October 14, 2008

Protest Over Star’s Datukship

By Hafidah Samat; Shuhada Elis

KUALA LUMPUR: The voices of protest against the conferment of a datukship on Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan are growing louder.

Yesterday, the Artistes Association of Malaysia (Seniman) said it would hand a letter to the Ministry of Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage stating that the award by Malacca was "irrelevant".

Seniman president Datuk Mustapha Maarof said the letter would be handed to the ministry's secretary-general, Datuk Dr Muzahet Masruri, at a function to be held at Malaysian Film Development Corporation (Finas) today.

Mustapha stressed that the 43-year-old multiple award-winning Bollywood actor, who has sizzled with his heart-wrenching performances in a series of Bollywood tear-jerkers, did not deserve the award.

"Giving the award to an outsider is as if certain quarters are belittling the credibility and creativity of local talent."

He told a press conference in Finas that local film makers and actors had struggled hard to raise the standard of the local film industry.

Film Directors Association of Malaysia president Ahmad Ibrahim agreed, saying Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam had disrespected the state government by conferring a datukship on an outsider.

Ahmad said Ali had overlooked the contribution of local film directors and appreciated an "alien" instead.

"Why would he give the title to someone who doesn't even know what it means? I want to ask the chief minister what kind of contribution the actor has made that we haven't?"

He added that local film directors had consistently promoted Malacca through movies, documentaries and even cooking programmes.

"But if the chief minister thinks we have done nothing for the state, then I'd like to call on all directors to stop shooting their programmes in Malacca," said Ahmad, who is also known as Mat London.

Seniman vice-president Ahmad Idham said the award was a "big slap to film practitioners in the country".

Ahmad added that Seniman's objection was not to stir up a controversy. He said there should be thorough vetting before such titles were bestowed on artistes.

Shahrukh was awarded the Darjah Mulia Seri Melaka (DMSM) which carries the title "Datuk" on Oct 11.

The title was bestowed on him for his efforts to promote Malacca in his songs and films, including One Two Ka Four, which was shot at the A'Famosa Resort in Alor Gajah in 2001.

The actor, however, did not attend the investiture held in conjunction with the Yang Dipertua Negeri Melaka Tun Mohd Khalil Yaakob's 70th birthday celebration last Saturday.

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