Superstar Shah Rukh Khan was detained and questioned for nearly two hours at the Newark Liberty International Airport at New Jersey in America, during the wee hours of Saturday (IST), despite all his protestations that he was a well-known Bollywood star.
The actor revealed that he was detained because of his surname Khan. During the detailed interrogation, where Shah Rukh was taken into a separate room and wasn't allowed his cell phone, it is learnt that the actor tried to convince officers of his legitimacy by referring to various contacts.
According to the organisers of the event in Atlantic City that Khan was attending as chief guest, the actor even said, "I know Hillary Clinton", in exasperation, as he was being questioned incessantly about his purpose of visit to the US.
Organisers also added that while other passengers and airport staff continued to pass by him in recognition and even took photos on their cell phones, the immigration officer ignored the evidence that Khan was a Bollywood superstar.
'Shah Rukh was furious'
Randhir Saini, one of the organisers from ULS Entertainment who spoke to Sunday MiD DAY from Atlantic City, said, "Shah Rukh was furious when he reached the hotel. SRK said that he didn't want to be disturbed and didn't come out of his room for sometime. By lunchtime, SRK seemed to have cooled down and enjoyed his chicken tikka masala. However, because of the mix up, our show got delayed for nearly an hour. He was still very gracious throughout his performance." SRK arrived in the US alone and he wasn't accompanied by any of his family members or friends.
Why so much cash
According to another organiser Raj Uppal, the authorities had even questioned Khan about why he was carrying money in his pocket. "Shah Rukh had $1500 (Rs 72,270) on him, which wasn't a lot of money. But he was still asked why he was carrying so much cash. It was frustrating to him that people were passing by, taking pictures and pointing at him, while the immigration official refused to acknowledge this," said Uppal, who had planned this event a fortnight ago.
There were two people waiting to receive Khan at the airport, Cineyug owner Karim Morani (the Morani Brothers arrange several stage shows worldwide) and Uppal's driver Mohammed of the limousine. "My driver said that SRK was calm once he sat down in the car, but his frustration was evident the moment he reached the Trump Taj Mahal at Atlantic City," said Uppal.
Sympathy for SRK at the event
The organisers were a bit wary of how their event would play out given the state of affairs, though their fears were unfounded. "We had more than 900 people in attendance at the hotel's ballroom and the hall erupted in cheers when he took the stage. There was a lot of sympathy for him when he narrated the harrowing experience that he had at the airport," said Saini.
Chicago organisers take precautions
Khan is now in Chicago and then will head to Houston, Texas for other shows lined up with other Bollywood biggies like Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor and Bipasha Basu. Khan will perform in Chicago on August 16.
Other organisers are leaving no stone unturned. Rajender Singh, who is putting together the Chicago event, said, "We would take security and police personnel to receive him on his arrival. We are also going to be informing airport authorities about his arrival. Morani is accompanying him and we expect that everything will go smoothly." He added though, that the events that unfolded at Newark were unfortunate.
Celebrities react on Sharukh's detainment:
1) Karan Johar's comments on Twitter: Shocked and upset...feeling terrible for Shah Rukh
2) Pritish Nandy comments on Sharukh's detainment on Twitter: This is the problem with law enforcers worldwide. Now SRK racially profiled at Newark airport and quizzed for 2 hours. Truly obnoxious. Pretty much disgusting. I have stopped going to the US in recent months, just to avoid racial profiling.
3) Priyanka Chopra on her Twitter page, SRK's co-star and Kaminey actress Priyanka Chopra also reacted angrily: "Shocking, disturbing n downright disgraceful. It's such behavior that fuels hatred n racism. SRK's a world figure for Gods sake. GET REAL.
4) Riteish Deshmukh taking a humorous though sarcastic spin on the event said on his page: 'US Immigration-Please GOOGLE SRK.'
5) Vishal Dadlani, of the music director duo Vishal-Shekhar: 'This is plain silly!! I mean, a quick internet search would tell them what they need to know about SRK!! Paranoia breeds stupidity, I guess!'
Celebrities frisked at the us airport:
1) In a breach of protocol, former President A P J Abdul Kalam, who is exempted from security checks due to his status, was frisked by an American airline at the international airport here before boarding the aircraft.
The Civil Aviation Ministry has ordered a probe into the incident involving the ground security staff of Continental Airlines, which subjected Kalam to security check before he was to board a Newark-bound flight on April 24.
2) Bollywood actor Neil Nitin Mukesh too was detained at the US airport recently. In a similar fashion as US airport folks refused to believe that he was an Indian national 'coz he is too fair.
Statement from U.S. Ambassador to India Timothy J. Roemer on press reports of Shah Rukh Khan's detention at Newark International Airport:
'We are trying to ascertain the facts of the case to understand what took place,' said the Ambassador. Shah Rukh Khan, the actor and global icon, is a very welcome guest in the United States. Many Americans love his films.'