars who have flocked to Colombo defying calls to boycott Sri Lanka over the killings of Tamils say they have no regrets.

Leading actors and singers attending the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards event say their Sri Lanka visit does not mean they support the government here or any ethnic community.

Salman Khan said the threat to ban films of stars just because they showed up in Colombo was absurd.

"This way we won't be able to visit Kashmir, Gujarat or Afghanistan. If our people are in difficulty, we should not abandon them," said the actor who enjoys a huge fan following in Sri Lanka.

When Sri Lanka was declared the venue for IIFA 2010 by Wizcraft, Tamil groups started a protest and asked everyone to either boycott it or change the venue.

According to them, Sri Lanka needed to be shunned as its military had killed Tamils in large numbers last year in the war that led to the bloody decimation of the Tamil Tigers.

The South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce announced a boycott of Colombo by southern actors and filmmakers and said it would boycott the Bollywood stars who went to Sri Lanka as well as their movies.

The threat did work.

IIFA brand ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, his son Abhishek and daughter-in-law Aishwarya as well as Shah Rukh Khan -- among the biggest names in Bollywood -- have stayed away from the event.

Salman, the brand ambassador of IIFA's charity initiative, feels the Bachchans should have made it to Colombo.

"Everyone who belongs to the film industry should have attended IIFA. They could have come together to extend help to Sri Lankans," he said.

Others echoed his sentiments.

"Cinema is all about human relationships and we as artists stand in bridging gaps... The idea of creating more gaps is not the right thing," Oscar winning Indian sound designer Resul Pookutty told IANS.

Said Boman Irani: "I can't compel people to try and understand what we are trying to do here. Nothing is permanent, so I'm sure everything will be fine."

Singer Mohit Chauhan agreed: "Music and art do not recognize the barrier of politics. Art and creativity are free from such shackles. As an artist, I believe we should be allowed to travel all over the world."

Actor Sharman Joshi explained why he was in Sri Lanka.

"I understand there were protests. I understand many lives were involved and it's a very sensitive issue. At the same time what's very important is the quickest and fastest possible way of creating that bond again."

The organisers say they did no wrong in picking Sri Lanka as the venue for IIFA for an annual event that in the past has been held in Malaysia and South Africa.

"We would not have been here today if we didn't know (that) IIFA would help bridge the gap (between warring groups)," said Sabbas Joseph, one of the directors of Wizcraft.

The IIFA main event will be held on June 5.