Nawazuddin Siddiqui, one of the most talented actors currently in Bollywood, had to opt out of a Ram Leela programme because a few members of the Shiv Sena objected to a "Muslim actor playing a character in Ram Leela."
Siddiqui took to Twitter to express his disappointment on not being a part of Ram Leela this year. "My childhood dream could not come true, but will definitely be a part of Ramleela next year," he tweeted, along with his rehearsal video.
On Tuesday, Ram Leela artists from Uttar Pradesh's Budhana town approached Siddiqui to attend the function as a guest. However, instead of watching Ram Leela as a guest Siddiqui asked the artists if he could play a character. On Wednesday, the artists arranged for him to play Mareech. The actor agreed to play the role and rehearsed his lines.
However, on Wednesday night, a few members of the local unit of Shiv Sena protested against Siddiqui's performance forcing him to opt out of the show.
"In the 50-60 year history of the Budhana Ramlila, no Muslim artist has set foot on the stage. We couldn't allow that now. It's about tradition. On top of that, it is wrong on the part of the Ramlila organisers to chuck out the actor who was initially supposed to play Mareech at the last minute, just so that they could have a famous actor on stage. Moreover, Nawazuddin is a disputed figure here. His sister-in-law has levelled allegations of assault and dowry harassment against him. We shouldn't have such a person associated with the Ramlila," Mukesh Sharma, Shiv Sena's Muzaffarnagar vice president, told the Times of India.
However, the Ram Leela artists have denied this. Rajesh Sharma, the director of the Ram Leela, said that Muslims have been a part of the show in the form of crew members, sound artists, set designers and musicians.
"Over the years, many Muslims have been part of the show, though they may not have acted on stage. They have been part of background crew, sound artists, set designers, musicians etc. Of the Rs 5 lakh needed for the 12-day show, at least Rs 30,000 comes in the form of donations from Muslim families," Sharma told the Indian Express.
Meanwhile, the reports of Siddiqui being forced out of Ram Leela has taken social media by storm. Several members of the film industry and social media users expressed disappointment on Twitter.
Check out the tweets below:
This is MISERABLE. So next SRK can't be Raj, Salman Khan can't be Prem and Aamir Khan can't be Phogat. What are we doing to this country??? pic.twitter.com/PzKXDl9YTW— Mini Mathur (@minimathur) October 7, 2016