Hindu nationalists tore up posters and stoned movie theaters to block Friday’s premiere of a movie starring Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan because he recently spoke in support of Pakistani cricketers, police said.
More than 21,000 police guarded more than 60 theaters in Mumbai, India’s entertainment capital.
At first, only two multiplexes screened the first shows of the movie and the rest responded to a boycott called by Shiv Sena, a Mumbai-centered political party known for regional chauvinism and Hindu fundamentalism.
However, most theaters began screening the movie later Friday, said Himanshu Roy, a joint commissioner of police.
Nearly 150 Shiv Sena workers hurled stones and even tried to force their way inside some theaters, but police beat back the protesters, Roy said.
In their Mumbai strongholds, the workers also forced businesses to shut. Police detained at least 49 protesters, Roy told The Associated Press.
Shiv Sena — which means Shiva’s Army — has branded Khan a traitor for expressing regret that no cricketers from India’s archrival Pakistan were chosen to participate in next month’s Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament.
The party will allow screenings only after Khan apologizes, said Manohar Joshi, a senior Shiv Sena leader who led a group of supporters to a movie theater.
Khan, who is Muslim, said he was hurt by the reaction and just wants the film to be shown.
“I really want everybody to be happy when they see my film, and I’ll make sure by the time I get back to India that everybody is happy,” Khan said at a news conference at the Berlin film festival, where “My Name Is Khan” was showing out of competition.
“I get very disturbed and scared and emotionally hurt when things like this happen, and I have no problems meeting up anyone, having a chat with them and saying, ’listen, it’s just a film, enjoy yourself, have a good laugh and have fun,”’ Khan said.
“I have no ideological issue with anyone in this world. I am a mere actor,” he said. “I’m genuinely sorry if it hurts anyone. I’m not in the business of hurting — I’m in the business of making people happy.”
“There’ll always be ideologies which differ, in cinema, in theater, in real life, in attitude, and we all have to accept it, and we have to all live with it and we have to live peacefully with it,” Khan said.
“My Name is Khan,” which opened across India on Friday, is set in the United States against the backdrop of the 9/11 attacks and traces the journey of a Muslim man who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome.
Police officer Roy said more than 1,100 Hindu nationalists were detained this week in Mumbai in an attempt to prevent disruption of the film’s screenings.
Fearing violence, several theaters stopped advance ticket sales.
Neighboring India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence six decades ago.
This week, the two governments agreed to hold their first formal talks since a 2008 terror attack on Mumbai that New Delhi blamed on Pakistan-based Islamic militants.