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Page last updated at 15:10 GMT, Friday, 12 February 2010

Tight security as Khan film opens in Mumbai amid row

Protester arrested
Mumbai police arrested some Shiv Sena protesters

A Bollywood film featuring star Shah Rukh Khan has opened amid tight security in a few cinemas in the Indian city of Mumbai (Bombay).

More than 1,800 people have been arrested at protests against My Name is Khan, which will be shown at 63 venues.

Khan angered the hard line Hindu party, Shiv Sena, by saying he regretted that no Pakistani cricketers had been picked for next month's Indian Premier League.

Two small cinemas have already been attacked in Mumbai and posters burned.

Mumbai is regarded as the entertainment capital of India.

The BBC's Prachi Pinglay in Mumbai said that despite the threats, more than 30 theatres in the city were showing the film on Friday - mostly to packed houses.

At the Inox multiplex in south Mumbai all the evening shows were sold out.

Outside another cinema in Mumbai, one elderly couple asked a policemen if it was safe to see the movie before entering, our correspondent adds.

Himanshu Roy, a joint commissioner of police, said about 150 Shiv Sena supporters had hurled stones and tried to force their way into some theatres, but had been beaten back. Police made 49 arrests, he told The Associated Press.

Shah Rukh Khan has thanked his fans via the Twitter website for turning out in such large numbers to see the film.

'Nothing to fear'

One multiplex with a full house for the film left actress Pooja Bedi and her father, Kabir Bedi, without tickets.

"I am very happy that the film is getting a full house. Police are doing a fabulous job. People need not fear at all," Ms Bedi told reporters.

Authorities announced that 21,000 police officers were being deployed to protect cinemagoers, frisking patrons before entering. Night-vision cameras have also been used to spot troublemakers inside.

Protesters gather outside a cinema in Mumbai showing Shah Rukh Khan's film

Despite the promise of protection, a number of cinema chains stopped taking advance bookings for My Name is Khan this week.

One cinemagoer in Mumbai told the AFP news agency that she found the controversy over Khan "alarming and disturbing".

"I'm not going to be deterred by these kind of threats," said the woman, who asked not to be named.

Khan, part-owner of Indian Premier League cricket team Kolkata Knight Riders, spoke out last month after no players from Pakistan were selected for the IPL Twenty20 competition.

The 44-year-old Muslim has stood firm over his remarks, but apologised to his collaborators in My Name is Khan.

SOUTIK BISWAS'S INDIA
Why is Bollywood so ineffectual? Why don't its leading lights stand up and protest when one of their own is threatened?

"I request everybody to leave the film alone and deal with what I have said as an individual," he told reporters in London last week.

In the film, Khan plays a Muslim with Asperger's syndrome whose life in the US changes after the 11 September 2001 attacks.

Shiv Sena, a regional party which backs the cause of Hindus in Maharashtra state, has pledged to continue its protests.

The organisation, often described as anti-Muslim, regards itself as a defender of what it sees as traditional Hindu moral values.

Khan is one of the biggest stars of India's film industry and has hosted the local version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

The eight-team IPL Twenty20 competition starts on 12 March and is staged over 45 days.



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