Big B comes down hard on Ramadoss on smoking issue

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New Delhi, May 12 (UNI) Mega star Amitabh Bachchan, whose stylish smoking of bidis formed an important ingredient of the blockbuster 'Deewar', has locked horns with Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss for asking him to quit tobacco or alcohol consumption on screen, saying the influence of films on people's mind should not be exaggerated.

''If Shah Rukh Khan starts drinking apple juice, will people follow suit?'' was Big B's poser to Dr Ramadoss, whose campaign against on-screen smoking and boozing had generally drawn sharp criticism from the film industry.

In a freewheeling interview to CNN-IBN, Mr Bachchan spoke on a variety of issues ranging from politics to his relations with the Gandhi family to his recently launched blog.

''All I request the minister is to focus on his own people. By asking Shah Rukh Khan or me to quit smoking or alcohol in our cinema, an attempt is being made to tarnish the image of the film industry. That should not happen.'' He added, ''If the country was getting so influenced by what we were doing, then how do you explain the partition of India which, to me, was the most painful thing; the Bhagalpur blindings, will you blame the film industry for that too?'' The actor, whose iconic image as a versatile actor has remained undiminished, spoke at length about his relations with the Gandhi family.

Asked if he thought that Rahul Gandhi was a candidate fit to adorn the Prime Ministerial post, Mr Bachchan said, ''I do wish him all the best in his future ventures.'' He, however, refused to draw comparisons between Rahul and his father late Rajiv Gandhi, who was a close friend of the Bachchan family.

To a query whether he would stand in a group if the Samajwadi Party and the Congress came together, as have been the indications, the actor, known for his dignity and suaveness, quipped, ''I will be at my home. I will be away from the crowd. These are all political events which are not for me. My best wishes are always with the Samajwadi Party and the Congress.'' The Big B has been under fire recently from Raj Thackeray of the Maharashtra Navnirman Samiti (MNS) for allegedly not doing anything for Maharashtra.

''India is a free country, everyone has the freedom of speech.

Everyone is free to express themselves. I am also free to express myself. I work and believe in the validity of Indian Constitution.

As long as I work within a legal space, I don't get bothered by what others say,'' he said.

The legendary actor sounded extremely hurt with all the negative publicity that has been hounding him. He has been attacked by everyone from Ms Mayawati to Dr Ramadoss to Mr Raj Thackeray.

Asked if he was somepne who was selfish and if that was the reason for him to be finding himself in all this trouble, he replied in the negative. ''I am not selfish. I am far removed from it,'' he said in a matter-of-fact tone.

Mr Bachchan said he had started his blogsite to clear misperceptions about him. ''The media often criticises us, without us being able to respond. My blog is my tool, my way to express myself and correct perceptions about me.'' UNI SKS GL HT1924

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