Bollywood backs Amitabh’s school in Uttar Pradesh

February 20th, 2008 - 9:32 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Raj Thackeray
By Subhash K. Jha
Mumbai, Feb 20 (IANS) Though Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan has been under fire from Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) for building a girls’ school in Uttar Pradesh’s Barabanki district named after daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai, he has found plenty of backers in the film industry. Here’s what some of Bollywood’s prominent personalities had to say about the issue, which was in the spotlight last fortnight.

Om Puri: It’s very sad and ridiculous to pick on Amitabh Bachchan and to question him in democratic India about the source of his income and where he is putting his money. As a film person, I do understand that one needs to plough back some money into movies. But why question something as noble as opening a school in an under-developed area?

To pick on him is nothing but arm-twisting. And he’s an easy target. An industrialist doing the same thing wouldn’t be targeted. But targeting a Bachchan means immediate publicity and this is nothing but a publicity stunt to get Marathi votes.

If people from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are working in Mumbai, they’re doing so because they’re qualified for the job. No one has favoured them. In fact, Maharashtrians are favoured in many services. Amitabh doesn’t give a damn.

Preity Zinta: It’s so sad that this is happening in this day and age when the globe has shrunk to an oyster and every country in the world is a hop away. Why are we talking about state-wise existence?

Amit-ji belongs to the entire country. Technically, even I’m not a Mumbaikar. I come from Shimla, but I’ve never felt like an outsider. I come from an army background where as child I moved from city to city all over the country with my parents without feeling homeless. My brother fought the Kargil war and we back home in Simla held our breath for the country, not for ourselves.

If Amit-ji is building a girls’ school in Uttar Pradesh, it’s good. We need many more such schools in the country. Give us the land, we’ll build one in Mumbai. Ironically, I’m off to north India for a trip. And no I’m not fleeing Mumbai, ha ha…

Farhan Akhtar: In a census conducted in 2001, the female literacy rate in Maharashtra was 67.51 percent whereas the equivalent figure in Uttar Pradesh was 42.98 percent. By establishing a girls’ school in Uttar Pradesh, Mr Bachchan has made a gesture that in fact needs to be applauded by any person who values progress in this country. Jai Hind!

Govinda: Amit-ji is among the handful of national icons in the country. If the comment about his building a school is political then we need to solve it through discussion. Questions about motives, no matter how noble, have been put forward even to the gods in our mythology. Uttar Pradesh is where his roots are. If he’s displaying his affection for his mother what’s the harm?

However, a political party has the right to question a cultural or a national issue. But at the same time, we should encourage any party or individual that thinks of the country’s progress. And no one has the right to make a personal comment on Amit-ji.

It’s common practice to harass celebrities. When I am in such situations, I feel very isolated. Amit-ji has the whole nation standing up for him. I’d never want any political issue to tarnish his image. Sure, he can be questioned for his public actions, but building a school or a hospital should be above politics.

Hema Malini: As Amit-ji belongs to Uttar Pradesh, there’s nothing wrong with him being fond of the state. Why can’t these people leave him alone and let him exercise his democratic right to live and do what he wants?

Sujoy Ghosh: This isn’t a progressive attitude at all! No one can tell me what to like or dislike. No matter where we live we’ve a soft spot for our roots. Till my dying day, I’ll be pro-Kolkata, what’s wrong with that? But that doesn’t mean I don’t love Mumbai. I’m shocked by this attitude in this day and age.

Vaibhavi Merchant: He has every right to choose which state he wants to live in and the one he wants to support, or the kind of films he does.

He’s also free to choose his friends, though sadly he has no choice when it comes to enemies. He’s our country’s brand ambassador and an icon to so many of us. His family and him shouldn’t be dragged into politics and harassed with such political debates. He doesn’t deserve this.

Suneel Darshan: So, what’s wrong being in favour of the state where you were born? At the end of the day, aren’t we all Indians? I feel at a time when the nation is hurtling forward on the path of progress, we shouldn’t create impediments to our growth by talking provincially.

Govind Nihalani: I don’t find any justifiable logic in it.

(Subhash Jha can be contacted at

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