Controversy seems to be second nature to Salman Khan. The star, whose latest film "Dabangg" has set the cash registers ringing, stoked a row with his remark that the 26/11 attack attracted "too much hype" as only
"elite people were targetted". Salman has apologised for his comments, which he said were "twisted".
"The interview has been twisted. I saw it myself, the way it is coming across on TV, it is sounding insensitive. I was just saying life is equal for both rich and poor, some attacks get more media coverage and some don't. Why is that? Every human life is important, " Salman, 44, told Aaj Tak news channel.
"Any attack or terrorist attack in the world is unpardonable. A terrorist has no nationality, no religion and no guts. I have complete faith in our intelligence agencies. I've always had faith in our police and armed forces. I did not want to hurt anybody's sentiments and if I have hurt anybody's sentiments then I am really, really sorry, " he added.
His father Salim Khan and brother Arbaaz came out in his defence, insisting that Salman is not "articulate and political" and one should "understand the intent behind his remarks".
In an interview to Pakistani channel Express TV, Salman said: "Too much hype has been created around the 26/11 attacks because elite people were targetted. Attacks have happened in trains and small towns too, but no one talked about it so much."
He also said: "Everybody knows that the Pakistani government was not behind it and it was a terrorist attack. Our security had failed. We have had lot of attacks earlier, and all of them were not from Pakistan. They were from within."
Salman's father Salim Khan, a well-known scriptwriter, said his son "should not" have made the remarks and should apologise, but added that Salman is not "articulate and political" and it could have been a "wrong choice of words".
"Whatever I've heard, he should not have said that. It is wrong... He is not a very articulate person or a political person. It could have been the wrong choice of words, " Salim, 74, told Aaj Tak news channel.
Actor-producer Arbaaz Khan defended his brother saying: "Whatever Salman said was just his opinion and he had no intention of hurting anybody's sentiments."
Meanwhile, Salman wrote on micro-blogging site Twitter.com: "Every human life has equal value and any act of terror, anywhere in the world is unpardonable, be it 9/11 or 26/11."
"Next time mein apne sub interview khud bhi record karoonga, kya bolte ho? Takeh yeh sub controversies nahi ho (Next time, I will record all my interviews myself. So that such controversies can be avoided)."
This is not the first time the actor, described as the "enfant terrible" of Bollywood, has run into trouble. His first brush with controversy was when his car ran into a bakery in Mumbai on Sep 28, 2002, killing one person sleeping on the pavement outside the shop and injuring three others. However, he escaped the charges of culpable homicide for rash and negligent driving.
He had to spend time in a Jodhpur jail in 2007 for hunting the endangered chinkara deer near Jodhpur on Sep 28, 1998 while filming Sooraj Barjatya's blockbuster "Hum Saath Saath Hain".
He was also reported to have slapped a television journalist for asking nosy questions about his relationship with Aishwarya Rai when the two were supposed to be a couple.
Now his comments on 26/11 evoked strong protests and condemnation from political leaders who termed them "unwarranted and irresponsible".
"We strongly condemn Salman Khan's unwarranted and irresponsible comments and that too to a Pakistani channel. How can he say only the elite were targeted?
Is he not aware of the common people killed at the railway station and also the security forces? Moreover he has no right to give the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) and the Pakistani government a clean chit... He should immediately apologise, " BJP spokesperson Syed Shahnawaz Hussain told.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan too slammed the comments, saying: "The conspiracy was hatched in Pakistan. There is no room for his or anyone else's opinion when the court's verdict is out".
The opposition Shiv Sena also condemned the comments. Congress spokesperson Anant Gadgil dismissed Salman's comments as baseless.
Public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said: "Salman's comments are illogical and an actor shouldn't have commented on terror attacks in this manner. The terror attacks can't be classified on the basis of caste and religion."
The Nov 26-29, 2008 attack left 166 people dead as 10 terrorists from Karachi conducted a coordinated shooting and bombing attack across south Mumbai.