POP singer Ali Haider has said he has rejected an offer to play the lead role in a Bollywood film called Osama after receiving threatening calls.
The film is about a Kashmiri boy, Osama, who travels to Afghanistan and ends up at the World Trade Center in New York at the time of the 2001 attacks.
Some in Pakistan wrongly believe he was to have played the role of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, Haider said. Pulling out had cost him more than Rs 10 million, he told the BBC.
The film was a love story meant to change the image of the Pakistani people, Haider said. “It was to show the world the other side of the coin. I felt it was my responsibility as a Muslim,” he said. “But I have to look after a family of which I am the sole bread-winner.”
Ali Haider says his family began receiving threatening calls in November, when he first went to India to discuss the project. “I did not think much about the threats then; it was an important project for me. I was being given the lead role and 40 per cent rights in Pakistan and the Middle East.
“So I went back to Mumbai to read the script. The contract was signed in December.” But when he returned to Pakistan his family and friends advised him against the project, he said.
He himself started receiving calls telling him not to take the part, sometimes as many as 10 calls a day, he said. “They know everything about my movements; when I am at the jogging track, or when I am in the gym.”
Ali Haider did not reveal the nature of the threat. It is not clear who made the phone calls. “But in circumstances when an important person like Benazir Bhutto cannot have adequate security, what will happen to someone like me?”
He said his producers were greatly disappointed by his decision, and for a while tried to persuade him not to revoke the contract. “But they understand my position now,” he said. “They are using my music [in the film].”
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