ABC's Ammu Kannampilly from London:
Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan may have had enough of the fuss surrounding his detention at Newark airport Friday night, but Indians seem in no mood to forgive and forget, with some angry fans burning U.S. flags in the northern city of Allahabad, shouting slogans in the capital New Delhi, and venting their frustration in the blogosphere.
Khan, 44, was on this way to attend an event at the Trump Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City, and apologized to fans for keeping them waiting, saying “I'm sorry if I made you wait but I had a few issues at the airport. I was stopped and questioned for a couple of hours. It's a big drag because they kept telling me my name is very common, and I kept telling them, my name is Shah Rukh. I've never even met anyone whose name is Shah Rukh. Later, I realised that they were pissed off because I'm Khan."
The fracas could not have erupted at a better or worse time, depending on one’s perspective, as Khan’s upcoming film, “My Name Is Khan” deals with the issue of racial profiling in the U.S. after the 9/11 attacks.
U.S. customs officials told The Associated Press that Khan was questioned as part of a routine process that took 66 minutes. Spokesman Elmer Camacho said the actor was not detained, but the interrogation “took a little longer because his bag was lost by the airline.” The somewhat mollified star later told the AP Saturday that he understood it was “a procedure that needs to be followed, but an unfortunate procedure.”
As news of the incident made its way across the blogosphere, leading the news on Indian television channels and newspapers, Khan’s Bollywood brethren joined the fray, with former Miss World and Bollywood actress, Priyanka Chopra tweeting that it was "Shocking, disturbing n downright disgraceful. It's such behavior that fuels hatred and racism. SRK's a world figure for God's sake. GET REAL!”
Khan’s friend, Bollywood filmmaker and director of “My Name Is Khan,” Karan Johar said on his Twitter feed that he was “shocked and upset…feeling terrible for shah rukh.” Even Indian politicians got involved, with Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni telling reporter Saturday that India should adopt a 'tit-for-tat' policy towards American visitors.
"I am of the opinion that the way we are frisked, for example I too was frisked, we should also do the same to them," an angry Soni said.
Many South Asians and South Asian American bloggers chimed in sharing their own experiences of being frisked at U.S. airports, on popular blog, Sepia Mutiny, blogger Phillygrrl wrote, “Another case of mistaken identity? Or just the usual profiling? When my family travels, they factor in an extra few hours because it’s inevitable that one of my brothers, cousins or uncles is going to be pulled to the side and questioned. So it’s not really surprising to hear that Bollywood stars aren’t immune from such treatment.”
But some Indian bloggers criticized Khan for “making a big deal” of the matter. Anand Soondas, Chandigarh-based editor of the Indian newspaper, The Times of India, said on his blog that, “instead of making SRK’s detention an issue, we should think of upgrading our own security set-up,” adding that Indians needed to get over the “culture of fawning” over celebrities and other VIPs.
Popular Indian novelist Shobhaa De wrote on her blog that “those guys at immigration are doing their jobs – that’s it. What may appear irrational and sadistic to visitors is nothing more than a strict drill security agencies have to adhere to – for the overall safety of the world.”
Still others, like Mumbai-based radio jockey, columnist and blogger, Malini Agarwal speculated that the whole affair has helped to drum up publicity for Khan’s next release, saying “I realize it would be pretty preposterous to even speculate that U.S. immigration would have willingly played along for a publicity stunt…but it sure seems like brilliant timing! (I mean if you’re totally innocent and are by chance going to be detained for two hours by U.S. immigration because your name is Khan, you’d rather it happens when you’re about to appear in a movie about racial profiling titled My Name is Khan no?!)”
“I’m just saying, look at the glass as half full :)” Agarwal added impishly.
“My Name Is Khan” is due to hit screens in February, and U.S. company, Fox Studios will market and distribute the film in India and overseas. The film reportedly sees Khan’s character trying to meet President Obama to secure his release from U.S. custody.
Now, after this fracas, some in India are wondering if Khan will be next to attend Obama’s (in)famous beer summit.