‘Chandni Chowk…’ producer expresses regret over Buddha furore

A day after Nepal’s Maoist government banned Bollywood’s much-hyped kungfu comedy ‘Chandni Chowk to China’ for wrongly calling India the birth place of the Himalayan nation’s religious icon, the Buddha, the producer of the controversial film has expressed his regret, saying it was not the intention to hurt anyone.

Mumbai-based Hindi film producer Ramesh Sippy, who along with the Warner Brothers produced the film directed by Bollywood’s Nikhil Advani, faxed a brief message of regret to Kathmandu, hoping it would be circulated among the media.

Speaking on behalf of the entire ‘Chandni Chowk to China’ team, Sippy said India enjoys old and warm ties with Nepal and the film did not set out deliberately to hurt anyone’s sentiments.

However, it remains to be seen if the statement would appease Nepal.

For one, Sippy has not indicated if he is going to remove the offending dialogue from the original version of the film that was released worldwide last Friday.

Though Nepal’s censor board ordered the distributors to delete the erroneous statement, the screenings in other parts of the world continue to include the misleading information.

Nepal’s council of ministers headed by Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda has asked Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav to take up the issue with India’s external affairs ministry.

The Indian government would be asked to approach the makers of the film and ask them to erase the offending and misleading claim about the Buddha being born in India from the original version.

Scripted by Bollywood writer Shridhar Raghavan, ‘Chandni Chowk to China’ triggered angry protests in Nepal soon after its release Friday when it became known that the narration, introducing the hero played by Bollywood star Akshay Kumar, claimed he was born in India, the Buddha’s birth place.

The Buddha was born more than 2,500 years ago in the kingdom of Kapilavastu ruled by the Shakya kings, which lies in southern Nepal near the Indian border. The garden in Lumbini town, where the birth is recorded as having taken place in 623 BC, draws tens of thousands of tourists and pilgrims to Nepal every year.

Nepal’s Film Journalists’ Association is now demanding that the Bollywood director and scriptwriter tender an apology.

It is also asking the Maoist government of Nepal to ask all Nepali missions abroad to inform the host governments and audiences of the error the film is projecting.

In 2003, there were similar protests in Nepal after an Indian academic claimed that the Buddha was born in Orissa state in eastern India.

The Buddha and Mt. Everest, the highest peak in the world, are two of Nepal’s best-known and most-loved icons. Both recently replaced the image of deposed king Gyanendra in the Himalayan republic’s new currency notes.

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