Kamal Haasan is a towering figure in South Indian film industry, so too is Shah Rukh Khan in Hindi film industry, but they are certainly not superstars in the eyes of politicians. In fact, politicians seem to know the vulnerability of their profession well, as they have been made sacrificial lamb in what seems like a political gamble.
Coincidentally, both Kamal Haasan and Shah Rukh Khan are in the news for all the wrong reasons - the former for his film "Vishwaroopam" that is based on Taliban terrorists, and the latter for his article on his personal experiences post 26/11. And in both the cases, it is the politicians who either ignited the fire or added fuel to the fire.
"I don't know why I am being surrounded by a political conspiracy and by whom. I am not going to even hazard a guess - it is a fact, and my history proves it, I have been leaning neither towards right nor left. I have maintained my position. I have become an instrument in a political game. This has ruined me, drained me totally and threatens to destroy me," the 58-year-old actor told reporters on Wednesday.
Tamil Nadu government banned the screening of Kamal Haasan's latest film, "Vishwaroopam" in the state by passing an order under Section 144 of CrPC after Muslim organizations submitted a memorandum to restrict its screening, alleging that some scenes portray the community in bad light.
The film was also initially banned in Indian states like Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, and in Malayasia.
This was in spite of the clean chit issued by the censor board.
The Madras High Court on Tuesday paved the way for the screening of the film in Tamil Nadu after Justice K Venkataraman ruled in favour of Kamal Haasan. However, it didn't last long as the state government challenged the single-judge ruling, and a bench chaired by Justice Dharma Rao re-imposed the ban on Wednesday.
Disturbed by the controversy around his film, the 58-year-old actor on Wednesday threatened to leave Tamil Nadu, and even India if he can't find a secular place in the country.
"If I cannot find a secular place in India, then I will find it in some other country," the visibly hurt actor told reporters on Wednesday. "M F Husain did it, now Haasan will do it. I will seek a living in India or abroad. When I have nothing to lose, I might as well choose. I will look for a place to stay from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, but not Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu wants me out. If I can't find it here, I will look for it abroad. Nothing will change the fact that I am a Tamil and an Indian, only my passport will change," he added.
After keeping silent for days in spite of all the furore around her, Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalitha, who was also once an actress before foraying into politics, defended the decision of her government on Thursday, saying that the film had to be banned owing to law and order concerns in the state.
Interestingly, Tamil Nadu government opted to ban the film instead of providing security to the theatres that screen it. The CM's argument that the government can't provide security to all the 524 theatres in the state is another lame excuse, as she could have at least ensure the screening of the film in some theatres as a symbolic gesture.
The political game over "Vishwaroopam" is not over yet with Jayalalitha threatening to sue DMK chief Karunanidhi and some sections of the media for accusing her of banning the film with business motive.
Another Indian celebrity caught in political gamble is Shah Rukh Khan.
The 47-year-old actor wrote an article titled "Being a Khan" in Outlook Turning Point, in which he said that he "sometimes become the inadvertent object of political leaders." It led to heated war of words between India and Pakistan.
"I sometimes become the inadvertent object of political leaders who choose to make me a symbol of all that they think is wrong and unpatriotic about Muslims in India. There have been occasions when I have been accused of bearing allegiance to our neighbouring nation than my own country -- this even though I am an Indian whose father fought for the freedom of India. Rallies have been held where leaders have exhorted me to leave my home and return to what they refer to as my original homeland," he wrote.
"I became so sick of being mistaken for some crazed terrorist who coincidentally carries the same last name of mine that I made a film, subtly titled My Name is Khan (and I am not a terrorist) to prove a point. Ironically, I was interrogated at the airport for hours about my last name when I was going to present the film in America for the first time," he added.
Reacting to the article, Jamaat-ud-Dawa founder Hafiz Saeed invited the actor to move to Pakistan if he doesn't feel safe in India. Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik added fuel to the fire by stating that he would request India to provide security to the actor.
"He (Shahrukh) is born Indian and he would like to remain Indian, but I will request the government of India to please provide him security and I would like to request all Indian brothers and sisters who are all talking against Shah Rukh that they should know he is a movie star, he is loved as a star by the people of Pakistan and he is loved by the people of India, then why to create some kind of hate, let's bring love," Malik told reporters at a reception organised by High Commissioner Sharat Sabharwal to mark India's Republic Day.
India reacted strongly to Malik's statement with Home Secretary RK Singh stating that Pakistan should worry about protecting its own citizens.
"We are capable of looking after our own citizen, let him worry about the security of his country's citizen," said Singh.
Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut also said that Pakistan shouldn't interfere in India's affairs.
Following the turn of events over his article, Shah Rukh Khan made a public statement saying that he is a proud India, which is actually unnecessary as he has always been.
"As I said being an Indian and my parents' child is an unconditional accepted truth of my life and I am very proud of both," he said, adding, "We have an amazing democratic, free and secular way of life. In the environs that we live here in my country India, we have no safety issues regarding life or material. As a matter of fact it is irksome for me to clarify this non-existent issue. With respect I would like to say to anyone who is interpreting my views and offering advice regarding them, please read what I have written first."
He said that he didn't even "understand the basis of this controversy".
He may not understand because he has become the "inadvertent object of political leaders" again.