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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 August 2005, 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK
Bollywood film irks UAE champion
By Monica Chadha
BBC News, Mumbai

Sheikh Ahmed al-Maktoum
Sheikh Ahmed al-Maktoum was the UAE's first Olympic medallist
A UAE Olympic champion and member of the Dubai royal family has expressed anger at a Bollywood film character he believes labels him a mafia assassin.

Shooting champion Sheikh Ahmed al-Maktoum was insulted by a character in the film Sarkar who is introduced as a gold medallist shooter from Dubai.

However, a spokesman for the film's director said an apology had been issued and the matter was resolved.

Sarkar (Government) stars Amitabh Bachchan as a mafia don.

The assassin character introduced as the Dubai medallist is hired by an underworld gang to shoot one of its rivals.

Ahmed al-Maktoum became the first Olympic medallist from the United Arab Emirates with his win in Athens in 2004.

'Pure sport'

One of India's top international shooters and a gold medallist at the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002, Moraad A Khan, told the BBC he had just returned after training with Sheikh al-Maktoum in Dubai and said he had "not taken it very well".

Mr Khan said he had gone across at the invitation of the sheikh. They are rivals in the same shooting event - double trap - but are also good friends.

Amitabh Bachchan (L) and director Ram Gopal Verma
Sarkar stars Amitabh Bachchan (L) while Ram Gopal Verma directs

Mr Khan said: "He had seen the film and told me that it was a direct insult to him.

"The movie does not name him but he is the only shooter from all of the UAE to have won a gold medal in the Olympics. While we in the shooting circle talked about it, others too were quite upset about the reference."

Mr Khan said as a shooter and sportsman he too was offended that the movie depicted an Olympic shooter as a killer.

"People already view guns as weapons meant to kill whereas when we use guns specifically meant for shooting events. It's pure sport, it's about precision and concentration.

"Any direct or indirect reference to the sport and shooting to kill is not good for the event."

Ravi Prakash, spokesman for the film's director, Ram Gopal Verma, told the BBC an apology note was sent to Sheikh al-Maktoum in July, two days after the movie was released.

"It was pure coincidence. In an attempt to make the script more interesting, the writer added this angle and we were completely unaware of the real-life context.

"We had absolutely no idea [Sheikh al-Maktoum] was also an Olympic gold medallist in shooting."

Mr Prakash said the movie was released worldwide on 1 July and the initial screenings in Dubai were stopped.

After the apology note was sent, the movie was screened without the controversial scene being edited.



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