Srinagar: Ghulam Hassan Shah, who faced music last year for his role as nikah-reading imam in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider, has sent a legal notice to the director, asking him to publish in the media an apology at least thrice for “portraying him wrongly” or else pay Rs 50 lakh in damages.
Shah, 65, who hails from Qazigund, had been leading prayers at Masjid Baba Dawood Khaki at Bacchi Darwaza, Nowhatta in downtown Srinagar, for about nine years as an imam. The mosque affairs committee asked him to leave after he was spotted in a scene solemnising the nikah of Khurram Mir (KK Menon) and Gazala (Tabu).
“You had told my client that the footage of the nikah reading ceremony would be used for educational purposes. But you really intended to utilize the footage for the movie, Haider, which to the least is obnoxious,” Shah’s lawyer has written in the notice.
The notice asks Bhardwaj to publish an apology in the “national press on at least three occasions if the facts stated in the legal notice are accurate”. And if Bhardwaj chooses not to dispute the facts, he will have to pay Rs 50 lakh in damages to Shah.
“The footage has not only defamed my client, but also lowered his status and self-respect among members of the society at large,” the notice said.
“Should you fail to explain why you used the footage in the movie, I have clear instruction from my client to take appropriate legal action/ recourse (criminal/civil) under law against you at your own risk and cost.”
Shah’s lawyer says in the notice that Shah lost his livelihood because of the “obnoxious footage in the movie”.
The notice reminds the Bollywood director of “repeating the same mistake committed by the makers of the movie, Barfi, who were accused by leading footballer Mohammad Yousuf Dar of showing him among bank robbers in the film.
Haider, an adaption of Shakespearean play Hamlet set in Kashmir at the peak of the anti-India armed insurgency, stirred controversy, when All Parties Migrants Co-ordination Committee (APMCC), the apex body of Kashmiri Pandits, demanded a ban on its screening. They had alleged that the movie has hurt their sentiments by portraying the ancient Sun Temple of Kashmir as “Devil’s Den” in a song.
The movie won the People’s Choice Award in the Mondo Genere (world genre) at the ninth edition of Rome Film Festival held in October last.