Eleven serving defence officers and eight others have sent a legal notice to actors Akshay Kumar and Twinkle Khanna, accusing the Bollywood couple of “playing with the sentiment” of the armed forces by putting up for auction a naval costume from the Hindi film “Rustom”.
The group, which also included the wife of a Navy man and seven retired officers, said it was offended that the actors had listed the costume as an “original naval uniform”. “Uniforms resembling those of the armed forces pose a potential threat to national security as the said uniform, insignia and badges could pass for genuine service clothing and can find their way to anti-national elements who can use it to foment trouble,” the notice said.
A copy of the notice has also been sent to the auction house Salt Scout and the office of the defence minister.
The officers urged the minister to take action against the actors and to stop the auctioning of the outfit Kumar wore in the 2016 film, a fictional account loosely based on the real-life case of Naval Officer K. M. Nanavati, charged with and then acquitted of killing his wife. “…by putting in auction ‘Akshay Kumar’s Rustom Naval Officer Uniform’ you have shown no respect for national interest but have also played with the sentiments of armed forces personnel and their widows including my clients, who are retired, as well as serving armed forces officials and their family members,” the notice read.
Kumar had put the outfit up for the auction on April 26 in support of an NGO working for the cause of animal rescue and welfare. “Hi, all I’m thrilled to announce that you can bid to win the actual naval officer uniform I wore in Rustom! Auction’s proceeds will support the cause of animal rescue and welfare. Place your bid at http://www.SaltScout.com,” he wrote. The bid, which will end on May 26, currently stands at Rs. 2,35,000.
The issue was first taken up by one of the officers, who called Akshay Kumar’s wife out on Facebook, warning her that he would “drag” her to court if she made even “a feeble attempt to auction this piece of costume in the garb of UNIFORM”. “…You touch our honour and we will give you a bloody nose,” he said on the site. Twinkle Khanna responded by saying she would “not retaliate with violent threats but by taking legal action”. Mr Kumar had said recently that the outfit was being auctioned off for a good cause.
“I don’t think we did anything bad. I can’t help if someone feels bad about it,” he had said. Smita Dikshit, who has sent the legal notice on the group’s behalf to the actor couple, told news agency PTI, “People of India who are ex-Army men and who are serving the country are enraged and in anger that these celebrities are not sensitive towards the emotions of the Armed Forces.”