Sparks fly as Bollywood, cricket and politics collide

MUMBAI, February 4, 2010 (AFP) – India’s twin obsessions of cricket and Bollywood are at the heart of a bitter row that has broken out between the country’s top film star and a radical right-wing party in the movie capital Mumbai. The dispute, which has seen the ultra Hindu-nationalist Shiv Sena party threatening to scupper the release of Shah Rukh Khan’s latest blockbuster, has its roots in a diplomatic spat over the Indian Premier League (IPL).

No Pakistani player was bought by the eight IPL clubs during an auction last month for this year’s edition of the Twenty20 cricket tournament, despite the Pakistan team being the reigning world champions in the format.

The perceived snub triggered widespread protests in Pakistan with effigies of IPL chief Lalit Modi being burnt on the streets of Lahore, condemnation from politicians and threats of boycotts from other Pakistani sports teams.

Khan, whose parents were born in what is now Pakistan and who co-owns one of the IPL franchises, the Kolkata Knight Riders, later said he regretted the controversy and supported the inclusion of Pakistani players.

“Pakistan is a great neighbour to have. We are great neighbours. They are good neighbours. Let us love each other,”