National Games row: Govt rejects actor Mohanlal's offer to return money

Thiruvananthapuram: Expressing regret over the heated controversies centring around the Mohanlal show at the inaugural of the 35th National Games, Kerala CM Oommen Chandy today said government would not accept the actor's offered to return his remuneration.

After a cabinet meeting that reviewed the conduct of the event, he said the heat generated by the event was quite regrettable and the Government's morality would not allow it to take back the money.

Chandy also played down critical remarks made by Chief Secretary Jiji Thomson on the opening spectacle, which reportedly hurt Sports Minister Thiruvanchur Radhakrishnan.

"There is no question of accepting the money offered to be returned by Mohanlal as he had staged the show based on an agreement with the organisers," he said when his attention was drawn to reports that the actor had already despatched the cheque for the money he had received.

He said Mohanlal had not personally benefitted from the amount (Rs 1.63 crore) which he received since it was meant to meet the stage expenses and remuneration for the artistes.

Giving a virtual clean chit to Thomson, Chandy said he himself was convinced about the flaws in the organising of the opening ceremony pointed out by the bureaucrat.

Chandy, however, parried queries on media reports that Radhakrishnan had expressed deep resentment at Thomson's statements and that the latter had expressed regret over them.

He said the entire cabinet was totally satisfied at the conduct of the Games.

"Initially, it was said that the event was not going to take off as infrastructure had not been completed and equipment had not arrived. Now that it has been started on schedule, they are finding fault with the way it is being conducted," he said, alluding to criticism by political circles and a section of the media.

Meanwhile, Mohalal also received support from the film industry with superstar Mammootty expressing solidarity with him and making an appeal to all to stop "witch hunting" the artist.

In an e-mail to the government, Mohanlal had last evening said he was "pained" by the controversy and expressed the hope that returning the money would cap the row.

After the show faced criticism of being a flop as some performers allegedly bluffed viewers by lip-syncing, Mohanlal had on Monday informed the Government of his decision to send back the amount.

"I am pained by the allegations that have been levelled against the band. I hope my returning the money will put an end to all the controversy," the actor had said in his mail.

The performance of the band, in which Mohanlal himself sang a number of songs along with some well-known singers, invited widespread criticism, not only from film and music circles, but also from the political fraternity.

Adding another dimension to the sound and fury over the games, Thomson, a former director Sports Authority of India, yesterday took the top organising committee officials to task, voicing dissatisfaction at the organisation of the event.

Meanwhile, to the great relief of veteran Malayalam actor, his industry colleague Mamootty today appealed to all to stop witch-hunt against the fellow actor.

Talking to reporters at Kochi, he said Mohanlal had decided to do the programme with good intentions.

"Do not put pressure on him, allow him to continue with his work with a calm mind," he told reporters, expressing solidarity with Mohanlal, who has been at the receiving end for the 'Lalisom' show. Mamootty, who refused to take any questions, said if the controversy lingers, it would only mar the National Games.

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