Shah Rukh ‘My Name Is Khan’ detained at US airport - over Khan name (Roundup)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Shahrukh Khan at newark wants to frisk Angelina JolieNEW YORK/NEW DELHI - In an ironic twist of fate, Bollywood icon Shah Rukh Khan, whose latest film “My Name is Khan” has been shot in the US, was Saturday questioned for two hours at Newark airport over his surname and was freed only after Indian diplomats intervened.

The Indian government and the entertainment industry reacted strongly after the 43-year-old superstar, named by Newsweek last year as one of the world’s 50 most powerful men, revealed how he was detained and stopped from even using his cellphone.

Speaking to CNN-IBN channel on telephone from the US, Shah Rukh appeared to shrug off the embarrassing episode saying he had suffered similar treatment previously too.

shahrukh khan fansShah Rukh had been in the US for quite some time shooting “My Name Is Khan”. The film is about a Muslim (Shah Rukh Khan) who suffers from Asperger syndrome, a form of autism which impacts social interaction abilities. He is arrested as a suspected terrorist in post-9/11 Los Angeles after the authorities mistake his disability for suspicious behaviour. Also starring Kajol, the film is scheduled for a 2010 release.

Shah Rukh had been in India for a while and was on his way to Chicago to attend an event related to India’s Independence Day when the Newark incident happened.

“They checked me because I was an Asian They wanted to know why I came to the US and where I am staying,” Shah Rukh said.

Shah Rukh’s manager Niloufer Qureshi earlier told IANS: “He was detained because his surname is Khan. He was kept until officials from the Indian embassy intervened.”

Asked about the same, Shah Rukh, who is married to Gauri Chibber, a Hindu, said: “Certain countries have issues with my name.” He quickly added: “I am very proud of my name.”

In New Delhi, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vishnu Prakash said India has taken up the issue with the US embassy and the consul general of India in New York is in touch with Shah Rukh.

“The matter was taken up with the US embassy,” Prakash said.

In a statement, US Ambassador to India Timothy J. Roemer said: “We are trying to ascertain the facts of the case - to understand what took place.”

Shah Rukh was a “global icon” and “he is a very welcome guest in the United States. Many Americans love his films,” the envoy added.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni denounced Shah Rukh’s detention in no uncertain terms.

“I don’t think that this manner of detaining (in the name of religion) is justified. But in the US, several examples have surfaced where frisking takes place more than required,” she told reporters in New Delhi. “There should be a tit for tat response.”

Describing Shah Rukh as the “pride of India”, Overseas Indian Affairs Minster Vayalar Ravi expressed surprise he was detained at the airport.

“Shah Rukh Khan is the pride of India. I am quite surprised that he was detained in the Newark airport,” Ravi told IANS on the phone from Kochi.

Bollywood filmmaker Karan Johar, a close friend of Shah Rukh, said in Mumbai: “I am shocked and upset. I am feeling terrible.”

Others like Priyanka Chopra and filmmaker Kabir Khan too have expressed concern towards the incident.

Shah Rukh admitted that he became “greatly worried” as the American officials piled him with questions — mainly about his travel to the US.

The actor said a large number of Indians, including organisers of the Chicago event, were waiting outside at the airport to receive him. Indian diplomats came to his rescue when they heard about his plight.

He said it was ironic that the incident happened on the eve of Aug 15 — when freedom is celebrated by Indians.

“I personally feel it is over and done,” he said, sounding conciliatory. Asked if he felt like reacting in a similar way, he replied: “If they want I can frisk Angelina Jolie when she is here (India).”

Quid pro quo, eh Shahrukh? We would be happy to help.

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