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Last Updated: Friday, 6 January 2006, 09:48 GMT
Bollywood legend in smoking row
By Zubair Ahmed
BBC News, Mumbai

Amitabh Bachchan
Amitabh Bachchan has yet to reply to the legal notice
Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan has been threatened with legal action over a film poster that depicts him smoking a cigar.

India's National Organisation for Tobacco Eradication says if Bachchan does not reply to its legal notice in eight days it will take him to court.

The government banned tobacco adverts in 2003 and last year announced strict rules on smoking in films and on TV.

Bachchan is recovering at home from surgery last month.

The National Organisation for Tobacco Eradication (Note), a non-governmental organisation, says Bachchan has broken the law.

Its secretary, Shekhar Salkar, told the BBC the film hoarding was of Bachchan's forthcoming film, Family.

He said it was put up on 25 December in Panaji, capital of Goa, but was taken down after a week.

Mr Salkar is seeking an explanation from Bachchan and says Note will take further legal action if the reply is unsatisfactory.

Angry film-makers

Bachchan, 63, who has been recovering at home in Mumbai (Bombay), following a major colon operation and a three-week stay in hospital, has not responded to the legal notice as yet.

Amitabh Bachchan is taken on a stretcher to the Leelavati hospital in Mumbai
Bachchan leaving hospital after his colon surgery

Mr Salkar said: "He appears on the hoarding smoking a cigar... in violation of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003, which bans cigarettes adverts."

Some commentators have dismissed Note's move as a publicity stunt, but Mr Salkar rejected this, saying: "We are moving the court if Mr Bachchan fails to reply. Let the court decide if it's a popularity stunt."

In May last year the government said no new films or TV programmes could portray smoking.

It also said there would have to be a prominent warning on films and programmes that have already been produced that contain images of actors smoking - whether Indian or foreign.

It said all logos of tobacco products would have to be masked or cut out.

Film-makers reacted angrily. One, Mahesh Bhatt, brought a petition claiming the move violated constitutional rights to freedom of speech and expression.

The government had to postpone the new ban and the case is still being heard in the courts.

Bachchan has starred in more than 100 films and was once dubbed the "most famous actor of the millennium" in a BBC News website readers' poll.

In 2000, he became the first Indian movie actor to be displayed at Madame Tussaud's wax museum in London.

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